Saturday, September 13, 2014

Not the time to change direction

Listening to Hekia Parata yesterday talking about the increasing secondary school achievement of Maori and Pacific Island youth, I wondered how much this is influencing the dropping teen birth rate. Perhaps more than the welfare reforms?

Figure 2: Percentage of school leavers with at least an NCEA Level 2 qualification or equivalent, by ethnic group (2009 to 2013)

Earlier in the week I posted about the halving of 16 and 17 year-old sole parents dependent on welfare since 2008. It's not simply  because they aren't receiving benefits. It's because there are far fewer of them.

I asked Statistics New Zealand for data relating to births to 16 and 17 year-olds which arrived the same day. Good response time.


Interesting (but possibly insignificant) that the birth numbers (very broadly-speaking) decline under National governments and increase under Labour.

What is known is prisons are full of offenders who were born to very young mothers (or are subsequent births to her). They have been neglected or abused, and subsequently spent time in state institutions or foster care growing up. They are on a path to prison from birth.

So the dropping adolescent birth rate will also dovetail well with the working prisons and more rehab services policy, plus Anne Tolley's new approach to gangs. There is every reason to expect a drop in crime and prison populations.

Without getting overly excited  I wonder if, in time, we will be able to look back to 2008 and pinpoint it as the year NZ really began to get breakthrough on inter-generational social problems that have plagued some parts of the country and some parts of society for a very long time.

(After watching Dark Horse last weekend, an insight into gang life in Gisborne which depicted some kids escaping though the reality weighs that many more do not, I want to believe change is afoot.)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Compelling words from MSD Chief Executive

I found the speech from Brendan Boyle, the CE of MSD, at the Ashburton service yesterday, and re-produced at the MSD website, quite compelling.

Here is an excerpt:

Those who do this work also need to be safe.
Their families should not have to fear that they will not return home at the end of the day.
In the days, weeks and years ahead we will continue to think about, and learn what we can from what happened.
I take my responsibility for this seriously.
I will be asking myself, over and over, what more could I have done?
I know others are doing the same thing, and that at times we feel as if we are searching in darkness.
I’ve heard it said that it is better “to light one candle than to curse the darkness”.  We are looking for those points of light, those things we can learn from what has happened. 
Every action we take so that in the future staff will be safer will be a tribute to Leigh, and Peggy, and all victims of this terrible act.
But while we look for lessons, we cannot ignore the darkness.
We must not hesitate to condemn, utterly, the evil that occurred in the Ashburton office that day.
We may in time learn to what extent it was a result of social conditions, or medical issues, or psychological processes, or an act of will, or all of these.
But the victims – those who have died and those who must live with these memories – bear no responsibility for what has happened.
By seeking concrete actions for the future we honour the victims, and we push back against the darkness.
Already, our people are reflecting on what has happened and, putting aside their shock and anger, concentrating on what this means for us and our relationship with clients.
We respect those who need our services.
I see indications that we will be stronger in our expectations of mutual respect.
We will not be less tolerant but we will be more willing clearly to say what cannot be tolerated.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Cunliffe's criticism over-eager

CPAG point out Key's statistical blooper on child poverty last night.

Mr Key said of the 260,000 children defined as in poverty, 11 percent are in working families while 75 percent are in benefit-based families.'

These figures are completely wrong, says CPAG spokesperson Professor Innes Asher. The Ministry of Social Development's Household Incomes Report key findings say:
Poverty rates for children in working families are on average much lower than for those in beneficiary families (11% and 75% respectively), but 2 out of 5 poor children come from families where at least one adult is in full-time work or is self-employed.

Key memorised the numbers accurately but their context incorrectly. An NCEA marker would give him points for being half right.

And Cunliffe milks it...

John Key is so out of touch with the working poor in New Zealand he underestimated the number of children in poverty by more than 70,000, Labour Leader David Cunliffe says.
“During last night’s leader’s debate, John Key said 11 per cent of children in poverty are in working families. However, figures from the Ministry of Social Development show that figure is 38 per cent.
“The National Party Leader has convinced himself that it is mainly beneficiaries who are living in poverty.
“Sadly the reality is that under his Government a new generation of working poor has emerged.

...rather too eagerly

Also according to MSD figures: 2004, of all children identified as poor, around half were from households where at least one adult was in full-time paid employment

-   - in 2007, this proportion had dropped to just over a third
So the "working poor" pre-dates National's most recent term.

The important things to note about children in working families living below the 60% median household threshold (some on a mix of benefit and wages) are these children tend to be in temporary rather than chronic 'poverty', and not experiencing 'deprivation'.

A major National success story

During last night's debate, John Key made a crucial point during the minimum wage brawl. He described how, when they looked at the unemployed aged 30-39, they found X percent (I think he said half - fill in the blank if you remember) had started in the benefit system as teenagers. That is why he doesn't want to see high minimum wages shut teenagers out of the labour market launching them onto a long-term career on the dole.

