Friday, February 19, 2010

Paying people to have babies

At a business lunch yesterday the finance Minister was "talking down" tax cuts and economic reforms. One attendee was not happy.

Ms Hamilton-Manns, 33, worked in Qatar, Kuwait, Britain, Italy and South Africa for five years as a teacher and then as an event manager. She came home in 2006 and runs her own business staging events in the finance sector, but told Mr English she was thinking of leaving again.

"I don't see opportunities in New Zealand apart from having babies," she told him.

Well-spotted Ms Hamilton-Manns.

Coincidentally I received information earlier this week that illustrates her observation very well.

Most benefit-dependent single parents who go on welfare as teenagers appear first in the dole queue.

Of those welfare-dependent single parents the Ministry has full benefit history for (aged 29 or younger) 33,730 first claimed welfare as a teenager, but surprisingly, only 17 percent began on the DPB. For 61 percent, the first benefit they relied on was an unemployment benefit.

Rather than getting into work or training many unemployed young people are starting families and moving onto the DPB. Failing to acquire any work experience or further education is virtually a guaranteed pathway to long-term dependency, which is bad for both parents and children.

Over half of these young parents are Maori. Many started on welfare during a period of very low unemployment so it is no good blaming the recession or high Maori unemployment. Pacific people experience equally high unemployment rates but they are not over-represented in this group.

In his opening address to parliament John Key talked about moving people off the DPB. But just as important, if not more, is stopping them from going on it in the first place. Especially as teenagers.

As long as the "opportunity" remains, young people will continue to take it.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

National standards - further down the road

While we in New Zealand haggle over the introduction of national standards, the Australians are haggling over the veracity of their national standards introduced in 2008.

Brotherly love

This isn't Daisy and her kittens. It's Palangi and his younger brother and sister. Palangi was born in August last year and Cecil, the one he is diligently grooming, was born in December. He does this for prolonged periods.

In steps Daisy and has a desultory lick of her older boy and then she leaves him to it.

Is this unusual behaviour? I ask because Palangi is a most unusual cat. Even if you were not a cat person it would be hard not to warm to him. He behaves more like a faithful puppy than a cat, hasn't a shred of aggression, snuggles up to my face as close as he can and gazes at me. Sleeps with his chin on my shoulder through the night. Sleeps at my feet when I paint during the day. Is a terrible jumper, missing things or falling off things. Won't eat the food the other cats eat, confining himself to tuna and red meat. And when he hears the call of the wild, departs to catch and fetch challenging prey like tissues and bits of wood. Well, there was a lizard the other day but I don't think he caught it. When visiting the vet for his vaccine booster this morning she had difficulty hearing his heartbeat because he wouldn't stop purring. If cats have spirits this one's is special.

Raising one finger

Here's a judge asking a rhetorical question I think;

"Is it a case of the more kids she has at home the lighter the court should be on her?"

I can think of a few others.

"Is it a case of the more kids she has at home the more income she receives?"

"Is it a case of the more kids she has at home the longer she can avoid getting a job?"

"Is it a case of the more kids she has at home the more men she can do a dodgy child support deal with?"

Don't you just love paying taxes to fund this fiasco? It really is a privilege to live in a country where the welfare system ensures everyone can belong and participate. And then some.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Dangerous WINZ clients

Remember the Harris family?

Fairfax newspapers reported Marcia Harris and her husband, former gang leader Darryl Harris, have claimed unemployment and sickness benefits continuously since 1984.

Three of the couple's four children are on benefits. The family got $30,000 in special-needs grants since 2000, including $16,000 in the past two years. Grants went towards car tyres and a pool fence at one of several properties the family owns in Christchurch....the family has been transferred to a special "remote monitoring" unit. The unit deals with Work and Income clients deemed too dangerous for face-to-face meetings with staff.

At the time I made comment that the people managed through this unit would be able to avoid face-to-face intensive management and work-testing. Now I reflect on this, it is really rather silly. Yes. My comment.

I received a letter from MSD saying that these clients "must meet their obligations, including work-testing, just like any other client."

That means that people deemed too dangerous, too aggressive and violent to have direct contact with case managers, are nonetheless expected to find work in other workplaces. Are they sent along for interviews with unsuspecting prospective employers? Somehow I doubt it.

