Saturday, March 13, 2010

Maori adoption and parallel worlds

The following is from a letter to me from the Ministry of Social Development. It clarifies the difference between adoption in the Maori and non-Maori world. I suspect that quite a number of Maori babies are 'adopted' out (whangai) but there are no statistics available. I suspect that most Maori babies born to unpartnered or young Maori are supported by welfare but cannot confirm this because MSD says it does not record the relationship status between the person receiving the benefit and the dependent child who provides eligibility. And the ethnicity of the child is not recorded, only the ethnicity of the caregiver. I have written previously about the potential for the exploitation of children in this respect.

Anyway, another brick wall hit, but some of you may nevertheless be interested in the different processes.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Do people on the DPB want jobs?

In 2002 research was commissioned into whether people on the DPB were interested in looking for work. An external research company phoned 1,233 people on the DPB and asked about their level of interest and found;

Very interested 32%
Fairly interested 29%
Not that interested 19%
Not interested at all 17%
Unsure 3%

I had just come across this again and was musing about how honest the responses were. Perhaps it would be like my GP saying to me, how interested in cutting down your alcohol intake are you Lindsay? (She thinks I drink too much wine but in my defence my intake, apart from periods of total abstinence, doesn't go up and it doesn't go down).

The answer she wants is very interested. What she wants to hear is certainly being mentally processed. So is the honest answer, not interested at all. Should I plum for somewhere in between? Or isn't it true that I am fairly interested, so long as it doesn't actually happen? If an alcohol free wine was invented that tasted great and gave a nice buzz, I would certainly be fairly interested.

So how indicative is that research? I recall at the time Mr Maharey making a big deal about how most people on the DPB wanted to work. Actually, the veracity of the results notwithstanding, they were interested in 'looking for work'. That's a different thing. Being interested in looking for a job doesn't translate into accepting it if it pays only slightly more than a benefit.

And as much as those who said they weren't even interested in looking can make a taxpayer feel rather testy, at least they were honest.

Admitting a mistake

You will find this post dry and boring but it is necessary.

I have been getting it in the neck from a patronising commenter for making a statistical error.

I divided an average figure into a median figure. Wrong.

The corrected figure is;

Government transfers account for 8 percent of the average male income and 19 percent of the average female income (not 8 percent of the median male income and 24 percent of the median female income, which I originally posted.)

The commenter goes on the tell me what I should have done;

Taking the median (if you want to use medians) weekly govt transfers by gender from Table 12 and putting them against median aggregate income in table 1, you'd be horrified to know that the median male weekly govt transfer income is 40% of the median male income from all sources, but the ratio for females is 64%.

So why the huge difference between the two sets of figures? My erroneous figures looked far more likely than these, which is why I didn't spot the mistake.

Because Table 12 is Median Weekly Income by Income Source for those receiving that source of income.

Hence it is an error to divide those figures into the figures at Table 1 which is Average and Median weekly Income for all people aged 15 and over.

So the anonymous commenter, who demands I admit my mistake or lose my credibility, might like to join me. Especially as he or she says "what really irritates me is the abuse of statistics."

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Recent painting puzzles

This photo has fascinated me since I first saw it at the Alexander Turnball Library. It is of a district nurse visiting a family in Northland (1950s?). The man next to her is holding a clipboard one imagines on which to record the baby's weight. Is he a doctor? I doubt he is the man of the family. If he was the father and a farmer, he would be dressed differently.

I very rarely paint landscape matter but really wanted to preserve this scene.

What I love is the look on the various children's faces and the way the baby is focussed on the photographer. The way the mother has the two young ones in her grasp as though to keep them under control or just near. The juxtaposition between the families bare feet and the visitor's shiny shoes. I didn't struggle too much with likenesses but more on expressions. It is hard painting tiny little faces and making them read right. My eyesight isn't what it was but reading glasses don't work as I am constantly standing back to check the distance impression. Also I have put space around the group but wonder if it adds anything. Perhaps I should cut it differently.

And here I have reworked "Reona". No I didn't change the face colour. It's just the photograph. I had a problem with the clothing because I had added/invented it and it wasn't sitting comfortably. She looked like a cardboard cut out but taking the image to the edge of the canvas made it worse. The re-work is an improvement I think. More harmony. What I should have done in the first place.

Why did US unemployment go so high?

It appears that the US suffered much higher unemployment during the recession than NZ. And this has surprised me because the US, in previous recessions, has fared better than other countries in terms of unemployment.

But there is something different about their current rate of 9.7 percent.

Because the number of parents (mainly mothers and single) receiving welfare was enormously reduced due to the 1996 (and earlier) reforms and far more now have an attachment to the work place, they qualify for unemployment insurance and are officially counted as unemployed.

