On the last lap of our journey

Superu is on the last lap of our journey and, the remaining team is facilitating the workshop on whānau and public policy that Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga is leading in Wellington next week. We have also made submissions to the Royal Commission into Historical Abuse in State Care, the Select Committee on the Child Poverty Reduction Bill and the committee reviewing tax policy.

As our time comes to an end, a few reflections are appropriate. Firstly, the team at Superu, led by Clare Ward, have raised the bar for all public organisations in the release of research, evaluation and information about social services. I now hope that we will see others stepping up to the mark, even if they just copy what we have done.

The social services sector outside government has a greater expectation of engagement with what it has to offer compared to five years ago. There have been many influences on this, and the work and focus of both Superu and the social sector have benefited by co-existing during this time.

We now have a much deeper recognition, in and out of government, that the evaluation and validation of how policy is executed is of the same importance as deciding on the policy itself. This causes us to rethink the range of methods we expect to see in evaluation and the cost to recipients of services. By the time services are in place, there needs to be a greater understanding of the need for well-considered trial and error when we are not certain that things will go as planned.

We can now find out a lot from government records, but this will always be limited by the accuracy of what has been retained and the partial nature of what government agencies choose to record. We are seeing huge benefits for connecting this data to traditional sources of data that are known to be reliable, including statistical surveys. Predictive modelling has been developed with little known validation for its statistical properties, and is only one of the many ways that government data can be used.

We have published several guides to evaluation which are a good starting point for people working in the sector. We have worked with government agencies on some of the more difficult but serious concerns of our society, most particularly family violence and youth mental health. We have also lifted the capacity of those in government to understand the Māori institutions of whānau and whakapapa, and why they make a difference for Māori, that are so ignored by policy makers.

Finally, of family and whānau, I very much hope we have helped increase awareness of the large share of care, education, health and housing support that family and whānau deliver for those in our midst who need support. It is critical that when the state becomes involved, it is not to the detriment of the family and whānau who will always be there.