Friday, September 27, 2013

Extending time on benefit by adding children

From the Taylor Fry actuarial report released yesterday here's a couple of interesting graphs. The first shows how many sole parents fall into each group by age of youngest child. Note that the largest group is those who have a youngest child 5 or older and have been on a benefit for more than one year. The smallest group is the same by age of child but have been on welfare for less than a year.
The second graph shows the movement between these groups. Here we can see that 360 people who have been on a  benefit more than a year who had a youngest child aged 5 or older have returned to the group with a youngest child 0-2.  All up, in the year to June 2012, 3240 ( 810 x 4) sole parents returned to the group with children aged 0-2.

That is interesting because the average annual number of  children added to a sole parent benefit during 2006 - 2010 was 4,400.

The difference may be explained by the fact that someone can only return once within two years but could, during that period, have yet another child. 

The new policy that only suspends work obligations for one year when a subsequent child is added (dependent on the age of next oldest child) didn't kick in until October 2012  so it'd be surprising if there has been a big reduction. Especially as the rate of adding children had been increasing.

Never let Labour near welfare again

When he was Minister for Social Development Steve Maharey either said or wrote repeatedly that the average duration on the DPB was 3 and a half years. He was wrong about that. More importantly, he made policy based on incorrect information.

If Labour is re-elected the next Minister will be Sue lets-extend-paid-parental-leave Moroney. Clearly another steeped in hand-out mentality who can't get her facts right.

The current Minister has a better handle on welfare than any previous. She has opened up the books and given data to people who know how to analyse it. She has subsequently targeted reforms at those people who are at greatest risk of being long-term dependent, for their sake and the rest of the country. She can go further but she'll need a mandate.

Whatever else your priorities are, factor in welfare when making a choice next year.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

"Sole parents spend an average 15.8 years on benefit"


After years of trying to tell people that sole parents spend many, many years on benefit I see MSD has just released a statement containing this:

"...sole parents spend an average 15.8 years on benefit with a lifetime cost2 of $234,000."

I have repeatedly talked about Professor Bob Gregory's Australian research which found sole parents spend an average of 12 years on welfare not including benefits they may move to when they no longer had dependent children.

People have derided me for it in public forums. For instance Marilyn Waring sneeringly telling an audience I had included time spent on Super. Time and again politicians, welfare advocates, bloggers etc have sought to convince the population that the average time spent on the DPB is, most commonly, only about 3 years. They look at the available data but don't understand it.

This official finding only covers benefits up to age 65. It backs up what Gregory found. I can think of no reason why Australian and NZ sole parents would be markedly different.

Now I will go and read the latest actuarial valuation report to understand how the calculation was made (if my struggling lap-top can find the resource to open it.) It may not be rock solid. I don't know. But we are getting closer to the truth all the time.

Detained because of your genetic make-up?

Makes a change to read something intellectually stimulating in the press. But it is the ODT:

Research suggested people with genes causing low levels of an enzyme called MAO-A, when combined with a bad childhood, had a ''significantly higher'' rate of ''violent criminality'', he said.
In contrast, those with high levels of MAO-A, even those who experienced bad childhoods, were less prone to violence.
This and other genetic and neuroscientific research had already been used in the Italian justice system and it could be used here in ''two ways''.
It could be used to excuse a defendant of their conduct or ''reduce their culpability'' - for example having murder reduced to manslaughter or being given a lighter sentence.
''I have spoken to one judge fairly recently who said he would have no problem with admitting genetic evidence at [sentencing] if he was convinced it was reliable evidence.''
It could also be used as evidence to keep people in prison for longer, or deny parole, on the basis they were genetically predisposed to reoffend when released.
Prof Gavaghan, the director of the New Zealand Law Foundation Centre for Law and Policy in Emerging Technologies, said this could become more relevant if Justice Minister Judith Collins' Public Safety (Public Protection Orders) Bill passed, which would allow the most serious sexual or violent offenders to be detained after serving their sentence if they were judged to pose an imminent risk of reoffending.
As the science developed, there was a possibility of it being used in more disturbing ways, with The Anatomy of Violence author Adrian Raine raising the possibility of a future where all males at age 18 are given a brain scan - and if they failed they could be ''detained indefinitely''.
The development of science in this field raised ''important'' political questions over the course New Zealand should take, Prof Gavaghan said. He also said that a large proportion of the public would likely support the scenario envisaged by Mr Raine.
''If the public are offered a possibility that they and their children will be safe and the only cost will be a small number of dangerous people will be deprived of their freedom, I don't think politically that's a hard sell at all.''
Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics director Prof Julain Savulescu explored the issue further and also looked into the idea of using drugs to enhance people's morals.
He suggested children with the low MAO-A producing gene could be prioritised by social service agencies, because they were more likely to commit violence if they were not well raised.
He also argued in favour of using drugs to enhance morals in ''targeted ways'', and not just for criminals.
''It is only a matter of time before the human brain can be under our control, as indeed our body is, in terms of physical enhancements,'' Prof Savulescu said.

