by Metiria Turei
Yesterday we saw Work and Income boss, Janet Grossman, quit less than a year after being head-hunted from the UK.
This succinctly answers our pending question – how is Minister Bennett’s newly appointed Welfare Board going to work with existing management staff in the Department of Social Development? In this case it has become clear. It is not.
It seems that Janet Grossman was not happy to have Paula Rebstock effectively running Work and Income after all. Rebstock chaired the Welfare Working Group and is now a member of the Board appointed to oversee the reforms.
Paula Bennett’s preference to appoint these Advisory type boards is a persisting trend.
First there was the Welfare Working Group, then the Welfare Reform Board and most recently announced, the Social Science Experts Panel to oversee monitoring, evaluation and research across the social sector based at the Families Commission. This panel takes over functions previously performed by the Centre of Social Research and Evaluation, again at the Ministry of Social Development. We can look for more staff movements as a result of this latest announcement.
I, like others, am alarmed about this trend and how it impacts on the provision of non-biased, free and frank advice to the Minister and the CEO of the Ministry. I am concerned that the members of these panels/boards may be chosen by the Minister because their ideologies are aligned with hers. As such how can they possibly gather free and frank advice from the sector and from New Zealanders on the issue of Welfare?
It reminds me of a condition called “groupthink” – a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action.
And so… the education debacle over increased class sizes rises to mind. Lack of engagement with the sector, parents and children being sighted, still more questions about how the Minister was advised and who did she consult with
Perhaps no-one. Just the “experts”…handpicked.