Friday, December 26, 2014

Benefit cap

A benefit cap was progressively introduced in the UK and now the Irish are trying to introduce it as part of a host of other welfare reform changes.

A benefit cap limits the amount one household can claim in welfare. If it was applied in NZ it would mean a household might not automatically receive extra money if more children are added to a benefit. Or extra accommodation supplement might not be available if the family had already reached the maximum or cap.

However the cap is fairly generous.

How much is the benefit cap?

The level of the cap is:
  • £500 a week for couples (with or without children living with them)
  • £500 a week for single parents whose children live with them
  • £350 a week for single adults who don’t have children, or whose children don’t live with them
This may mean the amount you get for certain benefits will go down to make sure that the total amount you get isn’t more than the cap level.
The same amounts are proposed for Northern Ireland.

The cap doesn't apply to people who are working and receiving assistance though.

In November 2014 the Express reported:

MORE than 50,000 workless families have had their benefits cut because they were getting more from the state than the average worker brings home, official figures revealed yesterday.

And to prove that the Government’s radical reforms are working some 12,000 of them have been spurred into finding jobs.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said it showed the “staggering” positive impact of the decision to cap benefits for most unemployed households.

The cap applies even in the most expensive-to-live areas like London.

Meanwhile the pressure is on here to lift benefit incomes to accommodate high rents.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Xmas poem from Roald Dahl

Making peace with the feminists ... seen as it's Xmas...

"Where art thou, Mother Christmas?

I only wish I knew
Why Father should get all the praise
And no one mentions you.

I'll bet you buy the presents
And wrap them large and small
While all the time that rotten swine
Pretends he's done it all.

So Hail To Mother Christmas
Who shoulders all the work!
And down with Father Christmas,
That unmitigated jerk!"
[c. RDNL]


Just updating my artist blog - two people will be unwrapping commissioned paintings/pastels of their dogs this morning. This is Jack who apparently characteristically had his ears back,

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

"Kind Regards" etc

Last week I received a missive from the Ombudsman informing me that a complaint I'd lodged is in delay. It has yet to be allocated to an 'investigator'. Oh well. Par for the course. Ironically my previous complaint to them concerned the ever increasing time it takes MSD to respond to OIA requests.

But I am musing about the sign-off at the end of the letter. KIND REGARDS.

Polite and warm.

But I don't use KIND REGARDS unless I specifically feel kindly towards the recipient of my correspondence.

REGARDS on its own is respectful and sufficient,  don't you think?

I'm certain readers of this blog will wrestle with correspondence etiquette regularly; not only as forms of communication change rapidly, but standards of language relax.

Probably the way I address people in emails and letters is now a product of my mood and my attitude to the recipient far more than teachings and protocol.

But when I was in high school we were taught conventional ways of writing letters and the use of terms REGARDS, SINCERELY and FAITHFULLY.

Is there a modern day equivalent?

Surely in the highly PC public service such guidelines exist. Some bright-eyed wallet-conscious consultant would have put up their hand to write them.

(BTW Ombudsman, I do not object to your KIND REGARDS. As I said, warm and polite. Just reflecting...)

On Joe Cocker

Another of my teenage favourites has gone. Though I expect the occurrence of such will only increase from here on in as the artists I loved when I was 13+ hit their seventies.
Before I was old enough to afford albums (though my pocket money would stretch to singles at $1.15 a pop) I'd be listening to what the older kids were playing. Cocker Happy was a brilliant album. Highly original and so musical. Only on December 13 I was arguing with the kids about Cocker. I remember the exact day because we were driving up to my nephews 21st. They called him a "cover artist". He was not, I said. I was positive he wrote some of his own material. In any case even when he recorded songs by other artists his version was the definitive one eg She came in through the bathroom window.
The sad news of his death this morning had me diving through my albums and cds. As we head off to the dreaded mall this morning it'll be made a bit more bearable with "Feeling alright" playing in the car. His early stuff was in my opinion his best.
I saw him play in Palmerston North around 1983-84. It wasn't terribly memorable. I don't think he hugely enjoyed performing. Later when I watched Mads Dogs and Englishmen on DVD I got the sense he was a quite retiring individual who didn't crave the limelight.
But his lifetime's work was nevertheless extensive and he was still recording in 2013.
He has a place in my heart as one of those singers who developed in me a lifelong love of music.
Here's Hitchcock Railway. Still so good.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The more things change....December 22, 2014

Here's a topical piece except it's from 80 years ago.

