Friday, July 03, 2020

Highest dole number ever

There are now over 200,000 people on the Jobseeker/Covid relief payment. In absolute terms, a historical high.

In June 2010 there were 62,085 - the peak after the GFC

In June 1992 there were 170,367 - the peak after early 1990s recession

The last number represented 6.6% of the working-age population compared to 6.3% currently

(There may have been a higher quarterly number during 1992/93 but I've used June as the reference month.)

Now, there is another caveat. During the welfare reforms the Sickness Benefit was folded into the Jobseeker Benefit. Adjusting for that:

In June 2010 the combined total would be 120,550
In June 1992 the combined total would be 190,514

Lastly, today's Jobseeker also includes some sole parents with children older than 14 but I do not have sufficient information to make that adjustment.

As David Seymour pointed out today, it is a bleak milestone to pass.

"Babies lives matter"

How often is this 'lives matter' phrase going to be conveniently co-opted?

The latest version is from a group called Wahine Maori, a collection of high profile Maori women who continue to call for the resignation of the head of Oranga Tamariki and the Children's minister.

Seems Newshub is doing a hatchet job on Grainne Moss with lengthy investigations into her background and suitability to head up OT; complaints from current and former CYF/OT workers about the workplace culture, "bullying"  and fudging of stats. That is not an exhaustive list.

I am in no position to know the truth. Indeed individuals have their own 'truth'.

I don't implicitly trust journalists. Neither do I automatically trust  civil servants.

Perhaps the ongoing conflict is best summed up by these two views.

Head of OT responding to the Children's Commissioner investigation into the uplift of Maori babies:

“...although the role of the Children’s Commissioner is to support and advocate for the welfare of children, the report has focused on the experience of their mothers, and remains silent on the interest of their babies”.

And then, Mere Mangu, the CEO of the largest Iwi in Aotearoa, in an affidavit filed in the Waitangi Tribunal stated: “To me this statement demonstrates a very profound misunderstanding of our Tikanga and of the role of wāhine as mothers. It is of great offence to us that pēpi can be taken from their mothers in such callous, brutal and inhumane ways, let alone taken at all. In our tikanga, one cannot separate the interests of pēpi from the interests of their mothers. They share a sacred bond, which should not be so readily interfered with. They are intertwined biologically, spiritually, and by whakapapa.”

I wonder how long this standoff can continue?

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Support for Greens wealth grab contorted

From this morning's DomPost, here's the manager of the Auckland's Women's Centre supporting the Greens 'wealth reduction to increase welfare' policy:

If the Government is trying to break up relationships and keep us single, isolated and lonely, it could hardly have designed a more effective social security system than the current one.
If you lose your job and have a partner in paid full-time work, your Jobseeker entitlement is kore, zero, zilch, zip. Nothing. You and your partner are both supposed to be able to live on one wage, even if it’s the minimum wage.
The income support available for people in relationships is even worse than the dire levels the Government imposes on single people. If you have kids, you may get family tax credits, and if you’re “lucky” (i.e. without savings but still paying high rent), you may get some help with housing costs, but only if you meet strict criteria.
At the end of May there were 344,000 accommodation supplements being paid. Traditionally about 80% go to beneficiaries. Contrary to the writer's implication, most people on benefits get help with housing costs.

Here at Auckland Women’s Centre, we know of couples who can’t afford to keep living together so separate. Thus in one fell swoop, the Government causes heartbreak and worsens the housing crisis.Meanwhile, many sole parents (mostly women) are forced to forego the potential loving support of a partner, or risk not meeting their children’s basic needs...
 It is time to scrap this unfair policy that was designed over 80 years ago. The Greens' new income support policy would do that, and I hope we’ll see other parties also addressing this important issue in their announcements to come.
The Greens new policy will increase support for a sole parent by $110 a week and substantially increase child tax credits. That will incentivise couples to split up and single parents to stay single.
The right to individual entitlement is about women’s right to be financially independent. 
Reliance on the taxpayer is not financial independence.

There's a lot more bollocks about the "patriarchal society where economic scales are already tipped in favour of men", "the law doesn’t know anything about feminism", and "systems beyond the control of individuals: colonisation, structural racism and migrant worker exploitation."

Still it's not really her fault. You can't get through a degree in social work or social policy without being brain-numbed by this bullshit.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Stepfamily report gets a solid hearing

Peter Williams on Magic Talk picked up on my report and read it. Invited onto his programme at 9.30  this morning, I listened from the top of the hour  wondering what there would be left for me to say! He quoted from it extensively and I am eternally grateful to him. The calls started immediately and never let up through to noon.

Many people had a story and they didn't whitewash it. The family complexity outlined in the report was mirrored in the myriad of circumstances related. The caller just before me "personified the research findings" (as I pointed out) having traveled through step relationships from childhood to parenthood. Now on his own second go at parenthood, but with animosities with the ex (and ex's new useless partner) ongoing and various children suffering from these.

From being children of failed relationships to being being parents in failed relationships; the inter-generational link was very evident.

