Friday, June 24, 2016

Crowded house

The headline reads, "Baby gets sick in crowded house".

It is now an established trend for young people to stay longer in the family home. It's happening in our family and I am fine with it. It makes sense due to various circumstances.

But if the young person then adds a partner, followed by children, it is inevitable that overcrowding is going to happen.

What I would like the media to decide is which is worse? Poverty - higher when housing costs consume a greater part of income - or overcrowding, which allows people to pool their resources.

Overcrowding actually alleviates poverty. So then the story has to be about how overcrowding makes people sick.

I have a suspicion that state houses are the cause of the problem - not the solution. Because they are cheap compared to private rentals families tend to congregate in them as well as on the grounds.

It may be that the son can't find a rental in Tauranga or that, compared to living with his mother in a cheap state house, he can't find anything 'affordable'.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

No free lunches in Upper Hutt

A social entrepreneur has contacted 300 Upper Hutt businesses to pay for school lunches for children who turn up without. He's had no takers.

Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce CE says,

"I'm genuinely surprised to be perfectly honest . . . the feedback that's been given to me is that there's been a genuine lack of interest and in most cases a non-reply which absolutely astounds me for a business community that we have in the valley that do like to normally support community projects."

The social entrepreneur says,

"I'm not trying to sound harsh but if there are businesses that are making money off our community then I'm sort of garnering towards making them socially responsible to give back to the community that it makes money from."
But they do give back. As the first comment records. And they give back in taxes that run the welfare system that distributes income for the very purposes of feeding children.

So I am not surprised that there is little interest in this project. Businesses will also have figured out that once 'free lunches' are on offer the need will mysteriously grow.

These schools need to talk to the parents. Or send them a letter saying that if their children continue to come to school with no food CYF or Work and Income will be contacted. That will result in the parent either having to do budgeting course or have their income managed by a third party.

A couple of slices of bread, apple, and biscuit. How hard can it be for god's sake? And if the school can prepare and freeze sandwiches in advance why can't the parents?

All this guy is doing is encouraging absolutely slack parenting (if indeed children are genuinely without lunch. I bet some are given money to buy food but spend it on whatever it is kids buy these days.)

It is disgraceful that he is trying to shame businesses when it is the parents who should be shamed.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Welfare fraud versus tax evasion

Various coverage occurred yesterday about Victoria University research into the lack of even-handedness in dealing with welfare fraudsters versus tax evaders. There is even a very large billboard mounted just to the left of the motorway heading into Wellington highlighting the issue (thank you taxpayers.)

The following is, I believe a misunderstanding on the part of the lead researcher:

Ms Marriott said despite the higher cost of tax evasion, people who committed welfare fraud were judged more harshly because society had little sympathy for people on welfare.

People have plenty of sympathy for those on welfare; for those who have suffered a redundancy, the loss of a spouse, an accident, a disability, care for disabled children etc. But fraud is an abuse of their sympathy and causes anger.

More importantly, what people have little sympathy for is the idea that the state controls all the money and it decides how much of it you can keep. Whether you personally helped create the money is immaterial.

So when an individual attempts to keep more of what he has created there is less anger than when someone tries to take what he hasn't. That is why society has greater tolerance (and exhibits it through the courts) for tax evasion than welfare fraud.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Latest abortion statistics

The latest abortion statistics were released yesterday:

(Left click to enlarge image)

The big news is the massive drops among the youngest groups 20-24 and 15-19 year-olds.

This is coinciding with a substantial drop in the teenage birth rate.

Fewer conceptions can only mean

1/Less heterosexual sex or
2/Better contraception - more use and increased efficacy

Whatever is happening it is fantastic to see these developments. The numbers are dropping across ethnicities (with slight rises on 2014 for Maori and Asian).

"Where have all the good men gone?"

My answer (a guess) to this lady's question is, man shy-off activities where there are loads of women.

Just because they aren't into pilates, the theatre and tai chi it doesn't mean they aren't creative.

Maybe they are into their cars, woodworking, fishing, golf or lycra-cycling.

You can't turn people into the mirror image of yourself. You take them as you find them. They might get interested in what you like doing and vice versa.

But I doubt men over 60 are quite as "unadventurous" and uninteresting as the writer believes. They may simply have a tendency to be more solitary and less into socialising. Therefore less visible.

