Friday, February 26, 2010

Single parents on benefits through 'lifestyle choice'

I always get it in the neck when I use the words 'lifestyle choice'. "Why would anyone choose to be on a benefit?" DPB defenders remonstrate.

Well research from Geoff Dench, a fellow of The Young Foundation, has confirmed that many single mothers are making a lifestyle choice and favouring benefits over fathers.

As reported in the Mail Online;

One in four mothers is now a single parent, having made a 'lifestyle choice' to rely on benefits rather than a partner, a report revealed yesterday.

In NZ at last census 28 percent of parents with dependent children were single. Around three quarters rely on welfare.

More than half of mothers with children under 13 have never married or lived with a boyfriend and find it 'rewarding' to stay at home supported by state handouts, it said.

So how does NZ compare?

Nobody knows.

The Ministry no longer collects this information. Last time I asked they replied;

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.

Continuing from the Mail;

Researcher Geoff Dench, a fellow of the Young Foundation research group, said: 'The existence of state benefits as a source of economic security seems to be encouraging young mothers not to bother with male resident partners.'

...The report said there is growing evidence that 'lone motherhood is less a result of relationship breakdown, more a lifestyle choice'.

...The findings run counter to the claim, regularly made by pressure groups for single parents, that women most often become lone mothers because of divorce or separation.

...The analysis was based on findings from British Social Attitudes, the annual Government-backed survey of opinions and lifestyles that has been run every year since the early 1980s.

It shows that in the 1980s it was true that a typical single mother had broken up with a partner after years of marriage or cohabitation. In 1986 only 15 per cent of single mothers of children under 13 said they had never married or lived with a partner.

But by 2006, 57 per cent of single mothers had never lived as part of a couple.

...At the same time, more than three million men are classed as 'economically inactive', and live on sickness benefits, state handouts or in the black economy.

Anglicans making sense

Good for the Anglicans. At last a religious organisation prepared to break with the usual advocacy stance of the Social Service and Catholic councils. In Australia the Brotherhood of St Lawrence are backing the government plans to extend income management beyond Aboriginal communities. Income management means a beneficiary receives their income part cash/ part credit, which can only be used for specified purposes. There is less potential for cash to be misused or stolen and greater potential for children to get fed and clothed.


The Australian Council of Social Service has said the changes would make income support recipients' lives harder and less dignified, and Catholic Social Services Australia has said they are unjust and may undermine social inclusion.

These groups have their counterparts in NZ. Invariably the Salvation Army, the NZ Council of Christian Social Services and National Council of Women oppose any suggestion of tightening welfare.

But the Brotherhood of St Lawrence have taken a different tack, the common-sense approach.

''If taxpayers are making an investment in social services, it's reasonable to expect people to change their behaviour,'' executive director Tony Nicholson told The Age. ''Our view would be that quarantining is a legitimate part of the welfare system - but it also ought to be easy for people to demonstrate they are meeting their obligations.''

Hardly radical.

Generally I reject paternalism but if people can't manage their own lives, and as a result are damaging the lives and prospects of their children, then something has to give. If a dysfunctional beneficiary doesn't want their income managed there is a solution. Get a job.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Inhabitants of Wonderland

There are people whose comprehension of a given situation is exactly the reverse of mine. Here are two examples.

Benjamin Easton is a 'professional' activist but nobody is willing to pay him for his activism so he draws the unemployment benefit and says...

"It is a sacrifice, really. I am perfectly capable of earning."

A sacrifice? It's abuse. It's abuse of those who fund a welfare system which is sold as being there for people who genuinely cannot support themselves through work.

And then there is Millsy who unimaginatively continues to misrepresent my opposition to the DPB. He or she comments at the Hand Mirror;

It would seem to me that the Lindsay's of this world tend to want women to be trapped in unhappy and sometimes abusive marriages 'for the sake of the kids'.

I find that unacceptable. People's family arrangements are no place for anyone to stick their nose in.

Especially the 'collective' people as represented by the state.

Oh no, I forgot. Feminists approve of that.

They want their next door neighbour to fund them out of a bad relationship but otherwise, keep their nose out. Very convenient.

Feminists are clamouring for the state to stick its nose into family affairs when it suits. Paid Parental Leave, subsidised childcare, marital property legislation, state-funded anti-violence campaigns, state-funded pro-breastfeeding campaigns, a female biased Family Court. The examples are many. They even have their own government department.

So there are two examples of people who inhabit this Alice in Wonderland world we live in. Where up is down, and down is up.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Auckland brewing social problems

Statistics NZ has released projections that show Auckland's population will grow to 38 percent of the country's total by 2031. Two thirds of the growth will come from natural increase - births minus deaths.

The population of Auckland has been growing faster than the national average for some time. The natural growth that has already occurred is reflected in numbers on the DPB.

Between 1999 and 2009 the national DPB total dropped 1 percent.

But in Auckland the number rose by 16 percent to 37,376. Additionally the numbers that are aged 18 and 19 grew by 38 percent.

Auckland certainly is breeding and brewing plenty of social problems for itself. The forum on Auckland social policy should have this issue as its number one priority.

The Clayton Weatherston potrait

The National Portrait Competition is gaining unusual publicity this year due to the exhibition of a large sketch of Clayton Weatherston.

I was disappointed not to be part of the exhibition this year. It's the first time I have missed out. Strangely with what I thought was probably my best entry since it began. So it is always interesting to see what does get selected.

I left my entry very late and then quickly painted this of a friend. I hadn't developed a background or honed in the features and clothing because I sometimes get criticised for tending towards too much realism and time prevented it. The colours are also stronger and more various than I would normally use. Now I may rework it and show it in my April exhibition.

