Saturday, August 29, 2009

The new social order

Last weekend I was driving my daughter and a friend to a pool (swim, not snooker) party and the girls were discussing why the venue had been chosen. Probably because it is half way between where her mum lives and her dad lives was the conclusion. "----'s parents have split up ?" I ask. News to me. But then most of what goes on in the days and lives of locals is. "Yes," Sam's friend replied."Sam and I are about the only one whose parents are still together."

Maybe I get an unrepresentative view. Maybe more people in 'rich' neighbourhoods split because they can afford to; in 'poor' neighbourhooods they never formalised their relationship in the first place. Maybe there is a large group in the middle acting like my parent's generation. Staying together, happy or otherwise, because they have no choice. Perhaps relationships are now as impermanent as jobs and careers. Or were people more satisfied with their relationships 40 or 50 years ago?

I tend to the latter view. People now have unrealistic expectations of marriage being based on romantic love. Perhaps because they live on a diet of glossies and TV. I don't and didn't, either the first or second. My approach to marriage was very pragmatic. I knew what I didn't want (to be controlled or restricted) and spotted it in my husband. I wanted a highly intelligent partner and spotted in in my husband. Certainly my first attraction to him was physical but that lust stuff wears off over years. Is that where most (but not all) marriages come unstuck? People still seem to want to mate for life but the desire to make it happen doesn't win the day.

I will show my prejudice by admitting that I hope whoever my own children pick as a partner comes from parents with a stable enduring relationship. That is then their template for life. And whether or not you think it important that kids have parents who live together, relationship break-ups are often hellish, sometimes worse than deaths and scar people permanently. As necessary as they sometimes are, they add to the sum of life's unhappiness.

Enough of the Kennedy worship

Sheldon Richman, from the Future of Freedom Foundation, takes an objective look at what Edward Kennedy stood for.

In theory government is supposed to be the servant. Yet in practice it is not the servant but the master. Kennedy surely would have disagreed, and he might have meant it. But facts are facts. When a self-described servant insists on taking care of you according to his notion of your interests, whether or not you want his help and whether or not you want to surrender the necessary resources, he is no servant at all. He is the master. You will be served — or else.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Geoffrey might stay

This is Geoffrey. Named by Robert. He's almost three weeks old. That's if he is a he. He may be a she. Not wanting to over-handle him I haven't really determined his or her status. But Geoffrey is the one who always comes to the door of the box when he hears someone call. And Geoffrey I think he or she will stay for life. Geoffrey is a big clue that Dad was black. His siblings all have markings that relate to their mother and grandmother. They walk on very shaky legs, have tele-tubby tummies and seem altogether satisfied with the way life is unfolding. Our Huntaway, Girl, has taken to sleeping at the door of the box. Being an unspeyed female I think her mothering instincts are quite aroused. David is equally soppy about them.

Are taxpayers about to be asked to pay more for the DPB?

I am about to read a paper just released by the Families Commission about a review of child support. But the following statement from the press release is significant enough to warrant early comment. It is from Jan Pryor, Chief Families Commissioner;

"We also believe it is time for New Zealand to consider passing on child support payments to the parent who is getting the DPB or other social security benefit. Sole parent beneficiaries are among the poorest of New Zealand families. Those with former partners paying child support to Inland Revenue would be better off if the payments came to them instead."

The inference is that the amount of the total DPB bill that is currently offset by liable parent contributions would disappear. It probably currently lies somewhere around 10-12 percent of the total - approx $170 million - but I haven't calculated it for a while (so don't quote me on it.)

Doesn't that proposal fill you with joy.

(Well I was going to read the paper but the link isn't working).

The social welfare challenge

I was further reflecting about the amount of government funding given to the Salvation Army, Barnardos, Plunket, and hundreds of other so-called social service NGOs. Many get the majority of their funding from government.

