Sunday, July 27, 2014

Labour just not serious

There have been weaknesses in the welfare reform results.

The educational achievements of those on the Youth Payment are mixed.

Yet last week in Parliament the following patsy and response went unchallenged.

Youth Programmes—Reports 5. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Minister for Social Development: What recent reports has she received about the Government’s Youth Service initiative?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): Youth Service, which is about reaching out early to young people on or at risk of going on a benefit and engaging them in education or training, is already producing great results. The latest evaluation report shows that four out of five young people enrolled in Youth Service are now in education or training, and 63 percent of 16 and 17-year-olds on the youth payment achieved National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) credits in their first year on the Youth Service, compared with just 24 percent of young people who were on the old independent youth benefit. Fourteen percent of those on the youth payment achieved NCEA level 2, compared with 5 percent before the Youth Service. Achieving NCEA level 2, of course, makes someone far more likely to be able to support themselves and be financially independent.
Melissa Lee: What evidence has she seen that the Youth Service is working to stop young people becoming dependent on the benefit in the long term?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: It is early days but I am pleased that we are already seeing a drop in the number of young people on the youth payment who go on to a main benefit when they turn 18. Seventy percent of young people on the youth payment did not go on to a main benefit when they turned 18 in the year to March 2014. These are young people who have often come from very difficult backgrounds. Wrapping support around them early and ensuring that they are not on a lifetime of welfare is what our Youth Service is all about.

Not a supplementary in sight.

Another example - Last week I provided data showing that the policy to discourage adding children to a benefit wasn't working.

It is the job of a good opposition to monitor government policies, especially if they oppose them. Yet Labour's Sue Moroney does little but push her paid parental leave bill.

Now, on balance, I think Paula Bennett has a better grasp on the welfare problem than previous Ministers and there have been good reforms with good results.

But there are vulnerabilities a credible government-in-waiting would be exposing.

Friday, July 25, 2014

70,000 pay $16.77 weekly in child support

The number of liable parents paying the minimum amount of child support - currently $16.77 weekly - has risen from 59,536 at April, 2009 to 69,968 at December, 2013. An 18 percent increase.

Minimum payers make up about 52 percent of all liable parents. In 2009 the percentage was forty six.

One of the Left's poverty solutions is to transfer the child support payment directly to the custodial parent rather than the IRD retaining it to partially offset the benefit bill. They want the taxpayer to shoulder more of the cost of raising financially-orphaned children. Assuming that most of the custodial parents with liable parents paying the minimum amount are on a benefit, their incomes wouldn't  rise very much.

And for those whose ex's are in prison, perhaps the most needy, they wouldn't get any extra. During 2013, 786 prisoners were exempted from paying child support.

The left writhes over collective responsibility for unacceptable child poverty, while 7 percent of all children have a biological parent paying less than the price of a packet of cigarettes for their weekly upkeep.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Millennial values

From a US survey of 2,000 American adults under 30.

Millennials distrust political parties and are largely socially liberal but fiscally centrist, according to the latest Reason-Rupe survey. The survey gathered responses from 2,000 adults ages 18 to 29 between late February and mid-March 2014, finding that today's young Americans are largely unaligned with traditional political parties:
  • While young adults have supported Democrat political candidates since 2004, one-third of millennials identify themselves as independents -- three times the number of Americans over the age of 30 who do so.
  • Twenty-eight percent of millennials trust neither major party to handle the nation's issues. Fifty percent do not trust either party to handle privacy.
The survey also indicated that young American adults believe in personal responsibility and other free-market values. When asked to explain success, respondents listed hard work, ambition and self-discipline as the top three explanations for wealth. The most common explanations for poverty were poor life choices, lack of job opportunities and lack of work ethic.

Would love to see how a NZ survey compared.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Poverty 100 years ago

The Otago Daily Times has a piece written 100 years ago.

Note the difference in tenor:

It is well that cases of pitiable poverty and want, such as one which came under the notice of a Christchurch Star representative on Wednesday morning, are rare, extremely rare.
In a small cottage in Milne Street, Spreydon, live a woman and her three children, whose ages range from two to six years. The house has four rooms, but the family occupy only two of them. Three old chairs, a tiny table, and a few pictures on the wall comprise the furniture of the kitchen, while two small stretchers are the sole contents of the bedroom. The woman and the three children were neatly but poorly dressed, and it was evident that they were having a hard struggle to make ends meet.
In the course of a conversation, the woman said that her husband was at present in a mental hospital at Porirua, Wellington, and that there was very little chance that he would ever be discharged. During the late strike, when her husband was out of work, she went out washing, and had kept herself, her husband, and five children, the two oldest of whom were now in the charge of her sister in Wellington. It was now 11 weeks since her husband had been sent to Porirua, and ever since then she had been the sole support of herself and the three children.
She earned 12s a week, and 7s went in rent, so that the family had practically been living on 5s a week for two months. Two days in the week the woman goes out washing, two days she takes in washing, and for the rest of the week she is unemployed. She has now applied for charitable aid, and is also making application for a widow's pension. The neighbours have been very kind, and but for their help she would not have been able to live.
Two of the children have been moved where they can be supported by family, and her neighbours are making it possible for her to get by.

Imagine today's coverage of the same situation. The Greens would be hopping mad that the woman wasn't getting state support. They would be laying victim hood all over the unfortunate mother and bemoaning that neighbours had to put a hand in their own pocket to help her get by. The woman is being stigmatised through no fault of her own, they would say.

