Feel good no good if doesn’t make a difference

May 30, 2015

Finance Minsiter Bill English explains the importance of data:

. . . Speaking at the Identity Conference in Wellington on Monday, English said it was important to know “which people were where” across the country in order to tell what particular Government services were making a difference.

“The reason people hand over their PAYE at the end of the week or fortnight… is because they think we are making a difference to someone else’s life. Too often we haven’t.”

He said: “We’ve delivered policy to make us feel good… that made it look like we cared, but we never went back to see whether it made any difference, and actually, we couldn’t because often we didn’t know, and still don’t know who gets our service,” he said.

It’s unclear whether the people  who need help the most are receiving it or whether the services they receive have an impact, English said.

Businesses know if they’re making an impact because if they’re not customers don’t buy their goods and services and they run out of money.

It is much more difficult to measure the success of a lot of government agencies and publicly funded entities which are dealing with vulnerable people but it must be done.

There’s a “moral compulsion” for Government to provide assistance and the broadening of data collection, particularly around social services, has contributed to better outcomes.

“Take a child under 5 who is known to CYFS, where at least one parent in the household is on the benefit and where either of the parents has had contact with Corrections…we can pretty much forecast now that that child under 5 with those characteristics…by the age of 35 they’re five times more likely to be a beneficiary and seven times more likely to be in prison by age 21.”

English calls these children the “billion dollar kids” and says the more the state knows about them, “we may be able to change the course of that life”.

“If we can’t know that much about them it’s almost certain that we can’t change the course of their life.” . .

The moral compulsion isn’t just to provide assistance, it’s to provide assistance that makes a positive difference.


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