This has been  a strong focus for National  this term. Keeping young males and females out of the system from the outset. And it relates to some OIA data I received yesterday.

Looking at sole parents (mostly females) I wanted to track the numbers since 2008. But changes to benefit categories make it impossible to quantify with publicly available statistics eg When the DPB was replaced by Sole Parent Support some beneficiaries were transferred onto Jobseeker Support, those with children aged 14 and older.

So I asked MSD how many sole parents were on any benefit in 2008, 2011 and 2014 (June quarter).
Knowing they would provide working age numbers (18-64) I also asked for sole parents aged 16-17.

The results are graphed below. 18-64 year-olds follow an expected pattern - up during the recession. Though it should be noted that today the numbers are lower than after the economic boom period up to 2008.

Most interestingly though, the 16-17 year-old numbers have just plummeted. Across all ethnicities! Exactly what National wanted to achieve. And it's not a the result of more 16-17 young parents being denied assistance. The teenage birth rate is also tracking down quite significantly.

This development cannot be overstated in importance. It means fewer children at risk of ill-health, under achievement, neglect or abuse, disaffection and drop-out, ending up in state care, and ultimately convictions and imprisonment - all most common among children with very young parents.

It represents a break in the inter-generational cycle of social dysfunction. Truly good news.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

"New ACT"

NotPC has blogged about ACT - the ACT Party he always wanted to hear from.

You know, I’ve waited nearly all my life for any party other than Libertarianz to say that, or anything like that.
To say that and actually mean it.
I’ve waited nearly two decades for any other party to say that recognising property rights means the Resource Management Act must go, must be abolished, must be repealed, binned, burned, destroyed. I’ve waited exactly that long for someone, anyone, to recognise that in binning it we don’t need to replace it with more town planning, but with the good old-fashioned protection of common law – protection for property rights and environment combined that has over eight-hundred years of sophistication in dealing with the issues the RMA purports to deal with, but doesn’t.

Later, he calls the party "New ACT."

You know, that's not a bad handle. Shame ACT couldn't have gotten the uniquely creative  John Ansell on board (as risky as he is) to work on it. I never thought a complete name overhaul would do it - The Liberals, The Freedom Party, etc. But this is an efficient modification without the loss of (any positive) brand  continuity.

Shame though.

It's now fully 10 days to polling day.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Listening to The Cauldron: Slater vs Pagani

The topic for discussion was tax cuts. Cam said that half of people already pay no tax (or words to that effect). That tax cuts for them would be 'smoke and mirrors'.

Josie Pagani mounted an absolute denial saying  (from 9.30) that low and middle income people pay more tax than wealthier people relative to their income.

Time to remind ourselves that

...households earning under $60,000 a year – which is half of all households – are expected to pay 11 per cent of income tax. “When we take income support payments into account, as a group they will actually pay no net income tax at all,” Mr English says.

But what about GST?

Any low income household spending half of its income on GST-attracting expenditure pays 7.5 percent of their total income.

Hard to mount a case that 7.5% is  higher than the percentage of their income 'wealthy' households pay in tax.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

"...poverty is significant and growing"

David Farrar blogs about the CPAG protest yesterday and how a National MP was effectively blocked from speaking. He makes the point that these sort of activities only happen when National is government despite the reality of the 'poverty' landscape.


Ten years ago here's what Major Campbell Roberts was telling the Green Party AGM

So the reality is that, although there has been improvement in the economy, actions to address poverty, and organisations like our own spending $70 m a year on services, the number of our fellow New Zealander's facing poverty is significant and is growing.

Under Labour. 

Happy teen father's day - not

There's a sympathy piece on teen dads on Stuff this morning.

Essentially it is a call for more government resources to go into supporting teen fathers.

But two lines stand out to me. First, amongst their 'needs' is,

"...a focused approach to help them adjust to a loss of freedom."

What about a focused approach to help tham avoid a loss of freedom? Educating teens about the loss of freedom should get far more attention prior to the event. It's real.  That's why so many male teens run for the hills.

Though the next truism illustrates how that might be the female's choice.
 "Teen dads can only be as involved as teen mums let them."
The mother has control, and as long as she has custody, she's the one getting the financial support.

The welfare system doesn't encourage teen fathers to be involved except when they take over care of the child themselves as single dads. At March 2013, 77 males were receiving a Young Parenting Payment (latest data from an OIA - MSD site down all of today). There will be more in the 19 year-old group.

But most male teen parents don't form a steady relationship with the mother. In March this year there were 1,359 males under 20 paying child support. They will be paying it for the next 16-18 years. The more they earn, the more they pay. A disincentive. A handicap.

A different kind of lost freedom which can destabilise future relationships.

What's needed is secondary school education about the long-term financial implications of fathering a child whether or not he stays in the picture. I've done my bit with my son but those most likely to become teen dads may not have the advantage of motivated, aware parents. Hence the school system needs to step in.

Sadly there will be hundreds of teen dads who had no idea of the ramifications now saying to themselves, "I wish I'd known..."