Sunday, December 15, 2019

Advocates for a 'child pension' fail to mention WFF

Here's a supposed intelligent man being intentionally provocative on the subject of providing a "pension" for children:

"If I had my way you'd take it away from the decrepit old folk and give it to the young ones. Make super means-tested and a benefit for children unconditional. Older people don't need it, they have money."

Here's the thing. Not once in the entire article is Working For Families mentioned.

The author writes:
It would not be the first time such an initiative has been offered: New Zealand had a family benefit until April, 1991.
When it was scrapped it was worth $6 per week. 

$6 in wages in 1991 would be worth $13.55 today.

Even in 1946 when the universal family benefit was introduced at the rate of 1 pound a week that equated to only $76.87 today calculated under general CPI.

Here are the family tax credit rates from 2018. The IRD no longer publishes them (or I cannot find them).

I have included the Best Start payment which applies until 3 years-old for lower income families.

Clearly children are getting more cash assistance today than they were in 1991.

If you were a visitor from another country reading this claptrap though you'd think NZ gave no financial support to children at all. 

Monday, December 09, 2019

How the Church warnings about welfare came to pass

I don't know why MSD continues to surprise me. But they do. TVNZ had a piece about how beneficiaries are being provided with My Food Bag deliveries so I did a search of their site to find out more. No joy but this turned up under how MSD helps people live successful lives. Such utter tosh that I hardly know where to begin.

Perhaps I'll begin by remembering the warnings about welfare I posted a couple of days back, that the Methodist church foresaw the moral and spiritual disintegration benefits had the potential to create.

Sorry I cannot paraphrase what I just consumed. You'll have to read the whole thing:

Lea is a Samoan woman in her late 50s who lives alone, has never married, and has no children. She has lived in New Zealand off and on for about 30 years.

She has been employed most of her life but she lost her cleaning job after a miscommunication with her employer, and is now out of work. She is having difficulties in finding employment and she believes her age is the barrier for her getting a job. She is on a benefit and lives in a Housing New Zealand flat.

She met a man who has ‘befriended’ her and moved into her flat. He refuses to pay rent, won’t contribute to paying the power bill, and he eats her food. Lea says he uses all his benefit for gambling, alcohol and cigarettes. He often comes home drunk late at night. Lea is torn because she is active in her church and culturally, she knows it’s the right thing to do to help people. She has asked him to leave and he refuses. Lea doesn’t know what to do and she is worried that if it weren’t for her, he would be living on the streets. But having him there means she is sliding into debt and she has approached Work and Income for help. She is afraid to tell them what is really happening – she assumes they won’t understand.

Being Samoan means that questioning authority is a challenge for Lea. She is vulnerable to being taken advantage of and as English is her second language, she does not feel confident enough to stick up for herself.

In her words
"I got someone to help me, my friend… he never helped me, he just move in my place to live… he was working but he never pay anything to me. I think he’s using people."

"I didn’t want that thing, they [a jewellery store] force me to, they put it in the box, 'this is for you, you can take it home now’ but I don’t want because I can't afford. I said to her no I can't afford and she put it in my bag, she forced me to take home…"

"I always put $20 out from my benefit to put in the church every Sunday… even if I got no money I still put $20."

"My rent is $160, my benefit is $210. I always go and find a job but I think the hard thing for me to find a job because my age."

Her strengths
Lea has a generous spirit and supports those around her
She is resilient in the face of difficult situations and circumstances
She is self-sufficient
She is motivated to find employment even when she experiences constant set-backs.
How can we support Lea to thrive
Find an empathetic supporter who can understand her circumstances, preferably one who can communicate with her in her native tongue, empower her to have better boundaries and help her navigate around the NZ system.
Introduce her to other forms of resources e.g. use of Pacific Island radio station to access information in a language that is easy for her to grasp.
Support her in learning a non-judgemental approach to saying 'no'.
Acknowledge her need for boundaries and her desire to help others.
Focus on ways of protecting her from harm.
Locate a supportive job broker.
Link her to other Pacific entities to provide her with additional support.
Provide Lea with a Building Financial Capability programme that is grounded in her cultural context, e.g. MoneyMates programme run by her church community, using familiar Samoan concepts.

That's it.

The first thing I notice is the man - the predator - is working and on a benefit. Apparently Lea must be helped to say 'no' in a 'non-judgemental' way. What about Work and Income saying 'no' to this guy? He's a fraudster and a sot. Not satisfied with leeching on the taxpayer he's leeching on this hapless woman. But then the benefit system makes women hapless because they become isolated and lacking in self-esteem. Targets for scumbags.

Lea is neither resilient nor self-sufficient. But the MSD looking-glass view of the world portrays her as exactly that. Her church happily takes $20 off her every week yet she still apparently needs to be linked 'to other Pacific entities' for support.

MSD says they can help her 'locate a supportive job broker'. Hello???? She's on a benefit. Why doesn't she already have one? Oh I remember Work and Income have drastically reduced efforts to get people into jobs putting all of their resources into dishing out more money.

And yes I've bought into it but the whole tone of the 'story': man bad - woman good. Man criminal - woman victim. MSD is mostly staffed by women and I suspect that particularly ideology prevails.

I find this cameo and MSD's response to it immature, indulgent and childish.

Generations down the track, welfare has made too many people weak, helpless, stupid, and deceitful. Somehow MSD turns that into a good news story because - wait for it - they can wave a wand over Lea's life and she will live happily ever after. It is inconceivable that they are in fact the problem.

Sorry Lea. You are your own worst enemy and to be told otherwise isn't going to help.

