15 Oct 2014

Whānau Ora agencies unhappy

6:44 pm on 15 October 2014

Two groups which run Whānau Ora in the North Island have joined in on the criticism of Te Puni Kōkiri over its management of the social issues policy.

The former Minister for Whānau Ora, Tariana Turia, who implemented the programme, has told Radio New Zealand that its rollout was poorly handled and there was a substantial underspend two years in a row.

Associate health minister Tariana Turia.

Tariana Turia. Photo: RNZ

Mrs Turia said she took funding out of Te Puni Kōkiri and put it into three commissioning agencies to ensure resources reached families more. She said the Government was not prepared to give it any more money when it was not spending what it had.

Whānau Ora agency Te Pou Matakana says it has led to some whānau missing out. Its chair, Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, said Whānau Ora was never meant to be complicated, but that is what has happened.

Ms Raukawa-Tait says there would not be three commissioning agencies if things had worked out for Te Puni Kōkiri.

"The providers and whānau did not get the support that should have been provided. When there's an underspend and you know that the needs are great, there are high needs for many, many whānau, then you have to question 'why did that happen?'."

Ms Raukawa-Tait says she knew there was an underspend and Te Puni Kōkiri's defence that only 1 percent, the equivalent of $1.5 million, was underspent is no excuse.

"It's a large piece of money that could have been used to provide support to whānau who have waited for that to be provided in a different way and it just didn't materialise for some, and that's really quite sad. There shouldn't even be one dollar underspent when there is so much need."

Ms Raukawa-Tait says the three agencies which have been given funding over Te Puni Kōkiri will make sure they do not end up going the same way.

Te Pou Matakana falls under the National Urban Māori Authority, which is in charge of giving out $43.2 million to Whānau Ora providers.

The authority's chair, Willie Jackson, is praising Tariana Turia for speaking out and agrees the rollout of Whānau Ora has been too complicated.

"I commend the former minister for speaking out. I'm disappointed with the underspend because the need is huge and the minster is right on the mark."

People within Whānau Ora and other commentators generally agree the social programme is working for Māori.

A recent Ministry of Health report found Whānau Ora GP practices were performing as well as other doctors clinics when it came to breast screening.

Te Puni Kōkiri said in a statement that since 2009 until 30 June this year, it has had $150 million in funding for the Whānau Ora approach, and more than 99 percent of that has been spent.

"As Whānau Ora was reviewed, there were occasions when it was inappropriate to commit funding when the future development of the Whānau Ora approach was unclear, and in those years there was an underspend. However, that money was moved from one year to another, not lost. "

The agency also said no money has been taken away from Vote Māori Affairs and Te Puni Kōkiri is still responsible for all Whānau Ora funding.

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