An individual's freedom could be curtailed based on his or her genetic make-up. That's scary stuff. But early  intervention to decrease negative effects of low MAO-A sounds more reasonable. In fact it probably already happens arbitrarily. Unfortunately the intervention eg removal from a bad home environment, doesn't guarantee a better home environment.

I don't know. This brave new future doesn't hold much appeal for me regardless of the "enhancements" promised. But then I live a  relatively safe and secure middle class existence...

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Weak start for Sue Moroney

A question irrelevant to the subject. I don't know why Bennett can't simply say 'No'.

Benefits—Outstanding Arrest Warrants
7. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Minister for Social Development: How is the Government’s new warrants to arrest policy for those on benefits ensuring a fairer welfare system?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): As part of this Government’s substantial welfare reforms we said we would stop benefits for those who are on the run from the police with an outstanding warrant. Since this policy took effect on 15 July, 311 people have been matched and notification sent. Of these, 161 warrants have been cleared within 6 weeks of operation and 95 people have been sanctioned.
Melissa Lee: What process takes place before reducing or suspending benefit payments where there is an outstanding warrant?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: The new policy means that beneficiaries who have an outstanding warrant to arrest for more than 28 days will receive a letter from Work and Income asking them to clear their warrant or face their benefit payments being stopped or reduced. They get another 10 days to clear it, but if they do not the benefit is stopped. The exception to this is for parents, who, as with all sanctions, never lose more than half of their benefit.
Melissa Lee: How often has the discretion of the Commissioner of Police been applied in highrisk offending cases?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: We did make an exception for the Commissioner of Police to request an immediate benefit suspension for seriously high-risk offenders. To date this has happened in nine cases.
Sue Moroney: Does this policy help anyone on welfare to get a job?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: What this policy does is make it fair, and people who are on the run from the police are held to account. They should not actually be getting taxpayers’ money to be on the run from the police. It is that simple. This policy is about being fair.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Sue Moroney: Point of order. You go. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is a point of order.
Grant Robertson: I think that Sue Moroney and I had the same point of order in mind. That was a very direct question, which the Minister did not answer.
Mr SPEAKER: I invite Sue Moroney to repeat the question, please.
Sue Moroney: To the Minister—another go. Does her policy—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Start the question again.
Sue Moroney: Does her policy help anyone on welfare to get a job?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Well, these people need to clear their warrants to start with, so currently they are actually breaking the law. We thought we might clear up the legal problems they have got and get them to account for that and then we will work on the job.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am sorry to say that that still did not address the question. I presume the answer is no, so we can just move on. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! On this occasion the question was then addressed.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Best movie ever

It just might be. My best movie ever. RUSH.  A review from me would be redundant when Variety says it all.’ve seldom felt more alive in a movie theater than you will experiencing “Rush.”

The rivalry and relationship between Formula One drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauder provides much more than just another movie. Seriously. Don't miss it.

Roger's reforms didn't work

I made a comment to a friend while discussing New Zealand's low wage economy. Roger Douglas' reforms, however well-intentioned, didn't work I said. But they did, she replied. Well yes some of the reforms were successful and have never been undone as a consequence. But what I was thinking about was low wages. A lack of trickle-down. A lack of increased wealth. Then I came across this graph which illustrates what I mean.

The reforms might have worked if they had been left to develop without state interference - bail-outs and excessive welfare for starters.

This conversation came out of one I'd had with a visiting local government candidate who kept telling me we live in a low wage economy. No doubt her solution was a living-wage based on the tenor of her conversation and the colour of her pamphlet. "But while we have a government that subsidises employers to keep wages down, and subsidises landlords to keep rents up, what's the answer?" I asked. She simply repeated back to me ,"We live in a  low wage economy."

Very few people want to stop the hand-outs, whatever form they take. So we are trapped in a complex money go-round with the people on the low wages and benefits no better off since Roger's reforms. The left thinks that the problem is not enough state assistance and too few jobs. In fact there is too much state assistance, creating less productivity, and investment capital tied up in real estate instead of enterprise.