Friday, October 21, 2016

Only 69 more years

The latest benefit stats are a mixed bag. That'll be why they haven't made the news. Not a lot to criticise and not a lot to crow about.

For instance, over the year to September 2016, "... the number of recipients of Jobseeker Support increased by 1,383, or 1.1 percent."

The rise is nearly all female; Maori and Pacific.

The drop in sole parents numbers is quite substantial - "....the number of recipients of Sole Parent Support decreased by 3,515, or 5.2 percent."

But (given the nature of the rise in Jobseeker numbers) I suspect that some of this reduction will actually be a transfer of older sole parents onto Jobseeker as their youngest child turns 14.

Regarding the last main benefit, "...the number of recipients of Supported Living Payment remained relatively stable, decreasing by 593, or 0.6 percent."

For many years the numbers on an invalid benefit only grew so  even stability is an improvement.

HOWEVER, the upward trend in people receiving a Supported Living Payment for a psychological or psychiatric condition continues. A further 765 were added over the year.

There was a marked increase in Pacific people becoming dependent on this benefit and the age group with the largest growth was 25-39 years.

Overall, "...the number of main benefit recipients decreased by 3,292, or 1.1 percent."

At this rate (assuming a static population) it will only take around 69 years to get back to a level where only 2 percent of the working age population is reliant on a benefit - the sort of level that was normal until the 1970s!

Image result for DPB numbers welfare working group

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Longitudinal studies are a luxury

Cutting the funding to the Growing up in New Zealand Study is consistent with this government's focus on the neediest, most vulnerable, children.

The initial cohort for the study was just over 7,000 children. But by 2014 the retention  rate was only 92%. I believe that the drop-outs would largely have been the very families the government is keen to track. I base this on the data collected about benefits. The numbers are too low. The families that have dropped out of the study would probably have been beneficiary families.

Now the funding has been reduced and the study has to cut the cohort to 2,000. This is still a useful sample size when compared to earlier longitudinal studies like the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Study (1037 babies born Dunedin 1972-73 with a current retention rate of 95%) and the Christchurch Health and Development Study (1,265 born 1977) which have produced masses of interesting data and papers.

No doubt this "gutting" is a re-prioritization of public funds.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Graph of the Day

No words needed. From a just-released New Zealand Initiative report summary:

Of particular interest to me, given the report I wrote for Family First earlier in the year which suggested changing family structure is the major factor driving child poverty, the NZ Initiative report finds that around half of the big increase in inequality, that occurred between the mid eighties and mid nineties was due to changing family structure and households.

They referenced Treasury research which found:

 "...the main factors which contributed to the change in inequality were changes in family and household structure (primarily a pronounced drop in the fraction of two parent households and a rise in the fraction of sole parent households), and changes in the socio-demographic attributes of households "

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Media etc misuse and abuse of data

Bryan Perry authors the government's (Ministry of Social Development) official report into household incomes in New Zealand.

The latest was published a few weeks ago. It runs to 250 pages. I cannot claim to sit down and read it cover to cover but I have found time to peruse it more closely today.

Perry details five examples of  "common misunderstanding or misleading use" of his statistics.

Here is one that really deserves wider publication:

Friday, October 14, 2016

The brilliant van Beynen does it again

From Stuff:

OPINION: Guess what? Fixing child poverty in New Zealand is not that hard.

Let's call it the John Minto solution. First, every family with less than a certain income will be brought up to a minimum stipend based on what is required for the family to live comfortably in their location.


Hurunui ratepayers will be pleased

Briefly, I cannot believe this woman's attitude.

She has been newly-elected a Councillor and is demanding a subsidy for childcare so she can attend the weekly meetings.

Didn't she research what the role entailed before applying?

When I ran for parliament my children were very young. I took the serious and somewhat uncomfortable step of asking my parents if they would consider moving close to us before I undertook the decision to run. The children and I would need their support. In the event (thankfully in retrospect) the need didn't arise. The point is you make your own arrangements and fund them...unless of course you are an entitlist.

