Whanau Ora will be governed by a new Crown-iwi partnership group and three non-government organisations will be set up as part of the process, the Government has announced. The new partnership group will be made up of senior ministers, iwi leaders and experts.
A cynics’ view (or a leftist view): the government’s devolving power to the private sector. An advocates’ view: communities are best placed to determine community needs. I subscribe to the latter view.
The top down model – read the status quo – doesn’t work. It’s paternalistic. The system is responsive rather than preventative. Whanau Ora is a bottom up model. Firstly a preventative model, secondly a responsive model. Whanau Ora is designed to provide whanau with the skills and tools they need to resolve issues internally. The rationale is that the state should be divorced from the process – whanau are best equipped to deal with issues within the whanau. Paula Bennett has adopted this thinking, though with a focus on communities rather than whanau, in the social sector trials. Anecdotally, Whanau Ora and the social sector trials have worked.
Whanau Ora isn’t without flaws, though. The programme must be covered under the OIA. Public money demands public accountability. The argument for devolution is that the private sector – or in this case the community sector – is more efficient (and effective), but efficiency doesn’t negate accountability. There are also competency issues around delivery and monitoring. Proven providers appear to be the exception, not the rule. This appears to be a teething issues, though, rather than a structural issue.