But I can hear my friend when she sees the front page of the DomPost this morning at teabreak. "Eh? They turned me down and took him?? Faaa....."

I think the Weatherston portrait is very good. Sometimes I think over-size faces are a bit gimmicky but there is no question over whether or not it should have been exhibited.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Growing political cynicism of Americans

What must it be like living in the States right now? Putting aside the financial hardship many are enduring (that is not to minimise it in any way) I might rather enjoy the growing level of political cynicism. Most Americans think Washington is screwed and most think neither the Democrats nor Republicans have answers worth voting for. I wish a few more New Zealanders would wake up to the problem of the big government parties on both sides of the political spectrum.

CNS reports;

After he signed a law last week authorizing the U.S. Treasury to borrow an additional $1.9 trillion, President Barack Obama delivered a characteristically sanctimonious speech. It was about his deep commitment to frugality.

“After a decade of profligacy, the American people are tired of politicians who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk when it comes to fiscal responsibility,” he said. “It’s easy to get up in front of the cameras and rant against exploding deficits. What’s hard is actually getting deficits under control. But that’s what we must do. Like families across the country, we have to take responsibility for every dollar we spend.”

To put Obama’s Olympian hypocrisy in perspective, one need only examine the federal budget tables posted on the White House website by Obama’s own Office of Management and Budget.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Solo mums sacrosanct

Family First issued this statement today;

...Fatherlessness is a major contributor to increasing rates of juvenile violence,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“Scientific research is unanimous on a number of conclusions regarding family structure – that strong marriages increases the likelihood that fathers have good relationships with their children and lowers the risk of alcohol and substance abuse, domestic violence and child abuse,”

“Conversely, parental divorce or non-marriage appears to increase children’s risk of delinquent and criminal behaviour, amongst other factors. One only needs to observe proceedings at the Youth Court to see the effect of fatherlessness.”

“According to The Heritage Foundation, an influential US research institute, an analysis of social science literature over 30 years shows that the rise in violent crime parallels the rise in families abandoned by fathers. A state-by-state analysis indicated that a 10% increase in the percentage of children living in single-parent homes lead typically to a 17% increase in juvenile crime. The research found that criminal behaviour has its roots in habitual deprivation of parental love and affection going back to early infancy.”

“Research has shown time after time that the father’s authority and involvement in raising his children are great buffers against a life of crime,” says Mr McCoskrie.

“There are other factors such as violence in the media, the ‘rights’ culture being fed to young people, and the undermining of parental authority which are contributors, but family structure is a crucial place to start.”

“Violent crime will continue to increase as long as we downplay the importance and significance of having two parents, a mum and a dad, committed to each other and to their children.”

The feminist blog, The Hand Mirror, has interpreted this as an attack on solo mums.

NZ is particularly prone to letting the left rule the roost on this sort of stuff. Middle (apolitical) NZ has let feminists shut down the debate on the whether family structure matters by being bullied into accepting that solo mums are victims. Feminists, who know how powerful a weapon guilt is, wield it unhesitatingly and very effectively. Mothers, particularly sole mums, are sacrosanct.

Perhaps it is time to start recognising that it is children who are victims. If children's need were elevated above those of their mothers, because their needs are often conflicting, perhaps some progress could be made.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Whanau Ora - a cautionary note

Though frustratingly little is known about whanau ora it is safe to say that it is about Maori solutions for Maori problems. Doing things the Maori way.

But I am reminded of one of Professor Fergusson's papers released last year. The emphases are mine;

The Role of Cultural Identity

To explore the possible role of cultural identity in mediating associations between ethnicity and childhood maltreatment, the group of Māori respondents was subdivided into those of sole Māori identity and Māori/other identity. The data were then re-analysed to examine the premise underlying current theories in New Zealand that claim that strength of Māori cultural identity mitigates the risk of young Māori people being exposed to child maltreatment. Following adjustment for socio-economic and family functioning factors, this re-analysis revealed a complex set of relationships between cultural identity and risks of childhood maltreatment.

In terms of childhood sexual abuse, those of sole Māori identity had the lowest adjusted rate of exposure. Although these differences failed to reach statistical significance, the findings provide some support for the view that being of sole Māori identity may be a protective factor that reduces risks of exposure to childhood sexual abuse. However, quite the opposite pattern was observed for exposure to childhood physical abuse and exposure to inter-parental violence, with those of sole Māori identity being at greater risks of these outcomes. The results suggest that sole Māori identity may be a risk factor for exposure to physical child abuse and inter-parental violence. The findings are in general agreement with research by Kukutai (2003), who suggested that the degree to which an individual identifies with Māori cultural identity may be associated with increased risks of social and economic disadvantage.

These findings, however, are not consistent with the assumptions underpinning influential theories, social policies and a number of intervention guidelines (Department of Social Welfare 1988, Ministry of Social Development 2002, Balzer et al. 1997, Stanley and Thompson 1999, Kiro 2000, Stanley 2000, Kruger et al. 2004), which claim that strengthening Māori identity and links with traditional Māori cultural practices will lead to reduced rates of child abuse among Māori. To the contrary, while the findings of this study suggest that this approach may lead to reduced risks of childhood sexual abuse, it may also be associated with increased risks of childhood physical abuse and exposure to inter-parental violence. These findings do pose a challenge to current policies aimed at reducing the over-representation of Māori children in rates of child maltreatment, which emphasise “identity interventions” that are not evidence-based and are largely ideologically driven. Even though such policies are no doubt well intentioned and observe statutory requirements unique to the New Zealand context, following the view expounded by UNICEF (2003, 2007), they must be exposed to ongoing critical scrutiny and empirical evaluation.