Whanau Ora interview by Guyon Espiner
GUYON Well kia ora, thank you for joining us Minister Tariana Turia and Professor Mason Durie, we really appreciate your time on the programme. Can I start with you Minister and start with the basics about how Whanau Ora will work. As I understand it you take a family with some problems, perhaps Dad has lost his job, perhaps one of the children has a hearing difficulty and a learning problem, maybe the son has joined a youth gang, rather than that family seeking help from a whole variety of different state agencies you have one Whanau Ora task force consultant or task force person come in and sort out all those problems, is that how it's going to work?
TARIANA TURIA - Maori Party Co-Leader
Well it's not really about the person coming in and sorting out the problems, it's about re-empowering the family to start making decisions for themselves. So you know do they identify with these issues that you're talking about, what do they think the solutions might be, the role of the practitioner is to assist them through that, but really the decisions must be made by the family, the family must themselves be aware that these are issues for them, and therein really lies the solution, re-empowering the family to take back control over their own situation, to determine the solutions that impact on them.
GUYON But the Whanau Ora Case Manager presumably takes the place of staff from those other state agencies that they would previously been dealing with?
TARIANA Oh absolutely. Their role is to walk alongside of that family ensuring that that family has access to the resources that they might well need to assist them, but more importantly to enable them to find their own solutions. This is moving from having providers knowing the solutions and telling people what's wrong, to the family acknowledging the issues themselves, so it's a strength-based approach, and focusing on the potential of the family essentially to solve their own issues.
GUYON And how does that family find the help? Does the Whanau Ora service actually seek them out, or would they have to contact the service?
TARIANA Well generally these providers who will be involved are already actively engaged with families, so what we've had in the past is that we've had providers who have been contracted for quite a lot of activity but with no outcomes being required of them. So these people already exist in the Health and Social Services sector, these providers, and there's a big move on right now for those providers to number one, be upskilling themselves, and more importantly training practitioners to work alongside of families.
GUYON Professor Durie if I can bring you in here, I mean this concept puts the whanau at the centre of things, but isn't it possible that sometimes the interests of the individual can conflict quite seriously with the interests of the family? It may be that the daughter doesn't want the mother to know that she's pregnant or that the mother doesn't want the daughter to know that perhaps she has a drinking problem. I mean can't you see that this could have some quite examples with some quite big tension between families?
SIR MASON I think one of the really important points with this programme or this development is that someone's gotta make a decision whether a particular problem is best handled by addressing and individual's problem, or whether that approach is not in the end going to bring results. An example, if someone has a heart attack you would want the focus of attention to be on the person with the heart attack, you would expect the family to be supported, but you wouldn't call it a whanau centred approach, you'd call it a whanau supportive approach. Certainly if I had a heart attack I'd want the time spent on my heart, not on my grandchildren, so I think there is a difference between an approach - someone has to make a decision, and if a child is truant from school, big problem, is that a problem which is easily solved by addressing the individual or is there another element to this which is better managed by helping the whanau value education, and helping whanau get the right sort of education for their children?
GUYON Alright Minister, how is this going to be structured? We've heard there's going to be a Whanau Ora Minister, presumably that is you?
TARIANA Well you know we still haven't reached the point of who's going to be who, but certainly there will be a Whanau Ora Minister.
GUYON It would be ridiculous to think it would be anyone other than you wouldn't it?
TARIANA Well there'll be a range of agencies that will be involved.
GUYON Do you want to have that job as the Whanau Ora Minister?
TARIANA Oh of course I'm incredibly interested in this. This is something that has been around for a long time, it's not new, Sir Mason has been working on research in this area for some 25, 30 years, so you know we're not reinventing the wheel. What we're trying to do is to bring to fruition, the aspirations of our people to take back responsibility and obligation.
GUYON We've talked a bit about that, I just wonder if we can get some idea of how it is actually going to operate. From the reading I've done it looks as though there will be an independent trust funded from the money from various agencies at the moment, Health, Education, Justice. Which agencies are going to be funding this Whanau Ora trust?
TARIANA Well that will come out in the Budget process, but right now there's about seven ministers who are part of the ministerial team, looking at how we can look at existing contracts that people have, the important first step in this process is integrating all of those contracts, so that the provider doesn't have to spend considerable time on compliance and transactional costs. So that's the first step, so the agencies have to reach an agreement around that, and so that's the first step, and then those providers will then start preparing for a different approach, and the approach is not doing to and for, but working in a much more transformational way with the family to accept that the responsibilities and the obligations for the issues that are confronting them lie with themselves. And I think that that's a major difference, there'll be research running alongside of that, it's an outcomes approach, not an activity approach, so it will be considerably different to what we've got now.
GUYON Well I guess one of the factors about whether it will be considerably different is the level of money that's going to go into this. When we spoke about this issue on this programme last year, you were speaking about roughly a billion dollars, is that still the sort of sum that you want to see go into this?
TARIANA Oh look, if you look at the amount of money that providers are already receiving which they will continue to receive, there's something like 240 or maybe more, Maori health providers, there's probably almost an equal amount of social service providers. When you start to look at integrating those contracts I think you will see considerable dollars being invested in this new approach.
