Tuesday, July 23, 2019

'Harm in state care' does not mean harm inflicted by the state

Not my first post on this subject but there now seems to be an official response from Oranga Tamariki clarifying the true situation.

While Maori organisations plan to protest the uplift of Maori children many people are under the misapprehension that the state is actively harming children under its care.

That only happens in a handful of circumstances and usually as part of attempts to manage the child or young person.

Oranga Tamariki deputy chief executive Hoani Lambert said the majority of the harm to Māori children happened in placements where they had been left with their family.

OT has to front-foot this issue due to biased media reporting. For instance, a letter I wrote (published) to the DomPost back in March:

Michelle Duff (DomPost, March 28) writes about the 220 children abused "in state care", they were "...taken from their families, from their homes, to a place that's meant to be safer". Most children who are 'in state care' are placed with an approved family member or returned to their original caregivers. They are under the legal custody of the state (Oranga Tamariki Chief Executive) but not living in foster care or residential homes. Most of the abuse occurred in placements that were family-related or having been returned to parents. Most of the abusers were family members or parents. No abuse or re-abuse of children is acceptable. But the facts show that family members and parents posed the greatest danger to these victims. This suggests that where the state primarily fails is in poor decision-making and monitoring of risk. 

Monday, July 22, 2019

Does Duff exaggerate?

Maori organisations have just announced a rally to Parliament a week tomorrow, July 30,  to protest the state removing Maori children from their whanau caregivers. It'll be called the Hands Off Our Tamariki rally.

I felt weary reading about it.

Then by chance I read an excerpt from Alan Duff's new book, A Conversation with My Country.

Poor Shahlaya wasn't 11 when I first saw her — she was 111. She was discreetly pointed out to me at a low socio-economic primary school many years ago. She came from a place like Pine Block, my fictional suburb in Once Were Warriors.
The school principal whispered, "See that girl . . . the sad-looking one? The one not smiling? We know she's on a house-to-house circuit, suffering sexual abuse. A tragedy, and too many like her."
The sub-society she was born into stole and violated her right to childhood. Men took turns at possessing her body, subjecting it — not her, the innocent child — to indecencies. Too weak to resist, she was an "it", a body solely to give pleasure to sick-minded adult males. And you can bet they figured out that should she go to the police or to the school authorities, her allegations would not be believed. It probably did occur to her abusers that what they did was wrong, but wrong only if they were held to
account. As to evil, it has to be assumed that abusers like this lack
a self-reflective, moral mechanism.
They may as well have put her brain into an electric mixer. 
I've read most of what Alan Duff has written over the years. In my estimation he falls into the 'been there, done that' category (though I hasten to say not as a child abuser.)

If his description of the abuse of Maori children by Maori is not an exaggeration - indeed if it holds any weight - doesn't Hands Off Our Tamariki suggest an entirely different visual image?

Friday, July 19, 2019

"Most of us don't come close to paying our way in the tax system"

In a flippant attack on Superannuation the writer states:

"Most of us don't come close to paying our way in the tax system."


12 percent of individuals are paying 48% of income tax.

But that doesn't mean that a young person with no dependents isn't "paying their way" ie putting in more than they take out in either transfers or services.

Most people tend to "pay their way" at different times during their lives.

I'm not "paying my way" as an individual but I am as part of a couple. 

So it's a fraught statement. As is much of the opinion piece bursting with generalizations.  Interestingly, the comments (closed almost immediately) aren't very favourable.

(Update: Comments have gone from 8 when I first read the article to 285. My observation was based on the 8 I read.)

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Justifying beneficiary increase

According to TV Three News:

"...the number of people on benefits has increased by 15,000 since the Government took office - but it's insisting that's down to population growth..."

And "...the number of people on a benefit has increased by 15,000 - though the numbers remain in line with population growth."

Labour is backtracking to "since the Government took office" because it can't defend its more recent record.

Another big jump in benefit numbers

"The number of working-age people receiving main benefits as at the end of June 2019 was 5.2 percent higher than at the end of June 2018."
Here's ACT's press release on the matter:

Beneficiary numbers spike by almost 15,000
Thu, 18 Jul, 2019

“A massive spike in the number beneficiaries shows Labour’s anti-growth policies are slowing the economy and making it easier for people to stay on welfare”, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“There was an increase of 14,559 people on a benefit in the last 12 months.

