Saturday, September 29, 2007

Where your money goes

How do reporters get their facts so wrong? In this story the girl was two and the boy four although during the period of abuse and neglect the girl was only 1, barely walking. It was the boy who was burnt, not the girl.

And if you are wondering, yes, you were paying for her lifestyle.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Get a job

More common sense we needed research to confirm.

All working women reported greater "life satisfaction" than housewives with no paid job. The findings held true both for mothers and childless women. Men were happier working full time.


Is this very good or very bad timing? I suppose it depends on whether you are the witness who says Wednesday's shooting victim was calm and stepping towards the police or the witness who said he was aggressively running at the police. Perception is everything.

What can you say

First they u-turned on old policies and now they are u-turning on new ones.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

"Libertarian paternalism"

What an interesting essay this is. It wonderfully describes the conflict between Libertarian purists and those with libertarian leanings. I am in the second group. And according to this piece I really should be ashamed of myself.

But I'm not. I fully understand the writer's point. And I am glad I read his piece because it reminds me never to describe anything I propose to reform welfare as "libertarian." Fair enough. I haven't got enough time to try and convince people that the state should have no role in education, health or welfare. I figure I've got twenty-odd years to try and achieve change and improvement.

I see three options. Status quo, better or best. Best is riskiest. It's possibly utopian. Because it's riskiest very few people are buying it. I'm opting for better.

So if I ever get my reform ideas for welfare into print don't expect purist libertarian solutions.

Having said that I fully sympathise with the purists viewpoint. I admire and respect it. But I made my choice. And I guess that was symbolised by choosing ACT over Libertarianz which I still feel a sense of guilt about. Libz would say, that's because you know we are right. Theoretically you may be. But I choose to operate in what I see as the arena of what's possible and achievable. And even then most people think my ideas are too extreme.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Media release

Media Release

Wednesday 26th September 2007

National MP Judith Collins has signalled a return to DPB work-testing under a National government. DPB work-testing was removed by Labour in 2002.

Welfare commentator Lindsay Mitchell says there are several weaknesses with this policy.

"When last in government National introduced a policy of work-testing DPB recipients. Single parents on the DPB were expected to be in part-time work or training when their youngest child turned six. But there are a number of problems with this policy."

"Firstly, many work-shy women pressured to get a job will simply look to add a new baby to their benefit. Statistics show around 5,000 babies are born onto an exisiting domestic purpose's benefit each year."

"Secondly, teenagers going onto the DPB usually miss out on finishing their education or gaining skills. By the time they face work-testing (never if they continue to grow their families) they have little to offer an employer."

"Thirdly, some women get on a training treadmill doing endless courses but never entering paid employment."

"Finally, the policy reinforces that it is completely legitimate to expect the taxpayer to fund childbearing and rearing indefinitely. Even a cap on funding for additional children will not solve the problem. Growing welfare-dependent families will simply get poorer."

In effect there is little between National's proposal and Labour's current approach, which is to require parents to re-enter the workforce as and when their family responsibilities allow. If National is serious about breaking the destructive cycle of intergenerational dependency it will have to do better than this.

"Command and control" status quo

And more from the UK. The Adam Smith blog reports on Gordon Brown's first major speech;

Gordon Brown made his first conference speech as Prime Minister yesterday. It lasted one hour and three minutes, and contained virtually nothing new. In fact, it was a masterclass in using lots of words to say very little. Early in the speech Brown said New Labour was "not just occupying, but expanding and shaping the centre ground" of British politics. Can anyone explain what that means?

Perhaps I'm being a little harsh. He did promise to give 300,000 children one-to-one help in English and maths (not personally, of course), and he said 300,000 university students would get full grants. Children will play five hours of sport per week and £670m will be stolen from dormant bank accounts to pay for youth centres. Paid maternity leave will be extended. 240,000 new houses will be built every year, and ten new Eco-towns will be constructed. And on, and on, and on...

What's clear from the speech is that Brown is interested only in top-down micromanagement and an ever-expanding central government. Structural reform didn't even get a look in. How will Brown deliver the 'personalised' NHS he promises? By setting new government targets, of course.

In short, it looks like command and control politics is here to stay. More money and more regulation will, it seems, continue to be the answer to every problem.

No real choice

This from the Times could have been written about Labour and National;

At the party conferences, we’ll see the customary but bizarre spectacle: Tory and Labourite proclaiming themselves poles apart – dancing together on a pinhead. In this mad tango, they will say there are serious choices ahead, without offering any. They will declare great diverging principles, while stepping cheek-to-cheek in the same direction.

Thank goodness we in New Zealand at least have MMP

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Media Release

Media Release

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

National MP Judith Collins today released figures showing the Ministry of Social Development expects almost three quarters of today's teenage DPB beneficiaries to still be on a benefit in ten years time.

Welfare commentator Lindsay Mitchell says this is no surprise. "In 2001 when acting Social Development Minister, Steve Maharey was reassuring the public that the average stay on the DPB was only three and a half years, and so it made sense to remove the work-testing, my own research showed the total average time recipients were spending on the DPB was closer to seven years. This anomaly came about because the Ministry only counted each continuous stay despite many recipients having multiple stints on this benefit."

"Additionally, at least half of the current recipients started on welfare as a teenager. It is a trap for uneducated and unskilled teenagers many of whom can achieve a higher income on the DPB than in paid work. Maternal youth however is an indicator for subsequent social problems including child abuse and neglect. Additionally, having a guaranteed source of income also makes young mothers vulnerable to exploitive and abusive males who do not want the inconvenience of having to financially support a family or household."

"If we are to improve the future outlook for low socio-economic women and their children two things must happen. Any domestic purposes income support must be made strictly temporary and it should not be available to teenagers. The DPB 'industry' needs dismantling."

