Welfare reform goes Nanny Goat Gruff: The State gets mouthy on youth – Part 3 of many

According to the latest Cabinet papers, we can expect stage one of the legislative changes to be introduced to Parliament next week, ready for implementation in July 2012.

I’ve blogged previously about the DPB work testing requirements, touched on the loss of the TIA for higher level studies, and Metiria has blogged about incentivising contraception which we previously hoped had been taken off the table, but is now back there in black and white.

The latest papers give us detail about these changes. I’ll try to touch on some of the perhaps lesser acknowledged aspects of the reform. I’m focusing this post on the information sharing aspects of the Youth Package.

The changes will enable PHOs, educational institutions, and police to share information with private agencies contracted to Work and Income to provide “wrap around services” to young people. The Cabinet paper notes that there wasn’t time to adequately consult the Privacy Commissioner, who, I suggest, could be expected to have concerns about the changes.

Having been involved in youth health work for quite a few years, I find it concerning to see PHOs on the list of agencies subject to these proposed provisions. Youth Health services have been set up around the country in response to research that showed young people were not accessing services for a range of reasons, including concerns about confidentiality.

The Cabinet papers do not itemise the information that may be shared. They mention referring young people for family planning advice to get long term contraceptive devices or medication, they mention sanctions for young people whose ‘recreational’ alcohol and drug use creates a barrier to getting work, and they also mention mental health concerns as another barrier to employment.

We have doctor patient confidentiality for several reasons. If people delay treatment, for fear of censure or exposure, problems can compound. Many health issues are connected to social taboos, and this makes confidentiality even more important. I doubt doctors and other health professionals will be comfortable sharing information about a patient without the patient’s explicit consent, and I’m not yet sure what this will mean for the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights that guarantees the right to respect and privacy. The NZ Medical Association Code of Ethics also notes:

Protect the patient’s private information throughout his/her lifetime and following death unless there are overriding considerations in terms of public interest or patient safety.

If we have reached the point as a country that complying with employment readiness criteria is considered of such public interest that it overrides the right to privacy, maybe we should just start encouraging our young people to move to Australia.

Oh, actually, the state of the respective New Zealand and Australian economies is doing that anyway.

7 Comments Posted

  1. God the green party are boring. you guys need a MAJOR overhaul – starting with how to engage an audience without sounding like political neanderthals. Is this your official blog? Jesus, get some game. This is the most dreary looking website I’ve been on in years – and I VOTED for you guys. And really, Nanny Goat Gruff!!???!?!! WTF???? I don’t get that and neither does anyone else…what era are you from? Sounds like you are completely out of touch with the people of NZ. Haven’t you noticed, we’re not all old, white, and born here…?

  2. @dbuckley 8:13 AM

    Yeah, the Cabinet paper Jan has linked to shows that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner does not support including the information sharing provisions relating to young people in the Social Security Act, but would prefer that they be implemented through the provisions of the Privacy (Information Sharing) Bill that is currently before Select Committee.

    The way the Government is approaching this is likely to result in one set of principles and practices relating sharing personal information that is about young people, and a different set of principles and practices applying to sharing personal information about anyone else.

    That is surely poor (and discriminatory) law.

  3. The previous stance on inter-departmental-data-sharing was quite good, in that each individual data sharing arrangement had to be documented, and there is a list of them with forty-odd items.

    I’d be quite concerned if this documented approach is going to be bypassed.

  4. If charter schools and nationals standard are both to address the same thing – how come charter schools do not have to comply with national standards?

    But back on topic, the issue is whether those under 18 should have the same rights to privacy as others. And whether an awareness that they will not, will adversely impact on their accessing health services.

  5. toad – I see you’ve taken to pre-emptive slagging off – really classy.

    Jan – you say “Cabinet paper notes that there wasn’t time to adequately consult the Privacy Commissioner”

    Yet it is obvious from the list of comments by the privacy commissioner about the proposal, that they’ve had a pretty good look at it.

    And more than once the paper says departments will have to consult closely with the privaxcy commissioner to “ensure that appropriate safeguards are included in the legislation”.

    While concentrating on being alarmist, you’ve forgotten to tell us what the legislation is actually all about – it’s a safety net to catch children who drop out of school and out of sight until they appear on the dole statistics a few years later.

    Because the kids who drop out of the system at this stage, will spend more of their life on benefits than any other group.

    The main information sharing is about being allowed to find out who has dropped out of school, and their contact details, so they be helped into the “youth pipeline” instead of them dropping out of sight and becoming a lifetime beneficiary.

    It all tees up with addressing one of the worst drop out rates in the first world.

    And charter schools helping those who don’t fit into mainstream schools.

    And National Standards so we don’t have huge numbers of kids gettting to secondary school without being able to read and write – prime candidates for automatic failure and drop out.

  6. Cheers, Jan. You have had a really great post up here attacking the Government’s welfare reform agenda for over an hour, and no right wing troll has yet come here to comment.

    Guess they all go to bed early, having exhausted themselves during the day, staunchly defending the Randian way.

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