Saturday, March 28, 2009

Wrong again

The headline says; Preventing crime begins at school

Preventing crime does NOT begin at school. It begins at the family planning clinic or failing that, at home. Many, perhaps most, potential criminals are born under easily identifiable circumstances. To a young, particularly very young mother or as a younger sibling of a mother who started having babies early; with an absent father, especially one absent due to being in prison; to a parent dependent on welfare supplemented by black market income; with a parent(s) who has drug/alcohol/gambling abuse/addiction problem; to a parent or wider family member who will abuse especially sexually.

All this is going on before the child even reaches school.

Sadly even those children removed and put into foster care of some sort are still at much higher risk of becoming criminals although the earlier the removal happens, the better.

Putting psychologists into schools is not the answer. We didn't used to have the crime rates we now almost take for granted and we didn't used to have psychologists in schools.

Look, no-one can actively stop the wrong people, or wrong in their current lifestyle, having children. But there is so much more that could be done to discourage them and /or find alternative homes for those children who do arrive. Young men in prison have already fathered more than children than those not in prison. I am willing to accept that the UK research stacks up here. Most of those children will be on welfare. We have to get in there and change the incentives and how we deal with unsupported pregnancies/births where the issue is clearly going to be going home (if you can call it that) to all of the conditions I have described.

Expecting to turn these kids around when they reach school (but still spend most of their time in their shitty homes with their shitty parents) is pie in the sky.

As Oswald said so eloquently yesterday, Are these people mad??

Friday, March 27, 2009

Govt decision to back down on DPB changes - stupid

Media Release


Friday, March 27, 2009

Reacting to news the government has decided to put the re-introduction of DPB work-testing on hold, welfare commentator Lindsay Mitchell simply said, "Stupid."

"National campaigned on re-introducing DPB work-testing for parents whose youngest child has turned six . Although I criticised the policy as toothless because there is no cap on how many children a recipient can have while on welfare, it nevertheless sends a message that being on the DPB shouldn't be considered a permanent state of affairs. Now that message has gone on hold, apparently because of the recession."

"At a time when unemployment is rising sharply the government needs to be doing all it can to discourage dependence on other benefits. Right now the number of teenagers going on to the DPB is high and growing. That's because the DPB is viewed as a de facto job-for-life. It is imperative that the government reinforces , at all times, that the DPB is a safety net of last resort."

"This move also implies that any jobs available are for the unemployed, more often men. But in a house with growing children, having at least one working parent is enormously important. Having a working parent is probably the most effective way of teaching a work ethic to the next generation."

"And as employers adapt to the recession more part-time jobs, those frequently taken up by mothers with school-age children, are being created. In the last year the part-time workforce grew by nearly 4 percent whereas as the full-time workforce was static."

"National has made a big mistake here. What they should be doing is tightening the rules surrounding eligibility for the DPB - not loosening them."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dear MSD ...

Dear Ministry of Social Development,

I am aware that you read my blog and you are most welcome.

So, where is the response to my most recent Official Information Request? You sent me a letter, on behalf of Peter Hughes, Chief Executive, on March 18 saying that an extension of time was required to "consult with other parties" and that, "My response will be with you no later than March 24."

I have just returned from a trip to my letterbox empty-handed, again. Are you sure you haven't sent it to someone else? This is not outside the realms of possibility as I have in the past received responses that were intended for another person. Still, your performance is better than the IRD's which, on one occasion, took months to furnish a reply after repeatedly losing my questions. And generally you perform better than the police who are unable to answer questions simply because they do not keep relevant statistics ( eg the number of false rape allegations made or the age and gender of homicide victims). You are certainly doing better than the Children's Commissioner who just makes things up.

Please. I do not want to resort to the Office of the Ombudsman yet again because they take even longer to react.


Lindsay Mitchell

Keeping perspective

From Parliament yesterday;

5. JO GOODHEW (National—Rangitata) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What reports has she seen about job losses in the current economic climate?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment) : There has been a sharp increase in the rate of unemployment. There are 35,283 people currently on the unemployment benefit, and that number is up by 15,250 on last year’s number.

Here are the unemployment benefit figures at March 31 for the last 5 years;

(March 25 2009 35,283)

March 31 2008 19,034

March 31 2007 28,845

March 31 2006 38,796

March 31 2005 54,936

March 31 2004 75,164

Considering New Zealand has been in a recession since early last year, a 15,000 jump isn't too bad (apologies to anyone who has lost their job. I can't think of a more diplomatic way to put it). There are year-to-year drops of more than that during earlier periods (bearing in mind of course that they may have been more about WINZ management than the economy).

