Saturday, September 26, 2015

Inequality may be declining

Thanks to the reader who sent in this very interesting observation from the Economist blog:

ONE of the key aims of taxation and public spending is to redistribute income from rich to poor. The way most statisticians, economists and policymakers think about this is in terms of a cross-sectional snapshot: what the distribution of wealth or income is between different people in a population in a single year. But we might care more about lifetime incomes: in the modern labour market, many people now have very high incomes in certain parts of their lives, and much lower ones at other times.

NZ's Gini coefficient is very similar to the UK's cross sectional so it may very well be similar to their lifetime. I can't think why it wouldn't. In which case inequality may be declining.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Restructuring CYF is not the answer

Watching Paul Henry interview Anne Tolley about the latest CYF report was very dissatisfying. There was no discussion of getting to the real core of the problem. Only the terrible statistical outcome for those children who went into state care in 1991, then a lot of blaming of current hierarchy followed by dogged promises of change.

1/ There will always be children born into circumstances that warrant their removal. But when you pay people to reproduce there will be more.

2/ In the past most of these children were put up for adoption. That outcome wasn't always ideal but it was a better alternative than constant upheaval and removal from one placement to another. Adoption delivered a better result than the philosophy of striving to keep the child with its birth mother or blood family at any cost. Because ultimately the child ends up in state care anyway more damaged than it would have been if adopted out at birth.

A Salvation Army home in the 1950s

3/ Increasingly there are people who want and cannot have children. That's abundantly clear from the burgeoning fertility treatment industry.

I've known a number of people who were adopted out at birth, and have read or heard other people's stories. Most have relished the fact that their adoptive parents raised and loved them as their own and they were provided with stability and security. Some have had emotional and behavioural problems coming to terms with the circumstances of their birth and being 'given up'. One I knew was getting into trouble with the law as a teenage boy; another was getting into trouble with the law because the family he was adopted into had strong gang links. But they were the exceptions.

Compare the now known results of "having a care placement" by age 21:

• Almost 90 per cent were on a benefit;
• More than 25 per cent were on a benefit with a child;
• Almost 80 per cent did not have NCEA Level 2;
• More than 30 per cent had a youth justice referral by the age of 18;
• Almost 20 per cent had had a custodial sentence;
• Almost 40 per cent had a community sentence;
• Overall, six out of every 10 children in care are Maori.

It doesn't matter how CYF is structured or how caregivers are reimbursed or how professionalised social workers are. What matters is reducing the incentives for people to produce children haphazardly, but, if they do, acting swiftly to get those children into a nurturing and stable home.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Report on CYF

This post simply offers some cut and paste excerpts from the preliminary report to the Minister from the "independent expert panel" for those who have neither the time or inclination to read it. I've only selected information (largely statistical) that is new to me.

Although the overall number of children coming to the attention of CYF has been decreasing over the past six years, an increasing proportion of these children are already known to the agency. In 2004, most of the notifications made to CYF were for children not previously known to the agency. In 2014, six out of ten notifications were for children the agency already knew about. Many of these children had extensive history with the agency - on average, these children had engaged with CYF on three previous occasions.

This pattern of increasing repeat notifications is associated with an increasing delay between notification and subsequent intervention. In 2014, children having their first care and protection Family Group Conference had, on average, more than four prior reports of concern and this figure more than doubled between 2000 and 2014.

Child abuse and neglect occurs within families across all parts of the community. However, many of the children and young people who come to the attention of CYF are living in families who are experiencing the combined impacts of long-term unemployment, low income, unaddressed physical and mental health needs, parental alcohol and drug addictions and family violence.

To illustrate, of all children born between 2005 and 2007 who had come to the attention of CYF by age five, 70 per cent were in families where the Police had records of at least one family violence incidence involving the parents in the five years prior to the birth of the child and 37 per cent had a least one parent who had served a criminal sentence over that same period. 40 per cent had a mother who had been receiving a benefit for more than four out of the last five years prior to their birth. 

CYF currently works with about 3,500 caregivers, yet there is no national picture of the needs of our care population, the range and needs of caregivers, what works in their recruitment or retention and what kind of support is needed. There is no overarching, nationally co-ordinated approach to caregiver recruitment and there is an inability to predict and plan for future requirements. 