The male readers of this blog, many of whom I suspect are in the group complained about, may have something to add.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Make benefit system open slather

That's what barrister Catrionna MacLennan is essentially recommending in today's NZ Herald referencing the social security legislation rewrite currently underway. My comments are interspersed below in orange:

Here is how we could improve our social welfare law;

1. Delete the purposes and principles sections from the bill and replace them with the statement "The purpose of this act is to ensure all New Zealanders in hardship receive the help they need and it is the responsibility of the Ministry of Social Development to do this."

Define hardship.

2. Make the reduction of poverty the aim of social welfare, rather than the current focus on reducing the number of beneficiaries.

Even Labour believes (or used to believe under Clark and Cullen) that paid employment is the best way out of poverty which is why they created the In Work Tax Credit. The current focus is getting people into work to reduce poverty.

3. Write into the bill a recognition of the value of parenting. At present, our welfare system is preoccupied with ensuring as many people as possible enter the paid workforce. This is a short-term approach and fails to take account of the long-term value to the community of parents spending time with their children. In addition, casual, very badly-paid work means that paid work is no longer a guaranteed route out of poverty.

Parents on welfare are far more likely to abuse or neglect their children. Children in a cohort who had contact with the benefit system before age two accounted for 83% of all children  for whom findings of substantiated maltreatment were recorded by age 5. More welfare will not equal better parenting. 

4. Delete section 70A from the bill. This sanctions women who cannot name the fathers of their children by docking their benefits - initially by $22 a week and later by $28. The main people this punishes are actually the women's children. They are already growing up in a financially-deprived household and further reducing the family's meagre income exacerbates that hardship.

Abolishing this disincentive would  increase the single parent benefit bill in two ways. By paying existing mothers who dot not name fathers more, and going forward, recouping  less money from the unnamed fathers of whom there would be far more. There are already  exemptions made from the Section 70A rule in unusual circumstances.

5. Require the Ministry of Social Development to provide all beneficiaries with all the assistance to which they are entitled. Currently, people seeking help face major difficulties in obtaining their legal entitlements. Research demonstrates that those accompanied by an advocate have a better chance of receiving assistance. Hundreds of people have queued in recent years to receive help from Auckland Action Against Poverty at "Impacts" in Mangere and elsewhere. Voluntary groups should not have to do the job a government agency is funded to carry out.

See 7 below

6. Delete the phrase "long-term welfare dependency" from the bill. This makes welfare a burden, rather than the responsibility of the community and an investment in the future wellbeing of New Zealanders.

In other words  stop differentiating between those people who use welfare as a temporary support (for which they paid taxes)  and those who remain on welfare for years, if not their entire working-age lives, as a matter of choice.

7. Write into law a provision that grants, advances on benefits and other additional assistance are not recoverable by MSD from beneficiaries. If people were not in desperate need, they would not be receiving such help. Requiring them to repay these amounts - as in the case of people staying in Auckland motels at the moment - merely pushes them further into hardship.

This is exceptionally foolish. Here the writer says that people would not be receiving grants etc if they "were not in desperate need." Earlier however she says MSD are not providing "all the assistance to which they are entitled." Which is it? No requirement to repay grants and advances would be open slather.

8. Stop sending mothers convicted of benefit fraud on the basis of a confusing and inconsistently-applied legal test to jail. As these women are already single parents, sending them to jail has disastrous consequences for their children, who end up deprived of both parents. In addition, if the debt established against them cannot be repaid within two years, it should be written off. That is what happens in other parts of our legal system. Pursuing them for the rest of their lives for debts they cannot repay means they can never improve their families' financial position.

So no repayments for grants and advances, no repayments for fraudulently acquired benefits, and now, no jail terms. Why not just issue every beneficiary with unlimited credit, and throw the rule book out the window?

9. Abolish Benefits Review Committees and establish an independent process for reviewing the ministry's decisions.

10. Make benefit rates liveable, rather than keeping them very low to punish those who cannot - for many reasons - either find or perform paid work.

How many times does it need to be demonstrated that a single parent receiving a basic benefit, family tax credits and accommodation supplement has an all-up income above the minimum wage. The average sole parent with two children living in South Auckland is receiving around $670 weekly. If she takes in a lodger or shares with another sole parent the household income will be even more "liveable".

