Saturday, February 04, 2012

DPB and the exploitation of women

I can't understand why feminists so fiercely defend the DPB.

It is a two-sided coin yet feminists only ever see heads when it's flipped.

While it furnishes some freedom from men who would hurt women, it has increasingly made them more vulnerable to those very same individuals.

Men attach themselves to women who have a certain level of cash security, four walls and a roof over their heads. The logic of that is clear.

But a NZ Herald piece I missed last weekend exposes another way in which men exploit the DPB and the women who rely upon it.

Children's advocate Dame Lesley Max wants more promotion of contraception as a step towards tackling child abuse.
She told a public meeting in Mt Roskill yesterday about a man who came to a parenting class in Papakura saying his goal in life was to have 11 children - even though all his children so far had been taken off him by Child, Youth and Family.
"He doesn't care for them. He can't care for them. He enters relationships with one vulnerable woman after another, and our system enables him to do so."
At last count the man had exceeded his target, fathering at least 12 children with at least three women. Dame Lesley said he was not working. She thought all his ex-partners were on the domestic purposes benefit.
Of course he is not working. Paying child support for 12 children (IF he is the named father) means working makes him no better off. Financially he is better off on a benefit paying the bare minimum. That leaves him broke and he's back to looking for someone else to sponge off.

But who would welcome him? Someone else looking for free money. And his babies guarantee it.

 "My experience, after 20 years of being responsible for a community agency with families facing multiple challenges, is that the planning of families is something that is hardly considered, hardly talked about, and children just happen without intent."

Maybe. Maybe not. While not denying it is a factor, contraception is the wrong primary focus. The attention needs to go on the incentive. The money.

Friday, February 03, 2012

These kids won't be best served by paid workers

The following is copied from the Centre for Independent Studies (Australia) weekly newsletter. No explanation needed.

Hardly fair to vulnerable children
For the last three years, I have been arguing that Australia’s failing child protection system is being run in the interests of social service providers and not ‘at risk’ children.

In the name of ‘family preservation,’ state community service departments are leaving children for far too long with highly dysfunctional families and only remove them as a last resort when they have been damaged, often permanently, by parental neglect and abuse.

While the childhoods and life opportunities of children ebb away into intergenerational disadvantage, social workers employed in the public sector and non-government ‘charitable’ organisations receive taxpayer funding to provide an array of support services that try and fail to do the impossible – fix broken families with serious drug and alcohol, domestic violence, and mental health problems that can’t be fixed.

The Fair Work Australia decision on Wednesday to award ‘equal pay’ to more than 150,000 community sector workers at a cost of $2 billion to taxpayers is indecent in its illustration of the political problems in the child protection system.

Forget that the decision is based on dodgy comparisons – why should someone with a three-year social work degree have income parity with a trained economist or scientist? Sadly, the federal government was not only willing to support the claim but also provided the $2 billion additional funding to foot the higher wage bill at a time of looming economic woes.

Many commentators are justifying the pay rise by saying those who choose to work with the poor are saints. The real question is why is failure being rewarded? Public choice, dear reader. I just wish vulnerable children had a public sector union to advocate on their behalf, replete with tame factional serfs in the Labor caucus.

That feathering their own nests has been the priority at a time when the child protection system is crumbling all around us and stumbling from one crisis to another means that social workers have surrendered any pretensions to their ‘professional’ status.

This sorry episode has reinforced my belief that the answer to the perpetual crisis engulfing child protection is to restore citizen-control over the system by re-establishing decentralised, community-governed child protection agencies.

Dr Jeremy Sammut is a Research Fellow at The Centre for Independent Studies and author of Do Not Damage and Disturb: On Child Protection Failures and the Crisis in Out of Home Care in Australia.  

Maori economic situation worsens

The Briefing to the Incoming Minister of Maori Affairs  contains this statement:

Recent research shows that Māori households spend approximately $5 billion more than they earn annually, and transfer payments to Māori now exceed the tax contribution that Māori make to the economy.

I am unsure whether this indicates overspending regardless of source of income, or that by using the word "earn" paid employment is indicated and  the difference is down to benefits.

Back in 2003 a paper (pg12, table 3) by the Institute of Economic Research showed that Maori were paying slightly more in tax than they received in transfers. Specifically they paid $2.404 in tax and received $2.312 in social benefits. So the situation has worsened. Unfortunately the new "recent" research isn't referenced.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

What our children face

My children were born in 1994 and 1998. They will turn 65 in 2059 and 2063.

Just looking at some tables  (XLS, Figure 14) in the Treasury Briefing to Incoming Finance Minister.

At the moment there are five 15-64 year-olds for each 65+ individual.

By 2061 the ratio falls to only 2.3 15-64 year-olds for each over 65 year-old.

Charter schools - why the fuss?

I am still perplexed about the fuss over charter schools. According to Stuff:

The charter school system would allow private business, religious organisations, iwi, or charities to take over the management of failing schools and retain state funding.

There are already many examples of existing schools that are run by private organisations and government subsidised. Not least are the Exclusive Brethren schools which teach the state curriculum and employ non-Brethren teachers. Their rolls are growing. There are Catholic schools, Kura Kaupapa Maori, and others, all seemingly schools that parents line up to send their children to.

There are also some good state schools, especially those that have a certain character and ethos that staff are committed to.

