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Fears data rule may deter those in need

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 16/10/2016

New government rules that mean vulnerable people must hand over personal details could scare some off from seeking help, says the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services.

It is also highly critical of the Ministry of Social Development "quietly slipping" the requirement into the paperwork without earlier consultation.

The ministry's Community Investment Strategy, launched last year, offers $300 million to community-based social services each year.

However, council executive director Trevor McGlinchey says buried in the latest supplementary information is a requirement that social agencies supply clients' names, address, gender, date of birth, their ethnicity, iwi and details of their dependents.

The requirement is being rolled out and all agencies must provide the information by July next year.

The ministry says the information will allow it to know client needs and find out whether programmes are working.

It also says it will be able to look at what other government-funded services the people are accessing to "be better able to understand what programmes and services are attributed to the results we are seeking".

But Mr McGlinchey, in a blog post, questioned whether asking for such information would stop at-risk families from seeking support.

"At this stage we don't know. However, many of our members feel that those who are most in need of support may be less willing to reveal their needs if they believe that government will have access to this information."

Mr McGlinchey described it as a "quiet revolution", where social agencies would only be able to work with people who shared their information with the government, similar to Inland Revenue and Work and Income.

He wasn't aware of any consultation on such significant changes.

"It is not good enough to quietly slip these types of requirements into RFPs (request for proposals) and contracts. Robust discussion and critique is needed to ensure that the most vulnerable in our communities can access the services they need."

The council represents six church social services, which account for 213 agencies in 55 centres.

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