I am just glad she isn't in my electorate. That kind of hand-out solution to the first problem she encounters does not auger well for her ongoing performance.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Judith Collins telling it as she sees it

Reported on Radio New Zealand:

Ms Collins was challenged at the Police Association's annual conference in Wellington today by a delegate, who said poverty was making law enforcement harder.

The delegate said his officers had been very busy with gangs, which he said were often filled with people who had experienced poverty as children.

The government's approach to child poverty was criticised in a recent United Nations report, as well as by opposition politicians.

Ms Collins responded by saying the government was doing a lot more for child poverty in New Zealand than the UN had ever done.

In New Zealand, there was money available to everyone who needed it, she said.

"It's not that, it's people who don't look after their children, that's the problem.

"And they can't look after their children in many cases because they don't know how to look after their children or even think they should look after their children."

Monetary poverty was not the only problem, she said.

"I see a poverty of ideas, a poverty of parental responsibility, a poverty of love, a poverty of caring."

As the MP for Papakura, she saw a lot of those problems in south Auckland, she said.

"And I can tell you it is not just a lack of money, it is primarily a lack of responsibility.

"I know that is not PC, but, you know, that's me."

She refused an interview on the John Campbell Show. Quite wise. Jacinda Adern did appear but typically contradicted herself and her party by talking up Working For Families, and its role in child poverty reduction, while ignoring that National kept the policy.

She was a pig in muck canoodling with Campbell. But her grasp of the wider context of historical child poverty was woefully lacking.

The new child protection direction

In today's NZ Herald Dr Ian Hyslop takes fire at the government and its plans for vulnerable children:
The Government's proposed reforms to our child protection laws are regressive, myopic and likely to have unfortunate outcomes for children who have been ill-treated in stressed families.
They have been narrowly conceived and signal a return to rescue-based fostercare. This, in my opinion, is a huge step backwards for child protection in New Zealand, particularly for Maori.
It is difficult to envisage a 'step backward' from what is a deteriorating situation. The incidence of child abuse among Maori is disproportionately high and 60 percent of children in state care are Maori.

I worked in state social work for 20 years and witnessed the genesis of the ground-breaking Children, Young Persons and their Families' Act, 1989. This legislation addressed institutional racism (identified in the Puao Te Ata Tu Ministerial Advisory Committee Report of 1988) by making an understanding of Maori values and social structures central to working with Maori children.
The 1989 Act responded to the cultural alienation of Maori children in the care of the state by bringing Maori concepts of whakapapa and whanaungatanga into mainstream statutory social work legislation.
It required that placement of children outside of immediate family be with a member of their whanau, hapu, iwi, or at the very least with someone from the same cultural background. This vision has never been adequately supported or resourced and now, under these proposed reforms, it is abandoned.

There is nothing in the statistics that would indicate that the "ground-breaking" Act was a success. Forty five percent of the children with a substantiated finding of physical abuse in 2015 were Maori. These children often develop into the offenders that go on to make up half of the prison population.

So, typically, blame for the lack of success went on inadequate support and resourcing.

I believe these misguided changes have been based on a persuasive but inaccurate and overly simplistic assertion that the ills of the current child protection system are due to an insufficiently child-centred approach.

Too often the focus has not been on the children. It has been on the parents. Social workers focus on sorting out the parent's dysfunction and trying to keep the child in their care. This can go on over crucial years of the child's life and development. A child-centered approach would actually put their need first. And while it is difficult to extricate their needs from their parents needs, more effort to do so is vital.

Hyslop continues:

But it must be recognised that these reforms are also linked with the Government's social investment approach to public services. Social problems are seen in terms of the costs " prisons and benefits " that result from the behaviour of failing families. One way of breaking the cycle is permanently removing children from their care.
Key principles of our child protection legislation are being revised with this goal in mind.
This approach is clearly reflected in the proposal that the CYP&F Act should include a commitment to ensure "those children and young people who come to the attention of the new ministry have a safe, stable and loving home from the earliest opportunity".
Of course, the notion of safety, stability and love triggers a powerful emotional response to the needs of children. However, an idealised notion of love provided by the state and middle New Zealand carers is no basis for a progressive child welfare system in my view.
This is a misrepresentation. More than once, in the cabinet papers referred to,  Anne Tolley points out that the state cannot provide the love that children need. That must come from "stable and loving families". Her words.

