Thursday, June 22, 2017

I’ve just received the last issue of Budgetline. This magazine has been coming to me for longer than I can remember in my rather remote capacity as a Life Member of New Zealand Family Budgeting Inc.
The short articles in this issue are quite poignant as it has been given over entirely to the Head Office staff and other key people who are losing their positions in the big re-shuffle that is taking place. Again and again I read of disappointment that the organisation which they have served, both as paid staff and volunteers, is losing its identity next week.
In 1973 I wrote the first letter that went to about 25 organisations with a proposal to form a national Federation. Later we got a couple of dozen people together in Wellington for a day. And what an outcry there was! They were afraid they’d lose their autonomy, their personal involvement, their idiosyncratic workers. They didn’t want to have a national boss...
But it was all about money. Every group needed some financial assistance for expenses for its volunteers. Some wanted to pay experts to do the job. Government would only give assistance to the 30 or so groups if they presented an organised front. So, with mixed feelings, the Federation came into being.
It’s been a huge success. It has lifted standards, provided proper supervision and training and widened the work. And, to the concern of some of us who were around in the 1970s, it has absorbed millions of dollars a year of taxpayer funding to achieve this.
But there are other groups involved in this kind of work who have never affiliated or don’t qualify for affiliation. Government now invites all family budgeters to come together in some much broader organisation. So the Federation, which we brought into being under pressure from successive Governments, will next week be wound up because the Government wants to move in a new direction.
It’s touching to read the stories of those who have worked in the Federation in the last decade or two. But times have changed, politics of voluntary community services have changed and the need in the community is more vast than any of us could have conceived in 1973. So some of the Federation’s prized principles will be surrendered and unfamiliar territory will have to be traversed. At the end of this month, everyone will move on.
I salute those who transformed a modest voluntary operation into the NZ Federation for family budget advice of a very special kind. As it moves on, I hope its people will infuse the new organisation with a sense of personal service and commitment. This new venture must not become just another quasi government department.

Dave Mullan is author of
The Family Budgeters, a personal account of the work of family budgeting from the 1960s to the establishment of the Federation.  As one of the last “steam budgeters”, Dave was asked by the Federation Office to put together some kind of record of the earliest days of this remarkable movement of voluntary community service. That he was able to achieve this in 2015 is all the more important now that the Federation itself is moving on.

A Small Qango, the story of the Home Budgeting Advisory Committee to the Minister of Social Welfare, 1977-1987.  Dave served on this Committee for its full ten years, eventually becoming its Chair. It was the first attempt to direct public funding towards voluntary family budgeting groups. In charted new paths for a Quasi Autonomous Governmental Organisation.

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