Saturday, August 17, 2013

Over-reacting to earthquakes

When did this culture of over-reacting to earthquakes start?

Wellington city went crazy yesterday with people pouring out post-quake despite there being no substantial damage. At the other extreme, the school my teenage daughter attends in the city wouldn't let her leave unless a parent collected her, despite the buses running as normal. At least they were until people started driving into the city to collect those stranded by the cancellation of all train services  (there was no damage to tracks either which surely could have been ascertained fairly quickly).

I left home at 3.20 and eventually met her at Dixon St at 5pm. The roads were grid-locked. It took me back to sitting at lights through many change-phases unable to go anywhere having driven in inner London for 5 years. Streets were awash with people going nowhere, along with the traffic.

Some precaution is reasonable but this over-reaction was nonsensical. The quickest way to get out of a city, if indeed the action is warranted, is not to force thousands to pour in to collect friends and family.

It wouldn't have happened in the past.

(And I see Trentham races have been cancelled today purely as a 'precautionary' measure and wonder about the economic cost.)

To work or not to work - what is the government trying to incentivise?

This is intriguing.

Below are the rates for the Youth Parent Payment:

Sole parent, 16 to 17 years, living with or supported by parents who earn less than the Family Tax Credit threshold
Married, civil union or de facto couple (with children)
Sole parent
Hospital rate

$295.37 is exactly the same as Sole Parent Support.

Regarding the YPP, the Minister asked for an abatement free threshold of $203.15 per week (before tax) here. That was implemented according to the Youth Service website.

But someone on the Sole Parent Support benefit has an abatement free threshold of only $100. According to WINZ:

 You can get up to $5,200 a year (before tax) in additional money (for example from working) before your benefit payment is affected, and $20 more a week if you have childcare costs.

This puts the YPP beneficiary at a distinct financial advantage and I am trying to understand the thinking behind it. Back to the cabinet paper:

I'm just not getting this.

The party you want to work less you allow to earn more and vice versa?

The more I learn about this new benefit, the more it baffles me. The Minister has aligned the abatement threshold with the student allowance. But the threshold applies whether or not the recipient is a student. With only a small in-hand allowance the parent is going to be incentivised to earn. That's good. Let's face it. A lot of these young people aren't interested in tertiary education.

But what happens when they turn 19 or 20? They start losing their benefit. Back to the old problem of 'it's not worth working.' Most will still have children young enough that they won't have to either.

Wouldn't you love to be a fly on the wall during some of the discussions surrounding these reforms?

Once governments begin intervening there is no end to it. And the more they intervene, the more contradictions and inconsistencies abound.

Friday, August 16, 2013

90 percent of teenage parents on welfare haven't met obligations

From August 20, 2012 teenage parents requiring financial assistance were put on the Young Parent Payment (YPP).

At the end of March 2013 there were 1,346 YPP recipients.

56 percent were Maori.

6 percent were male.

87 percent were living in the North Island.

Each YPP recipient has a Youth Service provider who manages their benefit. Up to $50 a week is paid as a personal allowance.  This is a relatively small amount of cash compared to the previous system whereby the beneficiary would receive all of their benefit in cash.

The parent can earn up to $200 weekly without it affecting their benefit however.

As well, they can earn incentive payments to increase their weekly benefit.

For the sake of clarity the following is the OIA information MSD provided:

Parenting incentive payment

A young person can earn the parenting incentive payment after three months of engaging with a service provider if:

- they are receiving the Young Parent Payment
- they have participated in and completed a parenting education programme
- their dependent child/ren are enrolled with a primary health organisation
- their dependent child/ren aged 5 years or under are up-to-date with their Well Child/Tamariki Ora checks
- their child/ren under 5 years attends an approved early childhood education programme or is placed in other suitable childcare while the young person is in education, training, work-based learning or part-time work.
This poses the question, do they need to meet all these requirements to get the incentive payment? Here's the information provided at the youth service website:


You can get a further $10 a week if you meet all your parenting requirements and have regular talks with your Youth Service provider for three months. Once you are getting the extra payments you need to keep up the good work. You will lose the incentive payments if you don’t.
So all requirements must be met. (There are two other distinct incentives as well - Education and Budgeting.)

At the end of March only 139 people on the YPP were receiving incentive payments. One in ten.

Interpreted another way, 90 percent of teenage parents receiving YPP are not meeting basic parenting obligations.

