Friday, July 23, 2010

Numbers on benefits up 7 percent

June 2010 benefit statistics have just been released;

At the end of June 2010, 112,000 working-age people (aged 18–64 years) were receiving a Domestic Purposes Benefit . Over the year to June 2010, the number of Domestic Purposes Benefit recipients increased by 7,000, or 7 percent .

At the end of June 2010, 85,000 working-age people (aged 18–64 years) were receiving an Invalid’s Benefit. Over the year to June 2010, the number of Invalid’s Benefit recipients increased by 1,000, or 1 percent.

At the end of June 2010, 58,000 working-age people (aged 18–64 years) were receiving a Sickness Benefit . Over the year to June 2010, the number of Sickness Benefit recipients increased by 4,000, or 8 percent .

At the end of June 2010, 62,000 working-age people (aged 18–64 years) were receiving an Unemployment Benefit . Over the year to June 2010, the number of recipients of an Unemployment Benefit increased by 11,000, or 22 percent .

At the end of June 2010, 333,000 working-age people (aged 18–64 years) were receiving a main benefit . Over the year to June 2010, the number of recipients of a main benefit increased by 23,000, or 7 percent .

The sickness and invalid totals are record June year highs, and the DPB number is the highest since around 1998. As I have said many times before the unemployment number will drop as the recession eases but the numbers on the other benefits will be much slower to reduce, if they reduce at all.

It's not ok to have a baby on a benefit

Media Release


Friday, July 23, 2010

Data released under the Official Information Act shows that by the end of December 2009 14,394 babies born that year were being supported by a main benefit. Welfare commentator Lindsay Mitchell said, "That represents around 23 percent of babies born in New Zealand last year, an increase on 2008 when the percentage was 21% and 2007 when it was 18%."

"The increase partly reflects the recession, with more males appearing as the primary caregiver, but even pre-recession the percentage never dropped below 18. "

"Ministry of Social Development research has shown repeatedly that the younger a child relies on welfare the lower the likelihood of them leaving it. So this recent increase is going to contribute significantly to long-term welfare dependence and long-term child poverty."

"Child poverty, which often leads to poor mental and physical health, and educational under- achievement, is nearly always framed as a problem for government to resolve, usually by increasing benefit payments. But why aren't questions asked about the high number of people having babies with no way of supporting them beyond using somebody else's money? While the unemployment associated with a recession may be beyond the individual's control, starting or adding to a family is not. Successive governments have poured money into changing attitudes towards smoking and domestic violence. Perhaps it is time for a campaign saying, it's not OK to have a baby on a benefit - something the Welfare Working Group could usefully explore."

Additional data;

Of the babies born in 2009 who were reliant on welfare by the end of that year,

*51 percent had a caregiver aged 16-24 years of age
*46 percent had a caregiver of Maori ethnicity; 30 percent had a caregiver of NZ European ethnicity
*82 percent had a female caregiver

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What happened to the 'Death With Dignity' Bill?

After NZ First departed from parliament what happened to Peter Brown's Death With Dignity bill? Isn't it time for another party to draft a bill? Isn't this something ACT could usefully do? (As an aside I had a look at ACT's website to see if such a bill would fit with their philosophy or values and was surprised to find none described. And the 'Liberal' tag now gone, though it may have been gone for a while. But I remember reading about the most recent voluntary euthanasia debate in Rodney's autobiography and he was very sympathetic to the issue.)

Voluntary euthanasia is an issue for everybody and I couldn't agree more with the sentiments expressed by Dr John Pollock.

"I think an individual has the right to choose for himself how his life goes and how it ends. I don't think that it is fair or it is moral for somebody else to suggest that they know better and that they have the right to determine that you may not be helped to die."

...Under the current law, some terminally ill patients were left in the "most appallingly wretched states, sometimes akin to those who died of starvation in Nazi concentration camps", Dr Pollock said. "Ironically if we allowed a cat or a dog or a horse to reach such a condition we would be breaking the law and risking a prison sentence."

"I really do believe strongly that that we ought to have euthanasia and I think it's time to push. I would feel that the last few months of my life were worthwhile if I could stimulate a push to change this cruel law.

"The law won't be changed in time for me and the only way that I can legally end my life before it is due to end is suicide and that's the cruelty of it - not only suicide but suicide alone because if I top myself with my family present then I put them at risk and I think that's hideous. It's very cruel."

He said the law would give terminal patients the comfort of knowing help was available - if they needed it...

"I may not make use of it and that is a very important point to make ... just knowing it's there, just knowing it's a possibility is a huge comfort and relief."

