Chief Executive's foreword | Annual Report 2019 - 2020

Ka huri te kei o te waka ki te pae tawhiti
Kia hoe ngātahi ki te pae tata
Ki te whai ao, ki te ao mārama.

The waka turns towards the distant horizon
Let us make headway and paddle as one
Through the glimmer of dawn to the break of day.

Read Te Kupu Whakataki a te Tumuaki in Māori

Debbie Power - Chief Executive

Rarely has a year tested us all more than 2020, and never has the Ministry of Social Development been called upon to play such a pivotal role in the lives of so many New Zealanders. It’s a privilege to lead an organisation that has risen to the challenge and helped people in their time of need.

In 2018 we introduced our new strategic direction, Te Pae Tawhiti, setting out the three key shifts we needed to make to achieve better outcomes for New Zealanders: Mana manaaki – a positive experience every time; Kotahitanga – partnering for greater impact; and Kia takatū tātou – supporting long-term social and economic development. We began to redesign and reorient the way we operate to integrate our services across employment, housing and income support. An essential part of this was delivering on the Government’s commitment to overhaul the welfare system and make it fairer and easier to access.

Our achievements this year have included making headway as we looked to make changes to the way we operated. We upgraded our sites and communication channels to make them more accessible and welcoming. We recruited more people for our frontline to meet the increase in demand for our services. We launched the SuperGold Card app and enhanced our digital services. With Government investment all of our NGOs, including family and sexual violence services, received a significant uplift in funding. There were challenges - we supported communities through tragedies such as the Christchurch mosque shootings, widespread flooding, fires, droughts and the Whakaari/White Island eruption. We met these challenges and worked hard to reduce the complexity in our system, be accessible and improve our service. As we moved into 2020, we had a clear vision of what we were working to. Who knew that COVID-19 was over the horizon?

To support New Zealanders impacted by COVID-19, MSD had to speed up the work we had under way, and deliver more, faster. As an essential service we never closed. Instead, our services went online and over the phone.

We set ourselves up at pace to support over a million new clients whose jobs were at risk due to COVID-19, while ensuring we looked after our existing clients with income support, hardship assistance, superannuation services, employment and housing support, student financial support and child-related benefits.

In 2019/20 we provided close to $40 billion to help more New Zealanders, whānau and communities than ever before.

New payments like the Wage Subsidy, COVID-19-related income relief and support for tertiary students were introduced in a matter of days, and we redeployed staff from across the organisation to take calls and process hundreds of thousands of applications. On top of this, we increased main benefits, doubled the Winter Energy Payment, and managed the increase in the numbers of people applying for benefits and financial assistance.

The size and breadth of MSD meant we could leverage every arm of our organisation – policy, IT, research, community partnerships, service delivery, and our corporate teams – to focus on our COVID-19 response. We also reached out to our partners across government, NGOs, providers, Māori, Pacific, industries, youth, students, older people and disabled communities. Thanks to the strength of these relationships and our presence in service centres across New Zealand, we could get financial and practical assistance to where it was most needed. Whether it was money, a safe place to stay, help to find a job, or delivering face coverings, medicine or a kai package, it was done.

Over the last 12 months we did all this and so much more. We helped nearly 75,000 people off benefits into work and met over 80 percent of our performance targets. To achieve this, maintain our core services and respond to a global pandemic was outstanding.

Looking ahead, we still have much to do. We’re going to be in response mode for a while yet, and while we’ve transformed the way we operate and accelerated our work programme, and we’re making better use of technology, we will need to build on this to deliver a better, more accessible service for our clients.

Keeping New Zealanders working or supporting them if they lose their job is going to be vital for New Zealand’s social and economic recovery. Many more thousands of New Zealanders are now on a benefit and we have a responsibility to all of them – to ensure they get their full and correct entitlement and for those who can, to work with them to get them into jobs. A number of initiatives, such as Apprenticeship Boost and online recruitment tools, are already in place to keep people connected to the workforce, and employment will remain a key priority.

We’ll continue to improve the welfare support we provide, with a focus on preventing people’s situations from getting worse by intervening earlier to stop people losing their home or get further into debt. We’re also linking people to support that’s available beyond MSD to address wider social and health needs.

I started work here as a 16-year-old cadet to help people going through a tough time. As I head into my second year as Chief Executive, that is still what motivates me. I’m so proud of what the MSD team of 8,000 achieved over the last year and what we’ll continue to do to support New Zealanders in the year ahead.

Debbie Power
Chief Executive

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