Just a couple of rough calculations shows what a difference that has made.

US population = 309,000,000
NZ population = 4,360,000

In the US 11.4 million are receiving unemployment benefits (insurance) or 3.6 percent of the population.

In NZ 66,300 are receiving an unemployment benefit, only 1.5 percent of the population. But if you added in 70 percent of the DPB population ( roughly the percentage the US reduced their numbers by) the proportion would rise to 3.3 percent.

I have left sickness and invalid benefits out because they equate to US Supplemental Social Security assistance - another programme. However we do have greater comparative numbers in that area.

So I am now thinking that the US isn't in quite as bad shape as their numbers would indicate.

(It goes without saying that my workings are very sketchy eg I have used total population instead of working age. This is just a blog post, not a thesis.)

Voluntary sterilisation is "self-mutilation"

Garth George makes some fairly astonishing statements in his column today. Bearing in mind many men and women choose either to have a vasectomy or tubal ligation (myself included) theses pronouncements are just weird;

It [voluntary sterilisation] would be accepted by only a handful of men and women, if that, since even the mentally challenged - as child abusers invariably are - would shrink at being reduced to sterility, robbed of the inalienable human right to reproduce.

...I have a dear friend here in Rotorua, a man rich in years, in experience and wisdom, strong and enduring in his Christian faith, who has spent a lifetime serving his God, his family and his church.

We talk often and at great length of the things of God and the things of the world. He contends, and I agree, that voluntary sterilisation amounts to self-mutilation and renounces the natural law of self-preservation.

Thanks for sharing such an enlightened view Mr George.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

We could do with a Winston Smith at Work and Income

This morning I came across a blog previously unknown to me. Winston Smith (a pseudonym) works in Supported Housing in the UK and writes about his daily dealings with 'clients'. (It occurs to me if I wrote an anonymous blog about my volunteer work and experiences it would not differ much though my writing talents would not match Mr Smith's. You win some but you lose more.)

I will add him to my blog roll. Here are some excerpts. The last is long because it is just too good to cut.

Bribing addicts to meet targets

Now, call me a cynic but when I read about bribing members of the underclass in order to ascertain their views I smell the scent of performance targets. Why? You may ask. Well, we in Supported Housing have our own targets, (the QAFS. see earlier posts) one of which is consulting residents about various aspects of the project. One of the problems though is that most residents don't want to be consulted they just want to be left on their own in their rooms staring blankly at TV screens, knocking each other up, spreading chlamydia and avoiding any contact with reality. To get them out of their rooms and to hear their insane ideas we use fast food, cash incentives and sugary fizzy drinks. It always works. I'd put good money, if I earned it, that the Drug and Alcohol action team are using a similar tactic. Just like us their jobs depend on it. If they could get away with giving them drugs or alcohol to get them to the meeting then I have no doubt they'd be tempted. If you think about it they have done just that. What do you think all those junkies, potheads, pill poppers and alco-teens are going to spend that ten quid on? Hazard a guess go on.

Can the Drug and Alcohol team be that naive and stupid? Believe me I regularly encounter people in this industry who are that thick and worse. If you pay circus wages you will often attract clowns. However, it is just as possible that in the interests of meeting performance targets the judicious decision was discarded in favour of the expedient.

Failing to scrounge from the state

Five minutes after getting rid of Gavin, Kenny, 21, knocks on the office door. He too is failing to successfully scrounge from the state. I’ve seen slugs with more get up and go. Soon, his ex-girlfriend with whom he has a fractious relationship, will be bearing him a child. There are similar scenarios throughout the project and indeed up and down the country ensuring that Britain has yet another generation of employment and education averse youngsters to take the place of today’s underclass when they go to the great Burberry factory in the sky. He seeks my sage advice in relation to benefits.

“Any chance you could help me think of an excuse to tell the Job Centre why I’ve missed signing on?”

Is being a toe-rag an excuse or is it a reason? I ponder. I’m in no mood for him and I’m not employed to lie for him so I tell him exactly what is on my mind, well with some modification.

“Go away Kenny. I’m not paid to lie for you and besides if you can’t even manage to sign on once every two weeks to get free money without it turning in to a drama what hope is there for you in life,”

Kenny shuffles off swearing under his breath as he goes. He isn’t used to such straight talk, even from me. I was a bit more forthright than usual. In fact, were he to fill in a complaint form I could get in trouble as such direct talking could be interpreted as “oppressive” language, in the terminology of the social sector, and as such could be detrimental to his self-esteem. Well, as far as I’m concerned if you are sitting around on your arse 24/7 and making no efforts to do anything constructive and can’t even manage to draw the dole then you should have very low self-esteem. The only things that Kenny has contributed to society are several bouts of chlamydia and a child he will soon abandon. I know it’s not much in fashion these days but just the smallest amount of shame can be a great motivator to change and regulator of one’s behaviour.

