Saturday, July 19, 2014

Surprising position on privilege for the elderly

Susn St John and Claire Dale, generally known as advocates for the Child Poverty Action Group,  had a piece in yesterday's NZ Herald arguing for more elderly privilege; more taxpayer dollars for certain retirees.

Yes. That's right.

CPAG's usual complaint is that NZ looks after the elderly far better than it does children.
"We could reduce child poverty dramatically if we choose to, just as we have done for elderly people."
And, Susan St John quoting Jonathan Boston:
As Professor Jonathon Boston, co-chair of the NZ Children’s Commissioner’s Expert Advisory Group on Child Poverty says, ‘Why are so few older people materially deprived?  The answer, very simply, is that governments have implemented policies to minimise deprivation among the elderly.’
From the health spokeswoman for CPAG:
We do so much better for the elderly in New Zealand, because - thankfully - we do not discriminate against the elderly with universal superannuation. It is not targeted and is non- judgmental. 
Contrast that to today's complaint against the state's apparently discriminatory position that, "... the Government expects married people to share resources and support each other."

Back to the article:
 Tom has been a good citizen and lived here all his life and expects to get the married rate of New Zealand Superannuation at age 65.
What if Tom had been a bad citizen? Why bring his deserving status into it when usually CPAG rail against that principle:
  "We've got the deserving and the undeserving poor in New Zealand, and that's just not good enough."
I suppose they are at least being consistent in calling for more tax-payer funding to address their latest chosen cause.

Friday, July 18, 2014

A justified use of the word 'misogyny'

Generally I find accusations of 'misogynism'  paranoid, over-reactions.

So when I read this recent  release I went looking:

Keep misogynist messages off our roads

Human Rights Commission urges Kiwis to help keep misogynist messages off our roads

EEO Commissioner Dr Jackie Blue hopes Kiwis will ensure an international rental van company keeps its offensive messages off New Zealand roads.
Wicked Campers Australia was recently forced to remove misogynist, offensive slogans off its vehicles after thousands of complaints.

Here are two of their slogans:

  "In every princess, there's a little slut who wants to try it just once"

 "A wife: an attachment you screw on the bed to get the housework done"

Bad taste, not funny.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Adding children to an existing benefit - numbers rise

Not such good news for National.

In October 2012 a policy to discourage beneficiaries from adding children to an existing benefit was introduced. When a new child turns one, the parent may have work expectations based on the next oldest child's age. The policy was specifically aimed at discouraging the addition of children to an existing benefit to avoid employment.

Data released to me  under the Official Information Act shows that the policy has made no difference.

In fact the number of children under 1 year-old added to an existing benefit has actually increased.

In the six months ending March 31, 2006, 5854 children aged under one were added to a benefit. In the same period prior to March 2014 the number increased to 6634 - a 13% rise.

Half of the caregivers adding children under the age of one were Maori: 26 percent NZ European and 12 percent Pacific Island.

Seventy two percent of the caregivers were 29 years or younger.

Over a quarter of those receiving the Youth Payment/Young Parent Payment added a baby. The majority of newborns were added to Sole Parent Support.

While the policy was well-intentioned it will not work in communities where there are no jobs or where a parent has significant barriers to work eg a criminal history. In these cases children continue to present an opportunity to increase income by an additional $3,328 annually.

This is a really thorny issue.

On one side there's those crying, what will happen to the children if we stop paying?

On the other is the grim reality that meal-ticket children are at-risk children.

When the policy was implemented it was accompanied by free access to long-acting reversible contraception, especially to women on a benefit and their "adult female dependent children".  MSD estimated just under 15,000  in the first group (according to Cabinet papers) and  1,000 in the second "may choose to utilise a long-acting reversible contraceptive."

In 2013 only 215  Special Needs Grants were paid for LARC.

So while the number of teen births is dropping significantly, there is a group of beneficiaries who either don't know about the new policy or are ignoring it.

Ironically these are the very parents hands are wrung over because their children are 'living in poverty'.

I don't have to come up with solutions because I'm not a politician. But capping the benefit (before the reforms) has been tried in the US and it didn't work.

Stopping welfare isn't acceptable with the electorate.

So my best alternative is time-limits. People need to know they have X amount of entitlement and when it's gone, it's gone. They have to make the right choices for their circumstances, and if they don't, they have to live with the consequences.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Coming Apart: Charles Murray

A surprising and positive response to my Listener article came from a local man who is probably politically on the other side of the fence (except for welfare).

