Budget 2017 and the voices of young people

Anya_ComVoices (1)Anya Satynand
Executive Officer
Ara Taiohi

Youth Week 2017 begins today! Over the next 9 days we’re encouraging young people to stand up, to speak, and to be counted. We want to amplify conversations about our astounding young people, and more importantly, conversations with them. We’ll count all the different ways that young people are making their voices heard, and remind the country about why we should listen to the perspectives of more of our young people in our communities, our democracy, and our economy.

Yesterday was another national day of counting, but young people’s voices couldn’t be heard in Budget 2017. By the numbers, Stephen Joyce’s first budget as Minister of Finance was firmly focused on infrastructure – not people. Some highlights: over the next 4 years, almost twice as much new capital expenditure is going into roading ($9.17 billion) as into education ($4.85 billion). New health spending ($2.39 billion) is ahead of new expenditure in defence ($2.21 billion), but only by a whisker. Appropriations indicate that our Ministry of Youth Development will shift even further away from positive youth development with a strong new focus on leadership and mentoring in enterprise and financial capability. There’s also a solid focus on youth offending and youth justice with 10 new residential beds for young people remanded in custody and work with ‘high risk offenders’.

When we ask young people about their priorities, they tell us they are interested in a more equitable society, with a diverse economy that produces wages which enable good lives. Many young people see it as critical that we rise to the challenges presented by climate change. They want to hear about tertiary education and fees, housing, job futures, and a health system that works for them.

The Government’s social investment approach has taken centre stage in terms of new initiatives affecting young people. However, if these initiative are to produce a more equitable society through decent education, housing, jobs, environment, and health for our young people, they will need to be backed up by long-term strategic investment in people as well as in projects.  For example, the budget allocates almost nothing towards development of the people who work with our children, or young people, or with members of our society whose wellbeing is compromised through illness or poverty. The interventions that the Government has mapped out over the next 4 years will only succeed if they are implemented by well-trained, well-supported, accountable, and ethical practitioners. These people are ready, willing, and able to work alongside those who need help and support in order to thrive, but they themselves need to be recognised, supported, and developed.

On another note, our public servants do extraordinary work, and so do those who make up New Zealand’s community sector. I think we’re all motivated by the same vision for Aotearoa, a country where all our children and young people can thrive, where New Zealanders who experience illness can receive skillful and caring treatment, where those experiencing hardship can access the help they need, and where the environment can sustain life and health for future generations. Despite these common values of the community and public sectors, and the outcomes we’re all working toward, there’s a disconnect between our worlds. Each side feels beleaguered, working under huge pressure and stress, in some cases without sufficient resources, feeling undervalued and overwhelmed by the level of need we’re attempting to meet. In spite of these challenges, we need to find a way of meeting in the middle and working to our strengths and collaborating — because in New Zealand in 2017, families are sleeping in cars, over 295,000 children are growing up in low income households, and it is harder than it has ever been to grow up hopeful. Despite New Zealand’s “strong and growing economy”, there’s a growing disconnect between young people’s aspirations and our reality, and it’s going to take all of us to change this.

This blog has been contributed by a member of ComVoices

ComVoices  actively promotes the value that community sector organisations and their people, both paid and unpaid, add to New Zealand’s economic and social wellbeing through information, and political advocacy and dialogue.

Click here for our website:  http://comvoices.org.nz/