Saturday, December 17, 2011

I'd work at McDonalds over a benefit

Living the Labour ethos of decrying work former MP Georgina Beyer, now on an unemployment benefit says,

"I do draw the line at being a crew member at McDonald's. I'm a little bit past that sort of thing." Ms Beyer admits she has been told to "lower her sights", but says some jobs are off the agenda.

What happened to Georgina the inspirational role model? What sort of message is she now sending to young people?

Me, I'd be taking whatever there was instead of behaving like a sad sack.

And if I was a prospective employer I would be more likely to hire the person who was supporting themselves by any means possible than one who was turning down jobs beneath them to live off a benefit.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Poverty committee and more on work-testing sole parents

I am heartened. Audrey Young writes about how Finance Minister Bill English views the role of the new poverty committee, a concession to the Maori Party:

Asked what measure the committee would adopt for poverty, Mr English said measuring poverty was not a big issue.

"We are not looking at the possibility of large-scale cash injections that are going to move whole groups of people over some measure. That's not the recipe because we don't have the cash to do that."

He believed the public would not tolerate handing more money to low-income families and beneficiaries - or at least not until everything else had been tried.

Good for him.

That's what voters expect from a National government. The opposite of what Labour and the Greens would do. His statement is also a firm rejection of the Maori Party policy of giving the IWTC to beneficiary parents.

Earlier this week I questioned why National wasn't moving people off the DPB and onto the Unemployment Benefit when their youngest child turns 8 - as is the case in Australia. Yesterday the UK's Department of Work and Pensions released a report into how their new regime is working - moving lone parents onto the Jobseeker Allowance when the youngest child turns 7 - and it is fairly positive. A should at least make a submission pointing out this anomaly with the two countries NZ tends to policy-shadow the most.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

UK unemployment

There is an excellent 'interactive' graph here that shows UK unemployment trends from the late 1980s to today.

What stands out is that the recession of the early 90s was a peaked mountain whereas the recession of today is more of a tabletop stretching over two years thus far.

What happened in the 1990s that isn't happening this time?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Paul Blair - this time in court, he loses

Paul Blair, Rotorua beneficiary advocate who has a record of forcing the state to pay more money to beneficiaries and getting funding for himself for 'research', has been given 4 months home detention and 200 hours community service for possessing and selling cannabis.

The sentencing judge said...
... Blair's work over many years as an advocate and spokesman for disadvantaged people in the community and voluntary work at the Community Law Centre was highly commendable.
Highly commendable?

Some excerpts from past posts:

Three Rotorua beneficiaries have forced a law change for single parents with split custody of their children through an out-of-court settlement with the Social Development Ministry.

On October 1, 1991, a law was introduced to stop two parents living apart, but who had split custody of their children, from both getting the Domestic Purposes Benefit.

One was eligible for the sole-parent benefit and all the benefits that went with it, while the other was entitled to the unemployment benefit.

Rotorua beneficiaries advocate and sole parent Paul Blair argued that this was not fair as the parent receiving the DPB was entitled to earn more when working than the parent on the dole.

Parents on the DPB were also entitled to childcare subsidies, a non-recoverable training incentive allowance if attending a course, and did not have to be work-tested.

Rotorua sole parents Leon Broughton, Richard Amoroa and Mr Blair started legal proceedings in the High Court at Rotorua against the chief executive of the ministry more than a year ago.

In the out-of-court settlement, the ministry agreed the second parent in split-custody cases would be entitled to the emergency maintenance allowance, paid at the same rate as the DPB and with similar advantages.

Justice Alan McKenzie ordered the ministry to review the plaintiffs' benefits, pay any arrears, treat all similar cases in the same way and review cases as far back as December 12, 2000.

That was January 2005.

In the interim he applied for Families Commission research funding. It was granted and he went on to produce a report, 'Improving Work Life Balance for Domestic Purposes Beneficiaries Sole Parent Families'.

Anyway the report was signed off (according to Sue Bradford), peer-reviewed, ready for publication and PAID FOR when Mr Blair used an excerpt in a submission (no doubt opposing) the government's (then Labour)social security amendment bill.

Minister David Benson Pope was understandably most unhappy and suddenly the report was returned to the author as a 'final draft' for 'editing'. The report findings?

"It was felt that Work and Income was not forthcoming enough with extra assistance that might alleviate poverty and facilitate genuine personal and family development," the report said.

