Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Normalising methamphetamine

Reported in a soundbite during tonight's TV One News the italicised finding below.

The press release from which the soundbite arose:

Methamphetamine Use And Its Impact On Violence Laid Bare In World-first Study
Wednesday, 19 February 2020, 2:33 pm
Press Release: University of Otago
Almost a third of middle-aged New Zealanders have tried methamphetamine at least once, according to a new University of Otago, Christchurch study looking at the link between using the drug and violence in the general population.

"Almost a third" is 28%; "middle-aged" is 35 and  "New Zealanders" were 1,000 individuals born in Canterbury.

The other big market for meth is Australia. According to Flinders University in Adelaide:

In 2013, 7% of Australians reported that they had used methamphetamine in their lifetime, and 2% reported using in the past 12 months."

"In their lifetime" is a much larger window than by age 35 but read on.

Probably the most reliable NZ source for the prevalence of drug use is the Ministry of Health's  NZ Drug Survey which finds:

In 2015/16, 1.1 percent of adults (95% confidence interval, CI: 0.9–1.5) used amphetamines in the past year. This equates to about 34,000 New Zealanders.

1.1% is much lower than 2%, the Australian finding. Which calls into question the discrepancy between "middle-aged" and lifetime findings.

Back to the Christchurch Study press release:

"The findings show use of methamphetamine is common, as observed in the study’s cohort of middle-aged New Zealanders. According to Christchurch Health and Development data, methamphetamine is the third most common illicit drug after cannabis and ecstasy, Professor Boden says
...He cautions while methamphetamine use increases the risk of involvement in violence most people who used the drug did not engage in violence or experience violence in others.

I appreciate the study focuses on meth and associated violence and that is useful.

But what I heard - and subsequently read - was the message that methamphetamine usage is "common".

I've never used it. In my life I've used cannabis three times and wouldn't expect that to contribute to any claim about usage prevalence today.


Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Unemployment Rate versus Jobseeker Receipt by region

Here the official unemployment rate (from the HLFS) is charted against the receipt of Jobseeker benefit (from MSD fact sheets) by region at December 2019.

Only Auckland and Otago have a higher unemployment rate than % of the (local) working age population receiving a Jobseeker Benefit.

All of the areas with large discrepancies have high Maori populations. This is consistent with the discrepancy when charted on ethnicity alone.

My current conclusion is that many Maori in those regions are not unemployed but working part-time or seasonally so still entitled to the Jobseeker benefit.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Lowering the prison population: At what cost?

There are people in prison who shouldn't be there. And there are people who aren't in prison who should be there. 

According to Police, reported crime is up 7.1% in the year to November 2019 and "Serious Assault Resulting in Injury victimisations increased by 39.5% compared with the previous 12 months." There is some qualification about change in assault classifications but it isn't conclusive.

The most common reason for a prison sentence is violence. 

Yet the Ministry of Justice says, "Compared to 2017/2018 a smaller percentage of adults received prison sentences in 2018/2019, while the percentage receiving more serious community sentences continued to increase." (My emphasis)

Also, "The number of adults receiving a prison sentence increased between 2013/2014 and 2016/2017, however over the past year it has decreased from 8,130 people (13%) in 2017/2018 to 6,883 (12%) in 2018/2019. This has brought the number of adults receiving a prison sentence back to levels seen before the increase." 

It is to be hoped that the crimes not sending people to prison are of the 'lesser' variety. Though if you were a victim or theft or burglary (up respectively 7.6 and 6.3%) you may not agree.

I blogged recently that I agree with Andrew Little's goal to lower the prison population but not at any cost.


Friday, February 14, 2020

Butt covering or sheer incompetence?

Regarding the Flaxmere tragedy, earlier this week we were told:

"Foster said no other government agencies, such as Oranga Tamariki, were involved with the family before the incident."

Today the story changes:

"A 4-year-old boy critically injured in a suspected case of child abuse had previously been admitted to hospital with broken bones and removed from his immediate family...Oranga Tamariki intervened and the boy was placed into the care of wider family. He was returned to his immediate family shortly before Christmas."

I generally hold off critcising OT because of the 'damned if they do and damned if they don't' nature of their after-the-fact work.

But what the heck? Is this butt covering or sheer incompetence?

As for the "Not one more baby" politicised movement screaming about the uplift of Maori babies, it is glaringly obvious to who and where they should be directing that message. And it's not OT.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Labour's weird welfare world

A few weeks back I posted about burgeoning and  massively expensive motel residence funded by Work and Income.

Just advised from MSD:

We help people pay for emergency housing, such as motels, with an emergency housing grant. This is called an Emergency Housing Special Needs Grant.What’s changing on 30 March
From 30 March 2020, if you've been in emergency housing for more than 7 nights, we'll ask you to pay 25% of your income towards your housing costs.
This is similar to what people pay when they live in transitional housing or public housing.
We want to make housing costs as consistent and fair as possible for all our clients, no matter what type of housing you're in.
I was taken aback that those being temporarily put up in motels weren't being charged anything!

