Tuesday, January 21, 2020

'Hand-out' prioritised over 'hand-up'

Trite as they may sometimes sound there is a good deal of wisdom in ancient proverbs:

Give a Man a Fish, and You Feed Him for a Day. Teach a Man To Fish, and You Feed Him for a Lifetime

The following is a quote from the latest MSD Annual Report:

The increase in demand for financial assistance this year has impacted on the time our case managers can spend with clients on proactive employment-focused case management: only 20 percent of engagements with clients in June 2019 had an employment focus, the lowest proportion since 2014.

A significant element in extra financial assistance is Food Grants.

A 72% increase in 2 years.

Regionally, most of the food grant increase is classified as 'other' so one can only assume the applicant has no fixed address. The objection is commonly made that you can't get someone into a job if they have no fixed address. Yet MSD matches thousands of temporary visitors to jobs every year.

Ardern's government has prioritised a hand-out over a hand-up and the 'need' only grows.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Fairness or Freedom?

The Daily Blog links to a column published in the Guardian by Bryce Edwards. It begins:

If New Zealand had a giant monument at the entrance to Auckland or Wellington harbour it would be a “Statue of Equality” not liberty, or so said visiting American political scientist Leslie Lipson who wrote a book about our politics in the 1940s.
New Zealanders have long held dear the notion of fairness, and Lipson’s reflection remains true today. 
And concludes:

 ...if Labour and its coalition partners can keep public debate around traditional egalitarian concerns about inequality, housing, health and education, the New Zealand notion of fairness will probably also ensure her government will get another chance.
Intrigued I had a look at the Lipson book. Some further context:

'Fairness' is of course a highly subjective notion. One man's fairness is the next man's injustice. That's why politicians should not be trusted to deal in it.

Freedom on the other hand restricts the use of force by politicians to impose their particular brand of 'fairness'. I know which I rate more highly.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Dodgy stats

This table is taken from the statistical snapshot that informs the Children's Commissioner widely reported comments about inequity between the Oranga Tamariki's treatment of Maori and non Maori babies pre and post-birth:

Notice that the number of 'Ethinicity [sic] not specified' has climbed significantly since 2004 when they numbered just 3 - or 1.6% of all reports. Last year they numbered 336 - or 21.8% of all reports.

Now, the more babies that are removed from the non-Maori group the greater the gap grows between Maori and non-Maori.

Look at it this way. In 2004 Maori reports made up 53 percent of the total. And in 2019 Maori reports made up ... 53 percent of the total.

I don't think any conclusive claim can be made about Maori versus non-Maori with such a significant non-specified group. For instance, "There were eight times more concerns reported for unborn Māori babies in 2019, as compared with 2004. In that same time, reported concerns for non-Māori increased only 4.5 times."

And it leaves a question mark over the rest of the data pertaining to 0-3 month olds.

Is the removal of Maori babies "racism and bias"?

According to RNZ:
"Māori babies were five times more likely to end up in state care than non-Māori last year and their rate of urgent entries into state care has doubled since 2010, official figures show.
In that same period, 61 Māori babies were ordered into state care before they were born, compared to just 21 non-Māori.
Children's Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft released the statistics this morning as part of a widescale inquiry into the removal of Māori babies, aged up to three months old, by the state.
That age group had been selected because that was where the statistics showed there were problems, and because it was a crucial bonding time for mother and child.
Judge Becroft said the figures raised clear questions about racism and bias within the state care sector.
"I've said previously that it's impossible to factor out the enduring legacy of colonisation... or modern day systemic bias," he said.
"Now that, to some extent, will obviously be at play here as it is across all decision-making and all government departments."
The inequities for Māori had grown over time and continued to worsen, Judge Becroft said."
 Is it not also possible that the high degree of risk-aversion rife through the public service is playing a role? After all the  rate of child abuse and neglect deaths has also been much higher among Maori children.

Previously I have posted the official stats as published by the Family Violence Death Review Committee. The most recent:

If the risk is greater based on factual evidence, and authorities act on that known risk, is that "racism and bias"?

But I also have sympathy for those who are decrying the high rate of removal. Personally nothing riles me more than laws, regulations and processes designed to tackle a small minority of offenders being over-zealously or even universally applied.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Children threatening to report parents

Looking at poll results commissioned by Family First regarding the anti-smacking law a couple of things stood out.
22% of parents with young children said their child had threatened to report them to the authorities if they were smacked
Coincidentally I overheard a conversation between a Maori and Pacific family in a hospital waiting room recently. Grandparents were comparing number of mokopuna. The Maori lady expressed a view that her mokopuna were scared of her because they knew she was tough, whereas they would manipulate their parents by threatening to call the cops if they were smacked.

