Chief Executive's foreword | Annual Report 2021 - 2022

Manaaki tangata, Manaaki whānau

We help New Zealanders to be safe, strong and independent.


Debbie Power – Chief Executive

The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) is the organisation people in New Zealand turn to if they need income support, a job, to study, or have nowhere to live. We are there for people at the times in their life when they need us, right through to supporting seniors in their later life. What we do – and how we do it – makes a big difference to people, to their whānau and their community. With over 160 sites across Aotearoa, we are part of our local communities and we understand the importance of our role in these communities.

Looking back over the last year, I have been constantly impressed by the way our people – and those we work with – have responded to every challenge and kept the welfare of New Zealanders at the front and centre of what we do.

There is a lot we can reflect on and be proud of over the last year, including:

  • setting up Whaikaha – Ministry of Disabled People
  • our response to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic
  • our record results getting people into work
  • being able to build on the strength of our partnerships
  • reaching a major milestone with our Te Pae Tawhiti programme.

Whaikaha – Ministry of Disabled People

It is a privilege for MSD to be the host agency of Whaikaha – Ministry of Disabled People. Whaikaha was established on 1 July 2022 and represents a significant shift in how government works with, and for, disabled people. The launch was the culmination of a huge amount of work to set up the Ministry and was an emotional day, especially for those who had advocated for its creation for many years. Whaikaha has its own Chief Executive, the first appointment of a disabled person as a public service Chief Executive.

Doing our bit for the COVID-19 response

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the lives of New Zealanders, as does the subsequent rise in the cost of living. We have seen, and responded to, an increase in the demand for social support.

As well as Wage Subsidies and the Leave Support Scheme, we alongside others led the Care in the Community welfare response, which helped whānau who were isolating. Whether people needed income, emergency accommodation, assistance with food, masks, bills or medication, we were there (eg during the Omicron wave, Community Connectors supported 107,300 families who were isolating).

We scaled our services up at pace and ensured support went to hard-to-reach communities. We made sure local organisations were ready to provide support on the ground, and we tailored that support for Māori, Pacific, ethnic and migrant communities, disabled, youth and older people.

More recently, we’ve been focused on the longer-term issues emerging from the pandemic, such as social isolation, reduced income, debt, and poor mental and physical health – the impact of which we will see for some time.

Getting more people into jobs than ever before

A relentless focus on getting people jobs has seen 226,836 clients move off benefit into work in the last two years – our highest recorded result.

Programmes like Flexi-wage and Apprenticeship Boost helped upskill jobseekers and encourage employers to take on new staff. Targeted campaigns around seasonal work connected students and other clients to work in the horticulture industry, while job expos held around the country saw queues around the block of people looking for work and had businesses signing up new recruits on the day.

Kotahitanga – partnering

This year we saw just how important the relationships and networks we have developed are. We have worked with a wide variety of individuals and organisations to focus on areas, such as:

  • reducing family and sexual violence
  • strengthening social cohesion, following the 2019 terrorist attack on the Christchurch mosques
  • responding to civil defence emergencies, in particular the floods experienced up and down the country
  • social sector commissioning on behalf of the public service
  • progressing youth development.

The work of the Regional Public Service Commissioners came to the fore, joining up the work of the public service in the regions. MSD has 12 senior leaders in these roles.

Our Crown-Māori partnerships go from strength to strength with the Te Hiku o te Ika Social Accord, Koiora Accord with Waikato-Tainui, the Ngāi Tūhoe Service Management Plan and other iwi relationship agreements. We have staff embedded at marae, bringing support to Māori whānau in an environment they are comfortable in.

Access to affordable housing remains an issue. Our priority is to make sure people have somewhere to stay and we work closely with local councils, city missions and other agencies to make this possible.

Te Pae Tawhiti

I am proud of the contribution MSD has made to the lives of New Zealanders over the last 12 months. What we achieved is made all the more remarkable when you consider it was done using outdated technology and systems. This is why one of my highlights is Cabinet signing-off Te Pae Tawhiti – our transformation programme that will modernise our systems and the way we operate at MSD.

At no point, amid all this activity, did we lose sight of the important day-to-day work, income support, ensuring students get their loans and allowances, annual adjustments, increases in benefits, winter energy payments, managing the Public Housing Register, hosting the Independent Children’s Monitor, managing historic claims, youth development and valuing the contribution of older people through the Better Later Life strategy.

Having seen this organisation from every angle, I am full of admiration for what our people do. Of course, there is always more to do, but we have a great team in place keen to do more and make that difference in people’s lives.

COVID-19 may not be gone or forgotten, but we’re enjoying being able to open our sites back up, do more face-to-face and reconnect – with clients, partners, each other, as well as with who we are and what we do.

Debbie Power

Secretary for Social Development
Chief Executive, Ministry of Social Development

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