No wonder both individuals and moteliers were lining up.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Truth is rare

This evening, a gathering for a karakia for the nameless beaten Flaxmere four-year-old delivers an honest observation:
Lynsey Abbott, One Voice Community Services founder and Hastings District Councillor Henare O'Keefe. Photo / Paul TaylorHastings District Councillor Henare O'Keefe said good parenting began and ended in the home.
"If there is a solution, it cannot be legislated. If there is a solution you won't find it in Wellington. If there is a solution, you won't find it in council … we need to take a look in the mirror."

That is a demonstration of mana.

IRD's new approach: "This is Us"

Much has been mentioned by media lately regarding student debt. There's another kind of debt that hits the young too. Child support debt.The reasons for pursuing the debt are legitimate but penalties are outrageous.

I watched a video presentation from an IRD guy talking about efforts to reduce non-compliance among first time liable parents.

Here's a slide:


-New liable parents have a median age of 25.

-They have a relatively low income - median of $19k per year.

-Only a quarter of these pay their first three obligations on time

-Two thirds have over a 75% chance of getting into debt and remaining in debt.

1,000 new customers enter the system each month.


So how is IRD going to improve the situation?  Rethink their penalty regime?

No. They have pioneered a new form of customer engagement calling it, "This is Us"

"To truly have our customers at the "heart" of our every interaction...."


"...one of the things in a behavioural interventions area is that we had a behavioural psychologist on our team and we used a variety of different things like soft skills training, empathy, active listening skills, things like using appeals, like, "Oh, by the way, I'm sure you want to do the right thing for your children", this sort of type of conversation, we reframe the conversations to make it easier to understand, use some negotiation techniques and the bottom one is really important because we emphasised the importance of paying Child Support for the benefit of his or her child, which we wanted to resonate that you're not just doing this because we're telling you to do this, you're doing this because you have an obligation to support your children even though you're not living with them."
Patronising pap.  There are irresponsible absconders (who Labour are going to help out later this year by allowing them to go unnamed and non-liable) but also many fathers who would very much like to be living with their children but have been denied the opportunity thanks in part to the benefit system and court bias.

Anyway, they piloted the new approach on 248 new liable parents and formed two other control groups from the remainder:

All new liable parents assessed on June 2017
• 248 new liable parents from the pilot group
• 511 from the control group 1 = applications
received over the phone /in writing and educated
(called “Registration Initiative”)
• 311 from the control group 2 = all other
remaining customers and educated (called
“Standard Group”)
Pilot ran from July through December 2017

After 12 months the percentage of customers paying 'full and on time' was 62.6% for the pilot group; 61.6 for the registration initiative group and 61.2 for the standard group. The result wasn't cost effective on that measure. It wasn't provided at 17 months.

The measure of 'percent of assessment paid' is provided at 17 months.


These results have been sufficient to implement the new approach in the Families Section from July 2019.

They're all heart.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Changing our approach to teen parents?

By chance I happened upon a Teenage Parent Evidence Brief produced for Oranga Tamariki (OT) and published last August.

It is well known now that the teenage birthrate has been plummeting since 2008. This trend is happening across English-speaking countries. Oddly the paper rails against 'stigmatising' teen birth and recommends that adults 'normalise adolescent sex, contraception, and parenting'. I don't know why we should change the current approach which includes...

1/ financial support through the Young Parent Payment which the paper describes as:
obligations to participate in the service and in formal study
financial incentives
sanctions for failing to meet obligations
access to childcare payments.
It also involves money management - a payment card for necessity purchases with minimal cash provided.

2/ teen parent units in secondary schools

3/ and good access to effective contraception

...when the rate is falling so fast.


And for those who will immediately (and understandably) ask what's happening to the teen abortion rate...


My only real point of interest in the brief was a couple of graphs on p15 which show teen parents with an OT 'statutory' or 'report of concern' history are also in decline, just not as rapidly. Unsurprising.


Prison population stalled

Statistics NZ last week reported that 'Prison building intentions triple in 2019'. Is that reflective of a rise in the prison population? The December prison stats were released yesterday and it would appear not.



The prison population declined during 2018 and was steady during 2019. The December number is always lower. The ethnic make up has remained almost exactly the same:


40 percent of prisoners have 'violence' listed as their worst offence.

In December 2017 Andrew Little said he would reduce the prison population. I agree with his aim.
Too many people with mental health problems and other issues weren't getting the help they needed while in prison, Little said, and so were unable to meet the conditions they had to[to] get parole...Speaking to Three's The Nation Andrew Little said he was going to approach the issue "very sensibly"."It's actually not that hard if we choose to resource it properly."
 So I hope that at least some of those new buildings will be mental health facilities.

Friday, February 07, 2020

Unfashionable to expect much from husbands

A husband making a fleeting appearance at the very end of this story took me by surprise.

Latest unemployment rates

The December unemployment rate is down from 4.1 to 4 percent. But there underlying trends seen when graphed out ie the European and Maori rates have increased for the past two quarters while Pacific and Asian rates have been declining.




Source
(MELAA = Middle-eastern, Latin American, African)

In respect of the OECD New Zealand is in 14th lowest place:


(left click on images to enlarge)