He started talking to me about Charles Murray's Coming Apart, published in 2012. I have The Bell Curve and Losing Ground on my bookshelf, but not his latest book.

So I went looking for a review or video...whatever.

What I found was a presentation by Murray, who incidentally moved 'downmarket' so his family would experience real America and real Americans. Now, I'm not a great YouTube watcher and this thing goes for an hour (including questions from the audience at the end).

But I started watching (got past the lame intros) and couldn't stop. He just talks. About why the classes are coming apart.

If there's nothing on the telly I can't recommend this highly enough.

Monday, July 14, 2014

US welfare numbers stayed down

Here's an update on US welfare numbers (as separate from unemployment or disability benefits). Since the welfare reforms, which largely affected single mothers and their children, the numbers have dropped drastically and, despite the GFC, stayed down. Those receiving cash assistance (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) are described below. In 2012 only 28.6% of all the funding went on cash assistance. The rest was spent on supporting people into work, childcare and child protection services.

Cash Assistance Caseload.
A total of 1.8 million families, composed of 4.1 million recipients,
received TANF- or MOE-funded cash in March 2013. The bulk of the “recipients” were children—3.1 million in that month. The cash assistance caseload is very heterogeneous. The type of family historically thought of as the “typical” cash assistance family—one with an unemployed adult recipient—accounted for less than half of all families on the rolls in FY2010. Additionally,
15% of cash assistance families had an employed adult, while almost half of all families had no adult recipient. Child-only families include those with disabled adults receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI), adults who are nonparents (e.g., grandparents, aunts, uncles) caring for children, and families consisting of citizen children and ineligible noncitizen parents.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

'P' babies and meal ticket children

Last week Sean Plunket was discussing the case of the student with overlong hair and what it had cost his school in court.

A principal rang in to make the point that insurance indemnity would have covered the court costs. Whether that holds across schools , I don't know. Frankly the issue bored me.

But the skillful Plunket moved his valuable coal-face witness on to other matters. What are the day-to-day problems his school faces?

Here's what the principal chose to highlight. He said that his school is starting to see the 'P' babies coming through. He said they are like fetal-alcohol syndrome babies but worse.

Which brings me to another article that appeared in this week's Listener. Dame Lesley Max, CE of the Great Potentials Foundation, is interviewed about the state of New Zealand children.

The writer lists the many reports (and book) recently published about child poverty and its effects.

Max is familiar with all of the above and more; she looks around her Penrose office and sighs: "I am submerged in paper." But she argues that much of the bureaucratic hustle around our kids is missing the crucial point. "In all the talk about inequality, I wish people would consider rather more the inequality that results from the huge disparity  of experience in parenting."

What does she mean? "Some children are very much wanted from before their birth. And nurtured and loved and cared for  and watched. And responded to. And they blossom and flourish. "But I hear some stories that you just...". Her voice falters. "It's hard to express how upsetting they are - of children who are not wanted. And they feel that every day of their life. They don't experience loving care, loving touch, they don't experience concern [for their needs]. It's a hot day, do they need some water? Are they too cold are they too hot? That attentiveness that a loving parent demonstrates is something foreign to them. And they lack in every domain."

Max is frustrated that public discussion about this sort of inequality is so often conducted in "fairly abstract language".

"Abstractions don't tell the whole story. They don't tell the story of underweight children sharing a dirty mattress with no food in the house, but a lot of alcohol and drugs. They don't tell the story of chronic neglect."

And it concerns her that the courts and agencies such as CYF, don't always step in when parents are neglectful. She believes that in practice, the threshold for intervention is too low in neglect cases, often due simply to an overloaded system.

"So children who are dirty, whose clothes haven't been washed for Gods knows how long, who smell bad, whose nits are untreated, whose hair is a stranger to shampoo - those situations persist. And there is no mechanism that exists to make parents do anything much about it."

"I can see letters to the editor saying, 'How judgemental!' Max says. "But we cannot continue to ignore what our social workers see. Which is too often, parents whose own need for drugs. for alcohol, for gambling take precedence over their children's needs. Not wants, but needs. It happens . And it's not insignificant,"

On paying parents a higher but tapering  child payment, as suggested by Boston and Chapple, Max believes

... for very many parents, the petering out payment would act as a nudge to get into paid employment. But to others it would act as a prompt to have another child, " to generate income on behalf of the parents."

"I ran that past so many people who work in the field, and they are kinder than  I am, to say, 'Am I right about this?' And they said, 'Absolutely'.