GUYON Of that sort of level?
TARIANA I think that it would end up being at that level definitely.
GUYON Over what sort of time?
TARIANA Well it really depends on how quickly we're able to roll out, we're talking about starting off with 20, approximately 20 providers, and I think that over a period of three to four years we're going to see a vast movement in the way in which services are going to be provided and much of that will be using this whanau centred approach.
GUYON Professor Durie what will these providers look like, I mean will the providers have to be ones who are operating within the kaupapa Maori context, or have Maori language skills, or could they be mainstream providers like Barnadoes?
SIR MASON Well there are already quite a lot of providers who are doing this work, they labour under multiple contracts that don't always help them get the best result. But I would think they will be people who are expert at knowing how to deal with whanau and build whanau capabilities. So they may be Maori providers, they may not be, and some providers will be really good with whanau, and some may not be so good. Some Maori providers will be good with whanau but they may not be so good dealing with a farming family from Southland. So I think there's quite a difference, but we're talking about people who are expert in shifting a crisis, into a developmental mode.
GUYON Because it's been described as a by Maori for Maori approach, but the providers won't necessarily have to be Maori?
SIR MASON The providers will have to be able to deliver the outcomes that are sought with Whanau Ora, and they'll have to have a track record of being able to do that.
GUYON What about the contracts that we're looking at, because I know that your task force has talked about a high trust model, the presumably means for the providers, they are people with a proven record as you have said, but I imagine with less scrutiny, don't you risk having less accountability with a model like that?
SIR MASON Well I think you'll have more accountability.
GUYON Why is that?
SIR MASON Well you'll be wanting to measure people by the outcomes they produce, not by the amount of work they do, and that's a very different sort of accountability.
GUYON And what sort of outcomes will you be measuring this against, I mean we all know the negative statistics that Maori are over represented in, do you have some goals and some aims that you would hold this model to account by?
SIR MASON Absolutely, you'd expect that is there's a Whanau Ora practitioner, that if they're dealing with a whanau, they should be able to demonstrate that the whanau is better off financially, better off socially, more social cohesion, and better off culturally, so that they're broad areas I know, but they're indicators within all of those areas that will be useful in measuring the outcome, so I think the accountability will be greater not less.
GUYON Minister what about who this is for, I mean will there be any threshold of deprivation or income level in order to access the Whanau Ora services, or can anyone regardless of income and circumstance call on this kind of service?
TARIANA Well this is about need, and you know if people are in need regardless of what their income level is, they're in need. For instance family violence doesn't necessarily just happen in poor families, so in the end it is really what the family identify as the need as being, and whether they want this approach to happen for them.
GUYON This was talked about initially and I know most of the research was done for Maori by Maori. It's political expediency isn't it for National now to say that it's open for all New Zealanders. I mean that may end up being the case, but it's primarily for Maori isn't it?
TARIANA Well the majority of Maori health providers, and I'll focus there because I know that sector best, they provide services to everybody. In fact some Maori providers are providing to 40% of non Maori people in those services, so really not unusual for Maori providers to be providing to many other New Zealanders.
GUYON Okay, you talked about the seven ministers working on this. I saw a paper that was sent to all of them, and it described Whanau Ora along these lines, it said that it supports the evolution of a kaupapa model, which would ensure the validation of a Maori world view, that is not only Maori owned but also Maori driven and controlled. That doesn't sound like a system for all New Zealanders.
TARIANA Well why not?
GUYON Because it's Maori owned and Maori controlled.
TARIANA Oh well, we've tried everything else. And Guyon we can't have the criticism of the very bad statistics that are impacting on Maori, and that's the reason why this task force was formed. In actual fact it was formed specifically to address the issues that were confronting Maori people, the statistics were telling us that we needed to change the way in which the government was working with Maori families. Now so that's what the task force role was, was to look specifically at Maori families. The issue is that as we were going through this process, it was very clear that Pacific families, the ethnic minority communities could see that there were huge similarities, but also they liked the concept because they could see that this is how they would prefer to work, that rather than focus on individual issues within a family, because we all know that if you have an individual with issues in a family, there are usually wider issues within the family that contribute to that. Now they could see that working really well. There are people in the NGO sector who have said that they believe that this particular concept could be utilised in these other communities.
GUYON Okay how will this fit with the government's more punitive aspects for welfare? They're talking about cutting benefits off if certain obligations aren't met, they're talking about sending DPB sole parents out to work at a certain level. I mean how's that gonna work if you have a Whanau Ora case manager actually working through a number of problems with a whanau, and then one person's benefit's cut off? I mean it seems to me that those two approaches are diametrically opposed.
TARIANA Well your benefit only gets cut off if you don't comply. Now I would imagine that if you had a Whanau Ora working alongside of you as a family it's highly unlikely that you're not gonna meet your obligations and responsibilities, that's what the whole focus of this approach is.
GUYON Final question. July this year was when the trust was aiming to be up and running, is that going to happen?
TARIANA Oh absolutely.
GUYON Alright, thank you both very much, Minister Tariana Turia, and Professor Mason Durie, we really appreciated your time.