Opinion: who is paying for our ‘new’ funding?

The National Party has promised more spending in community-provided mental health (via an Innovation Fund), more checking in, but also more services particularly at three months in and at the new traffic light "orange" setting for beneficiaries.

They have also promised a Social Investment Fund to help build prevention and early intervention services, academies for youth offenders, and additional funding for NGOs to provide intensive supervision for youth offenders.

Along with the expected return of charter schools, this is quite a bit of new-ish funding for community organisations.

I say new-ish, because of the commitment from two of the three parties in the new government to further cuts to government spending.

That is, the "new" money is likely to come from money cut elsewhere.

So, over the next while, there will be agencies in Dunedin that lose income they have come to rely upon.

And there will be some who may pick up extra funding.

Services that Dunedin has come to rely on will go, to be replaced with services that the new government believes will have longer-term impacts.

Except that, in Dunedin there is a shortage of workers to do the work.

And across the South more generally, as elsewhere, there are a lot of small NGOs.

When I say a lot, I mean double the number per head of population that you would see in Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia.

There’s both a lot of us, and too few.

That’s a tough base to innovate from. Not least because innovation takes time (and cash to pay for that time) and for small agencies spare time and cash are hard to free up.

We can also guess that the new government’s desire for innovation includes a pretty strong interest in evidence: research and data.

While even the smallest Dunedin corner shop already uses a data-information pipeline to support decision-making, it’s not as common in the community sector.

However, social service providers’ business is change — usually for our clients, of course.

We know that resiliency comes from strong relationships and networks, pacing ourselves where we can, focusing on the long-term, celebrating the wins, adapting where we have to, and always learning.

Dunedin will do fine.

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