Saturday, May 11, 2024

Time for some perspective

A lack of perspective can make something quite large or important seem small or irrelevant.

Against a backdrop of high-profile, negative statistics it is easy to overlook the positive.

For instance, the fact that 64 percent of Maori are employed is rarely reported. For context, the employment rate for all New Zealanders is 68.4%. The difference isn’t vast.

In excess of 400,000 Maori have jobs, provide products and services and pay tax.

Maori are over-represented in the manufacturing, and utilities and construction workforces. They are disproportionately service workers, labourers and machine operators. As such they perform crucial roles.

97 percent of Maori aged 15 or older are not in prison or serving a community sentence or order. Over 99 percent of Maori are not gang members.

Yet as an ethnic group Maori take a lot of heat.

Their pockets of failure (which occur across all ethnicities) overshadow their success because it suits certain political aspirants to promote the negative. The predominant individualist culture wants Maori to get their act together and exercise greater personal responsibility. While the collectivists want the community to take the blame for Maori failure and fix it via redress. The finger-pointing at colonists as the culprits, which has ramped up immeasurably over recent years, has resulted in a great deal of misdirected anger towards Maori, the bulk of whom just want to get on with their lives. (To boot, this simplistic description ignores that since the early 1800s Maori and non-Maori have become indelibly interlinked by blood and it has become impossible to identify which finger is pointing in which direction, such is the absurdity of modern-day racial politics.)

It feels safe to say that most people want to live peaceful, happy and productive lives. We share those basic desires regardless of race. It’s that commonality that makes race irrelevant.

And yet New Zealanders are being increasingly divided, forced to take sides, to figuratively identify with black or white when life is mainly grey. Without some measure of compromise, contradiction and capitulation society couldn’t exist.

The flipside to poor Maori statistics reminds us that as contributing members of New Zealand we have far more in common than ever divides us.






Sunday, May 05, 2024

Meanwhile “… the disturbing trend of increasing violence towards children continues to worsen.”

The Children's Minister, Karen Chhour, intends to repeal Section 7AA from the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 because it creates conflict between claimed Crown Treaty obligations and the child's best interests. In her words,

 "Oranga Tamariki’s governing principles and its act should be colour blind, utterly child centric and open to whatever solution will ensure a child’s wellbeing. "

There is, however, substantial opposition to this change.

A Waitangi Tribunal preliminary report about the removal of Section 7AA cites testimony from Te Puni Kokiri:

"Te Puni Kōkiri did not support the proposal to repeal 7AA, because it ‘is highly likely to undo the significant progress that has been made to reduce the disproportionate number of tamariki and rangatahi Māori in the care of the state’."

Again, the reduction of Māori children in state care is presented as ‘progress’ (despite evidence of increasing child victimisations.)

But there is another odd aspect to this apparent ‘progress.’

The main pathway through which children come to the attention of Oranga Tamariki is through Reports of Concern which have decreased 28% from 92,351 in 2018 to 66,487 in 2022.

This drop is unusual enough for Oranga Tamariki itself to attempt an analysis which was released on Monday, April 29.

The following presents some of the findings from that report.

After a Report of Concern further action might be required. That outcome is increasing as shown in the graph below, implying that reports are becoming of a more serious nature:

To understand why Reports of Concern have reduced, various barriers have been examined. 

One was the call centre wait time which is up significantly (though the abandoned call rate is reasonably steady since 2014 at around a quarter). Nevertheless, a wait time of almost 8 minutes would be quite excruciating for an emotionally charged, possibly indecisive and apprehensive caller. Many called back but still ended up abandoning their second attempt:

Another was lack of trust.

In respect of trust, social responsibility, leadership, and fairness Oranga Tamariki ranked the lowest of 58 public agencies in 2021 via online surveys and interviews. Oranga Tamariki says:

 “It is clear that three factors found to be key to establishing trust (ability, benevolence and integrity) were questioned by the public, which could have a profound impact on notifiers’ willingness to be vulnerable and engage with Oranga Tamariki.”

While news stories apparently have the single largest effect on that lack of trust, tellingly “those who base their opinion on their experience are the most negative about Oranga Tamariki.”

(Ironically, a regulatory impact statement on the repeal of section 7AA prepared by Oranga Tamariki staff and referenced in the Waitangi Tribunal report concluded, “… we consider that repealing section 7AA in its entirety may worsen long term public confidence in Oranga Tamariki overall.” Can it get much worse?)

Also examined were social worker non-responsiveness and delays. It was found that Intake Social Worker Full-time Equivalents did not increase in line with higher workloads. Additionally, sick days taken in 2022 were 150% up on the average taken during 2018 to 2021.

Three quarters of the reduction in reporting is among professionals in the education and health sectors, Police, Court and other government agencies.

Testimony from a 2023 Listener article is quoted:

“Many child psychotherapists, myself included, have given up working with children. Lobbying the agencies meant to protect them is soul destroying and results in little, if any, change.”

Contrastingly, Oranga Tamariki also admit, “health professionals have said they lose trust in reporting to Oranga Tamariki and instead keep at-risk individuals on their books to ‘keep an eye on them’…” That might be a blessing.

Surprisingly only a brief mention is made of Section 7AA and the strategic partnerships formed with Iwi:

"Further investigation is required to fully understand potential impacts they might have had on rates of reports of concern, but it is feasible that tamariki and whānau receiving support sooner has reduced the need for reports of concern to be made."

It is feasible but at this stage, it remains unknown. 

Using other sources, I therefore come back to what is known.

In the five years to 2023 police data shows the number of children aged under 15 years reported as being victims of a violent crime grew from 6,377 to 8,978 or 41%. As the Salvation Army puts it

“… the disturbing trend of increasing violence towards children continues to worsen.”

This against a backdrop of fewer reports to Oranga Tamariki and fewer children being under the care of the state.

Meanwhile Oranga Tamariki bureaucrats, fighting the minister’s proposal to repeal Section 7AA via their regulatory impact statement, continue their obsession with the Treaty and equity:

"Changes introduced in Oranga Tamariki that resulted from the introduction of 7AA have been effective at reducing some of the disparities and inequities experienced by tamariki, rangatahi, and whānau Māori. There has also been considerable progress as a Department towards honouring the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi through the current practice approach and operating model."

Did Oranga Tamariki consider that the fixation with the Treaty of Waitangi throughout the public service is a major reason the public is disengaging? 

If there is no agency that can be trusted by all New Zealanders to effectively protect children, more children will suffer. As we are seeing.