Thursday, April 28, 2016

Where the benefit babies are born

Every year I track how many benefit babies there are relative to the total births. Being a 'benefit baby' means relying on a parent or caregiver's benefit  by the the end of their birth year. Most will become reliant nearer to their birth date rather than first birthday. Many will go on to experience long-term deprivation.

This year I asked for a  breakdown by Work and Income Service Centre. That was provided. Then I asked the Ministry of Health for District Health Board birth data for 2015. They very quickly obliged without an OIA. Credit to them.

It was then straight forward to place each service centre in a DHB  and calculate the percentage of babies in each district that would be benefit-dependent before their first birthday.


Tairawhiti is Gisborne northwards. Almost one in three children born in 2015 would be on welfare either immediately or shortly thereafter.

This is more than three times the rate of the lowest DHB, Auckland.


The disparity, however, within  the greater Auckland region is highlighted by the difference between Counties Manukau at 21.4% and Auckland at less than half that rate at 9.7%. This disparity is far greater than the disparity in the Wellington region (compare Capital and Coast to Hutt.)


Not surprisingly Tairawhiti is followed by Northland. You will have noticed the tallest columns are those with high Maori populations.(Of all the benefit babies, 54 percent had a Maori parent or caregiver.)

Lakes covers the Rotorua and Taupo region south to Turangi and Whanganui takes in Marton and Taihape.

Hawkes Bay goes to Wairoa in the north and Waipukarau in the south. Counties Manukau is self-explanatory.

These then are the five DHB areas where from 21 to 32 percent of newborns have families unable to support them independently, usually from birth.


At the other end are the cosmopolitan centres. In ascending order, Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin and Wellington.

Every South Island DHB - bar South Canterbury which is essentially Timaru and inland - is below the national average.


Child poverty is largely (though not exclusively) a result of benefit babies.

But it isn't as if Gisborne and Northland have suddenly been plunged into a depression and unemployment crisis. In fact employment in these regions is far better than it's been in the past. It isn't as if these babies are on their parent's unemployment benefit.

Almost three quarters of benefit babies are on a single parent benefit.

There's the nub of the problem. A lack of two committed parents prepared to take financial responsibility for having a child.

(To end on a positive note, the national average is dropping. At long last.)

"Millennials Hate Capitalism Almost as Much as They Hate Socialism"

Experiencing this first-hand on a daily basis makes the content of the following piece from the blog all the more relevant:

"When pollsters probe young people further about socialism and capitalism, they tend to find that respondents don't have clear concepts of these economic philosophies. To many millennials, "socialism" doesn't mean a government-managed economy but something like what we have now, only with more subsidized health care, student-loan forgiveness, and mandatory paid parental leave. Millennials were small children, if they were even born yet, when the Soviet Union dissolved. "Socialism" isn't Romania and Yugoslavia but Scandinavia, not Karl Marx and union halls but Bernie Sanders and Twitter."

Friday, April 22, 2016

Must-read from Karl du Fresne

This is a powerful reminder of the grim injustice (in the name of 'justice') ideologues can wreak.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Latest total benefit numbers - back where we started from

Well, not quite where we started from. That'd be zero. But back where we started from when National took govt.

The slow total decline continues. Down to 9.9% of the working age population.

There's a blip with JobSeeker support but nothing dramatic or necessarily trendsetting. It may be saying something about the employment situation. It might just be ageing single parents being moved onto Jobseeker support. Little to be inferred by the reduction in YP/YPP for 18+. The teenage birth rate is dropping so perhaps unsurprising. The old invalid benefit - Supported Living Payment - remains stubbornly high though any reduction is unusual compared to the past few years. Reliance on welfare due to psychological conditions continues to grow. The Sole Parent Support reduction is the biggest and best news leading to fewer children on benefits.

I don't see any smoking gun in the data tables.

Total numbers are dropping. Just not fast enough for some readers. Or me.

As the drop is post GFC  it's worth looking where we were pre GFC.

At 9.9% of the working age population.

(The Super numbers are the big growth area and while most people don't think of it as a benefit, it's included in the tables.

Almost 700,000.

Up 23% since March 2011.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Quote of the Day

From a piece in this morning's DomPost about junk science by Matt Ridley (British journalist and Conservative MP), prompted by Robert De Niro joining into the anti-vaccine brigade.

"Instead of evidence-based policy making, pseudo-science specialises in policy-based evidence making."

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

English tells truth and gets it in the neck

A Labour MP from Palmerston North is outraged that Bill English has told the truth.

English said that there are Kiwi men who are supposed to be available for work but don't turn up; that can't read and write and are virtually unemployable. That's why NZ imports immigrant farm workers.

The Labour MP says this is the government's fault after 8 years at the helm.

Really? If the individual and the individual's family do not value education, if they prefer to make money illicitly or from benefits, if they get their kicks from a variety of law-breaking  activities and spend much of their time cycling in and out of prison, is it really Bill English' fault?

The underclass, which we don't seem to talk about as much anymore, was just as bad after Labour's last 9 year innings.