In any case we've tried the "progressive child welfare system" and it has failed. The old system of adoption had its pitfalls too but the incidence of physical child abuse (as recorded by child protection services) was far lower.

In practice this will translate into the earlier and more frequent removal of children from parental care, into permanent alternative care and a reduced emphasis on securing whanau placement for children who cannot safely remain with immediate family.

Indeed it will. The cabinet papers twice mention the recruitment of more caregivers.

Anne Tolley says, "I am develop a dedicated cross-agency transformation team to design and implement priority initiatives such as an engagement strategy for all New Zealanders, a
caregiver recruitment strategy and increased support for caregiving families."

The academic continues:

With high-risk families, the intention is to plan alternate care concurrently with intensive intervention to encourage speedy long-term attachment and stability with new carers. Further, Family Court judges may have the power to make final guardianship and custody orders without a formal declaration being made.
In other words, parents will have no opportunity to dispute the removal of their children and statutory social workers will not be required to formally prove the accuracy of the evidence they are relying on.
This is a breach of human rights justified by the quick dispensation of safety, stability and love. It is ideologically driven and, in reality, will be punitive and damaging to the socially disadvantaged in our increasingly unequal society.

Why is it that the current government is driven by ideology but former governments were not? The academic has his own ideology. We all do.

Great care must be taken over extending powers of the state. At the same time great care must been accorded to children who are demonstrably in danger. Getting the balance right is the challenge.

There are many New Zealand couples who would relish the opportunity to adopt (or provide life-long care to) a child whose parent or extended family is severely impaired by violence, addiction, and/or mental ill health. Temporary and transient fostercare and spells in state care have not worked well. Often the damage created to the child in his or her first months and years is irreversible.

Part of the new child-centered approach, which can potentially act as a brake on overzealous intervention is also proposed:

Legislation establishing an independent youth advocacy service to ensure that the voices of children and young people are heard in the design of systems and services.

The area of child protection is fraught but I disagree with Dr Hyslop (who I expect would lay the blame for child abuse on poverty and inequality disregarding that the vast majority of poor New Zealanders  neither abuse nor neglect their children).

I believe the government is on the right track if only because the status quo is simply unacceptable.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

More bleating about budget cuts

Over a 1,000 budget advisors are waiting to see whether their government funding will continue. This is pitched as a terrible situation by the contractors and opposition, including the Sallies (who are now just a de facto state agency.)

I 'worked' for an organisation that had voluntary budget advisers. It was headed by a couple of paid full-time staff but the rest were older women, most retired. If they needed it, they could get petrol reimbursement. Other wise they took nothing for the services they performed.

Budget advising is the perfect role for a superannuitant. As the state pays people to retire perhaps those people could give back?

There is massive resource in the baby boomers. I continue to volunteer in a different role and thoroughly enjoy the work. While not a superannuitant I am still saving the state by doing something it would otherwise have to pay for.

But the left always want it to be about the state funding everything so they can complain when it doesn't happen.

A fresh mindset is required. Ask not what your country can do for you etc.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Who affronts feminism more -Trump or Clinton?

Bill Clinton ( husband of Mrs Clinton) leaves a long line of aggrieved encounteresses. Yes, I made up the word.

This doesn't matter apparently. It's the past. Hillary has countenanced the encounteressances ongoing.

But Hillary campaigns on being a feminist. A feminist that puts up with a man who is repeatedly sexually fickle?

OK, OK, So its only sex. I get that. She has bigger fish to fry.

But that was Trump's specific argument today. That he did some boastful locker talk quite a few years ago. NOW there are much more serious matters at hand. (We don't know if he physically transgressed against women in a manner that is worse and stuff could come out yet.)

A further observation:

Today's male moderator, very early in the piece, defined Trumps's indicative talk as  'sexual assault' . The voters on Trump's side probably don't buy the modern definition of sexual assault and the moderator accusing Trump of such will only inflame their disconnect and contempt for the language distortions  that feminists have forced on society.

I could not vote for either candidate.