National leader Christopher Luxon says one way to address growing inequalities in New Zealand is to take a Sir Bill English-inspired social investment approach.
Luxon told Breakfast he’d seen the approach work in areas of the US.
“Essentially, what we’ve got to do is identify the folk that need the help and we need to be able to make targeted, powerful interventions to support those families and individuals so that they can step up, rise up and actually participate in the Kiwi dream,” he said.
Luxon said Government agencies already had the data to know which 100,000 or so families and individuals around the country were it particularly tough because they might have interacted with the health, justice, or education system.
“If you look at the maths of it, we’ll end up spending hundreds of millions of dollars on those lives over a lifetime.
“Why wouldn’t we take that money, surge it, and invest very deeply at the moment where we most can make the biggest difference and change the trajectory of where those lives are going?”
He said National's deputy leader Nicola Willis would be leading the work on the party's new social investment policy.
Former Prime Minister Sir Bill's concept of social investment was based on early intervention - preparing people to respond to what could happen in their lives - rather than trying to address their issues later on once something had happened.
It assumed multiple agencies of the Government could detect “key indicators of high risk”. According to Treasury, these include: “Having a CYF finding of abuse or neglect; being mostly supported by benefits since birth; having a parent with a prison or community sentence; having a mother with no formal qualifications.”
Sir Bill said at the time the idea of “investment” made sense and the Government should look at the difference their spending had actually made on people’s lives.
In Budget 2017, the National-led Government allocated $321 million extra for social investment.
The previous National-led Government had attracted criticism for some of its social policies, including benefit sanctions on solo parents who didn’t name the other parent of their child on birth certificates, the so-called “paper boy tax” that stopped school-aged children getting tax refunds if they earned wages for part-time work, and the cutting of the Training Incentive Allowance to help sole parents with study fees.
On Tuesday, economic and political commentator Bernard Hickey said the wealthy had become nearly $1 trillion richer since the start of the pandemic, in part due to the Government’s policies.
Luxon first revealed he was keen to bring to life Sir Bill’s style of social investment on Q+A earlier this month.
At the time, Luxon told Q+A that targeted support should be needs-based, rather than based on ethnicity.
He said concentrating help in that way to those who needed it would end up helping Māori.