“That is a shocking indictment of Labour’s economic record and a reflection its approach of failing to sanction beneficiaries who don’t comply with their obligations.

The number of New Zealanders on a main benefit has grown to 291,969, or 9.7 per cent of the working-age population.

“Even more damning is an 11.2 per cent increase in the number of people on Jobseeker Support – that’s 13,720 more than this time last year.

“Uncertainty over a capital gains tax, industry-wide collective bargaining and foreign investment and a higher minimum wage are starting to take their toll on the economy.

“Labour needs to take responsibility for the harm it is doing to the economy.

“It is completely unacceptable that nearly 300,000 New Zealanders are on a benefit when some industries are desperate for workers. If people can work, they should.

“The Government should alleviate genuine hardship, but Labour’s anti-growth policies will see many more New Zealanders dependent on handouts, rather than living productive, independent lives.”

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Why children are uplifted

(Left click to enlarge)

Above is a graphic from a short article by Ian Lambie, Chief Science Advisor for the Justice Sector, which appears in the latest edition of the New Zealand Corrections Journal.

It shows that 292 children aged 0-5 had been exposed to 5 or more known family violence incidents within a year.

Lambie writes:
"Talking about the wellbeing of babies seems a long way from arguments about the prison muster, but that is where the evidence says we must begin."
This should be to the forefront of thinking while the controversy about uplifting Maori children plays out. There are certainly cases where Oranga Tamariki have been heavy-handed or overly rules-bound, and while social workers continue to be human beings, variation in the way they approach cases will exist. But there is also a great deal known about the circumstances some babies are being born into and it would be reprehensible not to act.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Steep decline in fraud prosecutions

Having scanned through the OIA responses mentioned below I found a couple of interesting tables. The first shows that fraud prosecutions are well down:

The reduction began before Labour became government. The decrease was 27% from 2016 to 2017; and 35% from 2017 to 2018. Have people suddenly become far more law-abiding?

The accommodation supplement is topical given high rents are always in the news.

At September 2018 there were 292,006 payments in place.
Two thirds were to beneficiaries; the rest to veterans, super-annuitants or non-beneficiaries.
66% were renting, 22% boarding and 11% owned their own home.
24% were receiving the maximum amount available.
8% were couples with children; 26% were sole parents with children; 57% were single.

And finally this caught my eye. Another accommodation problem that's been in the news but here's some stats:

Perhaps it isn't a 'problem' for the owners of ageing motels being displaced by better quality establishments.

Well done MSD

On June 27 I posted about MSD lagging behind in its publication of OIA responses at its website.

They have now got up responses from January and March 2019.

(Which does kind of beg the question, were there none in February?)

Saturday, July 06, 2019

RNZ witch hunt finds ... reasonable numbers

RNZ is constantly on Oranga Tamariki's back trying to show them as a failing agency.

Oranga Tamariki published data not long ago detailing the number and nature of abuse/neglect cases happening to children in state care. I pointed out then that many children who are 'in state care' officially are nevertheless in the day-to-day of their parents or family members.

Today RNZ reports:

Oranga Tamariki released data showing its own staff have harmed children in care eight times in the space of six months: six cases of physical harm, and one each of sexual and emotional harm.
My immediate response is surprise at how low the number is.

'Children' can include individuals up to 18 years of age. Some will be incredibly difficult to handle. Doubtless they will require firmness; may provoke and may attack. Some will be pre-prison characters.

I would dearly love to know more about these cases but privacy dictates details can never be released.

But I don't see 8 cases in 6 months as a rod to use on the back of people doing extremely difficult work.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

OIA response publishing - MSD lagging behind

Government departments have to make OIA responses public.

MSD has fallen off not posting anything since September 2018

Treasury is keeping up their latest posted is June 24 2019.

Corrections latest is also September 2018.

Now I have to go looking in places I don't normally lurk.

The Ministry of Health is doing well, particularly well, with an up-to-date concise display of information.

So is Education.

So what's with MSD in particular?

It has the largest expenditure of any government department and as such, impacts on thousands of lives.

Seems in keeping with their general philosophy of loafing off. Not really trying to get people into work. Not really trying to get fathers to take responsibility for their children. Not really trying to get clients to turn up for appointments.

Hoped the Minister would be pensioned off today but no such luck.