Britain: The Land Where The Criminal's Victimhood Supersedes That of The Decent and Law Abiding

A couple of weeks before the Christmas, one of our residents, Mike, 18, openly divulged to several staff that he had acquired some of his yuletide gifts for his family by stealing them. Although starved of intelligence and devoid of manners, Mike is in no ways cash hungry. He is on lucrative benefit payments and receives regular cash donations from his father who works abroad. However, much of his income is regularly being paid out on various fines he receives from the courts and the police whilst persuing his favourite hobby of being a public nuisance. In defence of his latest criminal activities Mike felt that it should be appreciated that he was no longer burglaring people's homes as he had lately required a conscience in this area. One of my colleagues actually congratulated him for this, as if he was doing the local community a favour by no longer 'choosing' to break in to people's homes.

Anyway, when trying to talk to him about his immoral behaviour I became aware that both myself and my colleague were trying to get Mike to see the error of his ways by appealing to how crime would affect him as opposed to the effects it has on others. My colleague made no mention of the victims of his actions and I only made reference to it and was immediately accused by Mike of the greatest taboo in the social delinquents perpetuation sector: judgmentalism. My colleague was quick to assure Mike that he wasn't being judged. Instead, I took to plain speaking and told him that it wasn't I that was going to judge him but rather someone called a Judge who would indeed be judgemental as his job description requires just that. However, as I have said the angle we were taking was one of trying to make him see how crime would affect him should he continue to keep appearing in court. Should we have employed a technique of say condemnatory language for his actions as well as trying to make him ashamed of himself by being harsh in describing how his crimes affect other people we could have well faced disciplinary action should he have made a complaint, which is his right, about the way and manner we spoke to him.

In fact, Mike did just that with regards to a colleague verbally reprimanding him for bad behaviour on the project the year before. The colleague was suspended and an investigation was launched. She was so demeaned by this experience that she resigned her post whilst being investigated for the crime of plain speaking to a feral yob. Mike openly boasted of how he got rid of her. The threat of such complaints censors many staff from plain speaking when dealing with young people engaged in crime or other anti-social behaviour. One wrong word or misconstrued phrase and you could find yourself up on a disciplinary hearing for 'oppressive' language. This culture where 'judgmental' language is seen as the ultimate taboo allows for criminals like Mike to shift the balance of power in their direction in that support workers fear telling the truth or evoking shame in a resident for fear of a complaint being made against them.

What I have highlighted in the above example is indicative of a trend in the wider society and that is how perpetrators of crimes, even the most heinous, can so easily achieve victim status even superseding the rights of those they have commited crimes against. This trend is being reported more and more by the media lately. The actress and singer Myleene Klass was warned by police for trying to protect herself in her own home. There was the high profile case of the business man jailed, but later released for the crime of defending his home against vicious and dangerous criminals.

After the horrific case in Edlington where two boys attacked, tortured and brutalised two boys of a similar age,the social care magazine, Children and Young People Now advocates reaching out to future torturers and trying to understand them. No mention is made of providing services for their victims. Whilst I agree that the torturers were to a degree a product of their environment and don't advocate or support lynch mobs to deal with such people something in me cringes when reading an article that makes no mention of the people who have suffered at the hands of the people they are defending.

Instead of arguing for targeting dysfunctional families whose children may be being socialised in to savage torturers would it not make more sense to prohibit such people from breeding in the first place? However, that wouldn't suit the social services and social care industry which requires the children of the extremely dysfunctional and disturbed for its perpetuation. Many livelihoods and lucrative salaries depend on Britain remaining in the social morass in which it finds itself. As a boss of mine once said, "If we do our job correctly we do ourselves out of a job."

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Harawira harebrained

According to Hone Harawira people want to drink alcohol, they want to smoke cannabis but they do not want to smoke tobacco. That is why banning tobacco wouldn't create a black market. People don't want to smoke cigarettes or rollies. There would be no consumer demand. Nil. Zilch. Zero.

Have you ever heard anything so absurd?

Same unemployment rate - far fewer on dole

Got into an argument over at The Standard again. One of their writers claimed that the unemployment rate when Labour took office in 1999 was nearly double what it is now. Of course that is quite wrong. It was 6.8 percent in September 1999 and it is 7.3 percent now. Another writer then said the first had intended that the number of people claiming the unemployment benefit was nearly double. He is right there. But the situation was still not so very different as the total number of people claiming main benefits was higher then but only by 16 percent (yes I know the population has grown). So, as I have said many times before, and as is now accepted in places like the UK, the sickness, invalid, incapacity, disability benefits (call them what you will) are mopping up those who would otherwise be on an unemployment benefit.

