Monday, October 18, 2021

MSD: "What's happening to the number of sole parents on a benefit?"

Until the welfare reforms of 2013 most sole parents on a benefit relied on the DPB - not exclusively but mainly.

Since the introduction of the Sole Parent Support (SPS) benefit, which sole parents only qualify for until their youngest child turns 14, it's been harder to track how many sole parents are actually reliant on welfare. Far more are now receiving Jobseeker support.

Usefully MSD released some research in September, "What's happening to the number of sole parents on a benefit?" Numbers have been increasing - in part due to the economic effect of lock downs  - and they wanted to predict whether the growth trend will continue. More on that later.

First some facts. At January 2021 there were "around 99,000 sole parents receiving a main benefit". Yet at December 31, 2020 there were just 67,563 on SPS. That highlights the significant difference I was talking about. Almost fifty percent more than receive SPS are relying on other benefits.

Of the current total 46 percent are Maori, 28 percent NZ European and 12 percent Pacific Island. Other/ unspecified make up the remainder.

On the upside 99,000 is still fewer than  in the early 2000s. The chart below covers 1996 to the present. The decline since the GFC is due to the falling teen birth rate and increased employment rates of sole parents.

If  the trend reversal could be pinpointed it looks like the beginning of 2018 - well before covid.

As to whether the trend will continue, the authors expect the growth to be "temporary."

I am less certain.

Since Labour took over there has been a clear shift in approach to sole parents. Financial penalties for not naming the father of a child were abolished and early work obligations for mothers who add a child to an existing benefit have been removed. Benefit payment rates increased as did family tax credits, including the Best Start payment for 0-2 year-olds.

The paper itself gives clues to an attitudinal change. For instance,"A strong work focus may not be appropriate for all parents in the long-term..."

There is also a cultural tolerance, bordering on apologism, for the high rate of Maori dependence with,"Wahine Māori have higher and earlier fertility rates than other women, meaning they are more likely to require support from the benefit system as a parent."

Further to this, the following statement appears to endorse sole parenthood for Maori: "...research suggests for tamariki Māori, diverse family trajectories, including living in a sole parent household, may be associated with higher levels of cultural connectedness in some cases."

So in light of the above, including racial indulgence, I will not be surprised if the numbers of sole parents on a benefit actually continues to grow.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

And now for something completely different...

From March through November 2019 I conducted weekly interviews with local composer, musician and teacher, Dorothy Buchanan. It had been a joint ambition to get Dotty's memoirs recorded and formed into a book. But I hadn't expected to personally get so much out of the process; transcribing, researching, the geneological tracing and chronological  ordering of material; visits to the Alexander Turnbull Library where the composer's ephemera is held; trawling through reference publications and microfiche material. So much pleasurable learning about a person and a process.

Dotty is an amazing individual who achieved so much so young, and simply never stopped. At just seventeen,  she was playing violin in the Christchurch Civic Orchestra,  – the forerunner to the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra; at eighteen she recorded her Mass in English and received performance royalties from the NZBC for the first time. At nineteen she was leading the Christchurch Orchestral Society, and at twenty – when long distance air travel was in its infancy - Dotty celebrated her birthday with a Pimms in a London pub whilst on tour with the Christchurch Harmonic Society.

Her musical pedigree comes through both sides of the family and goes back generations. But her origins are West Coast and humble. The opening chapter will evoke their own memories for New Zealanders of a similar vintage.

'The Birds Began To Sing' is about to be released by Cuba Press. The first few pages can be read here by clicking on 'look inside'.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Long-term benefit dependency is growing

Long-term benefit dependency is growing, and it was growing before Covid, though the advent of the virus has obvioulsy played a role.

The blue line shows the effect of the first March 2020 lockdown and then returns to near  'normality'.

The orange line however continues to climb and the gap between the two extends.

A significant contributor to this is psychological and psychatric conditions - rising sharply after the first lock down -  keeping people on Jobseeker HCD (Health Condition and Disability). Over the same time frame:

There are also over 32,000 adults on a Supported Living Payment (ex Invalid benefit) suffering from pyschological or psychiatric disorders. That's up around 4,000 over the same period.

These numbers are very sad. It's just horrible to think of thousands of mentally unwell people unable to get treatment and live functioning lives.

Friday, October 08, 2021

If you need a lift...

Give Us Hope Jacinda update:

Monday, October 04, 2021

More weasel-wokery; more welfarism

Yesterday I wrote about a recent law change which effectively encourages adding children to an existing benefit.

Here's the next move in this government's reckless expansion of welfarism.

