Friday, May 07, 2010

One step forward, five steps back

The Minister for Social Development has just issued a statement about the fall in numbers on the unemployment benefit in April. Rather confusing it is too;

Latest benefit figures out today show Unemployment Benefit numbers have dropped by almost 500 for the month of April...

...Maori account for three quarters of the fall in Unemployment Benefit figures.

Over the last month 4,654 people cancelled the Unemployment Benefit and went into work, 1,346 of those were Maori and 346 were Pacific Island people.

Get that?

In plain English, 4,654 unemployment benefits were cancelled but 4,154 were granted. Maori made up three quarters of the difference.

However there has been an overall rise in working-age beneficiaries from 324,814 to 327,462 or by 2,648. As I said, one step forward, five steps back.

Green MP - blinkers on

Catherine Delahunty had this column published in the DomPost today. It contains the following;

"Most people spend less than one year on any benefit and use that time to rebuild their lives and education."

The MP need only refer to the latest Ministry of Social Development factsheets - available on-line - to find that 69 percent of people reliant on any benefit continuously, are dependent for more than one year; 38 percent for more than 4 years. These percentages however take no account of the fact that many people leave a benefit and then return. The clock starts afresh on their new spell.

The Ministry cannot provide information about how long the average or cumulative stay on a benefit is.

The concern of the Welfare Working Group is breaking the 'cycle of dependency'. Except for Green MPs most people can see that it exists and that it is damaging, to children especially.

The cycle exists recession or not. It is immune to periods of strong economic and low unemployment.

I despair of the Greens and their blinkered attitude to welfare. Some of what Catherine Delahunty says is true. Some beneficiaries work in the community; some are too sick or disabled to work. But to use that to justify crying 'beneficiary bashing' at any suggestion of reform is tired and negligent.

Blancmange and navigators

Yesterday Annette King likened whanau ora to blancmange; when you try to get a grasp of it, it slips through your fingers. When the recipe for whanau ora is considered, that's no surprise;

But what about Labour? It's not as if they weren't just as capable of producing wibbly-wobbly recipes for whanau and hapu outcomes;

And here's another none Maori-specific just for good measure;

How many talking heads does it take to come up with this reverse rocket science?

Speaking of which, who can stand up and take a bow for the breathtakingly clever name for whanau ora providers - navigators?? Then again, it was probably the result of a collective brain-storming session.

"What are we going to call these social workers?"

"We need a name for them?"

"'Course we need a name for them. Otherwise how will we tell the difference between them and all the other social workers?"

"So what do our guys do that is different?

"They find a way."

"Oh, and the other ones don't."

"That's it. So what do you call someone who finds the way?"

"An explorer?"

"Nah. He looks for a way but he might not find it."

"An inventor?"

"Sort of but he makes something rather than finding a way."

"Um. I've got. A navigator. He finds the way. Without the navigator we won't know where we are going and if we don't know where we are going, how will we get there?


"So, er, what's the Maori word for 'navigator' then?"

"I'll google it. Urungi."

"Fantastic. So we will call our social workers 'urungis'."

"No. We can't do that."


"Because it has to be for Pakeha too. And they won't know what urungi means. Like, I didn't know what it meant till I googled it."

"So it has to be navigators. Like Kupe eh. What about whanau ora kupes?"

"Nah. There was only one Kupe. Anyway they called a tug Kupe. We don't want people thinking our social workers are tugs."

"I guess. Navigators it is then."

Thursday, May 06, 2010

More mistakes from the Minister's office

It is good news that the unemployment rate has dropped back to 6 percent.

But who writes the Minister's press releases?

Unemployed Maori make up 13.6 percent and Pacific island people account for 13.3 percent of those who are officially unemployed.

Wrong. 13.6 percent of Maori and 13.3 percent of Pacific people are unemployed - two completely different things.

If the release statement was correct then Maori would be under-represented in the ranks of the unemployed.

Now that would be be very good news.

Update; Cut and paste into the NZ Herald, Unemployed Maori make up 13.6 per cent and Pacific island people account for 13.3 per cent of those who are officially unemployed.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Maori imprisonment rate climbing

Yesterday I posted about the Maori percentage of the prison population remaining at roughly one half since at least 1987. On the face of it this would appear at least better than it continuing to rise. Then it occurred to me (thanks to some prompting) that with a growing prison population, to maintain a 50 percent share the Maori rate of imprisonment would actually have to be increasing. A commentator said;

For what it's worth, not necessarily because Maori are increasing --- both absolutely, and relatively as a proportion of NZ's total population.

The question is: is the increase of prison population as a %age greater than the increase of maori as a %age. I'd guess, actually, that the answer is no.

To do this properly, don't fuck about with ratios and %ages. Get the raw numbers and work from there.

Never one to shirk a challenge I first looked to see if the statistics were already available. A search turned up this chart.

Note that this represents sentenced prisoners only and the population used was 14 and over.

The last prison census conducted was in 2003. There are statistics available for December 2009 which provide total prisoners and ethnicity but not a gender breakdown by ethnicity. Therefore I have made the assumption that 57% of the female prisoners were Maori (consistent with 2003) and removed 281 from the Maori total.

Prison population at December 2009; 8,244

Maori percentage; 50.8 % or 4,188 (- 281 females = 3,907)

Maori male aged 14 and older in 2009; 223,693

Rate per 1,000 17.47

Total prison population at November, 2003; 6,240

Male Maori prison population; 2,913

Maori male aged 14 and older in 2003; 202,506

Rate per 1,000 14.38

The population statistics used are from Statistics NZ estimates.

