Lindsay Mitchell – The Greatest Risk

Lindsay Mitchell has written a fantastic piece and has asked me to publish it so it gains a wider audience. I am very happy to do so.

As Rodney Hide said in the comments, this should be pinned to every wall in Treasury.

Growing up in 1960s New Zealand, houses were smaller and families bigger. Paradoxically, overcrowding and child poverty weren’t a major issue. Most families had two parents and many could even afford a stay-at-home mum. A very small percentage of families experienced financial hardship associated with an absent father.

What changed?

In 1973, influenced by the Royal Commission on Social Policy’s urgings, the government introduced a statutory benefit for sole parents regardless of the reason for their single parenthood. In the following 20 years unmarried births with no resident father more than quadrupled from around 2,500 to 12,000 – 22% of all births – annually. The relatively generous DPB saw single mums dropping out of the workforce. (The Royal New Zealand Plunket Society partially attributes this development to the eventual non-viability of Karitane hospitals which had provided live-in employment for unmarried mothers.)

These births accumulated in the statistics. By the early 1990s around a quarter of a million (mostly) mothers and children were dependent on the state for their survival. But the benefit still kept them above the poverty threshold.

When the incoming National government of 1990 opened Treasury books, the news was bad. This is where the authors ofChild Poverty in New Zealand¬†pick their story up. They describe “benefit cuts of between 10 percent and 30 percent for many beneficiaries supporting children.” In fact, for a lone parent with one child, the cut was 10.7%;¬†for those with two, 8.9 percent. The universal family benefit was abolished, but half of the savings were reallocated into increasing Family Support for beneficiaries and low-income families.

Nevertheless, the drop in income was enough to push beneficiary households below the poverty threshold (though they had probably been barely over it prior). Compounding this was the high number of partnered jobless parents created by an unemployment rate exceeding 11 percent in 1992. From that time the proportion of children in poverty, measured at below 60 percent of median disposable household income after housing costs, has been flat to falling slightly.

Sixty nine percent of children in sole parent households are poor compared to 15 percent in two parent families. Today, a lone parent heads around 30 percent of all families with dependent children.¬†Long-term¬†dependent sole parent families aren’t typically the result of a marriage breakdown. They hail from very young mothers with no educational qualifications, work skills or regular partner.

Every year around one in five new-born babies will be reliant on their caregivers benefit by Christmas. This pattern has persisted from at least 1993. For Maori the number jumps to over one in three. ¬† Add to this Treasury’s advice to the Ministerial Committee on Child Poverty,

“…around 1 in 5 children will spend more than half of their first 14 years in household supported by main benefit. This group is at the highest risk of material hardship and poor outcomes across a range of dimensions‚ÄĚ.

The worrying aspect of this pattern is its persistence through good economic times. In 2007, when New Zealand had record low unemployment, the percentage bottomed at around 19%. Over three quarters will rely on a sole parent benefit, the remainder on either an unemployment or disability benefit. While some of the reliance will be due to unforeseen circumstances like are job redundancy, most could have been predicted by the parent.
In a recent¬†Listener¬†column Jonathan Boston wrote¬†“…it is worth pausing and considering how easy we would find it to raise children under such circumstances.”¬†The same¬†counsel should be put to those people who can actually change the pattern. Though too much emphasis on “personal responsibility” would give less weight to “fairness and compassion” according to the book. Why these societal attributes would be mutually exclusive is unclear. Read more »

A solution to feralism?

A commenters suggests a possible solution for the increasing incidence of feralism:

Billions of dollars have been spent on all types of programmes targeting Maori poverty, child abuse, crime, domestic violence, unemployment etc, nothing changes. Successive Governments claim to have the answers and new funding, new incentives, and new promises fail to stem the flow of depravity. Let’s just stop. No more special treatment, no more special funding, no more excuses. Hold parents responsible for the actions of the child. Hold Maori accountable for their over representation in these statistics. Demand they do something about it, because until such time as their own families judge them, it won’t change. STOP throwing money at them ‚Ķ it doesn’t work.

Quite simply welfare doesn’t work.

I have told loads of politicians that welfare doesn’t work, invited them to come visit in South Auckland. One, a Labour MP promised to do so but never has…despite now working near where I was talking about.

If welfare was the answer then it was a bloody stupid question in the first place.

We have poured literally billions of dollars into welfare for various reasons…to protect the kids, to improve health, to make houses warm…the excuses are endless.

All that is generated is increased, weapons grade whinging about needing more….billions more.

If welfare was the answer then poverty, crime, child abuse and many other societal ills would have been solved a long, long time ago.

It is time to do something different.


Bludging Socialist Whinges about Labour stopping Corporate Welfare

Everyone knows that Federated Farmers are a bunch of socialists who expect the rest of us to fund their businesses.

For some reason they think that farmers are morally superior and deserve a big hand out to let them make more money. Bruce Wills, the head bludger, has a big sook in the Herald about Labour.

Labour have said they will take the lazy half a billion dollars National have set aside in corporate welfare for farmers.

Winding up the Crown irrigation company not only flies in the face of regional economic development but regional climate adaptation. Are memories so short that we have forgotten adaptation was a key criticism of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change?

Right. So climate change means the rest of us have to pay for bludgers who can’t manage their businesses properly? ¬† Read more »

Welfare changes slowly taking effect

Simon Collins has taken a break from pimping the poor to write about the mindset changes occurring in welfare as a result of the changes made by Paula Bennett.