Other reasons that fewer people are on benefits than was the case in 1999 may be;

1/ We are coming off a boom and people have greater assets/savings and are not qualifying for the dole, whereas in 1999 we were still recovering from the deep recession of the early nineties.

2/ Equally families and partners are better placed to support unemployed members

3/ Work and Income are being more stringent in their application of eligibility rules

Need anyone to carry your bags?

Ow. What was that. A little twinge of jealousy perhaps? Minister for Social Development, Paula Bennett will spend 5 weeks in the US looking at private sector involvement in welfare. In the states that will no doubt include a fair bit of faith-based as well as corporate activity.

What a great opportunity for her. Now watch for the knockers to roll out with strident admonitions about Paula's visit being precursory to privatisation of the welfare system.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Women's income

The Human Rights Commission has released a report about the status of women's human rights. One of their concerns is that more women live in poverty than men.

Is this a valid 'human rights' issue?

They complain that women have incomes more than one third less than men. But there are good reasons for this.

1/ Many women rely on a partners income, especially when children are young.
2/ Many women choose a benefit over a relationship.
3/ More women than men receive Super alone because women have longer life expectancies and are less likely to have income from investments.

If equal income is a human right then the Commission is going to have to look at disparities between ages, ethnicities, regions, occupations, etc.

And how, anyway, would the gap be closed? I contribute to the imbalance because my income is far below my husbands but that is my choice. And I believe it reflects a happier household than would be the case is I was earning at the same level as he is.

Of course groups like the Human Rights Commission would probably favour greater wealth redistribution by the state, which is essentially taking the product of one person's labour and giving it to someone else. Is that an abuse of their human rights? Don't expect a debate about that any time soon.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Dole down - student allowances up

Unemployment benefit numbers are down. Particularly for young people. The Minister says there is light at the end of the tunnel. Their work schemes - Job Ops and Community Max - have made a difference.

But look at the student allowance numbers;

2005 56,806
2006 59,431
2007 62,479
2008 65,702
2009 82,636

So many more people than usual are either qualifying for a student allowance or many more people than usual are applying. Or both. It would be interesting to see what the numbers are for the Jan - Mar quarter when available. Moving from the dole to a student allowance may be part of the reason for the drop in unemployment benefit numbers.

Children's Day

Honestly. Hrrmmmpphhh. Why do we need a Children's Day and why do we need talking heads like Murray Edridge to inveigle us to spend time with our children and remember how much they mean to us? It's not the touchy-feeliness oozing out. I can suffer that. It is the arrogance that assumes we don't think about how much they mean to us unless he reminds us to.

I remember 2 or 3 days after Robert was born, standing at the kitchen sink weeping. In hindsight it was probably just hormonal. But trying to rationalise my tears at the time, I felt it was because it had suddenly dawned on me that I was in love with this new entity and I would remain so all my life and if anything ever happened to him the pain would be unbearable. Did you know that mothers actually experience a physical reaction when they see their child hurt? Or if he stepped too close to the edge of the wharf for instance I would get this zing, something like hitting a funny bone. Anatomically I think it was in the region of the ovaries (I just had to check with Sam where the ovaries are - at 11 she knows much more about human reproduction than I do). It happens when you see a wound on your child.

My children are always around me. Physically - alot and spiritually - alot. Yesterday Sam and I spent time playing Connect Four and then Mastermind, which is a fantastic game for developing powers of deduction. How to solve using a hypothesis. Later we watched American Idol together. We searched for new music for her to sing going through a pile of sheet music we brought home from the library Friday after she, Robert and I had all been to the hairdressers together. Yes we all share the same hairdresser. A very entertaining hairdresser he is too. I listened while Robert practised his latest piano piece and cursed at him for cursing at the piano. We sit side by side at our computers on and off during the day, pouring scorn on the reaction to the child making a couple of air traffic control transmissions at JFK, obviously supervised by a doting father now suspended. I am closer to my children than my parents were to me. That isn't a criticism of them. They both worked full-time, there were four children and times were just different. Funnily they are closer to their grandchildren than they were their own at the same age. The generational divide isn't there. We all seem to be more grown up somehow.

I worry about what life will be like when they flee the nest. There will be an emptiness but I know I will fill it because there is always so much to do. So much to do that sometimes I feel perhaps I neglect them a tad. But then they are always doing as well. We often tend to be doing alongside each other more than together. That's fine too.

It doesn't need a Children's Day to make me appreciate or agonise over them. That is a daily business. I really don't need to be told how to think and act. So all you do-good dipsticks, keep your sticky beaks in your own business and butt out of mine.