Saturday, October 13, 2012

Children's Commissioner says sole parents should be working one year after giving birth

 A 'special report' into child poverty ran in the NZ Herald. It looked at the report the Children's Commissioner recently released:

"The group's initial "options paper", on which submissions close next Friday, proposes targets to cut child poverty, a food in schools programme, changes to welfare and housing subsidies, a "warrant of fitness" for rental housing, and passing on child support from absent parents to custodial parents instead of siphoning it off to pay for sole-parent benefits.
On the first key poverty driver, jobs, it suggests a carrot-and-stick mix.
"Carrots" include more flexible childcare subsidies and giving parents priority for job subsidies.
The "stick" is to turn the DPB into a "young child-carer benefit", make sole-parents look for part-time work one year after giving birth, and stop the benefit completely when their youngest child turns 6, "when there would be an expectation of full-time work".
Family tax credits would be raised for young children in the short term. In the long term, the group proposes a universal child payment higher than existing tax credits for the first year after giving birth, then stepping down gradually and becoming a targeted top-up like the current tax credits from age 6.
On the second key driver, disintegrating marriages, Wills says the reforms would reduce the current incentive for young parents to separate so that one can get the DPB.
The universal payment would lift couples' incomes in the first year, and beyond that the proposed DPB-replacement would be much harder to get.
He believes that passing on child support, usually from absent dads to custodial mums, will also encourage dads to take ongoing responsibility for their children."

Now I am sure that report did not recommend making sole parents look for part-time work when their child turns one (which I agree with). The Commissioner, Russell Wills is also sounding sensible here saying the DPB replacement should be much harder to get. But I don't recall that in the report either.

The report says:

"In conjunction with the Child Payment, we propose changes to the benefit system to help more sole-parents  into  employment  when  their  child  starts  school.  The  research  evidence  suggests that between the ages of one to five, part-time work is likely to be beneficial for most children of sole-parents. The benefits are two-fold: high-quality ECE aids child development; and the extra income has positive impacts for the family. We therefore propose that the sole-parent benefit (DPB) be re-named the Young Child Carer Benefit. The Young Child Carer Benefit would end at age six, when there would be an expectation of full-time work, except where the needs and best interests  of  the  child  rule  out  full-time  work  (for  example,  if  the  child  had  a  disability),  or if sustainable full-time employment cannot be found."
That's it.

And the summary of the report doesn't mention a DPB replacement at all.

It appears the Children's Commissioner is improvising and improving the recommendations made.

This news also prompted me to  check the supporting Working Paper, Reforms to the Tax, Benefit and Active Employment System to reduce child poverty.

Here are the recommendations that I believe were played down in the final report:

104.  Work testing from when the youngest child turns one year old is consistent with the current approach to job protection in the parental leave system. Job-protection exists up until age one, where the system then provides a strong signal that it is time for a return (often part-time in actuality) of the parent on leave to work.

105.  The reason for one year of job protection is that: (1) having someone at home with an infant is good for the child, and (2) longer periods out of the labour market are likely to   be   increasingly   damaging   to   the   human   capital   and   positive   work-related behaviours and attitudes of the care-giver, and hence the child. 

106.  The belief that early parental re-attachment to the labour market for sole parents and high quality ECE of children is an integral part of the Nordic welfare systems, and this approach has achieved the lowest levels of child poverty in the OECD. 

107.  When  the  youngest  child  reaches  an  age  where  full-time  parental  work  is  child  age-appropriate,  the  YCCB  could  terminate.  If  the  sole  parent  cannot  obtain  full-time employment  thereafter,  they  will  make  a  transition  to  the  jobseeker  benefit  with  a full-time  work  test.  If  they  have  health  barriers,  a  health-related  benefit  may  be appropriate.

This advice should be taken into account during the debate over the next welfare reforms. The government is currently proposing that the new Sole Parent Support will only be part-time work-tested (10-20 hours per week) when the youngest child turns 5; full-time when they turn 14.

I hope the Office of the Children's Commissioner will be submitting these recommendations.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Mike Tyson

My Truth column today supported the granting of a visa to Mike Tyson. I can't reproduce it yet due to my agreement with the publisher.

But I have had a couple of additional thoughts not expressed in the column.

A number of people have suggested that admitting Tyson into New Zealand is to down-play rape. On Radio Live Rodney Hide asked a caller supporting Tyson if he also condoned rape? He went on to muse about there being no degrees of rape.

More often than not I agree with Rodney but thought this line of questioning was unfortunate. Why? I think of it this way.

