Friday, February 11, 2022

Temporary Tent City?

Quite early this morning I went down to parliament to look for myself and get a feel for the mood.

Yesterday the police spent hours pushing back the crowd mere metres only to re-lose the ground and enflame the situation with 122 arrests achieved by picking off protestors one-by-one. This morning all that battleground has been covered with marquees and across the complex, more tents have gone up. I imagine by the weekend there will be no visible lawn left.

All of the roads immediate to parliament and alongside the National Library have parked lanes of vehicles, utes, campervans, buses, rigs and a couple of food trucks. Either they all leave in unison or nobody goes - anywhere.

And I don't think they are going anywhere any time soon. It's an occupation. And it seems totally fitting to me that the citizens occupy the land surrounding the workplace of their representatives.

The mood is pleasant, chatty, convivial BUT after yesterday there is much more preparedness for further action from the police.

I left feeling sure the police won't move today. A repeat of yesterday would be utterly futile. Worse, it would attract even more people who are first and foremost looking for trouble, which those protesting the vaccine mandates aren't. They are looking for a change of heart from government.

That would be the simplest solution to this unprecedented show of resistance which will only get stronger in the coming days. Any other 'resolution' doesn't bear thinking about.

Update: They were not in view this morning but now at least two very large banners are saying "End Mandates, We Go Home." It couldn't be clearer.

Wednesday, February 09, 2022

Our welfare system is not functioning well

In the clamour against Labour's proposed unemployment insurance scheme something odd has happened. The detractors are praising the existing welfare system as effective and well-functioning. I've heard business commentator Phil O'Reilly doing this and now Roger Partridge, from the NZ Initiative, in today's NZ Herald, writing:

More importantly, New Zealand's unemployment rate is consistently among the lowest in the OECD, thanks to well-functioning labour markets. And when it comes to long-term unemployment, that is, those who have been unemployed for 12 months or more, New Zealand's record is even better. Over the past two decades, the long-term unemployed made up only 11.9 per cent of total unemployment in New Zealand. This compares with 29.4 per cent for the OECD – and 44 per cent for the EU.

Respectfully I don't know what measure Roger is using but of the 187,992 jobseekers registered at December 2021, 62 percent had been continuously on the benefit for more than a year. Yesterday in parliament National MPs were making a noise about how the percentage is increasing.

Much of the proposed scheme criticism has been about how it will increase the time people spend unemployed because it is too generous. But the fact that the Jobseeker benefit has no time limits is the biggest contributor to long-term dependency.

Partridge continues:

With a well-functioning welfare system and the labour market producing comparatively good outcomes, there appear few good reasons for imposing the costs of an expensive new layer of welfare onto firms and workers.

I'd strongly disagree that our welfare system is well-functioning.

Why are 6 percent of the 18-64 year-olds receiving a jobseeker benefit when so many sectors are crying out for labour? Yesterday the Mayor of Westland District Council was on radio imploring people to go down and fill jobs. Yet there are 1,500 people on a jobseeker benefit in Greymouth and Westport.

It is too easy to get on and stay on welfare in New Zealand. Labour have enhanced that ease by reducing the use of sanctions to impose work obligations. They recently shifted thousands of jobseekers onto the sole parent benefit because they no longer had to look for a job. The policy settings changed. It is now OK to keep adding children to a benefit to avoid work. That is not a "well-functioning" welfare system.

So, while I hold no candle for Robertson's proposed unemployment insurance scheme, I'm not going to argue for the status quo either.



Sunday, February 06, 2022

Oranga Tamariki statistics under new regime

CYF became Oranga Tamariki in 2017. There has since been a push to reduce Maori children in state care (not dissimilar to the push to reduce the prison population). Currently just over two-thirds are Maori.

So here's a quick stock-take on OT stats under the new regime.  The numbers are for the year ending June.

'Reports of concern' about a child come from schools, police, neighbours etc. 

These are trending down:

A report of concern can result in a 'further assessment or investigation'. 

These increased in the most recent period:

Next, I would have expected to be able to show you 'substantiated findings of abuse or neglect' but there are none at the OT site. The latest Annual Report provides none.

So finally, the number of distinct children in a care or protection placement (which could be family/whanau, non-family or a state facility.) 

These are trending down:

A breakdown in ethnicity for each category shows every stat declining for Maori including further assessments and investigations.

A couple of matters prompted me to check the most recent data: reports from the States that harm to children has increased during lockdowns, with absence from school and confinement within families under stress.

And closer to home Child Matters releasing data about the number of deaths from neglect and abuse increasing in number.
Last year, one child died every five weeks as a result of alleged abuse in New Zealand. So far this year, one child has died almost every week.

Ten children in one year is above the norm and the rate appears to be increasing.

Child deaths represent the most extreme abuse or neglect but may provide a clue to other underlying degrees.

The trends seem to be going in two different directions. 

It's hard to draw sound conclusions but it can be said fewer children are under the state's care and protection (now officially referred to as 'loving placements') and more children are dying. Whether the two observations are related is another thing.