Saturday, November 02, 2013

Labour "delutes" pension policy

It was the word "delutes" that caught my attention. Never totally secure about my own vocabulary I did check to see if this was a real word. It isn't. Labour have 'diluted' their pension policy. Vernon Small reports:

Finance spokesman David Parker, a strong advocate of raising the age, downplayed the significance of the policy platform change.
He said it was a high level document and the party's detailed policy would not be known until closer to the 2014 election.
He said "you will have to wait until we release our manifesto" when asked if a rise to 67, or some other age, would be part of Labour's manifesto.
Yesterday former MP Jenny Kirk said all options should be investigated to maintain the current 65 pension age.
Lifting the age to 67 was "an electoral turnoff".
But Parker argued against holding the age at 65, saying it would make his job harder.
He said Labour was always positioned as a tax and spend party by National and as finance spokesman he would have a much tougher job promoting extra spending on Labour policy in health and education if the state pension age did not rise over time.

Parker has my sympathy. Anything that cuts handouts is an "electoral turnoff". What a gutless position. This was the one policy that made me take Labour seriously.

Update: Headline now corrected.

Tribalism: Blood is thicker than water

There's an interesting thread developing between sharihyder and Jigsaw on my post about the Memorandum of Understanding developed between Tainui and MSD.

I used to be in the Jigsaw camp and was totally opposed to tribalism. But my years of volunteering took me into Maori homes and  the philosophical difference between Pakeha and Maori (not withstanding there is plenty of overlap as well) became more obvious. It doesn't require clever language to describe the difference. Maori are bound to their immediate and extended whanau more strongly than Pakeha. There isn't necessarily a choice operating, though it would be ridiculous to describe the bonds as onerous. But there is obligation to the group over self. For Maori blood is thicker than water.

Pakeha have moved increasingly away from that proverb. We tend to choose our networks. Friendships can outweigh family ties, especially to the extended family. Our immediate family - parents siblings brothers and sisters - are hugely important but we still choose to what degree those ties shape our lives. We are the dominant individualist culture - Maori are the minority collectivist culture.

The intermingling of these cultures has not resulted in a diminishing of tribal feeling. Pakeha marriage and nuclear family living seemed to gain favour post war but now Maori marriage rates have dropped off. It recently dawned on me when reading Surviors of Nga Morehau that Maori adopted formal marriage to qualify for the family benefit. Once they didn't need to be officially married to get welfare the marriage rate plummeted

Which brings me to what IS the problem with tribalism. Pakeha made whanau and tribes weak through welfare. They reduced their strength, their capacity to nurture and provide for their own by reducing the need to work the land, the sea or to find other employment.

My philosophy prioritises individual freedom and responsibility and I doubt I could be assimilated into Maori culture. Such an unhappy prospect, probably shared by many readers, should give pause to those who would impose individualism on Maori.

And I also remind myself to live and let live. So have your tribalism but make it a strong institution that is self-sufficient, that prioritises a positive responsibility to each other - not an exploitative burden on each other.

It's not for me to tell Maori how to live. But neither should I be forced to pay for their preferences. That I have been has only weakened this long-standing Maori institution.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Living wage calculation exposed

Back in March I wrote in a Truth column,

The ‘living wage’  idea poses more questions than it answers.
Apparently the proposed non-compulsory hourly wage of $18.40 is based on the needs of a family with two children, with one full-time and one part-time worker.
But someone with dependent children who is earning less than the living wage will almost certainly be receiving  Working For Families assistance.
As well, someone without children might be receiving an accommodation supplement which helps with rent, board or a mortgage.
Because these are income-tested payments, they reduce as the employee’s salary or wage increases.
Under the living wage scenario then, an employer would pay more, but in many cases the worker’s income would remain the same as he progressively loses other government assistance, especially the accommodation supplement.  Who has gained? Neither of them. The gaining party would be the government.

Kiwiblog has just reported on Treasury analysis of the living wage in a post coincidentally titled:

 Living Wage proposal would mainly help the Government, not low income families

 The data fatally undermines the policies being pushed by Labour and Greens. Only 6% of those who earn below the living wage are in the type of family the calculation is based on. Who would you set wages for 94% based on a situation which doesn’t apply to them?

AGCP and MSD at odds?

This is interesting. MSD has just published a report by the Advisory Group on Conduct Problems (a bunch of academics) at its website. MSD has however taken issue with some of it:

Caveat statement

With regard to Chapter 5, the Ministry of Social Development wishes to comment on the current wording in the Adolescent Report that presents the use of the Family Group Conference (FGC) as a practice that addresses conduct problems.
The FGC is a statutory process for making decisions concerning children and young people. It is a participative approach to child protection and youth offending and involves the child / young person, their parents, members of their extended family/ whānau and professionals coming together to develop solutions to specific situations.
The FGC should be seen as a process that enables decision-making on subsequent approaches to respond to the broader needs of a child or young person (including conduct problems).
It is these subsequent approaches that need to be evaluated to measure their effectiveness in changing the behaviour of young people.
Furthermore, the report does not acknowledge that Child, Youth and Family have recently partnered with the University of Canterbury to evaluate FGC practices and outcomes.
The evaluation objectives are to (a) identify the effectiveness of the FGC process for facilitating positive outcomes for children and young people and their whānau, (b) to identify best practice for implementing FGCs, including culturally appropriate practices and (c) further develop the theoretical underpinnings of how the FGC process effects change for children and young people and their whānau.
The University of Canterbury has completed a scoping phase which provides the foundation for the next phase of the evaluation.
You would have to assume some discussion preceded the decision to add this caveat. Some discussion/disagreement that could not be resolved.

