December 2019 Blog

What you’ve told us and what we’re doing

Thank you to those of you who have let us know what you see as the key issues we can approach central government about to seek their support.  The key issues that have been identified are:

  • Family violence/child abuse
  • Poverty
  • Fragmentation of social services.

Family violence/child abuse

It was noted that central government is investing and making changes in the way they address family violence and child abuse, locally Tauranga Moana Abuse Prevention (TMAPS) are holding a Ripple Effect conference in May 2020 which will focus on child abuse prevention.  SociaLink are happy to facilitate engagement with central government to progress whatever recommendations come out of the conference.


SociaLink has invited the Child Poverty Action Group to visit Tauranga in February 2020 to meet with the social sector and let us know about the issues they are working on and to see if there is interest in establishing a regional child poverty network which SociaLink would be happy to support.   We are also supporting work Social Service Providers Aotearoa is doing to lobby government on the back of their research on the funding gap for social service providers of $630 million.

Fragmentation of services

SociaLink is supporting a number of organisations to work together to achieve greater impact.  This includes Co-Lab in Te Puke, organisations providing services to people who are homeless, organisations that work with people with autism and organisations working together in relation to food supply, called Kai Western Bay.  We are also working with social service providers to explore the feasibility of establishing a centralised hub to deliver services in the areas of family harm and older people.  We are also in the process of establishing a network for Māori providers.  Work is also being undertaken to assess the feasibility for some kind of entity that would enable community organisations to access shared back office services, what this space!

If you have other ideas of how SociaLink can help address the above issues please let us know, contact Liz Davies, General Manager liz@socialink.org.nz or 022 461 9104.

2020 and beyond

I’m pleased to announce the establishment of a Community Insights Laboratory (CIL) following the feasibility study to determine the need for such a facility, for which there was a lot of interest.  The Community Insights Lab aims to make available ‘big data’ or any kind of data to help inform decision making and planning for the community and social sectors.   We are very excited to have employed Liz Flaherty who is starting in mid-January 2020 to do more detailed planning for the CIL, build relationships with holders of data and start using data to help the sector.  Many of you will know Liz Flaherty, she has extensive experience in the social sector, particularly in the area of family harm, including being an experienced researcher.

 Pay equity campaign

Following local research into pay equity, or the lack there of, for workers employed by non-government organisations and at the request of the social sector, SociaLink is going to embark on a campaign to raise local community awareness and to lobby central government.  For example, social workers being paid on average $30,000 per year less than their colleagues in government is not just very unfair, it has significant impacts on the recruitment and retention of workers.

Legalisation of cannabis

Most of you would see the impact of cannabis on your clients and our communities.  To help inform the public and the sector in voting on the referendum we plan to hold a forum to hear the pro’s and con’s for the legalisation of the personal use of cannabis.

Central Government elections

It doesn’t seem that long ago that we had the 2017 elections but yes, it’s coming around again.  SociaLink will hold a local candidates forum so you can hear directly from candidates and ask questions.  We will also let you know political parties positions on key issues impacting on the social sector to help you make informed voting choices that have a considerable impact on the people you provide services to and of course how social services are funded.

I wish you all a very meri kirihimete with whanau and friends and a very well deserved break to recharge the batteries after a very busy year, be safe and look after yourself and enjoy your whanau and friends.

Liz Davies

General Manager


What can we do?

I have been wracking my brain about how Socialink can best tautoko or support our Muslim community at this horrific time.

Tears well up regularly and I expect they will for some time as I hear the stories emerging of what happened and how people and communities are responding to what has happened.

We cannot deny that there is an under current of hate and discrimination in our communities, whether that be targeted at Māori, LTGTBQIA community, Muslim, Jewish, the list goes on and it exists here in the western Bay of Plenty.

Events such as what happened on the 15th of March emerge from this dangerous under current and must be challenged.

These are hard conversations to have and this is, I think, how SociaLink can contribute, not just now but for years to come. Let me start today.

I am a Pakeha, middle aged (hard to face up to but true L), middle class, heterosexual woman which is a common demographic group in the workforce of the social sector.  By virtue of being born into a middle class Pakeha family I have benefited from the colonisation of Aotearoa and being a part of the dominant Pakeha culture.

I have benefited from and had access to New Zealand’s schools and health services and have not experienced discrimination because of my race or sexuality.  Not only this, the schools and health services are delivered according to my cultural frame of reference and at a cost that was affordable to a middle class family.

