Saturday, July 07, 2012

Data matching and over-payments - good and bad

The Ministry of Social Development has improved its detection of benefit  over-payments by data matching with Corrections, Housing NZ, IRD, ACC and Internal Affairs. The results:

table IS.3: Data-matching cases completed, and overpayments identified
Financial year1 Number of cases completed Overpayments identified – amount ($)
2006/2007 39,123 19,012,850
2007/2008 67,838 31,316,452
2008/2009 54,582 20,007,833
2009/2010 74,030 27,870,841
2010/2011 106,408 34,293,370
  1. Financial years ended 30 June.
Both a good and a bad result. Good because the over-payments are being identified and bad because there are so many of them. One other positive aspect is that as more over-payments are uncovered the average amount is dropping.

According to the report;

92% of current clients with balances owed are repaying on average $14.32 a week

This repayment applies to all balances owed which might include legitimate advances.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Government-funded lobbyists

The Institute of Economic Affairs has exposed how much British charities receive from government. NCPA summarises:

  • Between 1997 and 2005, the combined income of Britain's charities nearly doubled, from £19.8 billion ($30.85 billion) to £37.9 billion ($59.05 billion).
  • The largest portion of this growth came in the form of grants and contracts from government departments.
  • According to the Centre for Policy Studies, state funding rose by 38 percent in the first years of the 21st century while private donations rose by just 7 percent.
  • About 27,000 charities now receive more than 75 percent of their income from the government.
There is little reason why New Zealand charities, especially those working in the social sphere, would depart from this pattern. think about Barnardos, Salvation Army,  etc and the 2,300 service provider contracts MSD has with NGOs some of whom will also be listed as charities.

The problem with this is

It has been argued that state funding weakens the independence of charities, making them less inclined to criticize government policy. However, this assertion only addresses the surface of the problem. Considered more broadly, this strengthening relationship between government officers and charitable causes threatens to undermine democratic functions themselves.
  • A normal activity for charities (which usually have niche interests) is direct lobbying of politicians and indirect lobbying of the public.
  • While this is not inherently dangerous (lobbying is not a new phenomenon), the true problem comes from the fact that these lobbying efforts are now paid for by the state; in essence, the government is lobbying itself.
  • These relationships with enormous interest groups all-too-often grant public officials substantial influence in the public arena long after they are out of power.
I would add to this that most NZ charities have redistributionist, left-wing philosophies. Just look at a list of lobbyists to the social services select committee. Even churches are now receiving considerable state money through contracts. The social services/activist area is highly incestuous.

The article says, the British government is essentially lobbying itself . Ironically in NZ however, the lobbyists are generally opposing government proposals. Not that government is taking much notice. But it's amusing to think of them funding activists only to disregard their representations.

So what's the solution?

One possible solution to these problems would be for the United Kingdom to adopt the United States' approach, which bars organizations from charitable status if they spend more than an "insubstantial" proportion of their resources on lobbying.
Further, a new classification of non-profit should be created for those organizations that receive substantial assistance from the state to avoid confusion with truly charitable causes.
I am fairly sure neither of these approaches is taken in NZ. According to the Society for the Promotion of Community Standards a review of the Charities Act was due in 2012 but has been deferred to 2015.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Student allowance numbers rise 61 percent in 5 years

Student allowances aren't classified as benefits. A case could be argued why they should be. But they are part of the Education budget, not Social Development and Employment.  As it stands, keeping them separate makes benefit stats look better. If someone moved from the DPB to a Student Allowance they officially stop being a beneficiary and become a student. But they remain the same (or very similar) item of government expenditure.

table SA.2: Types of Student Allowance received
Type of Student Allowance received Students receiving a Student Allowance1
2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
Single – parentally income tested away from home 11,404 12,704 14,031 18,280 21,041
Single – parentally income tested at home 18,851 21,158 23,202 26,872 31,921
Single – not parentally income tested away from home 1,959 1,987 2,110 3,456 3,404
Single – not parentally income tested at home 14,887 14,467 14,845 20,249 24,067
Single – student in independent circumstances 2,187 2,121 2,071 2,205 2,078
Single – student with dependent child(ren) 1,542 1,572 1,583 1,868 2,243
Couple – both students2 1,684 1,622 1,279 1,512 1,647
Couple – student with dependent spouse or partner2 5,638 5,524 5,288 6,497 7,400
Couple – student with earning spouse or partner2 1,307 1,350 1,296 1,699 2,147
Total 59,459 62,505 65,705 82,638 95,948
  1. The number of students recorded as receiving a Student Allowance during years ended 31 December.
  2. Includes couples both with and without children.
The 2010 cost of student allowances was $570 million. Also up 61 percent from 2006 when it was $354 million.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Now for something completely different

My 13 year-old daughter Sam has made the finals of  TV2's Erin Simpson Next Fashion Icon competition.