Should the same question be put to the women who marry convicted rapists and bear their children? In their act of forgiving and redeeming a convicted rapist, are they apologists for rape?  An ACT conference had one such guest poised to take the  stage some years back. His background mirrored the sort of upbringing Tyson had. His wife was in the audience. I remember her eyes when she turned and looked at audience members. They seemed to say, Give him a chance. Some attendees didn't want to hear from the man. I did. Others did. And Rodney did I believe.

Similarly, consider the bureaucratic argument about assessing the risk Tyson poses. How much risk does the woman who wants to rehabilitate a criminal take? It is her trust that makes him want to stop offending. She trusts him for a lifetime  - not a mere 20 hours.

I'm ashamed and embarrassed of  New Zealand's attitude to Tyson.

Truth column October 5

My Truth October 5 column (reproduced in full because the print version was edited changing some of the sense.) Since I wrote this there have been further developments but my sentiments hold.

I just can't get excited about the Kim Dotcom affair. Which leaves me with a niggling sense of guilt. My inattention and disinterest must surely be quite negligent? And I am usually quick to criticise indifference or apathy as personality traits go. But if I'd got Carry On Kim Dotcom out on DVD I'd have given up well before his attempts at rap had me diving for the remote.

The only actual exposure to the German I've had - speaking that is - left me with the impression of a very good communicator, especially with English as a second language. In fact, he'd leave most New Zealanders for dead. I get what his MegaUpload site is about and can understand his arguments regarding lack of culpability. I appreciate that any ensuing court action and outcome will set important precedents.

It's also comprehensible to me that people are highly agitated about the involvement of New Zealand authorities in illegal surveillance in cahoots with United States authorities (but I'm too lazy to look up the exact monikers for the parties involved.) My interest is slightly piqued when the mention of civil liberties arises. Still....

Here's my problem. It's overblown. The media is milking it dry, as are opposition politicians. This case has become less about injustice and illegal process, and increasingly about the opportunity to damage the government. Opposition MPs  remind me of my Beagle before breakfast, though her drooling is more discreet. Now, as I said, their behaviour may well be justified but their ceaseless clamouring just turns me off.

See, I am even struggling to make up my quota of words this week but Bomber wanted to do Kim Dotcom. Perhaps I should let him borrow some. He'll doubtless have stacks to say.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

83 percent of child abuse and neglect cases are from families on benefit

Thanks to Brendan for alerting me to the fact that 83 percent of child abuse and neglect cases are from families on welfare. That's according to Professor Rhema Vaithianathan interviewed for Radio NZ lunchtime news.

I returned to the study cited this morning to see how that percentage compared to 1994-5. Information held in the CYF computer was compared to that held in the Social Welfare system. A 'match' indicated the subject of the care and protection order had a caregiver with a Social Welfare Number (SWN).

Table 1 Matched Cases Between SWIFT and SWis Systems

Care and Protection
Youth Justice
Match/No Match
Per cent
Per cent
Match, with SWN
Match, but no SWN
No Match

So 82 percent of the Care and protection cases involved a caregiver (usually mother) who had a SWN.

However, "In a substantial minority of these matches, 107 cases (36%) in the care and protection sample and 80 cases (27%) in the youth justice sample, no current income-tested benefit was being paid nor was there a benefit paid over the 1994-95 period."

This would drop the percentage significantly.

So I'm still keen to know what the source is for the Professor's claim. Some questions I think.

UPDATE. I have been in touch with the Professor who has very quickly responded and provided a link to their study. Here is the exact wording:   "Of all children having a finding of maltreatment by age 5, 83% are seen on a benefit before age 2, translating into a
very high “capture” rate."

Useful research for a change

It's pleasing to see some really useful research being undertaken. The NZ Herald article I linked to in earlier post contained the following:
The model was developed by the University of Auckland after assessing 52,000 children born between 2003 and 2006 whose parent or parents were on a benefit, and monitoring them for five years.

The apologists for welfare who refuse to acknowledge a link between long-term benefit dependence and child abuse/neglect will be dismayed to read the above.

A 1996 study revealed that a CYPF Care and Protection notification was 3.8 times more likely to occur when the child lived in a benefit dependent home. I asked MSD if they were going to repeat the research and was told there were no plans to.

But the Auckland University has been working on an exercise that would probably reveal something similar. Will have to investigate.

Big Brother for the bad guys

The development of a database for at-risk children is a good idea....I think. When unsure about something I work it out by writing.