Source:  Evening Post, Volume CXVIII, Issue 150, 22 December 1934, Page 11




Mr. John Brown, of South Shields, ex-tramp, author, boxer, and novelist has returned from Russia. For the past month (says the London "Daily Express") he has .been travelling alone in the land of the Soviet at the expense of Lord Nuffield (formerly Sir William Morris). Now he is back to submit a report on his impressions to the famoug motor-car manufacturer.

This story began last May. John Brown stood outside the Morris motor works selling Communist literature to Lord Nuffield's workers. A motor-car drove up and Lord Nuffield accosted Brown. A heated discussion followed. As result, Mr. Brown last month sailed for Russia to study conditions as they really are, free of all cost to himself.

Mr. Brown gave his impressions to a "Daily Express" representative. "I learned enough Russian" he said, "to get about on my own. I avoided all guides. I wanted to find out things for myself. I covered 4000 miles altogether and got into certain factories in spite of official refusals. I worked on a Moscow subway and met commissars, generals, and directors. My general impression ia that the facts do not fit the theory. In theory Communism should have increased enormously the standard of living of the worker  since 1917. I expected the standard to be at least comparable with the  Western European countries. But it will take at least five five year plans before that has been accomplished.There is no unemployment, but it's is not quite so pleasant as it sounds. If you want a ration card you have got to nave a job of some sort. It is easy to get divorce, but if you have more than one you cannot get promotion. You just say you want a divorce and get it on the spot. Even the highest paid workers in Russia are on a lower standard of living than men on the dole in England."


Perhaps Bob Jones might like to sponsor a few Greens in a similar manner.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Remaining rat

In September last year I blogged briefly about the addition to our menagerie - two rats who became known as Malcolm and Reese. Sadly Malcolm developed pneumonia a couple of months back and failed to respond to anti-biotics. In hindsight we realised he had never had good respiratory health.

However Reese remains and we decided that as a bereaved rat he needed more human companionship. Each night he spends a few hours down in our main living area. He has just turned up at my feet and is climbing up to sit just under my nose on top of a tall narrow bookcase but under the kitchen bench - his safe place. He'd come across the floor from a descent down the Xmas tree - his first encounter with real trees and a great adventure. Now he's perched on my History of Petone grooming himself.

The dogs give him a wide berth due to both being bitten on the nose, attack being the best form of defence. The cats are relegated to other living spaces.

Here's a short film of him being handled by Sam. Never thought I'd like a rat this much.

CPAG exaggerate benefit cuts

Innes Asher is as spokesperson for the Child Poverty Action Group. She wrote a piece that was published in the NZ Herald on Friday. Not unusually it was misleading. This is my response by way of a letter to the editor. (Yes, I seem to have written it many times before but if they can keep repeating themselves, so can I.)

Dear Editor

According to Innes Asher (NZ Herald, December 19), "In the 1991 Budget, the universal child benefit was abolished, and income support benefits were cut by about 21 per cent, resulting in a doubling of children in poverty."

In fact, although the universal child benefit was abolished, nearly half of the saved funds were re-allocated to the means-tested Family Support. As for the DPB, the benefit most welfare-dependent children rely on, the cuts were 10.7 percent for those with one child, and 8.9 percent for those with two children (Social Developments, Tim Garlick).

If benefits are raised to relieve child poverty there are two distinct risks.

Numerous studies have shown the rate of unmarried births increases with lifts in welfare income. Already around half the children in poverty are in single parent homes.

Secondly, OECD research found that when the state reduces child poverty through greater income redistribution, the number of work-less homes also rises.

The lasting solution to child poverty lies in employment and committed parental relationships. Trying to solve it via more welfare will only exacerbate the problem in the long term.