Saturday, December 26, 2009

Mums matter

A picture for Opinionated Mummy, who could use a lift - not a lecture.

The escalating immorality of the welfare state

I was speed-reading through F A Harper's essay on the immorality of the welfare state. There are too many theological concepts in it for my taste. However this quote is right on the money. It it preceded by a discussion about the moral justification of theft when it is undertaken to 'do good';

Under the welfare state, this process of theft has spread from its use in alleviating catastrophe, to anticipating catastrophe, to conjuring up catastrophe, to the “need” for luxuries for those who have them not.

Tyres on a late model car springs immediately to mind. There is no arguing with this observation.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Best Christmas song ever

Must be my Irish ancestry, with a great granddad officially described a "scavenger" who left Ireland to chance his arm not in the US, but Liverpool.

This song has everything I love; drinking, gambling, dreams, risk, failure, and utter poignancy....

And now I have a gingerbread house to decorate.....


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Seriously "pissed off" with Obama

Obama is rapidly shedding votes across the spectrum. A professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York, is "really pissed off" with him. A very entertaining read. I like this question and Key should take note;

Why does he refuse to make anyone his enemy, thus making everyone his enemy?

Key is still in the upward popularity phase of such an approach. But as sure as winter follows summer....

The Remote Client Unit - the 'too hard basket'

The now infamous Harris family were accessing Work and Income services (dosh) via the department's remote client unit. According to MSD;

The Remote Client Unit has been established to provide an avenue for clients, who have been assessed as posing a high risk to the safety of Ministry staff in Service Centres nationwide, to continue to access Ministry services.

Isn't that a boon for those beneficiaries who do not want to attend planning meetings, who do not want to comply with work-testing, who do not want to co-operate with increased face-to-face intensive case management, which has and will continue to form attempts to reform welfare? That's the cushy number to get onto. Can't be particularly difficult for a manipulative person.

I feel a Xmas Eve OIA request coming on.

Update; Done. I'll drop it in the post when I walk the dog in a moment.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Reapplying for the dole hardly a "radical proposal"

According to the Dominion Post;

The Government is considering cancelling unemployment benefits after a year and forcing beneficiaries to reapply.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett unveiled the radical proposal a day after revelations that 300 long-term beneficiaries are receiving more than $1000 a week from the taxpayer.

It was revealed yesterday that the Harris family in Christchurch had received unemployment and sickness benefits for 25 years and recently received special-needs grants from Work and Income to fence their swimming pool and put new tyres on their 2007 Chrysler saloon.

Of course somebody should have to reapply for the dole if they have been on it a year. But reviews of the recipient's situation should be ongoing. Motivated people, however, aren't the problem. Currently 88 percent of those receiving the dole have been on it less than a year, so only a small percentage would be subjected to a reapplication process.

Paula Bennett's latest suggestion is apparently a reaction to the Harris family. But he wasn't on the dole. He was on a sickness benefit. His case manager had refused an application on the basis of stress, diagnosed by his GP. But after Harris visited a Work and Income 'designated doctor' (paid $106 for each appraisal) he was assessed as addicted to cannabis and granted the benefit he wanted. Thus he would have successfully navigated his way through a reapplication process.

There are over 140,000 people on an invalid or sickness benefit but only 60,000 are on the dole. The numbers seriously suggest that the incapacity benefits are in many cases a de facto dole. It is the case manager who makes the final decision about eligibility. But the doctors provide the certificates, the tacit approval. Any doctor who might be inclined to take a tougher line would probably steer a mile clear of becoming a designated doctor, which is where 'complicated' applicants will end up.

Many case managers have come from the ranks of beneficiaries and are sympathetic; and quite a lot of doctors are inclined towards being socialistic. Those who would take a less compromising line are not motivated to get involved. In fact, we have seen instances of GPs refusing to deal with applicants for certificates required for the purposes of benefit eligibility.