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Another three strikes absurdity

I have a friend whose father had a stroke. It changed his personality. He had been a proud, hard-working, stubborn and conservative man, gruff but good-hearted. After the stroke he would say and do things out-of-character. Come out with overtly racist comments in front of her children who were part-Maori. Other actions she wouldn't speak about. But he passed his days in a home gradually losing touch with reality. His death was, I think, a release for him and the family. I still have fond memories of him from my childhood. We shared a love of country music (an Emmy Lou Harris song was played at his funeral, I think Rose of Cimmaron) and he was more tolerant of me than his own children.

All of this runs through my mind this morning after reading about another 'three striker' being held at Rimutaka while he awaits trial for indecent assault after allegedly, "grabbing the breasts of a fellow resident at a Hutt Valley disabled people's home." He is 69 and suffers from dementia.

The real sadness is there is no-one who will take the man. Not even his family.

The absurdity is that if he re-offends he will end his life in prison. It won't be much use telling this man that if he doesn't want to incur two more strikes he better stop grabbing parts of women's anatomy.

We have an ageing population, life expectancies are increasing and, unfortunately, dementia is on the rise.

Psychiatrist Justin Barry-Walsh, who made submissions opposing the bill on behalf of Australian and New Zealand psychiatrists, said treating mental illness could be more effective at preventing crime than incarceration. "There is a modest but significant relationship between mental disorder and criminal offending. A number of people will be swept up by the legislation who would represent limited risk, at best, to society of serious violence."

(I suppose this produces the scenario whereby the judge exercises his compassion and does not apply the three strikes provision but the question remains over why a process that was purportedly about protecting the public from the very worst violent offenders is capturing seemingly pathetic cases).

Monday, July 19, 2010

National - scrap WFF or endorse Annette King

Simon Collins reports on the Working For Families evaluation which I blogged about Friday:

Labour's $1.5 billion Working for Families package has driven a net 1200 parents out of the paid workforce - achieving the opposite of its aim to "make work pay".

An evaluation by Inland Revenue and Social Development Ministry researchers has found the $60 a week in-work tax credit lured 8100 sole parents into paid work. But 9300 second-earners in two-parent families dropped out of work because higher tax credits let them stay home with the children.

But Labour social development shadow minister Annette King said yesterday the contrasting results were "two good outcomes".

"It enabled people [sole parents] on the benefit to go out and earn more and to reconnect with the workforce because it was worth their while," she said. "And if people [in couples] who were doing part-time work are now able to stay home with their families, that's a win too, because we have two groups that have different needs."

But what about the economy?


Add to that the first "good outcome" has since been cancelled by the recession.

$1.5 billion is being spent to decrease productivity. Another good reason to classify WFF as welfare.

On the positive side, what this report does present is National with an opportunity to do what they should have on entering office. Scrap WFF.

Governments have never been able to 'top-up' wages without it having a negative impact on the labour market.

If National had the gumption and the long-term interests of NZ at heart they would promise to abolish this grand redistribution scheme and make the next election one about socialism versus individual effort and responsibility. Not National socialism versus Labour socialism. Many thousands of people are heartily sick of being denied a real choice.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

MSD anticipating legislative changes?

The 2009 Statistical Report from MSD has just been posted on-line. It covers almost every conceivable statistic relating to benefits up to June 2009. Yes, it is already a year out-of-date. But as I scan through it I find myself getting confused. For instance it says (page 41);

How much additional income could beneficiaries receive before their benefits are affected?

In recent years, all clients receiving benefits could receive up to $80 per week (before tax) in other income before their benefit payments were affected.

This amount was raised to $100 per week (before tax) for clients receiving:
• an Invalid’s Benefit
• a Widow’s Benefit or a Domestic Purposes Benefit – Sole Parent,if they were paying for childcare.

But an increase from $80 to $100 was part of National's 2008 policy reported here on Stuff;

National will also increase the amount of money beneficiaries can earn without losing any of their benefit - from $80 to $100.

And signalled here in March this year at the MSD website;

Sole parents on DPB will be able to earn more before their benefit is affected. The abatement free threshold will increase from $80 to $100 per week and the part-time abatement threshold will increase from $180 to $200 per week.

The same applies to the invalid's benefit;

People on IB who choose to work part-time will be able to earn more before their benefit is affected. The abatement free threshold will increase from $80 to $100 per week and the part-time abatement threshold will increase from $180 to $200 so people can earn more before their benefit is affected. Personal income exemption guidelines have not changed.

These changes were still being submitted on in June, the Select Committee report is due 30 July 2010 and the final legislation hasn't been passed. So have Future Focus reforms already been implemented or has the report been prepared to be read post-legislative change? But it's a 2009 report.

What am I missing here?