But there are state schools that are unsuccessful. Personally I believe the home environment dictates a child's willingness to learn and participate and many schools are just up against it. But if an organisation - or just a dedicated inspirational individual -  is willing to try and improve the prospects of those children, why oppose them?

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Jacinda Ardern - nutter

Jacinda Ardern is desperate to get some traction as the new Labour Social Development spokesperson and issues say-nothing press releases in the process. But yesterday's is even worse than saying nothing:

Spokesperson for Social Development

31 January 2012 MEDIA STATEMENT
Statistics can’t hide the truth
With almost twice as many people on the unemployment benefit now as when National first became the government, it is glaringly obvious it has to take a serious look at its policies, Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says.
“Statistics, which should have been released before now, show that as of the end of last month there were 29,456 more Kiwis receiving the unemployment benefit than in December 2008.That’s a 96.5 per cent increase in just three years.
The December quarter benefit factsheets were released "before now" (31 January). They were released last Wednesday, January 25. Which is fairly typical for quarterly statistics, towards the end of the month following end of the quarter. If Ardern had been monitoring the MSD website, her job, she would have noticed them sooner.

On the matter of unemployment the numbers are down. Here is what the fact sheet actually says:

At the end of December 2011, 60,000 working-age people (aged 18–64 years)[1] were receiving an Unemployment Benefit[2].   Over the year to December 2011, the number of recipients of an Unemployment Benefit decreased by 7,000, or 11 percent[3].
Ardern continues:

“The Government has been banging on about a brighter future and more jobs for a while now. The rhetoric is fine, but words without actions are meaningless,” Jacinda Ardern said.
“The figures tell their own story. It’s obvious now why the Minister sat on them for two months to avoid pre-election coverage; they show the Government is failing to stem the tide of jobless.
What? How can the Minister sit on December quarter statistics during November??

And to blatantly ignore the positive unemployment trend and then issue a statement entitled Statistics can’t hide the truth is comedic. Nutter.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Utterly absurd requirement

Just listening to the lunchtime news and I was alerted to the law change that will require trainee drivers to undergo 120 hours of supervised driving before they can sit their restricted licence.


Do you know how many hours one has to fly to sit a private pilot's licence?


And some of those will be solo.

But driving a (probably) automatic car, with a couple of instruments to monitor, in one dimension, with the extra security that if the engine stops you glide to a halt rather than fall out of the sky (sorry, within the 50 hours pilots are taught how to perform an emergency landing in the event of engine failure), not having to communicate orally with other drivers or a control tower simultaneously, monitor weather or track,  can only be taught to licence  standard in 120 hours???

Student allowances hide rate of benefit dependence

The most recent student allowance data available is Jan-June 2011. In that period 82,267 student allowances were paid. In 2007, during the same period, the number was 52,231.
That's an increase of 57.5 percent.

To my mind a student allowance is a form of benefit. But it is not paid out of the Ministry of Social Development budget. It comes out of the Education budget, specifically Tertiary Funding.

One consequence of this is  MSD benefit numbers are held down. People who might otherwise have been on unemployment or domestic purposes benefit are on a student allowance and out of the Social Development Ministry's hair.

But it must put incredible strain on the Education budget as more people opt to stay in tertiary education because their job prospects are poor.

I wonder too if student allowances don't have a negative influence in accustoming people to living at a certain income level, thereby creating a tolerance for benefit-living post tertiary education. In the same way that student loans accustom young people to living in debt.

From the state's viewpoint it is better to have young people in education  and out of the NEET group (which seems to be the overarching focus currently) but there is nevertheless an element of 'sweeping problems under the carpet' in play.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Brain teaser

Here is an interesting coincidence I just came across.

Two numbers from the last Census



They represent two distinct groups of New Zealand residents by birthplace.

Any ideas?

Make fatties the new smokers?

In her Herald column today Deborah Coddington slams the growing tendency for various parties to blame obesity on the food industry. I don't disagree with her. But there is a paragraph that has an implication I don't like:

Every day, in every town and city, we all see fat people waddling along, heaving themselves into planes and cars, but are we allowed to comment on this, the way we were encouraged to shame smokers into quitting (who also cost taxpayers dearly in terms of the public health bill)?
Putting aside that smokers pay for their health needs via taxes on tobacco, and fat people who getting themselves around in planes and cars are also paying taxes, and that smokers and fatties will pop their clogs early and not draw on the largest publicly-funded transfer - Super - do we really want to see fat people 'shamed'?

Why? Does it make us feel better when we can point out someone else's very overt weakness while conveniently ignoring our own hidden ones? Is it a collective bullying impulse that needs to be satisfied at a more 'civil' level?

The thought of shaming fat people depresses the hell out of me. And I'm not fat. So how the prospect appeals to a fat person, lord only knows.  But is hardly surprising there is so much psychological ill-health associated with obesity (which by the way manifests in the taxpayer picking up a benefit tab).

There are only two healthy ways to approach the problem of overweight people. Leave them alone. They are allowed their choices too. They own their own bodies after all. And from a government point of view they probably appear in the nett contributor ledger over their lifetimes.

Or overhaul the way people fund their lifetime needs. Institute individualised savings accounts so that incurred health costs are borne by the person that caused them.

Then all the thin people can stop feeling aggrieved and resentful. Quite why they are I am still not sure. It isn't the fat people who go around saying it isn't their fault they are fat. It is the people who make their livings off studying them.

Deborah has identified the right target for our scorn.