So the imprisonment rate per 1,000 Maori males has increased from 14.38 in 2003 to 17.47 in 2009. The only weakness in the data is my assumption about the percentage of Maori prisoners who are female.

(And of course whether more prisoners are simply identifying as primarily Maori is another factor I have no information about.)

Norway - not suffering welfare cheats lightly

Norway may be the best place in the world to bring up children but they only pay a single parent benefit for 3 years and they don't suffer fraudsters lightly;

Police in Bergen have arrested a dozen parents of small children in recent weeks, charging them with swindling the state welfare system. Most have fraudulently claimed they were single parents, and thus collected extra child welfare payments.

Parents in Norway are given a generous lump-sum payment when they have a child, and then receive child welfare payments of about NOK 1,000 a month (called barnetrygd) every month until the child is 16, regardless of their household income. Single parents get double the amount, and can be eligible for extra aid as well, sometimes amounting to as much as NOK 15,000 a month (USD 2,500).

Newspaper Bergens Tidende (BT) reported this week that police and officials at state welfare agency NAV received so many tips of suspected fraud that they mounted an offensive called Operation Trygd. Plain-clothed police officers kept several apartments under surveillance, watching the comings and goings of their residents.

And loosely related, here's an Australian welfare cheat who is currently in prison, but wants her 'right' to receive IVF treatments recognised by the court;

Kimberley Castles, who is serving three years in a minimum security jail for welfare fraud, has only seven months left before she turns 46 and becomes ineligible for in vitro fertilisation treatment.

But she has been denied access by prison authorities to receive such treatment, due to concerns other prisoners would become jealous and also want such treatment, making visits to the fertility clinic hard for authorities to co-ordinate.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Any ideas?

A question is exercising me. Maori make up around 50 percent of the prison population. This has been the case since at least 1987 when the Prison Census showed 48 percent of inmates were Maori.

The question occupying me isn't, why is the proportion so high but, why hasn't the proportion gone higher? What has held it at roughly one half?


The rapidly growing representation in crime statistics post-war reflected the rapid urbanisation of Maori. But the young Maori population is still growing faster than the young non-Maori pop (except Pacific).

The fact that the Maori prison percentage hasn't continued to climb must be a good thing so what explains it?

"Tobacco taxes + disarmed shop-owners = an invitation to violence " x 2

This morning PC writes about Tobacco taxes + disarmed shop-owners = an invitation to violence

“Four masked men have robbed a Palmerston North dairy at gunpoint, threatening the owners and an elderly customer….They stole the cash register and a quantity of tobacco before fleeing and eluding a police cordon…
“The Association of Community Retailers (ACR) today linked the robbery with the Government's sudden hike in tobacco tax last week.
"' ‘They don't need to rob a bank for a mere $5000 when it's easier to rob a dairy of double that amount of value in tobacco products,’ said tobacco spokesman Richard Green.”

Here's another just up the line;

Five youths, two aged 17 and three aged 14, burst into the Belt Rd Dairy in New Plymouth about 6.30pm on Sunday and threatened the owner with what appeared to be a pistol...

...New Plymouth CIB Detective Sergeant Greg Gray said the group grabbed a large quantity of cigarettes and tobacco and cash before leaving the shop.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Another way to reduce welfare dependency

When he announced the Future Focus welfare reforms, including work-testing the DPB when youngest child turns six, the Prime Minister suggested a modest reduction of 5,000 DPB recipients going into work. But what we never hear about is preventing or discouraging people from coming into the benefit system in the first place.

What most people don't understand is that the DPB caseload has a very high turnover. Each year there are around 35,000 grants and a similar number of people go off it. In a period when the numbers have been increasing I have used conservative numbers (35,000 in, 34,000 out) and a baseline of 100,000 to model what difference it would make if, as well as getting 5% off the DPB, influx was also reduced by 5%.

The way to stop people coming into the system is to change the incentives. Or more rightly, remove the incentives.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Time's up people

Eating out is something we don't do a lot (unless you count visits to Burger king which is a reasonably regular event in our family). Last night we dined at a Petone restaurant with two couples David works with. It was something of a celebration. About 15 months ago they joined together in business and have done very well in the interim. One couple came over from the Wairarapa for the occasion.

We had a couple of bottles of wine, starters, mains, dessert and coffees. We were seated in a separate area with dimmed lighting. The service was ... unusual. Somewhat brusque.

At around 10.50, when we were the only group left in the annexed area, amiably chatting and laughing but winding up, the lights were abruptly turned up as a clear signal our time was up. Come in group of six.

It wasn't anything I had ever experienced before. It certainly wasn't conducive to securing repeat business, surely the lifeblood of a restaurant, because I won't be returning or recommending the restaurant despite the food being rather good. These days good food is par for the course. Hospitality is, however, even more important. Or am I being an over-demanding customer?

Friendships forged through paintings

Over the years my paintings have led to a number of enduring friendships. I hope this will be one.

My recent exhibition included a portrait of Sir Apirana Ngata.

The phone rang a few days ago and it was Apirana's grand daughter. She had read about the portrait and gone to see it. She was overwhelmed, very emotional but not in an unhappy way. She had sat for some time with the portrait and felt it had an aura. We talked at length, myself also very moved by her reaction to the portrait.

In any event I decided the painting belonged with her and today she arrived to take it home, arms full of baking, flowers, a kete containing a journal about her grandfather and a card. Nothing makes me happier than seeing my work give someone so much happiness.