Friday, January 27, 2017

"Marriage is a dirty word?"

Last year's report Child Abuse and Family Structure: What is the evidence telling us? largely flew below the radar. But this welcome editorial appeared in the Northland Age earlier this week. Thank you Peter Jackson, whoever you are. 

Editorial: Marriage is a dirty word?
By Peter Jackson

Bob McCoskrie will be well used to it by now, but the response to a report declaring that children who are raised by their married biological parents are at a much reduced risk of abuse is illuminating.
The first response to last week's Northland Age story (Ssshhh - Don't mention family structure) was to dismiss the report because it had been commissioned by Family First.
Such is the level of critical thinking in some quarters these days. And it is that prejudice against what some see as old-fashioned values, as promoted by Family First, that is preventing us from doing anything meaningful to reduce the rate of violence against children.
All might not be lost though. One reader who dismissed Lindsay Mitchell's research as propaganda supposed that the key might be stability rather than marital status.
Fancy that. Such a profound analysis must give us all cause to believe in the survival of intelligence.
Lindsay Mitchell, whose history strongly suggests she is not for sale to any lobby group, has an impressive CV as a welfare commentator and researcher.
More importantly, her conclusions on this occasion do not apply solely to this country.
The indisputable fact that children who grow up in step, blended or sole-parent families are in greater danger of abuse by adults than those who grow up with both biological parents is replicated elsewhere.
Some hackles will be raised by her finding that Maori and Pacific families are over-represented in child abuse rates, and feature more than their share of ex-nuptial births, the absence of one parent or both, large numbers of siblings (especially from clustered or multiple births) and/or very young mothers. Long-term welfare dependence is another risk factor.
But, before the knives come out, she also finds that Maori and non-Maori children alike who live in two-parent working families suffer very low abuse rates.
Asian children, whose population has the lowest proportion of single-parent families, suffer disproportionately low rates of abuse.
The presence of biological fathers matters, she says, in protecting children from abuse, and marriage presents the greatest likelihood that the father will remain part of an intact family.
Mitchell's final conclusion is that there are "certain" family structures in which children will be far more vulnerable than others.
Is anyone surprised by that? Well yes, apparently some are. And offended. Some see it as a shameless plug for Family First, and the espousing of values that have had their day.
The world has changed, you see. Adults now have the right to scratch their itches. If they don't want to commit to a relationship, they don't have to.
Society no longer expects a public display of commitment, and like it or not, some children are paying a very high price for that.


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Progress painstakingly slow

Latest benefit statistics show painstakingly slow progress on raw numbers.

(Note the first MSD chart is mislabeled and should read "to December 2016")

But a few other aspects can be considered.

"The majority (70.4 percent) of main benefit recipients had been receiving a benefit continuously for more than one year."

This proportion has been constant since at least 2010. Bearing in mind that in December there are more temporary beneficiaries, during the rest of the year the percent who have been continuously dependent for more than a year increases to around 73%.

How have other characteristics changed?

You would hope that the beneficiary population would be ageing as proof the reforms to discourage young people from becoming dependent early are working.

I've compared December 2007 to December 2016:

Further analysis of the 18-24 year-old group is required to make sound conclusions but on the face of it, not a great result. And while there are probably slightly fewer Maori beneficiaries, their disproportionality has worsened. The lower ratio of female dependence is largely a result of the fall in sole parents on a benefit.

As an electoral issue welfare seems to have faded away. I'm not sure why. It's still a huge concern to have one in ten people unable to support themselves, for whatever reason.The focus certainly seems to have shifted more towards the 700,000 plus people who are supported by the taxpayer by dint of age. I don't want to have an argument about Super and entitlement etc. but the economic future implications cannot continue to be ignored.

To keep an issue in the limelight  strong opposition activity is required. Labour and the Greens can only complain that the government is being too hard on beneficiaries and I don't think that is gaining any traction. They can't attack them on performance unless they can promise to do better. And they don't have any good ideas about how.