Bigger year-to-year increases were recorded between 1982 to 83, 86 to 87, 88 to 89 and 91 to 92 when the workforce was considerably smaller.

Name the problem

The front page of the DomPost features an article making the claim that new entrants are increasingly turning up to school lacking reading, writing and life skills.

Foxton's Coley St School principal Richard McMillan said about 80 per cent of this year's new entrants did not know how to hold a pencil, had no letter knowledge, poor book knowledge, and did not know how to look after themselves.

"Some do not even have basic life skills like eating properly and washing hands."

The school provided special remedial support programmes, while other schools used teacher aides.

"There are too many young parents lacking basic parenting skills not reading to their children, not talking to them, teaching them basic hygiene."

He believed the problem was more prevalent in lower socio-economic rural areas.

New Zealand Educational Institute president Frances Nelson said new entrants' readiness varied across the country. Children who had not had early childhood education tended to be less prepared.

"Unfortunately, it's increasingly in [poorer] low-decile areas where access to preschool education is not so easy to come by.

"Hawera Primary School head Neryda Sullivan said new entrants were increasingly not meeting basic benchmarks described in the Education Ministry's Literacy Learning Progressions. Many were missing early indicators, "like reading from the front to the back of a book and realising illustrations relate to text".

Deputy principal Shevaun O'Brien said 19 of 36 of the school's new entrants rated below average last year. "People are under a lot of time pressure everyone is so busy."

Principals Federation president Ernie Buutveld also said access to early childhood education was likely to be a factor. "It may also suggest families need two incomes, and probably there is less time being spent doing some of those things being done in the old times."

But he added that families in which both parents were working were more likely to send their children to pre-school.

So there is a contradiction there. Pre-school helps prepare for school. That is indisputable. The both-parents-work excuse doesn't wash with me. Busy people tend to apply their effort across all endeavours.

Nobody is saying it so I will. Much of the problem - not all of it - stems from welfarism. A laziness and apathy pervades many beneficiary homes. It may be that there are mental problems that need resolving. Then again I think much of the diagnosis of stress and depression is driven by the don't-blame-the-victim mentality.

There are 177 on the DPB in Foxton. That'll represent about 300 children. Not all of them at school of course. Coley St School has a roll of around 270. Another 250 children go to other Foxton Schools. I think it would be safe to estimate one in three Foxton children is from a home where nobody goes out to work. Homes where there should be ample time to spend interacting with the children. Yet studies show that welfare recipients talk less to their children.

But getting back to the comments from those interviewed. If nobody names the problem, how are we ever going to fix it?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Blaming the messenger

Isn't it great. The decision to reduce the subsidy on Losec, a treatment for heartburn and stomach ulcers, was made when Labour was in government. The generic, Dr Reddy's, is fully funded and patients who don't want to pay for Losec are being switched over.

But here is Labour MP, Ross Robertson, doing the only thing he can by way of a response to his constituents. Blaming the pharmacist.

“My point is choice. My constituents tell me pharmacists are switching them to the new variety of Losec without telling them they can still get the old one, albeit at a cost.

“The simple courtesy of telling folk that a choice exists is surely not too hard for pharmacists."

If pharmacists don't tell them it is because they are sick of getting flak over decisions that are beyond their control.

“I am taking this issue to the Minister as I believe that choice is a huge issue for older folk, and that the Government is obliged to ensure that vulnerable people know they do have a choice,” he concluded.

And... choice? CHOICE? Don't make me choke. It is the Labour model, the socialist publicly-funded health system that results in one-size-fits-all rationing. Most of the time the introduction of the 'free' generic kills off other alternatives. Choice. Save me.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Criminal inconsistency

A bill currently before select committee reads;

Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Amendment Bill

The purpose of the bill is to allow Police wide powers to collect DNA from persons before being charged or convicted, such as matching DNA profiles against samples from unsolved scenes of crime.

As it stands the law allows forced sampling from people who are judged 'guilty on accusation' (charged) and politicians, under pressure from the police and tough-on-law-and-order advocates, want to extend that to 'guilty on suspicion'.

The government and its support party, however, are able to discern the wrongness of the 'guilty on accusation' presumption in respect of copyright law and have scrapped the proposed changes.

