Author:Alan Johnson, Salvation Army Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit
Topics:Demographics and societyEconomy, business and industryEducation and skillsHousingQuality of life
The Salvation Army’s State of the Nation reports have been published since 2008. At the time of the report’s conception, the project was seen as a way of tracking our social progress as a nation. In undertaking this work, The Salvation Army was attempting to introduce and highlight important social values—such as equity and inclusion—into the public discourse.
A great deal has changed in this public discourse over the intervening 11 years. We believe our State of the Nation reports have contributed to these changes. For example, the previous government introduced its ‘Better Public Service Targets’, which, by the admission of the former Prime Minister Sir Bill English, were in part modelled on the indicators offered in the State of the Nation reports.
However, this programme of setting and measuring targets for public services had mixed blessings. This was in part because those responsible for delivering services and for generating improvements were also responsible for measuring and reporting progress.
Sometimes improvements were reported without any apparent change in the outcomes seen on the ground; for example, the reported reduction in rates of child abuse and neglect.
The current Government has adopted a more expansive and ambitious programme to ensure that public policy and Government’s resources are more broadly focused on social and environmental outcomes. The Prime Minister has announced that the 2019 Budget will be New Zealand’s first ‘well-being budget’. A number of government agencies have been busy developing conceptual frameworks of well-being, alongside ways of measuring progress toward improved well-being. These efforts are coalescing around Treasury’s Living Standards Framework and Statistics New Zealand’s Indicators Aotearoa programme. ...