Focus required on the complex needs of families and whanau for more effective social policy

26 June 2017

Today (27 June 2017) Superu released its fifth annual Families and Whānau Status Report, a series that measures and monitors the wellbeing of New Zealand families and whānau and the pivotal role they hold in our society.

This report presents new research into the patterns of multiple disadvantage across New Zealand families. Results show that:

  • While most New Zealanders (82%) lead lives relatively free of disadvantage, a significant minority (18%) experience disadvantage in three or more of eight life areas ('domains') such as health, income and employment.
  • Families experience different types of disadvantage across the course of their lives. Older couples are more likely to experience disadvantage in education and health life areas while, for younger families, disadvantage in housing and material wellbeing was more common.
  • Single parents with young children were much more likely to experience disadvantage in three or more of eight life areas. Around half had three or more domains in disadvantage and just 12% had none.

“Our research into the patterns of multiple disadvantage across New Zealand families shows that when designing social services which support people who have multiple issues, it's important to take into account that these issues can be interconnected," says Vasantha Krishnan, Superu's Deputy Chief Executive.

“For example, we found that half of families with a housing disadvantage also had two or more issues that they need support with.”

The report also included new research on social support networks families can access:

  • Nearly all the people who lived with a partner could count on the family they lived with for help and support, but single parents and older people living alone had fewer people they could call on for help than other family types.
  • People living alone were more likely to have no one they could ask for help or support, especially when they were feeling low. This group was least likely to have someone they could call on when they were sick or to talk to when they felt depressed.
  • For single parents, being employed is associated with having more support available from their friends and family than single parents not in employment.

Ms Krishnan concludes that “initiatives that promote the development of social networks and community connections will become increasingly important as our population ages”.

The families and whānau report series provides an essential background to any study, process or programme involving social services, and will aid better decision-making to improve the lives of New Zealand’s families, whānau and their communities.

View a summary of the Families and Whanau Status Report 2017 here.

View the Families and Whanau Status Report 2017 here.

View the report patterns of multiple disadvantage across New Zealand families here.

Find all research from the Families and Whanau programme here.

Last update: 27 Jun 2017