There were 18 clients in 2004, when the unit was established. Now there are 52. Fifty six percent are on an invalid's benefit and 77 percent are male. Two have dependent children. I hope their children are safe.

What should happen to people like this? In the past they were probably institutionalised. When the benefit system was introduced there was a strong and accepted ethos that people had to be of good moral character and sober habits. Sounds archaic but we have since travelled to the other extreme, where the benefit system is the place where people with acute anti-social behavioural problems are parked.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The courts must be hellish busy

The Sallies research centre released a report into the social health of the nation last week and it just got buried under the GST palaver. It contains a lot of useful statistical information which I might blog over the next few days. Little commentary is needed. (Although this particular table reminds me of my question about why Paul Quinn's disenfranchisement bill is confined to people in prison. If it was targeted at anyone convicted of a crime and sentenced, the polling gain to National would be more significant. Because that's what it's about isn't it? If it isn't and it is actually about loss of rights for criminals then, again, why stop at supervised sentencees?)

Part of the reason the courts are so busy is growing recidivism. Nearly 2 out of 3 Maori are reconvicted within two years of release. More are going through the 'revolving door'.

(Any spelling pedants notice the error above?)

Monday, February 15, 2010

God, I hope this turns out OK

All of us with daughters and sons have our hearts in our mouths waiting for the outcome of this episode. If I was religious I would be praying for her and her family. Please just let it be an unhappy tantrum of sorts and let her be found safe and well. And sorry, Mum, for the times I put you through the mill.

Women's magazine junkies

I make no secret of my contempt for women's magazines. What are they really? Grown-up picture books that depict good and evil; good being tight bellies and bad being dimply thighs. Or maybe they are like national standards for supposedly mature females. A chance to check out how their looks and lives rate. That's why the bad pictures are actually more titillating than the good.

What fills the pages of Women's magazines occasionally permeates my consciousness when once in a blue moon I forget to take some worthwhile reading matter on a visit to the dentist or WOF centre. These trashy tomes ooze superficiality. They speak to people whose own lives are all fa├žade. They make women dissatisfied and depressed by publishing fabulous fairy tales of wealth and beauty. Then they cheer them up by publishing sorry stories about loss and separation and tragedy. But the release of endorphins is a temporary state of affairs. The readers become addicted. They are magazine junkies.

Alison Mau is being used to lace the latest dose. And she is not happy. She launched an attack on Women's Day on Breakfast TV today culminating in providing the editor's e-mail address, no doubt expecting an avalanche of complaints to follow.

Silly, silly. That is exactly the publicity Women's Day is courting. Mau supporters might forgo this week's WD hit but they won't go cold turkey. They'll simply score a dose of whatever other drivel is available from the news-stands.

Key needs better advice

According to Mr Key, if 5 percent of people on the DPB moved into work that would save the government $200 million over 10 years.

This was reported yesterday on NewstalkZB. It is also an excerpt from Key's statement to Parliament last week.

This is interesting.

In the financial year to June 2008 14,754 people moved off the DPB and into work. That's 15 percent.

In addition to that a further 17 percent moved off for other reasons.

So why isn't the government saving millions already? Why is it spending more each year on the DPB?

Because more people come on than go off. Around one in three leavers will be back within the year. And around two thousand teenagers will be granted the DPB each year.

What National needs to grasp is that stopping people going onto benefits will reduce numbers and save millions. Prevention is just as important, if not more important.

But to talk about a goal of moving 5 percent off and into work shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what is driving the numbers.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

VAT rise to 20 percent

With a mooted rise in GST to 15 percent are we comparatively lucky? Or do we just have prevaricating leadership attempting to have its cake and eat it too?

Reported in The Times;

A rise in VAT is looming whichever party wins the general election, as Labour and the Conservatives draw up plans to balance Britain’s books.

Alistair Darling and George Osborne, the Shadow Chancellor, are both considering raising VAT to as high as 20 per cent — the European average — from the current rate of 17.5 per cent, The Times has learnt.

Doing so would raise an extra £13 billion a year at a time when financial markets are searching for signs that whoever takes power is serious about tackling Britain’s £178 billion deficit.

Though Labour and the Tories have denied having any current plans to increase VAT, neither will rule it out and The Times understands a rise in the tax is being considered by both parties.

No talk of compensation either.

Of course our rise in GST is supposedly about making the tax system more efficient and less penalising. Not raising revenue.