When in fact her plight had appealed to people's compassionate instincts.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Poll puzzle

The NZ Herald headline says, "Labour slumps to 15 year low".
Labour's support has slumped to its worst rating for 15 years in the latest DigiPoll survey, putting critical pressure on leader David Cunliffe.
But over on Whale Oil Richard McGrath has pointed out Labour won the 1999 election.

The historical polls are available at DigiPoll

This is the 1999 pre-election poll.

Does that mean 2 months out from the 1999 election, Labour was polling in the mid 20s and managed to turn that into 40% by polling day?

Adding to the puzzle I found this

Labour Surge, Alliance Slump in Latest Poll

Today’s Herald DigiPoll shows Labour surging further ahead to 43.8 per cent, up seven points from National on 35.7 per cent.

Just over two months out, Labour was on 43.8 percent.

So if it had been polling much lower earlier in the year, it didn't turn it around within two months of the election - where we are now.

Ah I see the problem now. I am interpreting the headline wrongly.

If instead of "Labour slumps to 15 year low" it was "Employment slumps to 15 year low," I would expect to go back to 1999 and see employment at the same rate as when the headline was written. Employment statistics of course go back much further. The Herald DigiPoll does not.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Surprising position on privilege for the elderly

Susn St John and Claire Dale, generally known as advocates for the Child Poverty Action Group,  had a piece in yesterday's NZ Herald arguing for more elderly privilege; more taxpayer dollars for certain retirees.

Yes. That's right.

CPAG's usual complaint is that NZ looks after the elderly far better than it does children.
"We could reduce child poverty dramatically if we choose to, just as we have done for elderly people."
And, Susan St John quoting Jonathan Boston:
As Professor Jonathon Boston, co-chair of the NZ Children’s Commissioner’s Expert Advisory Group on Child Poverty says, ‘Why are so few older people materially deprived?  The answer, very simply, is that governments have implemented policies to minimise deprivation among the elderly.’
From the health spokeswoman for CPAG:
We do so much better for the elderly in New Zealand, because - thankfully - we do not discriminate against the elderly with universal superannuation. It is not targeted and is non- judgmental. 
Contrast that to today's complaint against the state's apparently discriminatory position that, "... the Government expects married people to share resources and support each other."

Back to the article:
 Tom has been a good citizen and lived here all his life and expects to get the married rate of New Zealand Superannuation at age 65.
What if Tom had been a bad citizen? Why bring his deserving status into it when usually CPAG rail against that principle:
  "We've got the deserving and the undeserving poor in New Zealand, and that's just not good enough."
I suppose they are at least being consistent in calling for more tax-payer funding to address their latest chosen cause.

Friday, July 18, 2014

A justified use of the word 'misogyny'

Generally I find accusations of 'misogynism'  paranoid, over-reactions.

So when I read this recent  release I went looking:

Keep misogynist messages off our roads

Human Rights Commission urges Kiwis to help keep misogynist messages off our roads

EEO Commissioner Dr Jackie Blue hopes Kiwis will ensure an international rental van company keeps its offensive messages off New Zealand roads.
Wicked Campers Australia was recently forced to remove misogynist, offensive slogans off its vehicles after thousands of complaints.

Here are two of their slogans:

  "In every princess, there's a little slut who wants to try it just once"

 "A wife: an attachment you screw on the bed to get the housework done"

Bad taste, not funny.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Adding children to an existing benefit - numbers rise

Not such good news for National.

In October 2012 a policy to discourage beneficiaries from adding children to an existing benefit was introduced. When a new child turns one, the parent may have work expectations based on the next oldest child's age. The policy was specifically aimed at discouraging the addition of children to an existing benefit to avoid employment.

Data released to me  under the Official Information Act shows that the policy has made no difference.

In fact the number of children under 1 year-old added to an existing benefit has actually increased.

In the six months ending March 31, 2006, 5854 children aged under one were added to a benefit. In the same period prior to March 2014 the number increased to 6634 - a 13% rise.

Half of the caregivers adding children under the age of one were Maori: 26 percent NZ European and 12 percent Pacific Island.

Seventy two percent of the caregivers were 29 years or younger.

Over a quarter of those receiving the Youth Payment/Young Parent Payment added a baby. The majority of newborns were added to Sole Parent Support.

While the policy was well-intentioned it will not work in communities where there are no jobs or where a parent has significant barriers to work eg a criminal history. In these cases children continue to present an opportunity to increase income by an additional $3,328 annually.

This is a really thorny issue.

On one side there's those crying, what will happen to the children if we stop paying?

On the other is the grim reality that meal-ticket children are at-risk children.

When the policy was implemented it was accompanied by free access to long-acting reversible contraception, especially to women on a benefit and their "adult female dependent children".  MSD estimated just under 15,000  in the first group (according to Cabinet papers) and  1,000 in the second "may choose to utilise a long-acting reversible contraceptive."

In 2013 only 215  Special Needs Grants were paid for LARC.

So while the number of teen births is dropping significantly, there is a group of beneficiaries who either don't know about the new policy or are ignoring it.

Ironically these are the very parents hands are wrung over because their children are 'living in poverty'.

I don't have to come up with solutions because I'm not a politician. But capping the benefit (before the reforms) has been tried in the US and it didn't work.

Stopping welfare isn't acceptable with the electorate.

So my best alternative is time-limits. People need to know they have X amount of entitlement and when it's gone, it's gone. They have to make the right choices for their circumstances, and if they don't, they have to live with the consequences.