Imagine the Ministry of Social Development is like a giant construction company which builds some good, but many substandard homes. People have to use the company, however, because it has a legal monopoly on domestic construction. In turn, the company funds other contractors to go around fixing the properties up. But the demand for fix-up is far greater than can be met and many people go on living in leaking, unsanitary and unsafe homes. Sometimes the botch-ups are so bad that even contracted plumbers and roofers can't resolve the problems. But the contractors won't speak against the companies practices because they rely on the company for their own survival.

How is social welfare any different? And what would it take to remedy the problem?

What will Australia do?

Australians are also coming under increasing UN pressure to ban corporal punishment in the home.

They will be treated to all the same misinformation we endured.

School-aged children in Australia are twice as likely to be killed as their British peers, usually as a result of child abuse by their mother or her de facto partner, according to a study in the Medical Journal of Australia in January. The study's authors, from St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney, argued measures to reduce the rate of physical abuse of children, including banning corporal punishment, would have the greatest potential to reduce the number of children being killed. Fatal child abuse declined to "very low levels" after corporal punishment was banned in Sweden in 1979, they found.

Two points. As I have shown before assaults on children in Sweden have continued to increase and the UK has not banned smacking.

And, predictably, the media message is, look, they did it in NZ and it's just not a problem;

A survey by the Australian Childhood Foundation found 69 per cent of adults in 2006 thought it sometimes necessary to "smack" a naughty child - down from 75 per cent in 2002.

But such minimal force is unlikely to be caught under an anti-smacking law such as New Zealand's, where parental force for the purpose of correcting a child is banned. The 2007 law won bipartisan support because of provisions permitting parents using reasonable force to prevent or minimise harm to the child, or to stop them engaging in offensive or disruptive behaviour. Police, the law states, have the discretion to dismiss complaints where the offence is "inconsequential".

No prosecutions have been brought for smacking children under the new law, which has had "minimal impact" on police activity, New Zealand police say.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sally Army says, "Move On"

The Sallies are telling those of us who voted to decriminalise smacking to "move on".

Doesn't look like we have much choice, thanks to National.

What I do have a choice about though is whether I ever donate to the Salvation Army again. I won't. They can just get by with their government bribe money which accounts for 61 percent of their total income.

That's not a private charity. That's an arm of the Ministry of Social Development.

No wonder their theme tune is, "We're all in this together".

Wrong. Count me out.

Offending Mr Key might be a winner

Another of National's big ideas? Subsidised holiday programmes for poor kids. A week in a lifetime. It's hard to get excited about. Unless you are Mr Key who is "personally offended that many children could not go to holiday programmes because their parents could not afford them."

Gee whiz. How come he isn't personally offended that special needs children are losing their caregivers because their parents can't afford them, that superannuitants are losing their treasured night classes because they can't afford them, that beneficiaries are losing their access to training schemes because they can't afford them?

I was beginning to think it was almost impossible to get a handle on what National is doing. Cutting spending one day, increasing it the next; counselling belt-tightening one day and splashing out the next.

But it is becoming more clear. Resources are being channelled into whatever personally offends Mr Key.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Under-representation in family violence statistics

I am still wading through the Families Commission 292 page Family Violence Statistics report released yesterday. Here are two graphs that speak for themselves. All offending is rising, but Maori offending is rising faster. I wonder if instead of asking why Maori are so over-represented, because that seems to cause offence and finger-pointing about finger-pointing, I should frame the question differently. Why are NZ European so under-represented in the family violence statistics?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The DPB - A social catastrophe

This is lifted from a slide presentation produced by the Ministry of Social Development and the Inland Revenue Department. It is a surprisingly candid description of the variety of levels people on the DPB are at. It would be an interesting exercise to consign numbers to each category. Certainly the shape would resemble a very young population pyramid. That is with a wide base and tapering towards the top.

Why? Because I estimate a small majority of people on the DPB started on welfare in their teens - although not necessarily on the DPB. That indicates every likelihood of intergenerational dependence which features on the bottom layer.

I am less certain than the person who produced this table that the two, or even three, lowest layers can be separated out. The 'diseases' of poverty and accumulated adversity could apply to the lowest level. But it may be that the designer had age in mind. Accumulated adversity may apply to those women in their 40s and 50s, who are still not working despite their children no longer being dependent on them.

