Friday, September 21, 2012

It has to be "hard"

Simon Collins has been out talking with teenagers affected by the new welfare rules which pay most of their benefit as in-kind assistance. It would appear there are a few hitches with getting the balance right but some good stories about the difference the new service providers are making. These are the people contracted to work alongside the teenagers. These are the 'mentors'  that ACT always thought would be at the heart of any successful reform. And they are put with the most important cases first - the young beneficiaries.

Whereas the title of Collins' report has negative connotations - Teen welfare hard for guinea pigs - I see it as a positive. In terms of making ends meet it has to be hard and seen to be hard because part of the rationale for these reforms to deter others from going there.

My heart goes out to some of these kids though. I've got two teenagers and they are very, very lucky. They have something you can't put a price on. Security and unconditional love. That's what launches youngsters into a world that they can get the best out of. I fervently hope this new approach can make a real difference.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

On addiction

Are we going to reach a point when every behaviour that has bad consequences is described as " an addiction"? There's the obvious alcohol and drug addiction, then gambling addiction; then there was sex addiction, and I believe I've read about shoplifting addiction. There's the obvious offshoots from adrenalin addiction. Caffeine addiction. And more. Now food addiction has appeared.

The effect of describing bad-consequence behaviours as 'addictions' is two-fold; legitimisation and collectivisation.

The perpetrator of bad-consequence behaviours isn't in control because their brain is cross-wired by some malfunctioning chemical messages. This constitutes a medical condition that requires treatment, ergo, funding. Guess who from.

So he who cannot control his urges becomes the obligation of he who can. But the very legitimisation of his bad-consequence behaviour will provoke more of it because he was handed a convenient excuse.

I eat, drink and gamble. But they are under control. Part of the reason they are under control is that out-of-control they stop bringing pleasure. I worked that out for myself. My brain hasn't been "hijacked" as Doug Sellman describes people whose reason has abandoned them.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

David Cunliffe making stuff up

David Cunliffe writing a post on Red Alert which started on the subject of Women's Suffrage Day goes off on a tangent and gets to this,

The median household is at least $900 worse off than a couple of years ago.

Obviously not per week, or even per month, so he must mean annually.

The annual median household income from all sources for the last three years available was:

2009 $64,168
2010 $64,272
2011 $67,028

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Time spent on welfare update

There is now a discussion under way at Public Address about what Paula Bennett claimed on Radio NZ this morning, which was subsequently reported in the NZ Herald (see last post).

I still find the latest revelations surprising. Mainly because they weren't part of the Welfare Working Group (WWG) report. Or I would have reacted then.

So I went back and checked. The WWG Issues report said,

As can be seen, there are over 170,000 people who had spent five or more of the last ten years on a benefit. Within this group of people, 100,000 had spent more than nine or more years on a benefit.

What I'd expect. But contrast the NZ Herald report today:

... Some 161,000 people had been on benefits for at least five of the last 10 years, and another 139,000 people had been on benefits for at least 10 years.

Still some mismatch  BUT the second figure is a subset of the first. Not 'and another'.

For the record, the Ministerial Q & A sheet says,  

"More than 161,000 people have received a benefit for at least half of the last 10 years and 139,000 have spent more than a decade on benefit since 1993."

Post note: After some correspondence the NZ Herald on-line is amending their copy.

When did the recession begin?

The NZ Herald reports:

Some 161,000 people had been on benefits for at least five of the last 10 years, and another 139,000 people had been on benefits for at least 10 years.

If this is correct then  half of current beneficiaries have been on welfare for five or more years and 43 percent  for 10 or more.

Remind me, when did the recession begin?

And coincidentally today's welfare reform protest at Ministry of Social Development Auckland offices featured the theme, "Job creation, not intimidation."

Monday, September 17, 2012

Truth column September 7

My September 7 Truth column is now on-line.

There’s every chance this is National’s last term in government. Its performance has been fair under difficult international and domestic circumstances, but where are the 2014 support partners?


Other Truth columns here

Journalists: stupid or mischievous?

Left-leaning commentators have been grossly misrepresenting the government-commissioned benefit-system actuarial figures and report released last week. Scoop's Gordon Campbell here, and NZ Herald's Paul Little here.

According to Campbell,
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett is such a troll, it can seem pointless to rise to the bait. But yesterday’s claim – dutifully run as the lead on the NZ Herald website– surpasses even her own usual high standard of offensive stupidity. According to Bennett, if everyone on a benefit last year stayed on it for the rest of their lives, the cost to the nation would be $78 billion.
And Little says,

With all the grace of a cat dragging a dead rat on to the dining table and dumping it in the trifle, she told us she has just found out that if all the people on benefits stayed on benefits until they were 65, the cost to the country would be $78 billion.
What the report attempts to calculate is, based on a number of factors such as age at entry into the system, benefits applied for, presence of children etc the likelihood of existing beneficiaries remaining on welfare and the cost of that. This work began with estimations made by the Welfare Working Group which found that people entering the benefit system at 18 were likely to stay the longest for instance. (I had been attempting to draw attention to this for a long time through OIA questions around how many current beneficiaries began on welfare as teenagers, length of stay, benefit type etc).

Hence the following graph shows the cost of current beneficiaries tapering off. The way the above writers have described the calculation would have resulted in a graph with climbing payments (static number of beneficiaries plus inflation).

I can't believe the stuff they get away with.