Monday, March 07, 2016

How to stop children being added to existing benefits?

Below are a couple of slides from my presentation to the recent ACT conference. I talked about the successful (thus far) reforms and the failures. These graphs show a particular policy failure.

National, to their credit (and unlike Labour)  got to grips with welfare numbers and what drives them quite quickly. They acknowledged that adding subsequent children to an existing benefit was a big problem. A cabinet paper explored the situation and recommended a policy solution. This is the official advice now provided by Work and Income:

I compared data from 2006 to 2014 because the number of births in those two years was almost the same. As you can see, even more children were added after the reform. And last year, although fewer children were added, so too was the total number of births.

Work testing is ineffective in areas where there are no jobs. There are towns in NZ that are dying. They are not great places to raise children. But they are homes to beneficiaries - especially inter-generational - only because they provide more affordable living.

And taking a more cynical view, children continue to provide an opportunity to increase income by an additional $3,328 annually (subsequent child under 13 qualifies caregiver for $64 weekly) - not to mention the April benefit increase that is coming.

Meal ticket children must have the worst prospects of all NZ children.

Government should stop being held hostage by their parents, and by bureaucrats and politicians who believe that "suffer the little children to come unto me" means dishing out more cash for kids.

These parents should be supported via assistance-in-kind only. Ensure their children have adequate housing, food and power (more than what some have now) and that's it. It's do-able. It's called 'income management' and the technologies already exist and are applied to those on Youth and Young Parent Payments.

I don't think many people on welfare (many people full-stop) would relish the prospect of losing their cash income. But a radical disincentive to poorly-motivated procreation is overdue.


JC said...

Your comment about dying towns resonates with me..

Maybe 30 years ago I was traveling in the boonies and could only get National Radio which featured some schoolteachers having a whinge that they couldn't get employment as teachers in their home towns so naturally they were demanding the Govt do something about it so they could stay close to home.

I was pretty appalled by that attitude but its now quite a common one. The other day I listened to one young man on the dole in Tokomaru Bay (I think) saying it was up to the Govt to find him a local job because "Why would I want to leave Paradise?"

It struck me that there are now lots of young folk in similar circumstances in the provinces.. they don't want to leave town for a job and so the dole is a perfectly fine way to while away a life in the hometown. I don't know if something similar has happened here but in America a great many young people no longer have a driver's licence or a car partly because they don't have the burning ambition of earlier generations to be free and keen to chase the jobs wherever they may be.

Its now a bit sad to revisit some of the rural towns of my youth.. the lovely old homes and tree lined streets are still there but the main street and parks have these aimless youths who lack the vigour and ambition to better themselves.

"Now Main Street's whitewashed windows and vacant stores
Seems like there ain't nobody wants to come down here no more
They're closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks
Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain't coming back to your hometown"


Anonymous said...

How about: you just don't get any more benefits if you get another kid?