The best four designers are decided by public vote.

You can view her video clip here and vote if you want too. Just mouse-over the bottom screen and use the arrows to find Sam Mitchell.

Benefits: blackmail money extracted under threat?

The NZ Herald editorialises today about drugs and beneficiaries.

"...using the benefits system as a means of forcing people off drugs and getting their lives back in order has never been considered before."
Let's back up a bit here.

According to the 1965 NZ Yearbook;

Invalids' Benefits-Subject to certain residential and other qualifications, every person of the age of 16 years and upwards who is not qualified to receive an age benefit is entitled to an invalid's benefit if he-
  1. Is totally blind; or
  2. Is permanently incapacitated for work as the result of an accident or by reason of illness or of any congenital defect.
The other qualifications referred to are as follows:
  1. That he has fulfilled certain residential qualifications, these in the main being the same as for superannuation benefits described on page 178.
  2. That incapacity for work was not self-induced or in any way brought about with a view to qualifying for an invalid's benefit.
  3. Applicant must be of good moral character and sober habits.
My next question is, then, wasn't requiring eligible recipients to be "of good moral character and sober habits" also using the benefit system to control how people behaved? Later in the 1960s (judging by Yearbook information) this requirement disappeared. So in effect the door was opened to addicts.

In 1964 the population was 2.4 million and there were 8,000 invalid beneficiaries in total. In 2012 the population is 4.4 million and there are 84,000 invalid beneficiaries, 6,000 of them drug and/or alcohol addicts.

So now the Minister is trying to put the genie back in the bottle but gets told she is doing something unacceptable.

The NZ Herald continues:

Taking money away from them will make no difference because addicts will go to any length to obtain drugs. Indeed, in some cases, they are more likely to be lured into crime or prostitution to feed their addiction.
Sensibly, therefore, the Government plans to exempt drug and alcohol addicts from sanctions for refusing or failing a drug test. It has, however, hinted that such beneficiaries may be forced to get treatment for their addictions. Such a step should be resisted as the policy detail is finalised. In no other area of health is such an approach taken.
For those suffering from a wide range of mental illnesses, for example, collecting a benefit is not contingent on agreeing to treatment. Why, then, stigmatise addicts in this manner? Specialists in drug treatment are adamant that addicts should not, and cannot, be coerced into abstinence.

So there you have it. We have to support people with addictive drug habits lest they threaten us with crime. In a similar way as we have to support people with children lest the little children suffer. So it took me a while but I get to the point of this post.

In some cases paying a benefit is like paying blackmail money. And our acquiescence is wrong.

Paying it will only encourage more extortion.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Better to be addicted

The main message readers can take from this report is that if you are on a benefit and using drugs, better to be addicted and you won't be pestered to find a job. Tell me I'm wrong. Inevitably pressure will go on doctors to certify more cases as addiction.

I wonder if any older readers can remember what happened in the fifties and sixties when Social Welfare operated under legislation that exempted people who caused their own incapacity, and were not of sober, moral character, from receiving benefits?  Did they actually apply the legislation and were the streets full of drug and/or alcohol-addicted derelicts?

CYF notifications for 2010/11

More from the MSD Statistical Report just released.

The next set of figures is interesting and quite misleading unless you read through the text carefully. Since 2007/08 the Police have been required to notify CYF whenever they attend a family violence incident where children are present. Up until 2010/11 the police referrals were combined in general notifications. Last year where they did not require further action they have been listed separately. So what the following chart actually shows is that notifications not requiring further action are increasing.

 table CY.1: Numbers of notifications received and requiring further action
Outcome of initial assessment of notifications received Number of notifications received1,2
2006/2007 2007/2008 2008/2009 2009/2010 2010/2011
Notifications requiring further action 43,845 40,739 49,224 55,494 57,949
Police family violence referrals3 - - - - 57,153
Notifications not requiring further action 28,082 48,722 61,573 69,427 35,645
Total notifications received 71,927 89,461 110,797 124,921 150,747

And what is the ethnic make-up of the children who are subject to these notifications?

Nearly one half of the notifications requiring further action were concerned with Māori children and young people Of the notifications requiring further action between 2008/2009 and 2010/2011: around 46% concerned children and young people identified as Māori 31% concerned children and young people identified as European around 11% concerned children and young people identified as Pacific people.