If they were consistent they would also drop this bill. I am very uncomfortable when I read 'wide powers' and 'police' in the same sentence.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hide - Don't come to me

Good to see Rodney Hide taking an economical approach with his language as well as ratepayer's money. An excerpt from an interview with Hawke's Bay bloggers, BayBuzz;

Your supporters in Hawke’s Bay are pretty conservative with regard to what should be within the circle of core services. But we also have some local elected officials here who are busily promoting so-called infrastructure spending.

(Hide) I understand that. If there’s pork being thrown around, people will want it coming their way.

How are you fending that off?

(Hide) Look, people know that I’m the last person to come to. Very early on in the piece, I was at a meeting of the Auckland area mayors. John Key explained they were going to be spending up on infrastructure. The question was asked: “Who they should approach in Government if they had some good infrastructure projects?” John Key suggested myself. I said “No way, because the answer from me will always be no.” I’m the last person to be approaching about spending more taxpayers’ or ratepayers’ money.

(Hat tip DPF)

Mandatory child abuse reporting

Did I miss something?

In respect of the commerce select committee holding an inquiry into finance company collapse and what might be achieved with law change ...

... Dalziel said the country had made it mandatory to report child abuse. There was an argument for thinking along similar lines in finance.

Say what?

According to the Ministry of Health;

Is it mandatory to report abuse?
In New Zealand, it is not mandatory to report partner and child abuse.

It is surprising that Dalziel could make such a considerable error (if she has been correctly reported.) I hope it is hers and not mine. Mandatory child abuse reporting is a bad idea. More law, more criminalisation, fewer people using their brains.

Welfare Reform in a Recession

A High Priority Promise
23 March 2009
Muriel Newman

In the seventies, the famous writer and philosopher Ayn Rand described the pervasive danger of the welfare state. She could have been writing about New Zealand today. Driven by power-seeking politicians, the welfare safety net has been manipulated over the years to the point where instead of alleviating hardship, it is creating unimaginable harm to some recipients, and widespread damage to society and the economy as a whole.... More >>>

Welfare Reform in a Recession
22 March 2009
Lindsay Mitchell

During a recent radio interview I was asked, is this a bad time to be talking about reforming welfare? No, I replied with little hesitation. There is no bad time to be trying to reform welfare. The period under the last Labour government would have been an ideal time to radically reform welfare because jobs were plentiful (thanks to the 1980s economic reforms, globalisation and a strong world economy). Now, with recessionary unemployment rising, job opportunities are becoming more scarce seeming to thwart the chances of moving people off welfare..... More

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday sermon from Sir Johnathan Sacks

I have an argument with a left-leaning friend. She thinks libertarianism is good in theory but doesn't believe people can be trusted to do the right thing voluntarily. So governments have to take charge of wealth redistribution rather than leaving it to a freely functioning labour market. That sort of thing. She has a rather poor opinion of her fellow beings. Increasingly though her estimation is fleshed out. While I hold to the vision (the Thomas Sowell sort of 'vision') that without more individual freedom we will never know what many people are constructively capable of.

The following excerpt pretty much says it all for me. Our current predicament isn't a failure of the market (which was never free anyway). It is a failure of values. And it vindicates for me why honesty and moral principles are the bedrock of any organisation - be it a family or a multi-national conglomerate or a political party.

The market economy has generated more real wealth, eliminated more poverty and liberated more human creativity than any other economic system. The fault is not with the market but with the idea that the market alone is all we need.

Markets don't guarantee equity, responsibility or integrity. They can maximise short-term gain at the cost of long-term sustainability. They don't distribute rewards fairly. They don't guarantee honesty. When it comes to flagrant self-interest, they combine the maximum temptation with the maximum opportunity. Markets need morals, and morals are not made by markets.

They are made by schools, the media, custom, tradition, religious leaders, moral role models and the influence of people. But when religion loses its voice and the media worship success, when right and wrong become relativised and morality is condemned as “judgmental”, when people lose all sense of honour and shame and there is nothing they won't do if they can get away with it, no regulation will save us. People will outwit the regulators, as they did by the securitisation of risk so no one knew who owed what to whom.

The big question is: how do we learn to be moral again? Markets were made to serve us; we were not made to serve markets. Economics needs ethics. Markets do not survive by market forces alone. They depend on respect for the people affected by our decisions. Lose that and we lose not just money and jobs but something more significant still: freedom, trust and decency, the things that have a value, not a price.