"On the whole, sole-parent DPB recipients felt that an emphasis on paid employment as the ultimate outcome ignored and devalued the work they were currently engaged in (as parents)."
And just last year I blogged:

Yesterday beneficiary advocate Paul Blair was back in the news claiming the Ministry of Social Development is acting illegally. He is trying to get people who have been relegated from an invalid's benefit to a sickness benefit to come forward and form a body that will take the department to court.
Blair has been happy to use the legal system to his own ends. Ironically this time the state used the legal system for theirs.

I do not relish anybody's prosecution for cannabis dealing but I am not sorry to see his ability to 'advocate' for more welfare somewhat limited in the near future. I suppose though he will be pulling another benefit while confined to home. He thinks the 'system' is against him. I think it is against us. Any which way the contributors lose.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

National's welfare reforms in relation to sole parent work-testing

Now the onslaught of election policy from all parties has died down there is time to look at little more closely at what National is doing with welfare. A couple of things have caught my attention. For instance, parents with a youngest child 14 or older will be moved onto Jobseeker Support (previously Unemployment Benefit) and full-time work-tested. In Australia this happens when the youngest child turns 8. New Zealand has apparently chosen 14 because "children over 14 can be left without parental supervision. "

This poses a problem. Remember the rule for people who add a child to their benefit:

If a person has an additional child while on Sole Parent Support, they will be given an exemption from work testing for 12 months. This aligns with parental leave provisions.

After 12 months work obligations will be reset based on the age of their youngest child when they came on to benefit. For example, a beneficiary with a seven year old, who has another child, will be part-time work tested when their child turns one. A sole parent of a 14 year old who has another child will return to a full-time work expectation after one year.

So the additional child can be left without parental supervision whereas earlier children could not? Yes there may be older siblings available for supervising but that could have been said about any parent with more than one child who will continue to escape fulltime worktesting until the youngest turns 14.

The parental supervision law is an ass anyway ignored by most parents I am sure. But this anomoly will produce a challenge from anti-reformers.

Here is another stat I missed.

There are currently 19,100 people on DPB or Widow's Benefit with children aged 14 or over, or no children. The cost of supporting these people is around $400 million annually.

Not exactly pin money.

Monday, December 12, 2011

CPAG - sloppy finger-pointing as usual

Last week I linked to Karl du Fresne's column about Bryan Bruce's child poverty documentary. The column brought in some responses by way of letters-to-the-editor. Here is one.

OPINION: It wouldn't be possible to write a more inaccurate and polemic piece about child poverty if columnist Karl du Fresne tried. He is wrong on all scores; like the Welfare Working Group, he uses figures falsely and inaccurately, ignores the evidence in the documentary from Sweden because it doesn't suit his argument (a pity when facts get in the way of a story) and displays ignorance and prejudice in big doses.

There's a simple solution for him - he could read the evidence from New Zealand and internationally. But perhaps that is asking too much.


Co-convener, Child Poverty Action Group, Auckland

O'Brien gives no example of how Karl du Fresne or the WGG used figures "falsely and inaccurately".

In fact the only figures in the du Fresne column were these:

New Zealand in 1972 had 26 working people for every beneficiary. Today that ratio is down to 7 to 1 (in fact 3 to 1, if you include superannuitants).

The figures are neither false nor inaccurate.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

52 percent of DPB recipients started there as teenagers?

That according to David Farrar in his most recent NZ Herald column.

The latest research shows that 52% of those currently on the DPB went onto it when they were a teenager.

Now I find this fascinating because I have tried to tease out this number for years. The Ministry has always maintained their records do not allow a definitive answer given they don't track back further than 1996. Then MSD researchers tried matching dependent children's birth dates against the age and benefit status of their mothers but even this wasn't satisfactory because some older children were no longer dependent and the data was still confined to a ten year period. So their best estimate was at least a third. My best estimate is higher. Probably a half. And just the other day I came across this fact from Michael Tanner's, The End Of Welfare;

“…nearly 55 percent of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), Medicaid and food stamp expenditures are attributable to families begun by a teen birth.”

As New Zealand has the second highest teen birth rate only to the US (of developed countries) it stands to reason that a similar figure might apply here.

I've asked David twice for the source of his quote but haven't recived a reply. I note someone in the comments section of his column has also asked, "What research?"

Maybe he has pre-empted the release of new research. I hope so. It was always possible for the Ministry to put together a sampling survey that would provide a fairly accurate answer.

It is anyway a powerful piece of evidence that highlights exactly why welfare reform efforts need to be targeted at the young. Stop incentivising them to become mothers and see where that takes us.