Therein lies the problem.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Slave to state-dominated social welfare

Gordon Campbell is running his usual line about the privatisation of welfare services/benefits lining the pockets of National's ideological mates.

The potential for dehumanizing, intrusive action by private sector agencies in the lives of vulnerable families is quite high. Unemployment, after all, is still rising, and the economy is barely in recovery mode. For many families at risk, the jobs are simply not there – and to use the jargon – ‘the labour market continues to be de-leveraged.’ Cracking down on welfare families at such a time would be punitive, and unjust. Yet, as indicated, this policy is probably less about saving taxpayer money or helping the vulnerable, than it is about creating opportunities to make money from their plight.

Get it? Only the state is genuinely interested in the plight of the needy. Any other party is looking to exploit them.

I have commented ;

Many families were ‘at risk’ when the jobs WERE there. It is entirely obvious that thousands of families have defaulted to welfare before acquiring qualifications or work skills and getting a job pays less than growing the family.

The prospect of separatism does not excite me but it would be interesting to see what the likes of John Tamihere can do given control of benefit payments.

Paula Bennett and transparency

Minister for Social Development, Paula Bennett, is obviously attempting to stir up anger about the welfare system to make National's fiddling reforms more palatable to the voters. Lead stories in The Press, DomPost and The NZ Herald are designed to do exactly that.

The Press describes a couple who have been on benefits since 1984 and have claimed hundreds of thousands of dollars.

OK. So why aren't we told how many others have been on benefits since 1984 or earlier? My repeated attempts to source such information are refused because readily accessible information is only available for the period post-1996 and to provide you with this information officials would have to generate new reports based on raw data. Bugger off.

The NZ Herald describes how recipients of very large sums are looking after other people's children.

Are people going to be surprised that beneficiaries are being paid to look after other people's children? I am only surprised that some information has been released. Because whenever I have tried to put parameters on the number, again, my OIA requests are refused. Specifically;

The information you have requested is not held by the Ministry. In order to add a dependent child to a main benefit, the Ministry needs to know that the child is dependent on the caregiver, not the specific nature of the relationship between the child and their caregiver.... to provide you with this information officials would have to generate new reports based on raw data...
Bugger off.

Ms Bennett has access to individual records and the staff to interrogate them. And while these stories of individual circumstances are very titillating they give bureaucrats and political defenders of the system an out. These cases are not representative, they will say. They form a tiny minority. They are the price we pay for having a caring and decent welfare state.


"....the welfare system should be open and transparent," she [Paula Bennett] said.

In which case, why are OIA requests constantly refused?

Here is a prime example from this week.

Earlier this year a reader shared with me a letter she received from Ms Bennett which said;

You might be interested to know that the vast majority of DPB recipients are in fact sole parents who have been married or in a relationship and who have lost the support of their husbands or partners for a variety of reasons.

So I asked the Ministry:

Of those single parents currently receiving the DPB, what was their relationship status at the time they applied for their current payment?

I was told they would have been single at the time of the application. My question was misinterpreted. In the past Social Reports have included 'relationship status' as divorced, separated, separated from a de facto, etc so I challenged their answer. Here is their further response;

With regards to your other question on the reporting of the relationship status of single parents currently receiving the DPB, up until 2000 the Ministry included data on the relationship status of clients at the time they were granted Domestic Purposes Benefit in the Statistical Report. However since 2000 this information has not formed part of the Ministry's formal reporting and has not been reported on since 2003. As you are aware the Ministry is not required under the Official Information Act 1982 to create information in order to meet the specific requirements of an individual request. For this reason your request for this information was declined under section 18(e) of the Act.

Do you see the significance of this? There is no tracking of the relationship trends that lead women to the DPB. So there is no monitoring of the effect of this particular social policy on relationship formation and breakdown.

And tell me this. How does Paula Bennett know "the vast majority of DPB recipients are in fact sole parents who have been married or in a relationship..." if her Ministry isn't reporting on it?