This is not the case for most Māori who still suffer from the impact of colonisation, including being the victim of terrorist events in the 1800’s.  Māori and other minority groups have not had the same level of access to education and health delivered in a way that understands and reflects their culture nor in a way that is affordable.  They have also suffered as a result of systemic and unconscious discrimination.  The suicide rates, high levels of incarceration and poorer health outcomes are a testament to this.

So what do I do.  For a start I own and acknowledge my privilege and do whatever I can to redress the power imbalance.  I continue to learn and will continue to do so for the rest of my life about Aotearoa’s history, te Ao Māori , te reo Māori as well as about other minority groups and use any opportunity to raise awareness.  The more I learn, the more I realise I don’t know, like peeling an onion, as I learn about one layer I discover ever more layers.  I think this alone is one of the most important things that we can do, the dark under current of discrimination and hate thrive in ignorance which then cultivates fear.

I do my best to pronounce Māori names correctly.  I challenge discriminatory views or acts whenever I hear or become aware of them.

As I go on this journey, I can assure you I don’t get it right all of the time, it’s a work in progress.  I would like to thank my friends and colleagues who take the time to teach and advise me about their culture and their experiences so I can better understand life from their perspective.

I challenge you to reflect on and think about how you expose, challenge and ultimately eliminate the under current here in the western Bay of Plenty.  I challenge us to think about how we tap into the huge outpourings of aroha at the moment and foster this so it remains and becomes our ‘new normal’.

A plethora of news!

Haere Mai to our new staff members!

Liz Stewart has taken on the role of Research, Policy and Advocacy Advisor, Liz brings decades of experience in undertaking social research, particularly in drugs and alcohol and mental health.  Please contact Liz if you want to access the findings from the Mapping the Social Sector project, assistance with undertaking, using or accessing research or in undertaking advocacy on issues close to your heart lizstewart@socialink.org.nz.

Anneke Grogan has started an internship with SociaLink as part of her degree in Health and Society, Psychology and Physiology and Health Management and is assisting Liz Stewart in her work.  It’s great to be able to offer a student an opportunity to learn about and contribute to the social sector.

Dale Johnson is taking on the role of Māori Engagement Advisor in late June to help SociaLink build relationships with Māori social service providers, iwi and hapu and look for opportunities to add value to the great work of Māori providers.  Dale brings a lot of experience in the social sector, particularly the disability sector, strong networks with local iwi and hapu and a passion for improving Māori social outcomes.  To contact Dale email Dale@socialink.org.nz.

Mapping the Social Sector

On the back of the launch of the Mapping the Social Sector findings we are out and about sharing the findings with the social sector via presentations to local networks , funders and stakeholders to encourage discussions and find ways to enhance the social sector.  Get in touch with me if you would like SociaLink to present the findings to your organisation or network.

We are delighted that we are getting requests for organisations wanting to use the findings, please contact Liz Stewart if you want to access the findings.

We are diving deeper into the findings, in particular looking in more detail about sub sectors e.g. health, disability, Māori providers etc.  As this information becomes available we will post them on our website.

Ever thought about the link between trees and improved health and wellbeing?

Research recently released of 50,000 New Zealand children suggests that living in greener areas with more exposure to native plants and a wider variety of vegetation may reduce the risk of being asthmatic.  A report by Toi Te Ora – Public Health Services identify many more social, health and educational benefits of living near trees and plants.  Read the research https://www.ttophs.govt.nz/vdb/document/1973

Our friends in the environmental sector, Envirohub, are obviously tree huggers and have many trees available for you too to embrace.  Got room for a tree, a space to plant trees to realise the many benefits of trees? Don’t have space? Envirohub will find space to plant them.  Go to Envirohub’s website https://envirohub.org.nz/buy-tree/ to purchase Pohutukawa trees for the low price of $11.50  per tree.


Launch of Mapping the Social Sector

Thank you so much to everyone who came along to the launch and participated in the workshops.  We were rapt with the turn out, over 130 people, great to see so many social services interested in learning more about the social sector as well as being a great networking opportunity!

I’m looking forward to all the feedback you provided at the workshops, I suspect you’ve set SociaLink’s work programme for years to come!  This feedback will be posted on the link below at the end of next week.

For those of you who did not attend please go to our website for the full report, summary and information about how to add or update your organisation’s details.  The more organisations that participate and the more up-to-date the information is the more useful the database will be for the social sector.

