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Families Commission defends its role

Published: 2:05PM Sunday September 06, 2009 Source: Q+A

  • Jan Pryor (Source: Q+A)
    Jan Pryor - Source: Q+A
  •  (Source: ONE News)
    Source: ONE News

The Families Commission is rejecting any idea that its existence is a massive waste of taxpayers' money.

The commission costs $8 million a year to run, but chief commissioner Jan Pryor told TVNZ's Q+A programme they are making a difference.

The commission has been in the news recently after telling schools to rethink how they deal with badly behaved students, prompting primary teachers to tell them to butt out of school business.

Dr Pryor told Paul Holmes the commission fills a niche which enables it to give contestable advice to government and to talk to families openly.

Defending the worth of the commission, Pryor says in the five years it has been in existence it has had a direct impact on parental leave and elder abuse. And she says the commission has been instrumental in helping families get out of debt.

The commission was set up under a political context and Pryor would like to see it become more independent. She says although it was established under Labour as part of a deal with Peter Dunne's United Future Party , it is now working closely and well with the National government.

"I would argue very strongly now that the Commission has earned its stripes."

Pryor says before taking up her appointment she was leading a centre doing research on families but she believes she can do more for New Zealand families in "this position of independence".

"The Commission in particular has led and mostly funded the It's Not Okay campaign.

"We get far more response from Maori and Pacific than we do from anyone else, in terms of saying they know about it, they want to make a difference, they're doing things to make a difference around family violence."

Meanwhile, United Future's Peter Dunne has come to the defence of the commission which is being accused by lobbyists and bloggers of being a complete waste of taxpayers' money.

Dunne says it is helping shift people's attitudes towards family violence, which he says is one of the country's biggest problems. He says the commission has also done a lot of work on the way separated families operate.

Dunne says many in the community such as family advocacy organisations will attest to the work it is doing.

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