Even the Greens wouldn't adopt this policy prescription. It's quite insane.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Bona fide socialists are dirty on the Greens

The World Socialist Web Site reports on the memorandum of understanding signed by Labour and the Greens.

Tens of thousands of workers left Labour in disgust following the Labour government’s wave of pro-market restructuring, mass sackings and privatisations in the 1980s, which led to soaring social inequality.
The MoU, which aims to prop up this despised party of big business, demonstrates once again the reactionary politics of the Green Party. Like its sister parties in Germany and Australia, the NZ Greens are not a “left” alternative but a party of nationalism, militarism and big business. James Shaw, elected Green Party co-leader last year based on his experience as a business consultant for HSBC bank and PricewaterhouseCoopers, has described himself as “a huge fan of the market” and promoted Margaret Thatcher as a model environmentalist.

The Libertarianz used to attack ACT like this, their anger made worse because  ACT, the only party professing classical liberalism, too often betrayed it. In reality, a party can only work with what it has and the conservatives (and others of many-coloured coats) were numerous.

But the above piece of  vitriol exemplifies how some save their deepest bitterness for those most like them.

Poor old Greens. They would profess disinterest in WSWS opinion but it's not nice being internationally shamed by ideological purists.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Jane Bowron in DomPost

Just last Thursday I blogged about the tide turning on society's tolerance for sole parent families.

In this morning's DomPost  Jane Bowron has written a column which highlights this perfectly.

Solo-mother-bashing is considered to be a base sport, to be kicking someone when they're down. I understand why people leave violent and abusive relationships, but I have little time for women who think they have sufficient skills to bring several children into the world from different fathers, and have no intention of making a go of it with a decent partner to give children two steady parents to help them grow up.
If he looks like a violent duck, if he quacks like a violent duck, he is a violent duck, so don't breed with him. If he says emphatically that he doesn't want kids, then respect his wishes and don't 'fall pregnant' (I believe it happened because sexual intercourse took place) to him. Take a full inventory of your situation and personality to access whether you have enough in your favour to help your children survive and kick on in the world, financially, emotionally, physically.
When I started campaigning against the DPB in 2001, with a parliamentary petition calling for a review of this particular benefit, the outrage unleashed was enormous, even vicious sometimes. I thought I was prepared for it but I really didn't know what I was getting into. Only a handful of influential people were on the same page.

Now, 15 years later, so many are starting to put the pieces together and actually question the effect sole parenting is having on children.

Bowron still stumbles however with her prescription of 'sucking it up' for the sake of the children. The great dilemma is of course how to help what are innocent children without encouraging more of them. She's says,
Let's find out what's going on, get some statistics, start making policy.
Where has she been hiding? MSD, Treasury, SuperU, Families Commission have produced oodles of research about sole parent families. The welfare reforms were targeted specifically at getting sole parents into jobs (thereby breaking the dependency cycle) and reducing the habit of adding children to existing benefits. Some success is evident but there's a long way to go.

If she wants more policy aimed at taking care of the children but discouraging feckless breeding she might have to look beyond National.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Violence begets violence

The Chief Social Worker has taken the unusual step of releasing a practice review of CYF's involvement with the minors who killed Arun Kumar in Henderson, Auckland.

First I need to acknowledge the grief of the family of Arun Kumar.
Child, Youth and Family (CYF) had open interventions with both boys accused of his manslaughter.
We accept we could have done more to support these boys.
CYF’s involvement in their lives began before they were even born.
They each grew up in environments where drug and alcohol use, criminal activity, family violence and anti-social behaviour impacted on their lives.
Our staff put a lot of time into trying to help these boys on a positive path.
But none of this excuses us from admitting that CYF could have done a better job.

My overwhelming reaction is a vision of the thousands more NZ children growing up in similar circumstances. Our prisons are bursting at the seams with young men who have grown up in these environments and, statistics tell us, most have already fathered two, three or more children who will follow suit. It seems to me that even though the official line maintains, "crime is reducing", the incidence of violence spilling over into innocent communities is increasing. Even the bright spot that is reducing teenage births, where many of these tragic families hail from, is probably self-selecting for the worst cases to continue. That is, those females with the most capabilities are also those who will successfully avoid a pregnancy. It's a gloomy day and a gloomy thought.