Naturally I'd like to read the report but the link (at 12:12pm) doesn't work.

(Post note. Link now up.)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

'Memorandums of Understanding' with Maori

It'd be interesting to know where these  MoUs fit with whanau ora.

Regardless, that Maori are confronting the CYF-related problem by tribe is probably positive. Collectivism is still a way of thinking and living for many Maori. We can rightfully complain when it imposes a burden on those outside of the collective but that doesn't automatically confer a right to demand Maori adopt individualism. If their child abuse and neglect problems can be eased best through the tribal community, all well and good. That the negotiations have been with a National government rather than Labour gives me more cause for optimism.

Child, Youth and Family and Tainui connect

Hon Paula Bennett
Minister for Social Development

Associate Minister of Housing

31 October 2013 Media Statement

Child, Youth and Family and Tainui connect
An agreement between CYF and Tainui marks a new understanding and connection between the two says Social Development Minister Paula Bennett.
The Memorandum of Understanding was signed in Waikato today.
“This is the third agreement to be signed with iwi and is a significant step forward,” says Mrs Bennett.
“A new working relationship will focus on protecting children, using iwi networks to proactively support whānau in need.”
“Too many Māori children are hurt and abused; by openly acknowledging this and working together with iwi we can support these children and their families earlier, and then this MoU will really mean something.”
Child Youth and Family had a staff member seconded to Waikato Tainui for the last twelve months to help pave the way for the new relationship.
Tainui and Child, Youth and Family will work together to put the interests of vulnerable children first.
There are close to 5,000 children in the care of CYF, 441 of those children are affiliated to Waikato Tainui.
Child, Youth and Family has now signed Memorandums of Understanding with Tainui, Ngapuhi and Ngati Porou.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

John Campbell Show can never credibly cover 'bullying' as a subject again

The John Campbell Show made a rare appearance on my TV screen tonight. His hectoring, biased style turned me off long since. But trailers during the TV3 News persuaded me to stay tuned. Another chance wasn't warranted though. His protege went stalking John Palino with some "serious questions, SERIOUS QUESTIONS." One actually. Why had he spent so long in the car with Bevan Chuang? Now, I can imagine many plausible answers to this. Some good, some not so good. But Palino maintains he talked about the threatening texts at her request. He engaged with the shouty she-Campbell to the best of his ability referring her back to a comprehensive statement he'd released earlier and continuing to hold that he didn't know about the Chuang/Brown affair. All the time she over-talked, interrupted, and ear-bashed Palino. He did well to stay as calm as he did.

Then we flick back to the studio where Campbell oh so reasonably and humbly insists that the invitation was open to Mr Palino to go on the show and tell his side of the story. Give me a break. He would have been subjected to even worse thuggery than he met in the carpark.

Again, I'm not holding a candle for either side. As such I am  interested in objective reporting. Once again Campbell illustrates why his show isn't the vehicle for that. It has become an enclave for bully-boys and girls shameless in their efforts to take down their targets.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

CPAG still not owning their errors

A note has been added at the link to the CPAG report I highlighted a couple days back:

Please note: Due to feedback CPAG has become aware that there is an error on page 9 of the report. The relevant paragraphs should read: 

"The percent of distinct clients with substantiated abuse or neglect for each site office from 2008-2012 was averaged and divided by the estimated number of 0-17 year olds in each site office (2012 population)  in order to calculate the proportion of children who were victims of substantiated abuse (see Table 3 in the Appendix).

Figure 3 shows the 10 site offices with the highest proportion of children being victims of substantiated abuse. Even within this small group there is considerable variability with Papakura having the highest percentage of substantiated abuse (4%) and the Far North having a rate slightly over half that (2.2%) (a ranked listing of site offices is at in Table 4 the Appendix)."

The error does not affect the results or the substance of the report. A corrected full version of the report will be available shortly.

Let's recall what the original report said:

"The percent of distinct clients with substantiated abuse or neglect for each site office from 2008-
2012 was averaged and divided by the estimated number of 0-17 year olds in each site office (2012
population) in order to calculate the proportion of children who were victims of substantiated abuse
(see Table 3 in the Appendix).