Those in the intergenerational category may be the young, particularly in rural communities where there is no work, and welfare has been the means of support for decades.

I would put two thirds of the current 104,000 recipients in the bottom three levels and the remaining third in the top two, with only a few thousand, if that, in the top bracket.

As you can see, MSD/IRD fully understand that what they have with the DPB is not a temporary safety net for people transitioning from a partnership to being a self-supporting single parent. They have a social bloody catastrophe on their hands.

Violence risk 4 times greater for female beneficiaries

Media Release


Tuesday, 25 August, 2009

Women who are beneficiaries have a four-fold risk of experiencing partner violence according to the New Zealand Crime and Safety Survey 2006, published today as part of the Families Commission report, Family Violence Statistics.

In answering the question, who was most at risk of partner violence, the survey found risks were considerably higher for people in sole-parent households; Maori women had risks 3 times the average for women overall; women who were beneficiaries had risks over 4 times the average; women living in the most deprived areas were at higher risk; young people aged 15-24 were at higher risk, as well as those living as flatmates or in rented accommodation.

Welfare commentator Lindsay Mitchell noted that the profile typically fits the thousands of young, Maori, single parents living on the domestic purposes benefit, in deprived neighbourhoods, in state or other rental properties." This new information is hugely important because it confirms that far from relieving women of partner violence, one of the original purposes behind the DPB, receiving a benefit actually heightens the risk of it."

"Also significant is that those living in sole parent households have an incidence rate of experiencing partner violence more than 5 times greater than those living as a couple with children. This raises a question about how legitimate the survey participants 'sole parent' status is. Are they describing themselves as sole parents primarily for the purposes of claiming a benefit?"

Mitchell also commented about the lack of attention drawn to this aspect of interpersonal violence. " For instance the report explores the role of drugs and alcohol but not welfare. An admission that welfare enables a lifestyle that too often features partner violence is long overdue."

Go ahead - break the law

I am unspeakably angry at the government's, no, John Key's reaction to the referendum. But I shouldn't be. Smacking is effectively against the law and that is how it will stay. But those authorities that administer the law are being told to act like it isn't. And I shouldn't feel angry because there are lots of other things in New Zealand that are against the law but are routinely ignored.

Cannabis use. You can even light up in the grounds of parliament and get ignored.

Truancy. Kids stay home and get ignored because frankly it is a relief not to have them disrupting other children.

Censorship law. Kids are prohibited from buying, borrowing or playing Xbox and Playstation games that wouldn't exist if it wasn't for the market the same kids provide.

Thou shalt not shack up and claim a benefit. The habit is now so pervasive most people have forgotten it is against the law.

Under-age sex. Oh, let's not even go there.

And you will no doubt be able to think of others. What's one more piece of turn-a-blind-eye law added to the list?

(But, if I hear or read any more mealy-mouthed analysis of the non-vote I will scream. After an election poll, do we agonise over what those who stayed home would have voted? Should we return to November last year and declare National a non-winner because 22 percent of people didn't vote for them or any other party? The fact is people who don't speak can't be heard.)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Worst in the world?

Naturally the YES voters are ramping it up in the face of an overwhelming NO from the public. Here is Deborah Morris-Travers from the YES vote coalition:

"We have the world's worst child death by maltreatment rate, and the consequences of child maltreatment and are costing all New Zealanders $2 billion a year in social welfare, legal, prison system and other costs, let alone the community and social costs.....The Prime Minister is to be applauded for sticking by the law as it stands, and for seeking non-legislative responses which can give people comfort on the issues that clearly concern many."

The world's worst?

The only data I am aware of is from UNICEF and covers only 27 countries, is from the 1990s and had NZ third worst equal with Hungary but a long way behind the US and Mexico.

In a review of the NZ situation by Mike Doolan he wrote;

"International comparisons must be interpreted with caution, however, as child deaths from maltreatment are a rare event. In a small country like NZ, the very small numbers involved produce highly volatile rates. The UNICEF report acknowledges that inconsistencies of classification and lack of common definitions and research methodologies mean that little internationally comparable data exists and that the extent of child maltreatment is almost certainly under represented by the statistics."