That may be a good or bad thing. Maybe it serves the purpose of cooling the parent down momentarily. But maybe the better result is that the child stops whatever behaviour is heading for a smack. Whatever the case the children may fear the grandmother more but they also respect her more.

I wonder if children also threaten to call the authorities if they are under the age of 14 and left alone?

Somehow I doubt it.
50% of respondents said that despite the law they would smack their child to correct their behaviour if reasonable to do so.
A law that is so widely disregarded is not good law.

But we seem to have plenty of them.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Fact or fib?

Working through more of MSD's published OIA responses, one topic caught my eye. This'll be interesting I thought. It was. It's one of mine!

It concerns a state-sponsored 'fact' which isn't.

Here's screenshot from a current on-line 'fact sheet' published under the auspices of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group, furnished by information provided by MSD:

If the claim had been,"Over 50% of  children growing up in households receiving a main benefit are Maori," I wouldn't have blinked. But as it stands I am deeply suspicious.

MSD has now published my OIA request for verification of source and their response:

Contained therein:

So where did it come from?

6 months on, no action has been taken to remove this unverified 'fact'.

What the hell. Under this government it will probably become true at some point.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Motel charges premium for emergency housing

At long last MSD has updated OIA requests. Responses up to November 2019 are on-line and always make for interesting reading. For instance payments made to the Olive Tree Motel for emergency housing.

Clients are granted an amount which is paid directly to the motel.

In the June 2019 quarter the motel was receiving $265 per night.

But nightly charges per unit range from $145 to $165 according to their website. Charges reduce for longer stays.

Another request reveals that over 600 accommodation providers  received emergency grants in the June 2019 quarter. How many share a similar premium policy? It's certainly a booming 'industry' with a 49 percent increase in average grant between Sep 17 quarter and June 19 quarter:

I leave the comments to readers.

Saturday, January 04, 2020

My prediction Ardern would increase child poverty

New Year seems to be a time when predictions are checked. In September 2017 I predicted Jacinda Ardern would increase child poverty if she became Prime Minister.

On 7 of 9 measures introduced under the Child Poverty Reduction Act, to June 2018 poverty had increased. That's fairly out-dated data now and not a particularly useful measuring stick.

But also now known is that children in benefit dependent households rose between June 2018 and 2019. From Otago University's Child Poverty Monitor:

It's not a big rise but it's the first in 10 years.

I argued, and still do, that despite studying the child poverty problem as Labour spokesperson for six years, Ardern didn't understand the drivers.

Essentially the more a country chooses to decrease poverty through redistribution, the more joblessness grows.  It is well documented now that despite having low unemployment, numbers on the jobseeker benefit - and more recently the sole parent benefit - have increased. The kind of people who choose not to work when they could, aren't necessarily stupid. But they are quite probably not good money-managers.  For instance, they don't prioritise their children's needs. There is usually wisdom behind old adages. In this case, 'Easy come, easy go.'

I don't know if the Left will ever figure out that state-enforced redistribution to the poor doesn't solve their problems in a meaningful or sustained way. It won't under this leader anyway.

But here's an election year question for you to ponder. If Ardern claims this year that her Families Package has reduced child poverty (BUT more children are in non-working homes) is that a success?

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Stuff and Inequality - only half the story

2020 just hours old and that hoary old chestnut is already rolled out. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer!

From Stuff where only half of the story is ever provided:
Rasbrooke said the data that was available suggested wealth inequality had worsened in the past decade or two..."There are very few demands on wealthy people in New Zealand, no meaningful taxes on their wealth."

From New Zealand's official source on household incomes (my emphasis):

New Zealand does not have a robust time series on wealth inequality, so we do not know if there are any changes in this aspect of household resources.

 Household income inequality in New Zealand is a little above average for OECD countries and wealth inequality is about average

New Zealand’s wealth inequality is about average for the OECD, with the top 10% of households holding around 50% of all household wealth.

As for other OECD countries, household wealth inequality in New Zealand is greater than income inequality. New Zealand ranks in the middle of the table, with around 50% of wealth held by the top 10%, similar to Canada, Norway and France. For the USA, 76% is held by the top 10%.

The Gini measure of inequality is a popular one but, because it uses information on all household incomes, it is susceptible to showing large fluctuations because of sampling issues for very high income households. The report therefore highlights the Gini trend for the lower 99%. There is no evidence of any sustained rising or falling trend in the last 25 years for the lower 99%, using the Gini. 

There is no evidence of any sustained rising or falling trend for BHC [before housing costs] income inequality, with New Zealand levels a little above the OECD average and similar to Australia. The share of total income received by the top 1% has been steady in the 8-9% range since 1990, similar to Finland and Norway, a little lower than Australia, and much lower than the UK (14% in 2015) and the US (20% in 2015).