The announcement of an enquiry into the privacy failure of MSD’s online reporting platform for community organisations required to provide individual client data (ICLD) addresses only one of the Privacy Commissioner’s four recommendations, says ComVoices.
“The just announced enquiry is deflecting us from the real question”, said Trevor McGlinchey, ComVoices Spokesperson. “The question at the heart of the enquiry should be why are we collecting data that the Privacy Commissioner has said is ‘…excessive, disproportionate to government’s legitimate needs and therefore inconsistent with the privacy principles’?”.
“The staff of social services organisations have a range of professional bodies which provide ethical guidelines about maintaining the privacy of clients. Not only will these organisations be breaking these ethical guidelines, they will also be forced to work in direct contravention of the Privacy Commissioner’s findings.”
At the moment service providers have been told they must continue to collect the private data of their clients to provide to MSD at a future date. They have not been told who will be held to account for breaking the privacy principles set out in the Privacy Act.
“The community sector is waiting for leadership from the Minister and MSD about the important issues raised in the Privacy Commissioner’s report,” says McGlinchey. “This mass collection of data is inappropriate and will directly affect many New Zealand families. This level of surveillance will cause others not to seek help so that they do not become labelled as ‘vulnerable’ and included as a named statistic on a government database. As always the NGO sector is happy to work alongside MSD to find a more appropriate solution to their data needs.”
ComVoices is calling on the Government to put an immediate hold on this policy while it addresses the issues raised by the Privacy Commissioner.
Contact Trevor McGlinchey, ComVoices Spokesperson, phone 027 286 9393
“While there is some relief that after the failure of MSD’s private data portal, Minister Tolley has put the reporting of clients’ private data on hold for a few months, NGOs are very frustrated with the Minister’s response to the Privacy Commissioner’s report on the collection of individual Client Data”, said Trevor McGlinchey, ComVoices Spokesperson. “The determination to push ahead with MSD collecting this sensitive data in the face of the Privacy Commissioners Report and the failure of the MSD information portal demonstrate that we should be holding off on implementing this process and a more effective way of demonstrating the value of social services should be developed’.
The Privacy Commissioner recommended that MSD should put consider alternative methods for accomplishing its goals such as having the information collated and analysed by Statistics New Zealand in the Integrated Data Infrastructure. “The members of the ComVoices networks fully support this proposal and stand ready to work with the Minister, MSD and the Ministry for Children to make this work”.
“We are now in the very difficult position of being expected to sign MSD contracts that are out of step with the Privacy Commissioner’s findings. It is difficult to see how we can do this in good faith and we have real concerns about the liability we might be opening ourselves up to.”
“We urge the Minister and her officials to match good intentions with good practice and listen and take action on the advice they have been given.”
Contact Trevor McGlinchey, ComVoices Spokesperson, phone 027 286 9393
“ComVoices welcomes the Privacy Commissioner’s report on Individual Client Level Data and endorses the recommendations, particularly the preferred option that MSD should consider alternative methods for accomplishing its goals”, said Trevor McGlinchey, ComVoices Spokesperson. “These recommendations are directly in line with the advice provided by ComVoices members to MSD and to Minister Tolley”.
“It is very important the families and individuals seeking support from community service providers can trust that their rights to privacy will not be breached and that no harm or misuse could result in the use of their personal information. This encourages early access to support and allows vulnerable families to grow into independence rather than being forced to hide their problems for fear that this information will be used against them or publicly shared”.
“Earlier, more direct engagement with providers of social services could have prevented the current situation arising. We have repeatedly offered to support MSD to develop alternative data gathering systems so they could better understand the high value of social services organisations and how these make a real difference for vulnerable people and communities”.
“The reported breakdown of the system proposed by MSD to collect the private information of social service clients illustrates the need for a more effective and better protected data system. It is evident that good governance and principles need to be developed across the public sector to support a coherent approach to the collection and analysis of relevant data. Community and iwi social services providers want to demonstrate the value and effectiveness of their services to all stakeholders, but not to the detriment of their clients. We welcome the support shown by the Privacy Commissioner for the expertise of Statistics NZ, which protects individual data within both legislative and ethical frameworks whilst delivering valuable data for analytics and research”.
“The establishment of the Ministry of Vulnerable Children Oranga Tamariki means a large proportion of government funded community services move to this new Ministry, however many services stay with MSD and Work and Income . The new Ministry is committed to working in partnership with community social service providers, we see this as an opportunity for a fresh start. Social services want to work collaboratively with government to support them to understand the huge value of the services they receive for their $330million a year investment”.
“ComVoices looks forward to engaging with the Minister of Children, social sector government ministries, the office of the Privacy Commission and the Government Chief Information Officer to develop ethical, high trust systems that respect an individual’s choice in sharing their personal data and can report on the effectiveness of social services”.