Friday, December 06, 2019

Graph of the Day


Update: Sharp-eyed reader points out that the part labelled "profit" isn't all profit either. It's the 'importer margin' - The importer margin is the gross margin available to fuel retailers to cover domestic transportation, distribution and retailing costs in New Zealand, as well as profit margins.

I could be wrong but I heard the CE of Z being interviewed and I think he said the profit was 7% or thereabouts. Not an area I'm very au fait with the point remains. If anyone is fleecing us its the government.

Warnings about welfare: Blast from the past

Some quiet time to enjoy surfing through old newspapers, the following snippets caught my fancy. The first is a letter to the editor regarding Michael Savage's promised social security:


The second is a warning from the President of the Methodist Church regarding the same:


And finally a response to Mr Copeland:


How prescient was that remark?

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Kidscan: Are you sponsoring a child or a horse race?

I make no secret of my interest in horse-racing and that I have a very small share in a pacer. Yesterday I noticed this from the Pukekohe meeting:

If I was a sponsor to this organisation I'd probably be miffed.

I'm not because I disagree with the idea of sponsoring New Zealand children when the government already redistributes so much to their parents. We have a heavily-dependent parent population and Kidscan arguably makes them more reliant by assuming their responsibilities. For nearly three decades I've sponsored African children who are in rather more desperate communities where putting in irrigation, sanitation and schools is my idea of constructive charity.

Kidscan has been criticised in the past. I understand the arguments for charities getting involved in entertainment activities to lift profile and they may have had a marquee for supporters to thank them. It was probably a Xmas meeting where corporates traditionally lay on functions for clients, businesses host parties for staff etc. There may have even been an arrangement whereby some of the the day's prize money was donated back to the charity.

But if you are giving a dollar a day to support a New Zealand child through this charity are you happy to see it diverted in this way? Did you sponsor a child only to find you were sponsoring a horse-race?

Monday, December 02, 2019

Prisoners voting - letter to Leighton

Like the two commentors on my last post Leighton Smith is opposed to the reversal of National's blanket vote on prisoners voting. I sent him the following:

Hi Leighton

Prison serves three purposes: to protect the public, to punish the offender, and finally, to rehabilitate the offender.

Victims matter. We don't want more of them. Hence rehabilitation is vitally important. Those serving three or fewer years are amongst the most salvageable of prisoners and we expect them to leave prison, find jobs and contribute to society in the near future. It is therefore consistent and useful to reinforce that expectation by according them a say in that society.

And it will matter to some inmates. Prison is a very boring place where pecking orders are established and privileges sought. Those who get to vote will feel different from, perhaps a tad better than those who, by their worse crimes, have relinquished the opportunity. That too will enhance their potential for rehabilitation.

So based on successful reintegration into society being the most important function of prison for those serving three or fewer years, I am happy with the reversal of National's relatively short ban on all prisoners voting.

Best Wishes


He subsequently invited me onto his next podcast to argue my position. Which I did. Possibly not very well but I won't relinquish it. Will put up a link when the podcast goes public.

December 4 Podcast here

Monday, November 25, 2019

Ex-communicating National

National removed all prisoner voting rights on the back of one-term MP Paul Quinn's private member's bill in 2010. Andrew Little now says he will restore voting rights to those serving three years or less. Why? I haven't asked him but if a person is expected to contribute to society they should have a vote. If a prisoner will be released within the term of the next government they should have a say in how the country is run. They will be expected to work and pay taxes after all. But Bridges comes out crowing 'soft on crime.' National will rescind the change! A nonsensical call to the unrelentingly punitive element if ever I heard one. 

Then National's overwhelming opposition to the voluntary euthanasia bill revealed more about the party than I wanted to know. 

I've paid close attention to them for two decades and felt the odd flicker of excitement - when John Key called Working For Families 'communism by stealth', or Bill English said prisons were an 'economic and moral failure'. But the weak flame has now sputtered out.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

It'll never be enough Carmel

Earlier this week the Child Poverty Action Group conference was giving stick to the Minister of MSD for not doing enough to ease poverty. She appeared, didn't take questions and has retaliated with a press release showing that:

1 million New Zealanders warmed by the Winter Energy Payment
36,000 families bank the Best Start Payment in first year
6,000 more families received the Family Tax Credit, 220,600 in total
They receive an increase too – from an average of $117 to $157 a week for Inland Revenue clients, and from an average of $147 to $188 a week for MSD clients
People receiving the Accommodation Supplement got an average increase from  $71 to $98 a week
13,500 carers receiving the new Clothing Allowance
We are on track to lift 50,000 to 74,000 children out of poverty

Ah but the Welfare Expert Advisory Group recommended increases to core benefit levels of up to 47%. When is that going to happen?

It must be a thankless task being a left-wing Minister and continuing to be criticised even when you do as you were asked.

I have an idea for Carmel. A little experiment.

Agree to give a beneficiary a meaningful % increase (up to 47%) if they opt to be paid in-kind, ie their benefit is loaded onto electronic card that can only be used for specified items. Otherwise the status quo remains.

It would be most interesting to observe the uptake.

But it'd fascinating to see the reaction of CPAG who would be severely conflicted over the civil liberties of beneficiaries to spend their money as they see fit versus the offer of a significant increase in income.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Is having to feed kids breakfast at school cause for celebration?

MSD thinks so:

The KickStart Breakfast programme will tomorrow celebrate 10-years as the only national breakfast programme of its kind in Aotearoa, serving more than 30 million breakfasts since 2009.

73% of Northland schools participate down to 26% in Canterbury.

Now this government 's goal is to replicate the dependency on lunches as well.

Truly aspirational.