But first some background:

"The introduction of a statutory DPB [1973] represented a major shift towards public responsibility for the financial support of sole parents, but it did not extinguish private maintenance obligations. Applicants for the DPB continued to be required to take maintenance proceedings as a condition of being granted the statutory benefit until the introduction of the Liable Parent Contribution Scheme in 1981, when the Department of social Welfare took over this responsibility and sole parents had only to name the liable parent. This policy was continued when the Child Support Act came into effect in 1992. There is no maintenance disregard: all maintenance received is paid into the Consolidated Account to offset the cost of providing the benefit.  For almost all sole parents on benefit, therefore, receipt of maintenance makes no difference to their income."

The government that created the DPB was regarded as generous in providing a secure income regardless of whether or not the father (or sometimes non-custodial mother) paid maintenance/child support. The taxpayer would henceforth be picking up the majority of the tab for the family upkeep.

Fast forward to 2021 and reason has flown the coop.

Various advocates now want the partial reimbursement the father has been making to the taxpayer to go direct to the mother.

An Auckland professor says, "At the moment it just sends the signal that the government wants to take the money for itself."

By implication the government is no longer generous. It is greedy.

The Children's Commissioner, Andrew Becroft also says current practice 'fails the fairness test.'

But if  the $150m currently collected from non-custodial parents is not used to offset the benefit then the unseen invisible taxpayer will have to stump up with it. Because there sure as heck won't be a reduction in benefit rates. So that 'passes the fairness test'? How so?

But wait. Here's comes the inevitable weasel-wokery. According to Becroft, because more than half of sole parent beneficiaries are Maori, it's a RACIST law.

Naturally enough the Minister for Social Development, Carmel Sepuloni is acquiescing, agreeing that the law is "discriminatory," needs to change and that "the mahi on it is underway."

The upshot will be 1/ a rise in the income of sole parent beneficiaries which increases disincentive to work and 2/ a funding shortfall (one of many) inevitably leading to higher taxation.

Sunday, October 03, 2021

Carte blanche to keep having kids on a benefit

 An evidence brief prepared for Oranga Tamariki and published in April 2021 contains some fascinating data.

It looks at people born 1997 to 2002. At around 60,000 each year that should be around 300,000. And so it is:

The first group is those who had interaction with both care and protection (CP) and youth justice (YJ). You can figure the rest from there.

The next shows the association with benefits at age 17:

Looking at just the first group 19% had already received their own benefit; in the past year 23% had a parent who'd received Jobseeker; 20% a parent on sole parent support and 8% with a parent receiving suported living payment.

That totals to 70 percent. (This might be an overcount because it's feasible one parent received both types of benefit in the same year but the paper doesn't spell out any overlap).

For those 17 year-olds who had never been involved with care and protection or youth justice the equivalent number was just 13 percent.

The link between long-term benefit dependence and appearing in the care and protection or youth justice systems is very strong.

On Thursday last week the government effectively sent a message that it's fine to be on a benefit and keep having kids. They passed a law to undo prior attempts to discourage this, known as the 'subsequent child policy'. Put simply, a rule to stop people avoiding work obligations by having more babies.

Why has the government done this?

Here's Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni:

The subsequent child policy has a disproportionate effect on Māori women. By removing the policy, we can further our commitment to improving outcomes for Māori and valuing the role of carers, who are predominantly women. 

Maori make up 56% of the people adding children to a benefit. 

So I leave you with one last graph from the brief:

The last Labour government swept having babies on a benefit under the carpet. That was bad enough. 

Now it's overt and encouraged.


Still waiting for Jacinda to start on "that list"


Replying to a column by David Seymour when she was still in opposition Jacinda Ardern wrote:

...our welfare state is having to pick up everything  that is broken – ridiculous housing costs, low wages, people working multiple jobs to put food on the table and barely see their children, an education system that leaves too many behind, and a generation of kids who have lost hope.

If you want to genuinely help turn the bus around, start with that list.

 Over five years later - half a decade - and what's changed?

Thursday, September 30, 2021

That old hoary chesnut about Maori children being forced to speak English

Graham Adams details a number of media failures to provide the full story culminating with: 

Perhaps the most egregious omissions, however, occurred during Maori Language Week, which ran from 13-19 September. The programme aims to encourage wider use of te reo, with relevant stories featuring heavily in most media outlets. 

Several times over the week readers would have seen references to Maori being beaten for speaking te reo at school. 

On Stuff, the Human Rights Commission’s chief executive, Rebecca Elvy, was reported saying: “State-sanctioned attempts to assimilate Māori into British culture through the removal of language have a long and documented history in Aotearoa. For more than 100 years Māori children were beaten and traumatised in Native Schools for speaking their reo.” 

In the Guardian, former RNZ journalist Eva Corlett wrote: “When Aotearoa was colonised, Europeans actively set out to erase Māori language and culture. Schoolchildren were beaten for speaking it.” 

On RNZ, former Labour Māori Affairs Minister Dover Samuels related his experience of being caned in the 1940s for speaking te reo — and asked the Queen to send Prince William to apologise for this injustice. 