A different sort of cover-up story

Told to cover up big boobs - it could only happen in Christchurch.

Fighting a losing battle

There are times when I silently scream. Just how long will it be before the penny drops in this country. Today the Herald reports on the amount of violence in decile 1 schools, about teachers being demoralised and physically hurt by out of control pupils. This is nothing new but if you believe the anecdotal evidence the situation is deteriorating.

Now I am surprised the media has not cottoned on to a report/plan published at the MSD website a couple of weeks back. I have been meaning to write about it but haven't had time.

It is the Inter-Agency Plan for Conduct Disorder/Severe Anti-social Behaviour 2007-12

Here are some excerpts;

Conduct problems are the single most important predictor of later chronic antisocial behaviour problems including poor mental health, academic underachievement, early school leaving, teenage parenthood, delinquency, unemployment and substance abuse. The pathway for many affected young people typically leads on to youth offending, family violence and, ultimately,
through to serious adult crime. It is estimated that up to 5% of primary and intermediate school-age children have conduct disorder/severe antisocial behaviour.

The prevalence of conduct disorder/severe antisocial behaviour appears to increase during adolescence. It is estimated as many as 1% of 0–17 year-olds receive a specialist behavioural service each year. It is difficult to assess the effectiveness of these services because very little data is collected across agencies on the impact of behavioural interventions on problem behaviours in the short and longer terms.

The long-term costs associated with severe antisocial behaviour are significant. A New Zealand study estimated that the lifetime cost to society of a chronic adolescent antisocial male is $3 million. The prevalence of conduct disorder/severe antisocial behaviour is much higher in children from lower socio-economic groups. In one New Zealand study, the percentage of antisocial children enrolled in Decile 1 and 2 schools was six times greater than the percentage to be found in Decile 9 and 10 schools. New Zealand research suggests that Maori and Pacific males are more likely to have behavioural difficulties than non-Maori, though to a large extent this is likely to be a function of economic disadvantage.

There is considerable debate about the relative roles of factors such as genetic influences, social learning, parenting practice and social conditions as determinants of conduct disorder/severe antisocial behaviour. Most of the research concerned with addressing conduct disorder/severe antisocial behaviour focuses on the risk factors associated with its development, rather than seeking single causative relationships, and there is considerable agreement on the nature of those factors. Among them are:

• parental antisocial behaviour
• parental substance abuse
• parental mental illness
• limited or lax parental supervision
• harsh and coercive discipline and abuse
• neurological deficits
• genetic factors
• child temperament type
• lower verbal IQ
• low socioeconomic status
• younger maternal age (at first birth)
• maternal smoking during pregnancy
• antisocial peer influences.

Nevertheless, children show considerable resilience. In the Christchurch Health and Development Study, for example, 13% of children raised in the highest 5% of high-risk family situations reached adolescence with no obvious disorders of behaviour, learning or psyche. There has been less research attention to these “resilience factors” but those identified include:

• a secure attachment relationship with a parent, and in particular firm and responsive parenting
• a secure attachment relationship with a significant adult outside the immediate family
• higher intelligence

Only 13 percent?? Good grief. That's what we are pinning our hopes and strategy on? Continuing to encourage high-risk families to have kids because they can turn out OK?

Look. The vast majority of these children are the product of the welfare system. All we do is carry on trying to devise more and more plans to reform them when we should be reforming the system. Governments are fighting a losing battle because they will not identify the single biggest problem. I give up.

(Just for a couple of hours while I go out and enjoy the school holidays with my children.)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Hobson's Choice

These were sent to me with the question....

Life boils down to 2 choices.....

Should I get a dog.....or have children?

Meaningless measures

You learn something everyday - or will, if you are curious.

Yesterday I learned that 'hits' on a website is a rather meaningless expression in terms of readership measurement. David Farrar kindly explained this to me.

A hit is not a page view or a unique visit. A hit is when a file on a page is loaded or hit. Now a page may have three files on it so by viewing one page you get three hits. And an average visit may consist of looking at four pages, so that is 12 hits for that one visit.

What prompted me to ask him was Muriel Newman's statement from her latest column that the NZCPR was receiving nearly 1 million hits per month. Wow, thought I. Then, thinking about Kiwiblog stats of 100,000 visits a month, really?

David enlightened me further, Now the NZCPD front page has a huge number of files on it - over 50 I would say, so 1 million hits might be 20,000 page views which might be 8,000 visits.

He suggested I checkout Alexa traffic rankings which I did. These are for the world mind you because I am not prepared to buy NZ's;

Kiwiblog 67,741
NZCPR 1,299,144

Now it may be the NZCPR does much better in terms of a NZ ranking. I don't know. Maybe Muriel doesn't understand the difference between hits and visits given the column condemns "glib political spin".

I am happy to disclose this site receives an average of 4,168 visits per month.

Lengthy exposure to single parenthood increases risk of welfare dependence

New research from the Christchurch Health and Development Study shows that the longer a child is exposed to single parenthood, the higher his or her chances are of experiencing welfare dependency later in life.

This is no surprise. The intergenerational effect of welfare dependence is well documented. Now we have confirmation through New Zealand research.

29.6 percent of under sixteen year-olds who had never been exposed to single parenthood experienced welfare dependence between the ages of 21 and 25. This percentage rises steadily with the period of exposure. Of those exposed to single parenthood for 8 or more years 53.5 percent experienced welfare dependence between the ages of 21 and 25.

The sample, 971, is not large and further analysis into the type and length of the welfare dependence would be useful. I am speculating the significant increase would partly reflect that girls raised in single parent homes are more likely to go on to become single parents themselves, many relying on the DPB.