This type of  petty, cheap-shot politics grinds my gears. What would the Labour MP do in English' shoes? Sweep illiteracy and unemployability under the carpet and only ever present a rose-tinted picture of a certain slice of society?

Because when that happens, problems never get solved. English has probably been the most innovative and daring Finance Minister when it comes to social policy. That willingness to try new approaches is born out of his recognition and acknowledgement of just how hopeless certain people have become.

And when Bill English said that prisons are a "moral and fiscal failure" did any Labour MPs jump up and down then?

Friday, April 08, 2016

CYF overhaul: crux of the matter overlooked again

Another voluminous  report into CYF; a long-winded ministerial response; multiple cabinet papers and a proposed radical overhaul promised

But when will the system that turns children into careless accidents or meal tickets be radically overhauled?

Because until then, none of these other investigations and re-inventions will matter a damn. There have been welfare reforms but the number of children being born into beneficiary families remains at the same level.

Of children born between 2005 and 2007 and known to CYF by age five:
 39 percent had mothers who had been receiving a benefit for more than four out of the last five years preceding their birth, and 60 percent had a primary carer who was receiving a benefit at the time of their birth,
 37 percent had a parent who had a criminal conviction in the five years prior to the child’s birth,
 69 percent had parents where there was a family violence incident attended by Police in the five years prior to the child’s birth, and
 36 percent had parents who were known to CYF as a child.

(Right-click on image to enlarge)

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Confusion in CYF report

This is from the Rebstock report into CYF released today:

 "In 2014, CYF received 152,000 family violence notifications from Police involving 97,000 children. The majority of these were not acted upon as the nature of the concerns did not reach CYFs threshold for response and there was a lack of alternative services to address the needs of these families in the community."

My initial reaction to this was utter surprise. A majority not acted on? That seems shocking.

But that's because it's not right.

Consider the CYF statistics:

In 2014 there were 57,889 family violence referrals from Police and 88,768 care and protection reports of concern.

According to CYF:

Notifications comprise “reports of concern” (which may require action by Child, Youth and Family) and “Police family violence referrals” (which do not require action by Child, Youth and Family). We receive reports of concern from Education, Health, Police, Courts, social service providers, family members, and members of the public. 

Police family violence referrals are not assessed by Child, Youth and Family. Police family violence referrals are the result of Police attending a family violence incident where children are present or normally resident at the household concerned and where Police assess that Child, Youth and Family action is not required.
So it would appear the report stats are wrong and misleading. The report goes on to state however:

 These notifications represent a significant opportunity for early intervention to provide the support families need before concerns escalate into situations of harm to children.
Which and how many? Can sound recommendations be made based on unsound data?

The Third Way triumphed

It's only 10 to 15  years since many of us were fighting the introduction of Paid Parental Leave, Working for Families, interest-free student loans AND Kiwibank - Jim Anderton's pet project and National's latest pragmatic point-of-sameness.

The principles behind that opposition have not changed. But our current government has abandoned them.

My son, who is no intellectual slouch, has taken to ridiculing the free market.

I point out that libertarianism cannot be blamed for the last recession. That no libertarian would support government bailing out private financial institutions. YES he says but you would support deregulation of them.

I counter that deregulation can only succeed when consequences are real; when they cannot be avoided through bail-outs.

So, he says, you would support allowing financial collapse just to teach people consequences?

You get the circular nature of these exchanges.

The up and coming voters have been taught to blame greed and exploitation on the free market (which has not actually been free)  as if the free market is just a beast that governments tolerate; that governments can and should control in the pursuit of utilitarian goals.

The collective memory of a society functioning without (or at least with a smaller) welfare state - mass compulsory wealth redistribution - is fading.

Mass redistribution brings with it commandeering control of each major aspect of life - education, health and welfare. Once government assumes  the responsibility for financing provision of these, it must then gradually assume control of each and every personal action which imposes an associated cost.

The idea remains abhorrent to me.

Earlier dissenters seem lulled or numbed into submission. NZ may have a so-called right-of-centre government but Labour's 'Third Way' has triumphed.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016


Helen Clark may feel like she has a "stadium of 4 million people" behind her - and judging by overwhelming opinion expressed today she has -  but she can count me out.

I respected Clark as a PM for acknowledging the problems of chronic inter-generational despondency and dysfunction.

But even then she would not move against the prevailing feminist and socialist theory of (false) empowerment of women - the DPB.

Back on the DPB band wagon? Being petty when NZ could have the first woman heading the UN?

1/ The impoverishment of thousands of children is no small beer

2/  I do not care about nationalism or feminism. I do not get warm fuzzies about the connection Clark has to New Zealand or to my gender.

It has made me deeply uncomfortable today that so very many, John Key included, are prepared to forget not personal animosities (they are small beer)  but the ideological antipathy that freedom- embracing, small govt acolytes had for Clark.

Whoever the successful candidate is (notwithstanding the arguable impotence of the UN) I would prefer someone who has not made it their life's work to advance the responsibility and power of the state to enrich lives.