Thursday, March 16, 2017

A day of backdowns

It appears to be a day of government backdowns, with the government agreeing to exempt sexual violence support agencies from its creepy demands for client data and from its pointlessly antagonistic efforts to remove the "whanau-first" clause from child protection law. Which is good news on the face of it, but not as good as it seems when you look closely.

On data collection, sexual violence agencies clearly have a very strong case for privacy. But its not just them at risk from the government's policy. As this article in the ODT highlights, the same concerns arise in a wide range of social agencies. People who use mental health, addiction support, parental support, suicide prevention, and family violence services all have very real and legitimate fears about what the government might do with their data and who might look at it. And if they believe e.g. WINZ will get their data and use it to cut benefits or steal children, then they won't interact with the service. MSD probably regards that as a success: lower demand means better PR and spending less money. But if people are afraid to seek help, that is a serious failure.

On child protection, the Māori Party had credibly threatened to withdraw its support from the government over this, so a backdown was inevitable. But while the media is reporting that the status quo will prevail and Maori children will be placed with their extended family where possible, Anne Tolley seems to be contradicting that on Twitter:

Which really doesn't suggest that the government is dealing with the Māori Party in good faith on this. In which case they'll likely find their bill voted down, and their budget along with it.