It is extremely rare for any journalist or editor to put this unfortunate practice of corporal punishment into a historical context. The sad fact is that caning or being strapped was an extremely common form of punishment for school children of any race until at least the 1970s. Qualifying misdemeanours could be as minor as having dirty shoes, an untidy sports locker or talking in class. Thrashings were so commonplace they were unremarkable. 

But a much more significant omission is the fact that well-intentioned Pakeha and Māori alike during the late nineteenth century and early decades of the twentieth believed teaching Māori children English as a priority was the best way of helping them prosper. Banning any Māori being spoken in schools — and punishing those found speaking it — was an inevitable extension of such a policy. 

And it was, in fact, Maori leaders who pushed most energetically for English to be the only medium of instruction in Native Schools. 

In 1871, newly elected MP Karaitiana Takamoana pointed out in Parliament that missionaries had been teaching children “for many years, and the children are not educated. They have only taught them in the Māori language. The whole of the Māoris in this island request that the government should give instructions that the Māoris should be taught in English only.” 

A petition by Wi Te Hakiro and 336 others presented to the House of Representatives in 1876 recommended: ”There should not be a word of Māori allowed to be spoken in the school, and the master, his wife and children should be persons altogether ignorant of the Māori language.“ 

There were more, including one by Renata Kawepo and 790 others. They asked that: “The government should use every endeavour to have schools established throughout the colony, so that the Maori children may learn the English language, for by this they will be on the same footing as the Europeans, and will become acquainted with the means by which the Europeans have become great.” 

Piri Ropata and 200 others also asked that Māori children be given the opportunity to be instructed only in English at school. 

The great Sir Apirana Ngata — who served as Minister of Native Affairs, was ranked third in Cabinet and whose image graces our $50 note — was positively evangelical in his campaign in the 1920s and 1930s to have English given priority in Māori primary schools. He argued that proficiency in the English language was “the key with which to open the door to the sciences, the mechanised world, and many other callings”. 

Furthermore, it was an approach endorsed by many Māori parents, who backed teachers disciplining their children for speaking te reo because they believed learning English was the path to success. 

The essential countervailing fact that helps make sense of these campaigns is, of course, that te reo was widely spoken in homes and marae, where Ngata and other leaders believed it would continue to prosper. In short: Māori at home; English at school.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

OT Report starts with half-truths

The Oranga Tamariki Ministerial Advisory Board report released today paints a picture of pre-colonisation nirvana. There s a heavy emphasis on Maori because Maori children dominate among OT's caseload, and the Board members are all Maori.

It begins with a section called, TE AU O TE KANOHI MĀORI, which translates as 'The Maori Eye'.

It states  "...the reality for tamariki Māori " was they "were nurtured and treasured as the centre, the pito, the magnetic pole of Māori society in pre-colonial times."

"We recognise that of course Māori are not unique in treasuring their tamariki as the strength and centre of their culture and their economy, and of the wealth and health of all their futures. This is a common scenario across humanity and particularly in pre-industrialised economies where the health of the collective was what mattered. It is our view that the processes of colonisation, bringing urbanisation and commodification of people as units of production has broken that down. Inevitably transported to Aotearoa New Zealand with settlers from industrialising Europe, a view of organising family as individual units with tamariki as a subset - and in some Victorian eyes to be seen and not heard - has been imposed."

People were also "units of production" pre-industrialisation. They did back-breaking work in fields and their survival depended on the climate's co-operation. A pining for our agrarian past isn't prevalent among the general population.

Individual family units were not imposed on Maori. For decades Maori remained predominantly rurally-based and lived on and around maraes. But as they moved to the towns and cities for better paying jobs (turning their backs on working as agricultural units of production) they began to arrange themselves similarly to Europeans, just as they had adopted European dress and housing.

The report goes on to complain about the misrepresentation of warrior culture which apparently actually existed for the protection of children.

"An example has been the portrayal of this role as the warmongering, aggressive leader of the community. While the depiction may have become self-fulfilling for some, the primary role of a warrior was to provide for the community and to keep it safe from harm."

Safe from what harm? Other warriors seeking to violently plunder and pillage for starters.

So here we have yet another report which starts from fallacy. Let's be generous. Half-truths.

How Maori lived before colonisation was much better. Children were safer being raised by the collective. Therefore a return to that way of organising Maori society is the solution.

"While the context of the 21st century is different from that of pre-colonisation, views shared with us from hapū, iwi and Māori organisations indicate that these responsibilities and structures must be rebuilt so that the whānau can once again be self-determining."

The Minister Kelvin Davis has accepted every recommendation summarised as:

-Decision making and resources to be shifted to communities, with children and whānau at the centre of the system

-A new operating model, with better support and training for social workers

-Without notice orders (uplifts) to be only used after proper engagement with whānau

I find it ironic that one Maori Minister wants to centralise control for the benefit of Maori (Three Waters) while another seeks to decentralise control for the benefit of Maori (Oranga Tamariki).