What type of abuse was found?

 table CY.3: Substantiated findings by type
Type of finding 2006/2007 2007/2008 2008/2009 2009/2010 2010/2011
Number of abuse and neglect findings from investigation of notifications1,2
Emotionally abused 8,256 8,664 10,938 12,535 12,595
Physically abused 2,274 2,321 2,855 2,886 3,225
Sexually abused 1,194 1,003 1,126 1,201 1,505
Neglected 4,486 4,302 4,677 4,403 4,762
Total abuse and neglect findings 16,210 16,290 19,596 21,025 22,087

So how can the picture be summed up? More notifications of which a smaller proportion required further action. However actual substantiations have also increased. So, notwithstanding I haven't accounted for any demographic change, and CYF may be being over-zealous, it looks very much like the overall situation for children is not improving.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Moving from welfare to Super

The latest Statistical Report from MSD has just been released.

I'm reading through it looking for interesting titbits. 

Here's one.

In the financial year to June 2011 there were 48,307 Super grants made. 16 percent were transfers from another benefit. A further 4.6 percent were to people who had been on a benefit within the last 4 years.

One in five. Sort of reminiscent of the one in five on welfare by the end of their birth year...

Truth Column June 22

My Truth column from Friday June 22 is now on-line.

WATCHING Bronwyn Pullar being interviewed on 60 Minutes provided most people their first opportunity to hear her story first-hand, though much had been written and speculated about prior to this.

Pullar presents herself as a ‘whistle-blower’. She’s had a gutsful of ACC and is going public to force change. So far she has succeeded in bringing down the Minister, the CEO, the chairman and other board members. But what does head-rolling actually achieve?


Other Truth columns here

Informed debate or ignorant squabbling?

'Informed debate' is one of those smug phrases used by pseudo academics, students with a smattering of university education who think they are experts, and generally patronising know-it-alls. They  typically call for 'informed debates' until the information disproves their position.

Some comments from The Standard yesterday:

 The average length of the DPB recipient is just 3 years.

I am sure that the average length of the DPB recipient would  best be measured in metres but if he means the average time spent on the DPB, he is wrong.


Of all sole parents who came on to Domestic Purposes Benefit–Sole Parent or the Emergency Maintenance Allowance in the year to June 1996, just over one-quarter received main benefits for less than three years out of the following 10. One in three received main benefits for eight or more years out of the following 10. 

So let's break that down as:

26% under 3 years
41% between 3 and 8 years
33% over 8 years

While I cannot ascertain an average from the data, it isn't three.

Then looking back from December 2005 of the 114,000 on the DPB at that point

 just over half had spent at least 80% of the history period [10 years] supported by main benefits

 Burt numbers on DPB have sky rocketed under National.
up from 80 odd thousand to 115,00 is hypocritical and another broken promise.

At December 2008 there were 100,000 on the DPB; at March 2012 there were 113,000. Not all are single parents but the large majority are. (My guess is the increase would have been worse under Labour but we are dealing with facts here - not supposition.)

 That Māori women feature disproportionately in DPB numbers does not necessarily infer a deliberate choice to be on the benefit. To follow your implication further – while 20-23% of people on the DPB are Māori, 77 – 80% are non-Māori.

43 percent of DPB recipients are Maori (March 2012)


 45 percent of Maori females aged 20-29 rely on welfare (October 2011)

And just because the irony is breathtaking here is a final comment from a defender of the DPB arguing with a  "witless" right-winger (not me):

Facts can’t enter this person’s world-view, and when they do they get rejected in favour of the familiar ol’ security blankie of prejudice.

So I put up some facts and got told to "piss off".

Sunday, July 01, 2012

More on the work-test after one year

Carrying on from yesterday's post about Simon Collins' article which featured a number of talking heads bleating about separating babies and mothers when the baby is 12 months or older. Psycho Milt at No Minister has written an on-the-money post highlighting this drivel.

As I pointed out yesterday, the work requirement may be as little as 15 hours a week. Now it occurs to me that Work and Income already funds mothers on the DPB to put their pre-schoolers into daycare for up to 9 hours a week. That's right. They pay the mothers to look after them as well as paying someone else to look after them.

But surely that practice should stop because it causes the very separation the talking heads are anguishing over. How much support would a campaign along those lines get? Bugger all.

I suspect the only separation that really bothers the types that Collins turned up is when mother has to go to a job she doesn't want. The objection is not about the child's well-being.