A single parent who had consciously decided to not repartner due to the difficulties she foresaw.

A grandparent raising grandchildren due to her own child's two failed  relationships.

A Maori kuia explaining whananga, trying to teach the young people ("we don't have a word 'step'") while giving unconditional love regardless of their mistakes.

A brief debate between callers about degenerating morality which gave pause for thought. Procreative morality has certainly slipped in respect of some fathers feeling no sense of responsibility for their offspring, especially on the back of Labour welfare reforms whereby mothers on a benefit no longer have to name them. Whereas other moral spheres have probably improved eg intolerance to domestic violence.

A wicked stepmother story featuring an ageing high profile father remarrying a much younger women who was determinedly keeping the father away from his sons and grandchildren, and succeeding for years.

A stepfather who had taken on two children who was being sued by the biological father because the stepfather wasn't giving him access - surprisingly, quite justifiably. Just so many convoluted scenarios.

But a general sense emerged that  greater commitment to their relationship was needed between couples. For their children's sake if not for their own. One woman said, "Fight it out, talk it out or cry it out." But make the relationship bigger and more important than the problem at hand.

Another said occasionally she loathed the sight of her husband but she understood that happiness comes in waves. It isn't there constantly. He held on to her when she was about to let go and vice versa.

My own oral contribution wasn't the catalyst. I'm a better writer than verbal communicator.

But it was massively rewarding just to get people talking publicly, sharing their experiences and most importantly, what they learned from them.

Someone will have connected with someone this morning and maybe somewhere a penny dropped.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

New report says NZ needs better data on stepfamilies

Many children’s lives today are marked by family turmoil. They live with parents who experience multiple relationship transitions leading to fractured family and friend networks, changes of neighbourhoods and schools. These children live with loss and torn loyalties which may affect them into adulthood. Yet, surprisingly little is known about the nature and parameters of the problem in New Zealand.

The Challenges Facing Children in Stepfamilies: What we know, don't know, and how to fill the gaps - a new report from Family First - gathers together local and international research into the experiences and outcomes for children in stepfamilies. The greater the number of transitions experienced, the worse the child outcomes tend to be. These include greater risks of poor educational achievement, poverty, behavioural problems, anxiety, early exit from home, poor adult relationships and incarceration.

Whereas early last century stepfamilies generally formed through remarriage after the death of a spouse, today de facto or marriage dissolution, or an early unintended birth to a single mother and later partnering, are more likely pathways. Rates of multi partner fertility (MPF) – men and women having children with more than one partner - are increasing internationally.

Report author Lindsay Mitchell was however frustrated at the lack of New Zealand data. "Unlike other English-speaking nations New Zealand does not collect information about stepfamilies in the national Census. Surveys and longitudinal studies provide some data but that is comparatively sketchy and dated.  Growing Up in New Zealand data shows that 17 percent of mothers experience 1-4 relationship transitions between pregnancy and when their child is 4.5 years. But this is an under-count due to sample attrition and methodology shortcomings."

To this end the paper makes four recommendations about how to collect better data using existing surveys and longitudinal studies in order to substantially improve our knowledge.

"We hope that a Prime Minister and government that have prioritised making New Zealand the 'best place in the world to raise children' will adopt these recommendations. Understanding what is driving children’s well-being (or otherwise) is fundamental to any country’s future. If there are shortfalls that can be made up, or circumstances that can be avoided, we can only go forward from a position of knowledge."

Monday, June 29, 2020

End of Life book cover example of the 'misinformation and emotion' it seeks to counter

A new book which discusses the End of Life Choice bill has been published. From the author:

"I did some research and the further I got into the issue the more I realised how intricate it is and how many levels there are to it. I came away with questions ... and there's so much misinformation and so much emotion out there, I think it's hard to find good information to make sure you can make a good choice - it's really to equip people to make good choices."

And there's a shining example of "misinformation and so much emotion" right there in the cover image, a seemingly healthy young women standing on a cliff-side contemplating jumping:

 Just google 'terminally ill cancer patient' to find hundreds of highly suitable, relevant images.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Greens: Increasing welfare with a wealth tax

The Green Party has released its welfare policy which substantially raises benefits, WFF, Best Start, and Student Allowances by introducing a 'wealth' tax set at 1% on net wealth over $1,000,000 and 2% at wealth over $2,000,000.

Earners will also pay more income tax at higher levels.

This is to fund "no stand down, no deduction of child support and no sanctions." The usual Green's no-holds-barred welfare policy. Metiria Turei will be cheering.

If you have a rental property on top of your freehold $1,000,000 home you are going to be taxed 1% on the value of that. So that'll take your yield down from maybe 4% to 3% - on top of all the extra costs imposed under the present government. If you've got a boat or a bach you'll be taxed on that.

Other assets included would be shares, bonds, business assets, and valuable artwork.

Elderly with high wealth but low income can defer the payment until death (like death duties).

They reckon the wealth tax will only affect the "top 6% of wealthiest New Zealanders."

They don't reference that figure and it sounds too low to me.

My numbers?

One out of ten for aspiration.