We also launched ‘From the Frontline – Social Services Improving Lives’ to demonstrate the huge impact an organisation can have on someone’s quality of life.  Please also download this (same link as above) and share it with service users and your communities – this helps tell the story to our communities of the immense value and contribution social services make to people’s quality of life.

Labour MP Jan Tinetti made a great speech to launch the project findings.  This is also available on the link above.  It clearly signals where the Labour-led government is heading, very heartening to hear the strong focus on people.

We are keen to get the findings our as far and wide as possible, we are happy to present the findings to your organisation or any networks you are involved with and to have conversations about what these findings mean for the social sector.

Supporting Māori Leadership

For those of you in the western Bay of Plenty district (e.g. Katikati, Te Puke, Maketu and Waihi beach) you will be aware that residents have been asked to vote on whether or not to establish a Māori ward at the Western Bay of Plenty District Council (WBOPDC).

What does this have to do with social services I hear you ask?  Many of you will see on a daily basis the results of Māori faring less well on pretty much any measure you care to mention – health, abuse, violence, addictions, housing, equity etc.

Guaranteeing a Māori voice around the Council table is one way of empowering tangata whenua to tackle these issues.  The WBOPDC- Tauranga Moana/Te Arawa ki Takutai Partnership Forum iwi and hapu members strongly endorse the establishment of a Māori ward.  For more information click here.

As much as anything this speaks to equity, SociaLink believes that we do not all start on a level playing field, so rather than treating everyone the same (equality) we need to be aiming for equity in outcomes.  This is perhaps best depicted by the following diagram on the right.

For these reasons SociaLink strongly supports a Māori ward.  I encourage you to learn about Māori wards and spread the words to your service users, and most importantly, vote by 19 May 2018.

Growing Pains

How are you grappling with the ongoing influx of people choosing to make Tauranga and the Western Bay of Plenty their home?
Are there increasing numbers of people needing your services? Are you spending more time in your car to get to and from work, attend meetings or visit clients?  Whilst it allows for a bit of down time listening to the radio it can also increase stress levels when you’re running late.

For me, I’m either leaving home early (7am) to try and beat the traffic or increasingly I’ve started scheduling meetings from 10am so I can work from home then drive to work.  I am lucky and highly value this flexibility, ,I can be around for my family and spend less down time in the car.  My staff also enjoy this flexibility , not only to avoid clogged roads but to enable them to be available for their family and other commitments and I have no doubt that they work harder for it going by the number of emails I get late at night.

I am very privileged to have highly skilled and independent staff which means I can focus on the outcomes of their work rather than counting the hours they work or when and where they work which can lead to ‘presenteeism’, they’re at work but aren’t necessarily being as productive as they could be…. think Facebook, sudouku, TradeMe..  Not to mention, if all my staff did want to work 8 to 5 in the office, we wouldn’t have the room!  Although this will change when we get to enjoy the brand, spanking new co-working space – The Kollective later this year.

I’m also indebted to technology which allows this flexibility – a mobile phone and lap top – I can pretty much work anywhere at any time.  This is a blessing, but can also be a curse, I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that it also means you’re available 24/7 so it can be hard to switch off (excuse the pun).

Being able to work when and where you want, within reason, is highly valued by many people.  Given our lack of funds to pay staff as much as they deserve, offering flexibility regarding when and where they work can be a significant benefit to staff.  Of course this is limited to staff who aren’t required to be always present during office hours and requires a level of trust between the manager and staff members.  Which raises the question, are standard office hours the best way to deliver services for clients and staff alike?  Mobile phones means many clients have the ability to contact staff 24/7.  I suspect the social sector is already ahead of the game in being flexible to meet the needs of clients.
How can we improve the accessibility of our services and save our clients time sitting in traffic by using technology and being more flexible in the way we work?  How can organisations benefit from flexibility for staff and in turn increase how much time we have to work with clients? This also raises the need for organisations to have the necessary digital infrastructure, a common need identified by many organisations, as reported in the For the Greater Good – Mapping the Social Sector project (watch out for the release of the report at the launch on 14 May).

Growing waiting lists, increased demand for services as the population grows and more time spent sitting in cars is increasingly compelling us to review the way we work.  As I write this at home, I am incredibly grateful that I’m not having to navigate the right hand turn into SH2 to join the unrelenting traffic heading into Tauranga, happy days.

Liz Davies