Additionally, I understood these obligations had to be met to avoid sanctions. Here's the youth service advice:


To help you as a parent, you have to complete a parenting course. Your Youth Service provider will find a suitable course for you.
It is important that your child can get medical care when they need it so you have to enrol them at a Primary Health Organisation medical centre or doctor.
You also have to register your child (or children) under five with a Well Child provider, like Plunket, and make sure they have regular check-ups with this provider until they are five years old.
While you are in education, training or doing part time work your child has to go to an early childhood education programme or be in suitable childcare.

What happens if you don’t meet your obligations?

The first and second time you don’t meet your obligations your weekly allowance will be suspended and any extra incentive payments you have earned will be stopped. You have four weeks to put it right. If you still have not done what is required your ongoing access to the Young Parent Payment will be looked at.

Which leads to a further question (as my OIA requests inevitably do). How many people on YPP have been sanctioned?

(If you are wondering why my data is months old, I requested it on 26 April 2013 and finally received a reply on 12 August, 2013).

Thursday, August 15, 2013

DPB and child conduct disorder

MSD has just released research findings into the Incredible Years pilot programme which works with the parents of children with  conduct problems.

The recruited population was not large (166) but it's interesting to note that in regard to parental income, 34 pecrent of the parents/caregivers relied on the domestic purposes benefit.

How does that compare to the general population of parents with dependent children?

The NZ Income Survey showed that in June 2012 there were 585,500 households with dependent children. At the same time, around 100,000 people received income from the DPB. I accept in some cases two recipients could share a household, but roughly speaking 17 percent of parents with dependent children rely on the DPB. Yet of the children with conduct disorder, 34 percent had a parent on the DPB.

Being utterly unscientific one might conclude that children on the DPB are twice as likely to have conduct problems. Doesn't sound unreasonable.

Anyway the good news is the programme made a positive difference for both Maori and non-Maori parents and children.

Turei and Turia on the removal of Maori children by the state

According to the NZ Herald today Metiria Turei and Tariana Turia are back on the old issue of Maori children and Maori responsibility. They want whanau, iwi and hapu to have more input into the decision to remove a child from its home. My instinctive response is whanau, iwi and hapu should have had more input before the removal of the child.

Extra iwi oversight is needed over new, permanent out-of-family placements for Maori children who are three times as likely to be removed from their families as non-Maori, the Green Party says.
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett yesterday unveiled new laws that would prevent some parents from having access to any future children and would see more children permanently taken away from their families.
Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said extra care is needed to ensure Maori children are genuinely better off in the state's care.
Ms Turei's comments echo those of Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia, that the State was too quick to take Maori children away from their families and extended communities.
Ministry of Social Development statistics show about 4000 children - about half of whom are Maori - are in out-of-home placements.
Maori children make up about 25 per cent of the child population in New Zealand, so are three times as likely as non-Maori to be in out of home care, Ms Turei said.
Maori children make-up 21 percent  of the child population actually but in any event the size of the population has nothing to do with the greater likelihood they will be put into out of home care. The reason they are more likely to be removed by the state is that Maori children are more likely to be abused or neglected. There's no other way to cut it.

"Of course, Child Youth and Family must act to protect Maori children, and all Kiwi kids, when they are in danger.
"But given the huge over-representation of Maori children in the state's care, whanau, iwi and hapu must have additional guarantees they'll be involved in any decision to remove a child from their home.
"The prospect of more Maori children being raised in strangers' homes is hugely concerning," she said.
The alternative is perhaps worse?

Ms Turia said she'd recently returned from Australia where politicians there are strongly promoting the adoption of Aboriginal children, resulting in more being removed from their homes.

Frankly I hope we get to that option in this country. Adoption is no cure-all and brings with it a new set of possible problems. But it's still a better idea than leaving a child in a situation of serious risk, or moving them around from placement to placement.

"All the experts here say that by addressing poverty, we'd remove a huge stressor on families that is connected to increased rates of child maltreatment and neglect."

Always back to the collective, political, failed solution.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

New political party

Under Public Notices in today's DomPost the Electoral Commission advised the application  for approval of the logo representing a new political party called THRIVE.

I've just googled them. A techno-based party which, as yet, stands for nothing.

John Minto on child abuse

John Minto says that Labour needs "a kick up the backside" for not pushing the message that poverty is the "key factor" behind child abuse.

He says there are NEVER any excuses for child abuse but there are REASONS behind it.

Unfortunately reasons becomes excuses very easily.

Can I take you back to just a couple of things that people like John Minto ignore.

Child abuse rates are not high amongst all groups with high poverty rates. In fact they are lower amongst poor Asians.

Household incomes of Maori and Pacific families are growing faster than the median, yet the rate of Maori child abuse is not declining.

And there's another thing that leftists frequently claim. That abuse happens right across society. It isn't just the poor. That's another inconsistency then.

