The Families Commission was a post-election coalition trophy for United Future and I have never been convinced it did anything of sufficient value to justify its existence.
However a new focus announced by Social Develop Minister Paula Bennett could change that:
The Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor Professor Sir Peter Gluckman has identified a gap in monitoring, evaluation and research in the social sector.
“This restructure will see the Families Commission take on a new role providing for independent monitoring, evaluation and research to measure the effectiveness of initiatives for families and society,” says Mrs Bennett.
Of the $32.48 million funding the Families Commission receives over four years, the Government will reprioritise a minimum of $14.2 million over four years to set up a new Social Policy Evaluation and Research Unit (SuPERU).
This unit will provide independent monitoring, evaluation and contracting of research on key issues and social sector programmes and interventions.
“There will be a single Commissioner, down from the original seven and the organisation will be governed by a board comprising public sector, philanthropic and academic representatives,” says Mrs Bennett.
The restructure will see the Families Commission’s core function, which is to advocate for families, streamlined through a leaner, more focused structure.
A new Family Status Report will be developed to measure how New Zealand families are getting on.
A further $4 million over four years will be redirected to fund extra parenting programmes and relationship education in schools and the Prime Minister’s Youth Mental Health programme.
The Government also announced the transfer of responsibility for managing the Growing Up In New Zealand longitudinal study to the new unit.
The study will receive an additional $1.8m from Vote Social Development 2012/2013 financial year.
A focus based on science rather than feel-good factors is a good place to start in ensuring the Commission achieves something worthwhile and gives value for the money it costs.