Yes, it's state intrusion. However, the state has a legitimate role in protecting children.

But let me give you a hypothetical case of one child who'll be going on that database (as a result of being present at a domestic dispute the Police were called to). We should be relieved that 'other' people involved in her life will be made aware (IF they use the database) of the potential for exposure to further violence.

But at this stage how many 'other' people would be in her life? A doctor? She wasn't born in the city she now resides so may not be enrolled with a GP. A social worker? Probably because the Police have to notify CYF when a child is at an address where a family violence incidence occurs. But there won't be any teachers. She's too young.

Now, it's the first year of life that is riskiest for babies. Will the new database help? It will apparently put up an alert if a 'high-risk' adult moves into the home. But adults don't necessarily use their real addresses. Especially if they are moving into the home of someone on the DPB. For obvious reasons. (In this case even the baby's father, who has past convictions for violence, isn't registered in the database at the same address. His 'official' address is elsewhere to enable the mother to claim the DPB.)

As it stands the family is on notice that another incident will lead to the (at least temporary) removal of the child. But another incident may be one incident too many. The database can't predict if, when or how severe it will be.

My invented scenario happens all over the country.

Invasion of privacy? If people break laws intended to protect others, and abuse welfare, they give up certain rights. Yes, I imagine some people are going to also abuse the database. We've seen that sort of infringement with police and WINZ databases. Some klutz might even email its contents or part thereof to an unintended recipient!

But, on balance, I can support the database. Don't expect it to be the silver bullet though.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Cut Super to reduce child poverty!

I've been waiting for this suggestion and am only surprised it took so long.

The 'solutions'  to child poverty - and its so-called manifestations like abuse - will cost around $1.5 - 2 billion by the Children's Commissioner calculations.

Where could that kind of money come from?

Raising the Super age to 67.

So says Children's Doctors Patrick Kelly:

"My personal view, and this is my personal view and not the view of the Paediatric Society, is that I would raise the age at which people get national super, because life expectancy has changed hugely since about 1905 when national super was introduced and there are many healthy, active people in their late sixties who ... do not need financial support from the Government.

1898 actually.

I support raising the Super age for the same reason expressed here. But I do not support a massive transfer of the money saved into potty ideas like a universal child benefit, state-funded school lunches, and paying the IWTC to beneficiary parents. That isn't going to stop abuse and neglect. That will only reduce when we stop paying people to have babies they don't want and can't care for.

NZ could use the saved money to pay down some debt and in other ways that would help the economy.

Kelly continues:

"If those who are middle-aged now want to be supported in their old age, they will be voting for a Government that spends money on the children of today."
Not me. That's exactly the government I won't be voting for. The last thing NZ needs to do is grow the welfare state.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Rebutting The Spirit Level

I'm way behind the eight ball here but have intended for ever so long to look up the rebuttal of The Spirit Level, the new bible of the left which purports to show that income inequality is the source of many social ills.  Previously it was sufficient for me to know that the hypothesis was flawed but I hadn't taken the time to read about specifically why.

A post by James Bartholomew prompted me to go looking. In case you are interested, here it  is:

This report shows that The Spirit Level has little claim to validity.  Its evidence is weak, the analysis is superficial and the theory is unsupported.  The book’s growing influence threatens to contaminate an important area of political debate with wonky statistics and spurius correlations.  The case for radical income redistribution is no more compelling now than it was before this book was published.

(There may of course be other rebuttals I'm unaware of).

Quote of the Day

George Osborne, British Chancellor of the Exchequer speaking about limiting the number of children benefits would cover.

"How can we justify that people in work have to weigh up the costs of having another child when those out of work don't?"

Monday, October 08, 2012


Prompted by a Whale Oil post I went looking for the statistical evidence for this claim:

"According to the EPMU, since 2008 nearly 40,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost to the economy."

I checked the 2012 HLFS data here against the 2008 HLFS data here

June 2008 186,300 manufacturing jobs
June 2012  175,100 manufacturing jobs

BUT there were 184,600 in March 2012. Obviously a good deal of fluctuation occurs. Nevertheless the lost jobs as quoted by EPMU will have been counter-balanced by created jobs.

Truth column September 27

My September 27 column is now on-line:

There is no better example of the radical left than Sue Bradford. Last week, she resumed chaining herself to convenient fixtures. This time, a pillar at the Ministry of Social Development’s Auckland office. Her major complaint was against cuts to benefit payments if new obligations aren’t met.


Other Truth columns here