Policy will not be reformed on the behavioural response of a few selected cases. Policy is changed based on long term negative or positive trends in behavioural response. In New Zealand the transparency of data has degenerated. Information available in other jurisdictions has no equivalent in this country. Probably the main reason the US led with welfare reform was their willingness to track and study what the data was telling them. Big picture data may not be as sexy as gang associates buying wheels for their late model cars with taxpayer money, but it will create the impetus for wider and abiding change.

(Afterthought; It may be, and I hope it is, that Paula Bennett is being as frustrated in her attempts to achieve transparency as I am. An end of year report card in yesterday's Dominion Post said that she was turning over a lot of staff. Maybe the old iron triangle is at play.)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Now that's what I call "consequences"

Another liar rips off Work and Income. This one gets $124,000 over 8 years pretending to be a solo mum. You got to laugh at the response from the Ministry of Social Development.

Social Development Ministry deputy chief executive Hilary Reynolds said benefit fraud exceeding $100,000 accounted for less than 1 per cent of cases. "Eight years is a long time to practise such deception. Georgina Nelson is now facing the consequences of her actions."

Oooooh. Which are?

"..... repaying the debt at $20 a week from her continuing benefit."

For starters why was she allowed to move to Inglewood where there is no work?? What should happen is a job, and a hefty weekly repayment. At the moment we are paying her to repay us. Madness. And no. I don't favour a jail sentence which will just cost us even more. Anyone who defrauds WINZ should immediately be cut off and left to fend for themselves. That would be consequences.

What is it with this country? We tax the bejesus out of honest, hard working people to pay liars and cheats and call it "facing the consequences". It isn't the liar facing consequences. It is NZ, for having such a soft-touch of a welfare system.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Two birthdays

Yesterday my blog was 4 years old. Every month this year has been better than the previous so a big thanks for dropping by each day.

And today this contented wee baby is 2 weeks old.

And here's their nanny. A dog trained to worry sheep into going where they do not want to go, she is very solicitous of Daisy's kittens. This is Girl with a sleeping Palangi, from the first litter.

High stakes gambling with NZ's future

At the closure of the Copenhagen talks, the Melbourne Age reports;

Liberal Leader Tony Abbott said the result vindicated his party's decision not to support the Federal Government's emissions trading scheme legislation, while Greens deputy leader Christine Milne said Prime Minister Kevin Rudd should be held responsible for ''trying to bully those who wanted a real deal into accepting his greenwash''.

During the passage of New Zealand's ETS legislation I sent the following letter to the Dominion Post. Don't think it was published. Maybe it is too simplistic or ill-informed but at the completion of the Copenhagen talks it seems apt to post it here;

Like many others I simply cannot understand the rush to pass the amended ETS legislation.

Apparently we signed up to Kyoto and have an obligation. Did nobody ever say till death do us part, and then get divorced?

The argument that the global community will punish inaction by not buying our exports is surely a matter of speculation. Wouldn't it be wiser to take the risk of being economically punished rather than embark on the certainty of punishing ourselves?

So that doesn't stack up for me. Then, even if the theory of man-made global warming is sound, New Zealand's cuts will make not a blind bit of difference in the larger scheme of things. So what is the point of our martyrdom?

Oh, because Green religion dictates that 'somebody has to lead the way'. Again there is no certainty that the rest of the world will follow, especially if evidence for anthropogenic warming diminishes or falls over completely. The only certainty is that we and our children will experience lower living standards.

So this whole business is no more than a high stakes gamble. I like a flutter but I wouldn't put my house on a horse.


A friend sent me latest Washington Post neologisms which prompted me to have search for others. These are some I like;

Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.

Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent

Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.

Flatulence (n.) the emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.

Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.

Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified demeanor assumed by a proctologist immediately before he examines you.

Pokemon (n), A Jamaican proctologist.

Bustard (n.), a rude bus driver.

Pimple: n., pimp's apprentice.

Discussion: n., a Frisbee-related head injury.

Cabbage Patch: A patch for those trying to stop eating cabbage.

Bustard (n.), a rude bus driver.