Saturday, August 01, 2020

Jobseeker numbers were on the rise well before Covid

Since Labour took office the number of people on the Jobseeker benefit has risen steadily in spite of the reported low unemployment rate. I've blogged numerous times about the divergence. The following just-released MSD graph displays it starkly. The blue line provides the source of NZ's official unemployment rate. It continued a broadly downward trend after 2017 whereas the red line starts increasing.

The point is that Labour will blame high Jobseeker numbers on Covid but that's only partly true. 

The upward trend pre-existed the economic response to the virus.

A changing picture

JS-WR = Job Seeker Work Ready

Thursday, July 30, 2020

On the 'subsequent child' policy in parliament today

Dialogue in Parliament today with my italicised comments interspersed:

Question No. 5—Social Development
5. WILLOW-JEAN PRIME (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development: What recent announcements has she made about putting children first as part of the Government's welfare overhaul?

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI (Minister for Social Development): Yesterday, I announced that this Government is putting children first and making our welfare system fairer by removing the punitive subsequent child policy. The subsequent child policy was introduced in 2012. The policy has meant that parents who have a subsequent child whilst on a benefit have work obligations imposed on them earlier, from when their youngest child is just one year old, and, depending on the age of their next oldest child, this can also affect their eligibility for the sole parent support benefit. This is a policy that has furthered inequities in the welfare system for parents and their children, undermined the value of parenting, and exacerbated stigma and stress for many families.

Willow-Jean Prime: What difference will this make for parents and children?

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: The subsequent child policy has a disproportionate effect on Māori women. 

Most children being added to an existing benefit are Maori. That has long been the case.

By removing the policy, we can further our commitment to improving outcomes for Māori and valuing the role of carers, who are predominantly women. 

The research resoundingly shows children born onto a benefit have poorer outcomes. Condoning - even encouraging this occurrence - will not improve "outcomes for Māori".

The first 1,000 days of a child's life are critical for their long-term development. It is not fair that these children might not be given the same time and support simply because they were born while their parents were on a benefit. 

Most children today do not have the luxury of 1,000 days with their mothers. To buy a home requires two incomes.  Prospective mothers and fathers plan around this reality and wait to have their children hence the ever-increasing average age of first time mothers. They wait and save while people on benefits keep having kids.

Removing the subsequent child policy will give the estimated 9,000 parents affected the flexibility to be carers. However, the removal of this policy does not preclude parents who are able to work from getting access to the employment and upskilling support from the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) that this Government has significantly bolstered investment in.

The "flexibility to be carers" comes at the expense of those taxpayers denying themselves the same luxury. And "this government" did not significantly bolster investment in access to employment support. Quite the opposite. It reduced case manager engagement at that level.

Last year the Expert Advisory Welfare Group pointed out, "In June 2014, employment-focused case managers engaged proactively with 50% of their clients every month to support them into employment. This has fallen to an all-time low of 19%, and, over the past year, has continued to drop by an average of one percentage point per month."

Willow-Jean Prime: Why is the subsequent child policy being removed?

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: MSD has found no evidence that the subsequent child policy has positively impacted financial or social outcomes for those affected. This highlights, for me, how punitive policies, underpinned by judgment of those in our welfare system, are ineffective and only serve to stigmatise people who, in this case, have been disproportionately Māori women. 

The 'subsequent child policy' has not worked. Reckless or exploitative fertility continues. All that means is a different policy is required - not a surrender.

Under our confidence and supply agreement, this Government has committed to creating a fairer and better welfare system and removing excessive sanctions, and this—

DEPUTY SPEAKER: I think the member has answered the question, thank you.

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I'd like to finish my answer—

DEPUTY SPEAKER: I'm sorry, but I think the member has already answered the question—

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Point of order, Madam Speaker.


Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Actually, my word count is—

DEPUTY SPEAKER: I'm sorry, sit down. Sit down. It was a very long answer. It was a very simple question, much of which in the member's answer had already been stated. I think the answer has been completed.

I was left with an uncomfortable feeling that the Minister is framing the issue around Maori women to deliberately ward off criticisms of the policy repeal. It sets up the government to paint detractors as racist.

If the kids really come first their life chances should not be thwarted by the politics of race.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

More reversal of welfare reforms

What a lot of dangerous codswallop. Sepuloni says she is putting children first by removing National's 'subsequent child' policy.

I remember back in 2012, with the Nat's welfare reforms, there was a drive to get sole mothers in particular back into work because it was good for them and good for their children. Work gives adults a community, an independent income, self-esteem and discipline. And all of these are important for their children to experience firsthand.

So they increased work obligations in terms of how much and when (in relation to age of youngest child). 

But there was always the legitimate concern that some mothers would simply keep having children to avoid work. 

To that end they devised a policy whereby when a child was added, the existing work obligation kicked back in when that child turned one.

Now Sepuloni, no doubt 'encouraged' by the Greens, is doing away with it as part of the not-naming-fathers and indexing benefits to wages package.

There is a wealth of data analysis showing children added to benefits stay there the longest and have the worst outcomes. But she doesn't seem to have given the research a second thought.

Last year one in ten babies was added to an existing benefit at birth. For many of them it's a life sentence to neglect, abuse, transience, involvement with OT and eventually their own criminal offending and custodial sentences.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Aspiring SOAP candidate campaigning for a brighter future

Aspiring SOAP candidate campaigning for a brighter future:

Sunday, July 26, 2020