Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Maori/Pakeha dilemma

I missed this yesterday. A wonderful piece of writing by Jim Hopkins throwing down the gauntlet to Pita Sharples.

In theory Hopkins is right. In theory. I am not sure about practice because we have yet to see what NZ would look like if Maori and Pakeha shared equal opportunities.

Like Hopkins I want to see the back of separatism but at the same time, we cannot impose our own worldviews on other people. In the specific matter of prison units, if Maori believe they have different solutions to Maori problems should we prevent them from trying? The money will be spent anyway.

What really exercises me is my desire to see us all go ahead together - whatever race or culture - versus my desire to accord Maori the trust and freedom to try to sort their own problems. Because it isn't just about law and order. It'll come in welfare, increasingly in education, and health. And the old adage, united we stand, divided we fall, has just wormed its way into my consciousness....

Friday, April 17, 2009

Veitch, violence and unwelcome memories

I suppose if you are not blogging about Tony Veitch, you are not blogging. I had a strong and unwelcome recollection on hearing something last night. Something to the effect that Veitch was on the ground in a foetal position with both hands over his ears. She wouldn't stop and she wouldn't leave. It took me back to a very bad relationship I was once in. He was utterly controlling, didn't want me to have any other people in my life, including my own family. He would nag and nag until I was exhausted. There was no reasoning with him. Then when I tried to sleep he would turn on the light and pace around saying, "If I can't sleep, neither will you." When I tried to leave he would physically prevent me. When I had cried myself into a pathetic and very unattractive state he would take photos to "show you how ugly you get." And much more, stopping short of physical violence. It was hellish.

I don't know what happened between Veitch and his ex but I know that people can be mentally tormented to breaking point. To the point where all their normal abilities to think straight, to protect themselves, to act rationally, to empathise, have been destroyed simply because they aren't producing the expected and 'normal' results. What then? These sort of situations are mercifully outside of most people's experience. Yet they all have an opinion. I may leave the radio off today.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Why I am racist

Based on my small sample of 'clients' worked with over the past few years I have become somewhat racist. I acknowledge this. In fact, as I am about to get a new one, I think I am just going to come out and say, give me a Maori person, please. Why?

Well. I have just come across the formalised answer. It comes from a paper commissioned by the Ministry of Social Development. The research was based on the Q methodology. The sample wasn't large (20) but it is larger than mine. It assesses people's attitudes towards being on welfare.

The hypothesis here is that there exists a significant difference in the responses of Māori and NZ Europeans to the benefit system. In general, Māori have a more accepting and positive response than NZ Europeans, the latter having a more strongly developed sense of being “owed” by society.

This is good and this is bad. While Maori have a better attitude towards being on a benefit it quite probably (partly) explains why there are too many of them there!

Back to my own experience, it is difficult to motivate people who think they are "owed" whereas people who have retained a sense of humour and optimism are far more receptive and will give and take of themselves.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A cap on rates - the least we should do

Since last year's election Gordon Campbell has been writing a column in my local newspaper. You can imagine the tenor and content. Last week it was a scaremongering piece about capping rates. (I see the NZ Herald has a similar piece today which makes a strange observation that because rates are visible they don't need capping. The extension of which would be that taxes are not, so they do need capping. Why not cap both? If the visibility is good, what could be more visible than a cap? And why are there so many champions of the unrestrained spending of other people's money?)

Anyway here is my brief response to Gordon Campbell printed in yesterday's Hutt News;

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Drug addiction and alcoholism - US welfare provision

The following is a little dry but provides a recent history of how the US provides for people who are substance abusers. SSI means Social Security Insurance. It is a mile from New Zealand's approach;

c. Drug Addiction and Alcoholism (DA&A)


Public Law 92-603, enacted October 30

Any disabled individual who has been medically determined to be an alcoholic or drug addict must accept appropriate treatment, if available, in an approved facility and demonstrate compliance with conditions and requirements for treatment.

SSI payments are required to be made through a representative payee—another person or public or private agency designated by SSA to manage the recipient's benefit on his/her behalf.


Public Law 103-296, enacted August 15

Any individual who is receiving SSI based on a disability where drug addiction or alcoholism is a contributing factor material to the finding of disability must comply with the DA&A treatment requirements. The individual must accept appropriate treatment when it is available and comply with the conditions and terms of treatment. Instances of noncompliance with the requirements result in progressively longer payment suspensions. Before payments can resume, the individual must demonstrate compliance for specific periods; 2 months, 3 months, and 6 months, respectively, for the first, second, third and subsequent instances of noncompliance. An individual who is not in compliance with the DA&A treatment requirements for 12 consecutive months shall not be eligible for payments; however, this does not prevent such individuals from reapplying and again becoming eligible for payments.

SSI disability payments based on DA&A are also limited to a total of 36 benefit months (beginning March 1995) regardless of whether appropriate treatment is available. Months for which benefits are not due and received do not count towards the 36-month limit.

Payments based on DA&A must be made to a representative payee. Preference is required to be given to community based nonprofit social service agencies and Federal, State, or local government agencies in representative payee selection. These agencies when serving as payees for individuals receiving payments based on DA&A may retain the lesser of 10 percent of the monthly benefit or $50 (adjusted annually after 1995 by the Consumer Price Index (CPI)) as compensation for their services.

Establishment of one or more referral and monitoring agencies for each State is required.


Public Law 104-121, enacted March 29

An individual is not considered disabled if DA&A is a contributing factor material to a finding of disability.

Applies DA&A representative payee requirements enacted under Public Law 103-296 to disabled SSI recipients who have a DA&A condition and are incapable of managing their benefits. In addition, these recipients shall be referred to the appropriate State agency administering the State plan for substance abuse treatment.

After the last law change the claimant numbers were cut by half - from around 200,000 to 100,000. Obviously there will be people who have a DA&A condition who will still receive assistance because it isn't the prime contributing factor. For example, I imagine a war veteran amputee with a drug habit would still qualify as disabled.

The US approach is basic. The philosophy is very simple. If you want help from your fellow citizens, you have to be prepared to help yourself.

Turia recommends a return to past failure

Associate Minister for Social Development, Tariana Turia, is calling for a return to make-work schemes.

But Mrs Turia acknowledged the difficulty of re-introducing such programmes, saying colleagues were more interested in schemes promoting "sustainable employment".

"While I believe in that, I think that in times of really high unemployment, if we were to have make-work schemes then it's highly likely we will see what happened in the 80s where the crime rate will be lowered.

Crime will be lowered? When did that happen?

Make-work schemes divert money from the people who would create real jobs. Turia's 'colleagues' understand this.

Make-work schemes don't lower crime. The creation of more weavers and bone carvers is not a vital public service. So why advocate them?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

"Maori women should be triply protected..."

New Zealand is about to be shamed by a high-profile international human rights group that says we are not doing enough to turn around our horrific record on domestic violence.

Contesse says Maori women should be triply protected by the Treaty of Waitangi, international codes for indigenous peoples' rights, and more generic international human rights conventions.

However: "Maori women are much more at risk of being assaulted or threatened by a partner... meaning, the NZ government is particularly failing Maori women in respect to domestic violence."

These overseas commentators frame matters in such a way that an uninformed reader would believe women are never more than victims of domestic violence. Yet our own eyes and ears would tell us that Maori women, in particular, can give as good as they get. They also indirectly contribute to the next generation's risk by abusing their own children. Let's be honest. I'm not going to trot out all the stats. Maori are disproportionately involved in family violence and changing that is as much about changing female attitudes as male.

Notwithstanding many, most I hope, Maori men and women are peaceable, patient, providers.