Not only is Morris-Travers exaggerating, she is ignoring the rest of the developing world. That's a bit unusual and a tad convenient for a Leftist.

NZ doesn't have a good record when it comes to child abuse. But the message from the public is quit hitting us all over the head with the woeful inadequacies of the pathetic-excuse-for-a-parent minority.

Recession is no excuse to put work-testing on hold

Media Release
Monday, August 24, 2009

Based on UK developments, welfare commentator, Lindsay Mitchell, is questioning why the National government decided not to introduce work-testing on the DPB, despite campaigning on this promise.

"The Minister of Social Development, Paula Bennett, has said the decision is because of the recession. However, the recession has not hit New Zealand in the way it has the United Kingdom, where the unemployment rate is 7.8 percent compared to 6 percent here. Despite this, in two months the United Kingdom will introduce new rules for benefit-dependent lone parents. Those whose youngest child is 10 will be required to claim a Jobseeker's Allowance - the equivalent of our Unemployment Benefit - and from October next year, the requirement will be extended to those whose youngest child is 7. The Jobseeker's Allowance requires recipients to be looking for and available for work. "

"Likewise in Australia, in 2007 work-testing was effectively introduced when the youngest child turned 7 by requiring their parents to register for the Newstart Allowance, the Australian unemployment benefit. And most European countries work-test lone parents when their youngest turns 3."

"New Zealand is now well out of step with the rest of the developed world in both having a dedicated welfare payment for single parents, and allowing them to claim it until their youngest child turns 18."

"Blaming the recession for a lack of action doesn't cut it. The government should put the rules in place ready for the economic upturn. This would be consistent with the Finance Minister, Bill English's repeated emphasis on planning for the recovery."

Follow your first instincts Prime Minister

Family First has unearthed a comment made in 2007 by John Key. I agree with it 100 percent.

“Proponents of the bill say that doesn’t matter; that in reality no one is ever going to be prosecuted for lightly smacking their child. But if the reality is that no one is ever going to be prosecuted for lightly smacking their child, then don’t make it illegal. Don’t make it a crime. It’s poor law-making to write a very strict law and then trust the police and the courts not to enforce it strongly. The law shouldn’t depend on which police officer or which judge or which jury you happen to get on the day.”

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A get-rich-quick scheme!

When I began this blog nearly 4 years ago one of the first posts took a tongue-in-cheek look at what various afflictions were costing NZ society and concluded we should be bankrupt.

Today's news that, according to Infometrics, child abuse is costing NZ $2 billion prompts me to do an update.

Alcohol is costing $4.794 billion and drug use $1.427 billion annually according to BERL.

Smoking comes in at $1.22 billion

Diabetes is taking up 8.5% of the $12 billion health budget costing $1.02 billion.

Motor vehicle crashes are costing $4.5 billion according to the Ministry of Transport.

No-one has tackled the social costs of gambling but extrapolation from US findings would pout the figure at $66 million. Not a biggie. But wait....

This is. Treasury estimates the cost of crime at $9.136 billion

MSD estimates family violence at $1.2 billion but there may be some overlap with the child abuse figure.

Did you know the weather costs? The drought cost us $2.8 billion last summer according to the Minister of Agriculture.

The cost of leaky homes is likely to be $11.5 billion according to Price Waterhouse Coopers.

Absenteeism from the workplace come in at $2.5 billion according to WellNZ.

Skin cancer costs $33 million.

Lost people cost search and rescue $1.28 billion.

Suicide costs $1.4 billion according to the Ministry of Health.

The cost of obesity is $303 million and ballooning.

Foetal alcohol syndrome comes in at $1 billion annually.

OK. Let's have a total. That's $47.07 billion.

For context, around 70 percent of total government revenue.

A good chunk of the above is avoidable. Imagine how much richer NZ could be! And there are lots of other items I can think of like the social cost of abortion, drowning, teenage birth, attention deficit disorder, SIDS, etc. You may have another to add.