This figure was multiplied by 100 to give an easy-to-read number. It is therefore important to exercise caution when interpreting the numbers. For example the proportion of 0-17 year olds who were victims of abuse in Papakura was not 4.0% but 0.40 of 1% (my emphasis)
Figure 3 shows the 10 site offices with the highest proportion of children being victims of substantiated abuse. Even within this small group there is considerable variability with Papakura having the highest rates of substantiated abuse (0.040%) and the Far North having a rate slightly over half that (0.022%) (a ranked listing of site offices is at in Table 4 the Appendix)".
Note the middle paragraph was omitted from their correction. That was the section that illustrated their inability to mentally calculate a proportion.

In any case, this correction owns only one of three mistakes I have written to them about.

If the author had acknowledged that the denominator population used to calculate benefit dependence is wrong, then the relationship between the rate of child abuse and benefit dependence - the "substance of the report" -  would change. (I don't have the information yet to show by how much but I'm working on it.)

While CPAG can attempt to minimise their errors in this fashion, they cannot minimise the negative impact on their credibility.

Redundant analysis politically motivated?

The NZ Herald reports:

Children's Commissioner Dr Russell Wills has decided to publish his own annual stocktake of child poverty after the Government spurned his call to publish official measures and targets.
His first annual update will be published in December with analysis by experts at Otago University, edited by a private communications company and totally funded by a $525,000 grant from the philanthropic Wellington-based JR McKenzie Trust.
He said the project would not involve any taxpayers' money and he did not need to get it signed off by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett, who appointed him in 2011 for a five-year term.
There is already lots of data available about children's incomes, living standards, health status etc. There is a constant barrage of stuff from MSD already sifted through by goups like the Salvation Army.

The NZ Child & Youth Epidemiology Service, who will carry out the new analysis, already produce The Children's Social  Health Monitor. There is even the Prime Minister's Ministerial Committee on Poverty.

I'm not sure what the point of spending half a million dollars more on measuring and reporting child poverty is, unless it's political.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Reforms not enough - Minister responds

From time to time Muriel Newman and I collaborate on a theme for her organisation NZCPR. And from time to time the resulting articles make it into the MSM. The NBR has picked up for instance. Last week the Northland Age ran Muriel's piece in which I am also quoted extensively. Together we maintained that the welfare reforms to date still leave a benefit system that incentivises young women to have children and these children are at greater risk of abuse than others.


“In New Zealand children are casually produced because someone else is made to take responsibility for financially providing for them. Their arrival guarantees an ongoing source of cash. It is hardly surprising that those without the financial wherewithal to raise a child also struggle with the emotional requisites.
“What then is being done to reduce the incentives that encourage ill-equipped entry into parenthood? Not enough. A young female (aged 19 plus) can still have a baby and expect government assistance and a home for five uninterrupted years. When the child goes to school she’ll have to look for a part-time job and take one if it materialises. But if she is in a rural area the chances of that occurring are slim. Just as slim are the chances of a full-time job cropping up when her child turns 14. The DPB replacement is still a promise of unearned, long-term income and housing for young females. And males, some who will pose a known risk to non-biological children, will continue to piggyback on it.”

The Minister for Social Development, Paula Bennett responded with a letter:

 Last week’s Northland Age’s column, ‘Incentives need to change,’ by Dr Muriel Newman, provided an interesting perspective on child abuse. But important points were missed about welfare changes which the column dismissed as incentivising abuse.

I have replied with the following:

 The Minister for Social Development, Paula Bennett (For the children, October 24) describes welfare reforms that "are helping parents get into work and provide a better life for their children." The Minister deserves accolades for what she has achieved to date. My position remains however that the reforms have not gone far enough.

At 23 percent, benefit dependency in the Far North District is double the national average. At June 2012 the Far North Territorial Local Authority had 7,800 working-age beneficiaries out of  a 18-64 year-old population of 33,370 (latest Statistics NZ estimate.)  While it is well known the district also features the highest unemployment rate in the country, only 18 percent of those on benefits were on the unemployment benefit. 38 percent - the largest group - were on the DPB.

Even with the new work-test regime,  Sole Parent Support (the DPB replacement) guarantees an ongoing income from the state for those with dependent children. The reality is people can continue to live and raise families in areas where jobs are non-existent. Unless the government compels parents to move where the jobs are (which Labour did with unemployment beneficiaries under Jobs Jolt in the mid-2000s) the long-term and inter-generational welfare dependence will continue. These are the conditions that increase the risk of child maltreatment.

Given the extra discretion case managers now have, there may be an informal policy to do this. But such an approach has not been legislated for.

Readers of this blog will know I have praised National repeatedly for the changes they have made to the welfare system. And I understand that a government can only move incrementally if they are to retain the support which is critical to staying in government. But that doesn't prevent me from taking a critical position about the shortcomings of the reforms.

Wth ACT dead in the water there is no vehicle for and very little publicised opinion about National's shortcomings ACCEPT from the left. The Minister generally ignores that and so she should.

Interestingly her letter is basically an advertisement for the reforms. I could use it myself to explain to people who think welfare is an important issue why they should vote National back in.

But when they get their third term let's hope they give it a bigger and better shake.