Contact Trevor McGlinchey, ComVoices Spokesperson, phone 0272 286 9393
Individual Client Level Data (ICLD). A proposal to build a robust evidence based learning system for social investment. (March 2017)
MSD has advised that from July 2017 provider contracts will include the requirement to gather and share identifiable data about clients (ICLD) accessing services as a condition of funding. ComVoices members have engaged constructively with MSD on the basis of an earlier issues paper but significant issues remain unresolved. The purpose of this paper is to advise ministers of those issues and to propose an alternative approach to deliver a robust system that will support the social investment programme.
This paper has been sent to the following Ministers:
- The Right Hon Bill English, Prime Minister
- Hon Anne Tolley, Minister of Social Development, Minister for Children
- Hon Amy Adams, Minister Responsible for Social Investment
- Hon Alfred Ngaro MP, Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector
From July 2017 Community Organisations provider contracts with Government are to include the requirement to gather and share identifiable data about clients accessing services.
ComVoices Chair, Brenda Pilott says: “We think that the Ministry for Social Development (MSD) is on the wrong track and our members are worried that the MInistry is pressing ahead with this work when so many issues are unresolved.
“We have written to the Prime Minister and other Ministers asking them to stop the current work, and work with community organisations to develop an information system that delivers the big picture information being sought, respects individual privacy and is sustainable for providers who will have to gather the information.”
A letter and a proposal suggesting a different way forward has been sent to Ministers.
“The second ComVoices State of the Sector Survey of the Community Sector shows that stresses on our organisations are increasing” says Scott Miller, Chair of ComVoices.
“We are facing greater demand for our services, are dealing with greater complexity with less funding from government, and have a greater reliance on alternative funding sources to support the delivery of services.
“The crisis in the sector is worsening and despite discussions with government and its agencies no one appears to be listening” he says.
Tess Casey, convenor of the Survey Working Group, says that the issues of cost, complexity and compliance were repeatedly highlighted in the survey.
“The survey shows that the financial pressures on our organisations are huge. Part of the issue is that most Government agencies do not pay the full cost of the services they contract from community organisations” says Ms Casey. “As well, many service delivery groups have had no dollar increases in contracts for the same or larger output targets for between six and ten years.
Of the over 280 organisations that responded to the survey, six are facing closure, 42% are worried about their financial viability and almost half are using their reserves to help fund their service delivery.
Compounding this is the increasing complexity of needs in the clients and communities that organisations are working with.
“Government compliance requirements have also increased. The organisations that responded to the survey mentioned having to work with new and more complex financial reporting regulations, more frequent external reporting and outcome reporting requirements, new data collection requirements, and new health and safety regulations. Regrettably, there are no funding increases to cover this” says Ms Casey.
Community organisations said that they are coping by constantly restructuring, reducing staff hours, not increasing staff wages and/or increasingly relying on volunteers.
“This is not a sustainable way for organisations to operate,” Mr Miller says. “The Community sector underpins much of the social service delivery to New Zealand communities, and the government relies on us to be there as the safety net for families and communities. If government really wants the sector to continue to do this work then it must urgently address the issues of “cost, complexity and compliance”.
Go here to view this paper.
This Issues Paper has been developed to summarise the key issues for the community sector as the basis for engagement with MSD and, potentially, other government agencies. We are aiming to reach an agreed data collection system that meets MSD’s needs for information, is ethically appropriate for the service users, complies with Privacy Act considerations and is practical, transparent and mitigates risk exposure for MSD and service providers.
ComVoices briefed James Shaw on key issues from the State of the Sector Survey 2016. He was told that the sector is not averse to change, streamlining, identifying need and demonstrating outcomes, but the sector is finding it difficult to engage with Government – the rhetoric is separate from the reality. In the lead –up to the general election, James said that the Greens will be focussing on inequality, the environment and structural elements in the economy. James’ view was that people don’t vote on policy, and so the Greens will be focussing on the Green’s vision, values and social identity.
Go here for a one page summary
View Media Release
This is the second in a continuing series of Snapshot Surveys conducted by ComVoices. The first was in 2014.
The survey is called a ‘snapshot’ because it is designed to give an understanding of the NGO sector at a given time. The results corroborate other sector research and help us to quantify the anecdotal evidence we hear from the sector.
ComVoices distributes the results to inform and influence government policy, political party policy, Ministers, politicians, the public service, other key influencers and the sector itself.
The 2016 survey shows that the stresses on our community organisations are increasing. We are experiencing greater demand for services and are dealing with greater complexity, but with less funding from government and a greater reliance on alternative funding sources.