But Minto is angry with Labour for understanding the issue better than he does. He writes:

But the most pathetic aspect of the announcement was the reaction of the Labour Party.

Fresh from the 1980s Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Annette King never mentioned poverty or the causes of child abuse. Here’s how she was report by Fairfax:

'Labour’s acting Social Development spokesperson Annette King said all New Zealanders wanted to see child abuse stopped and National’s proposals provided the opportunity to look at the best ways to do that. “Let’s look at the evidence, hear the experts who work in the field, and let the public have their say. We need to hear the evidence and be assured the proposals will work.”

A number of the proposals were “worthwhile”, including legislating to make Government departments accountable for protecting children as well as screening and vetting processes for Government employees working with children.'
Whether or not I agree with Annette it was refreshing to hear a Labour spokesperson not opposing for the sake of it. If Jacinda Ardern had been available she'd have taken Minto's line no doubt. (And where is she by the way? Sidelined on this issue or out of the country?)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Child abuse - casting the net too wide?

When it comes to child abuse substantiations there is no publicly available information about the relationship between the abuser and abused. CYF must have it but don't release it.

I have assumed, possibly wrongly, that most abuse is perpetrated by the caregiver or other family member/friend.

The extent to which 'wider circle' people are involved in the abuse of the child is also unknown. Yet reforms announced today would suggest the bigger circle is a significant problem:

Screening and Vetting
We will introduce minimum standards for screening and vetting of every government worker in the children’s workforce.

This covers the core workforce, e.g. paediatricians, teachers, Child, Youth and Family social workers and children’s counsellors as well as the wider children’s workforce e.g. non-teaching staff, library reading group leaders and Work and Income case managers. All up, it’s more than 370,000 people.

Minimum standards for screening and vetting will identify potential abusers. It will include specific interview techniques, thorough reference and Police record checks as well as the history and behaviour of every one of those individuals. It’ll also mean checking with former employers and wider community members about any concerns relating to children.

This will be mandatory for all government agencies and any government-funded organisations working with children and voluntary for wider community organisations. Agencies will be required to do a thorough risk assessment with periodic reassessments every three years.
This kind of scrutiny is not only time-consuming and expensive, it gets people's backs up. They feel as though they are working in an environment that suspects first, and trusts second. I've undergone police checks in order to volunteer with families. While I didn't particularly object, the ensuing time delay in my getting started (months) could have seen me lose interest or pursue another activity.

 Children’s Workforce Restrictions
In conjunction with the changes outlined to screening and vetting we will introduce restrictions on people who have serious convictions, such as murder, manslaughter, sexual violation, assault on a child and sexual conduct with young people, stopping them entering the children’s workforce. There will be serious consequences if organisations fail to comply with these restrictions.

Not sure manslaughter should be on the list but anyway.... what is "the children's workforce"? Are private tutors, music teachers, gym coaches, nannies, babysitters, hairdressers, casual creche staff, school bus drivers, taxi drivers etc etc part of the "children's workforce"? They are often self-employed.

The other measure that looks unimpressive is:

Child Harm Prevention Orders
There are cases where children have been abused because a dangerous individual got close enough to do so, sometimes literally by moving into their home.

A High Court or District Court will be able to place these new civil orders on adults with a history of serious convictions who pose a high risk of abusing children. This could also include cases where it’s believed the person was responsible for the serious abuse or death of a child on the balance of probabilities. These orders can restrict people from living with children and going to places where children often are – like parks, and working or associating with children.

Like Protection Orders, these may be toothless when it comes to desperate people. Or colluding people. A woman can have a protection order taken against an abusive partner and then conveniently ignore it when the two have kissed and made up...until the next incident. I knew of a couple where the male had an order out against him so he rented a property three doors up. That way he could retain proximity to his son and partner (with her consent) without breaking the law.

BUT there's some good stuff in here too. Breaking down the prior privacy barriers between the main government departments and increasing accountability in the process (stopping buck-passing) is good. Giving the Family Court powers to increase the guardianship rights of adoptive parents is good.

And action rather than lip-service is good.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

More gender inequalities

Statistics NZ has changed the tables that accompany the Household Labour Force .Survey. They've excluded the two that show 'employed' or 'none employed' by household type, (though they will be available after September at another location) and introduced replacement tables that show labour force status by earner, employer, self-employed or unpaid relative assistant. The tables are separated into gender.

This shows some interesting things.

Of employers, 29 percent are female.

Of the unpaid relatives assisting,  64 percent are female.

Of the self-employed, 34 percent are female.

Oh dear. More inequalities.