The changes to the welfare system we recommend will, when fully implemented, realise the vision set out in our terms of reference. The bulk of the responsibility for implementing these changes sits with MSD, but the interactions between the welfare system and other systems (labour market, housing, education and health) mean this vision will not be achieved without considerable cross-agency effort.
For this reason, the Welfare Expert Advisory Group recommends:
In both the cases, the approach should be consistent with Te Tiriti responsibilities and involve the users of the welfare system. A governance group could include non-governmental organisations, employers, unions, beneficiary advocates, iwi and Māori as well as people directly affected by the system.
MSD’s performance measures should reflect the key outcomes that it is trying to achieve – providing adequate incomes and support for participation (particularly through employment) – and should be consistent with the new purpose, principles and values.
Current performance measures in MSD’s Statement of Intent focus on off-benefit outcomes, such as time off a main benefit and average future years on a main benefit (MSD, 2018c). MSD’s key outcomes do not directly relate to the numbers (or time) that people spend receiving a main benefit (though this may be useful information for other purposes such as fiscal forecasts). This focus on numbers of people on benefit, rather than on positive outcomes for people (both while they receive a benefit and when they cease to), underpins a negative view of benefit recipients as purely fiscal costs rather than as people to invest in to improve their wellbeing and support to meaningfully participate in their communities.
The Welfare Expert Advisory Group recommends that MSD and Inland Revenue publish annual information, reflecting the core outcomes the social security system is tasked with achieving, including:
Each of these outcomes should, where possible, be broken down by ethnicity, gender, location, benefit type, health conditions and disabilities, and number and age of dependent children (aged 0–17).
These outcomes should be included, as appropriate, in each agency’s Statement of Intent and Annual Report. Further details could be published in a standalone report.