A high proportion of caregivers are in low income households and 42 per cent of the caregiver population are in receipt of a benefit. The majority of CYF caregivers are middle-aged, but a significant proportion are nearing the age of 60 years or older. This is a concern in that children who have complex and significant needs are being placed in households where resources may already be stretched and the capacity of the caregiver to meet needs may be constrained. 

CYF employs about 3,200 FTEs and relies on social work and social workers as the primary means of service delivery. There is currently fragmentation at a national level in social worker qualification and training, which is reflected in a lack of consistent practice within CYF. There is also a lack of workforce planning and reporting capability within CYF that results in a lack of long term planning to address these issues.

No shortage of marriageable men after all

A most interesting piece from Brookings challenges the traditional idea that there is a shortage of men in the marriage market.

The original definition of marriageability, from sociologist William Julius Wilson, was based on the ratio of employed men to all women of the same age. All women of the right age are assumed, under this definition, to be equally marriageable. But this is an outdated assumption, given cultural, economic, and social changes. A high percentage of women participate in the workforce; many have children from a prior relationship.  

On only one definition of marriageability—Wilson’s original one, comparing employed men to all women—do we find a ‘shortage’ of men so often lamented in the media. On all other measures, there is in fact a surplus

However the surplus disappears for black men and women. (Inter-racial marriage rates in the US are very low - in 2010 only 4.6% of married Black females had a non-black husband).

The writer says the difference is due to lower employment prospects, high rates of incarceration and shorter lives.

Terribly sad state of affairs.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Steve Maharey - still waffling

Ex Social Development Minister and "sociologist" Steve Maharey has a column in today's DomPost titled "Centre-Left needs a new vision".

It opens:

Perhaps the most interesting outcome of the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the British Labour Party will not be his 60 per cent support but the 4.5 per cent support given to the "modernising" candidate Liz Kendall.
The need to "modernise" gripped parties of the centre-Left in the 1970s and 80s in the wake of the neo-liberal revolution led by British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and US Present Ronald Reagan. Welfare states were one by one replaced by the market.
I've heard this assertion from the academic Left before and it flummoxes me.

The welfare state is one where compulsory collective responsibility for social needs - education, health, and income assurance, especially in old-age - dominates.

While governments have pulled out of funding tertiary education to the past extent, in most English-speaking countries (especially the UK) responsibility for health, education and income assurance remains overwhelmingly in state hands.

Even in the United States, where reconfiguration (aka reform) of welfare was greatest, social security spending continues to grow and cause immense concern.

I struggled on with his waffle about how the centre left needs a new vision but am left with a question. How does it create a vision based on lies about the past?

Monday, September 21, 2015

Just not ready yet

The latest 3 News Reid Research poll has found only one in four people want to change the flag.

The process of change is often gradual. At an individual level people try to change something about themselves multiple times before actually succeeding.

Perhaps changing the flag is like trying to get voluntary euthanasia legalised. Parliamentarians failed in 1995; failed again in 2003, though it was a much closer run result. They failed because the weight of public opinion wasn't behind change.  I believe it'll be third time lucky for that particular battle.

And so it may be with the flag.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Disregard for the facts

Over at the Daily Blog Mike Treen has a post entitled "Benefit cuts designed to help cut wages as well." There is a distinct lack of balance and I've left some corrections in a comment (now published).

Treen "The unemployment benefit was cut by 25% for young people, 20% for young sickness beneficiaries, and 17% for solo parents. "

DPB was cut 10.7% with one child; 8.9% with two children. The only sole parents who received a cut of 16.7% were those without dependent children.

Treen "They abolished the family benefit and made many workers ineligible for the unemployment benefit with a stand down period of up to a six months.......Universal entitlements like the family benefit were eliminated so assistance could be targeted to the deserving more accurately."

The universal Family Benefit was abolished but half was reallocated to into Family Support which went to beneficiary families with children. In other words the money was better targeted and made up some of the money lost through cuts to basic rates.

The six month stand down applied to people who had become voluntarily unemployed or had a redundancy payment.

Treen "Unemployment benefits were stopped for 16 and 17 year-olds and the youth rate for 18 & 19 year-olds extended to the age of 25."

The Independent Youth Benefit was created instead.

Source: Social Developments, Tim Garlick, p146,7.