Adopt all the CAB social inclusion recommendations

The Citizen Advice Bureau provided a thoughful and practical set of recommendations to improve social inclusion in Aotearoa New Zealand, including to dramatically improve access to public services by people when they are at their most vulnerable. I suggest all these recommendations are taken up as part of this strategy, not just the "digital" ones, because thriving in a digital world doesn't only reuqire digital things.

The submission is here namely:

  • Ensure public services are accessible to all

    • We ask that public services be designed and delivered with people’s needs at the centre and for them to reflect the “spirit of service to the community” outlined in the Public Service Act 2020. This includes treating all people with dignity and compassion, as well as understanding and meeting people’s needs.

    • We ask that all New Zealand Government services be provided through an integrated, equitable, holistic, person / whānau centred,omni-channel (choice of channels) approach.This means that public services should be readily accessible to people through a streamlined, cross-government entry point that responds to the person / whanau as a whole, rather than in a siloed, disconnected way. It also means that people can access and transact with public services in a range of ways(eg, online, face to face,through others, orby phone) so they can get what they need and are entitled to, with dignity. Offline options should not be seen as a “time-bound”, or as a deficiency, but as a critical part of a well-functioning public service. There are good international models that the NZ Government should be drawing on, such as Service New South Wales and Service Canada.

    • We ask that as an essential starting point, the NZ Government’s ‘Digital Service Design Standard’ be expanded into a ‘Public Service Design Standard’. A lot of work is going into developing the Standard, but by limiting government services to ‘digital services’, this misses the opportunity to ensure that public services are genuinely designed to meet people’s diverse needs. The ‘Public Service ‘Design Standard’ needs to explicitly identify standards for services to be available across channels,to reduce the chance of social exclusion that happens with digital-only services. Minimum service standards should be identified and mandated across all government services, as per the Public Service Act 2020 requirements. 

  • Develop an integrated strategy to address barriers to inclusion.

    • We ask that the Government develop, collaboratively with the social sector, an integrated strategy to address barriers to social inclusion.This is about recognising that inclusion is the goal and that digital inclusion is just one aspect of this. Many of the digital exclusion barriers we have identified in our report are not ones that can fixed by giving a person a device and an internet connection and sending them on a digital skills course. They reflect fundamental issues of poverty, literacy, disability, language barriers and systemic inequality.

    • We ask that all government policies and services are publicly measured and monitored against the Living Standards Framework to ensure that decisions are informed by what will best support improved wellbeing.

    • We ask that the Government address the specific digital exclusion issues faced by people around Aotearoa to ensure that all people have equitable access and opportunity to use digital technologies. This includes the following actions:

      • Ensure that there is affordable and reliable connectivity for all communities across Aotearoa, noting in particular the challenges for our rural communities.

      • Increase access to free Wi-Fi and digital devices for those in low income households and those suffering disadvantage as a result of a lack of access. 

      • Support people with disabilities to access appropriate equipment and technology that is best suited to their needs. Ensure public services are accessible and that service design is informed by consultation with people with disabilities and by universal design principles.

      • Ensure free-access computers, printing services, and facilities for scanning and uploading documents are readily accessible in the community. 

      • Make all government websites zero-rated, which means they are able to be accessed without data use charges.This approach is currently being taken with a number of health and wellbeing websites.

      • Provide ongoing learning opportunities with the aim of increasing basic digital literacy and confidence, and include ongoing ‘helpdesk’ type support. 

  • Provide increased resourcing for intermediary organisations

    • We ask that theGovernment adequately fund the CAB to carry out its vital intermediary role, including assisting people who experience exclusion (whether social or digital) to interact with government and to access information, services and entitlements. 

    • We ask that community intermediaries are provided with specific funding to meet the demands and cost-shifting that has resulted from government services going online. This includes providing funding for printing, for hardware, software and facilities, for learning and development for staff and volunteers, and to resource capacity within organisations such as the CAB to contribute to strategic engagement with government on social inclusion and digital inclusion issues.

    • We ask that the Government provides dedicated customer support and escalation mechanisms for community intermediaries to help them to provide timely support for the people they are working with and alongside.

Why the contribution is important

Because the shift to digital first without any substantial integration of services across departments, and without any omni-channel strategy, has created more of a barrier to people to get what they need when they are hardest hit.

Because the lack of implementation of the Wellbeing Framework into the financial, project and programme reportings and measurements mean there is no systemic incentive to create public services or policies that actually help people live well.

Because a lot of organisations are filling the gap, but the gap has got too wide, so people are slipping through the gap into helplessness. If the govt doesn't improve its services holistically, across all departments, and if govt doesn't start to partner with NGOs that people go to first, then there will be people who simply can't thrive, increasingly so in a digital first world.

by piaandrews on October 26, 2021 at 10:44AM

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  • Posted by andia067 November 07, 2021 at 19:38

    We need a conceptual distinction between social inclusion and digital inclusion. While there are no doubts about the benefits of being digitally included, digital inclusion does not automatically translate into social inclusion. Moreover, the overemphasis on 'digital first' is not only leaving people behind but also curtailing their agency - they are being 'forced' to go digital. There is a small percentage of people in Aotearoa that prefers to live their lives offline - and we should respect their freedom to choose.
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