A single parents’ group says “a complete change of mindset” has helped reduce the number of people on the sole parent benefit to the lowest level in more than 20 years.

Numbers on sole parent support have plunged by 8600, or 10 per cent, in the year to March.

It is the biggest drop in a single year since the benefit – previously known as the domestic purposes benefit, or DPB – was created in 1974.

Sole parent support is now being paid to 75,844 sole parents, fewer than in any year in the DPB’s history since 1988.

About 22,000 people with no children under 14 were moved to other benefits when the DPB was abolished last July, but even if they were added back in, the total number of sole parents on any kind of benefit is the lowest since 1993.

Auckland Single Parents Trust founder Julie Whitehouse said tighter rules, which require sole parents to look for part-time work when their youngest child turns 5 and fulltime work when that child turns 14, had completely changed attitudes.

“It’s amazing,” she said. “It’s so good that I can’t even get them to volunteer time. The whole mindset has changed.”

Asked how many of her 580 members now had jobs, she said: “The shift is incredible, I’m almost tempted to say 100 per cent – it really is big. All the attitudes changed. Everybody knew that when your child is 5 you have to go to work.”

Read more »

More good news, less people on benefits and more jobs available

You could say the good news just keeps on truckin’ on:

The labour market is taking off, with more jobs advertised in March, continuing a run of rises for three months in a row, a bank survey shows.

A strong economy is now being accompanied by rising employment, that will provide a backbone to household income growth over the months ahead.

The latest ANZ job ads survey points to unemployment falling from 6 per cent at the end of last year to 5.7 per cent at the end of March and dropping even more in coming months.

The number of job advertisements lifted 1.1 per cent in March, seasonally adjusted.

“This bodes well for an ongoing downward trend in the unemployment rate.” ANZ said.

Job advertising on the internet in March rose 2 per cent but fell 4.6 per cent in newspapers.

In the three months to March the level of internet job advertising lifted 6.4 per cent compared with the previous the three months, to be 15.3 per cent higher than a year ago.¬† Read more »

The Living wage and Benefits in the real world

Dilligaf2013, a reader and commenter emails:

Hi Cam, after reading the latest installment of left wing horse dung and blatant vote buying (the living wage), I am exercised enough to write about the real world and what’s really happening.

As you will be aware, I have been through a tough journey battling prostate cancer.

This journey was made doubly worse once I exhausted my financial reserves and I was forced to ask WINZ for help.

Not only was this experience one filled with regular humiliation and embarrassment, but it was also filled with ongoing frustration.

This frustration was fuelled by the constant mixed messages WINZ were sending me – including the requirement to get doctors certificates proving I was undergoing cancer treatments every few weeks.

Every time I had to attend a WINZ office, I was confronted by people dressed in the latest Nike’s and other fashionable clothing, as well as the vehicles they were driving were quite often sporting various luxury add on’s like mag wheels, modified exhausts, body kits and being lowered etc etc.

My mistake was clearly my honesty, as I could get no assistance for having my children in my care every second weekend and half the school holidays.

WINZ sent me to IRD and IRD sent me back to WINZ – neither organisation would help.¬† Read more »


Having a lend, thousands of bludgers blagging holidays on the taxpayer

The constant refrain from the opposition is that it is tough on a benefit and that it is barely enough to live on.

The facts however are far different, with beneficiaries finding that not only is the benefit easy to live on, but that literally thousands of them are able to afford overseas holidays as well.

More than 21,000 beneficiaries have had their income support cut for travelling overseas since last July, the Government says.

But opponents have raised concerns about the number of people affected, dubbing it the latest round of ‚Äúbeneficiary bashing‚ÄĚ.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said she was surprised by the ‚Äústaggering number‚ÄĚ of beneficiaries, excluding superannuitants, who were travelling overseas.

“These figures are the number of people who chose to travel knowing their benefit would be suspended.

”Every day we hear stories of how people cannot live on the benefit. Today you’re hearing that literally thousands can not only live on it but can afford to travel overseas as well.

Bennett said more than 1750 people have had their benefit suspended for multiple overseas trips since July.¬† Read more »

Another Cunliffe balls up

David Cunliffe has developed a truthiness problem.

He told Gordon Campbell in an interview:

We‚Äôve got ten minutes. I haven‚Äôt asked about your welfare policy, so I‚Äôll make it specific. We all oppose fraud. Does Labour oppose the government‚Äôs new welfare fraud policy whereby the partners of welfare fraudsters will be criminally liable for the fraud, and for the repayment of the entire amount ‚Äď and not simply for the amount from which they might have indirectly benefitted. If re-elected will Labour retain this provision or scrap it ?

Scrap it.

Later in the day Labour voted to support the legislation. Chester Borrows has issued a press release that says:

Associate Social Development Minister Chester Borrows says Labour needs to be clear on where they stand on welfare fraud.¬† Read more »

“Forget reforming the welfare state. We must blow it to smithereens!”

Countries with comprehensive welfare systems teh world over are seeing an explosion of entitlements as bureaucrats and political parties use welfare to continually bribe voters.

If welfare worked and money was the answer then after literally billions of dollars each year in this this country you’d think we would have solved the issue. We haven;t and neither has anyone else.

Time for radical change…Martin Durkin explains.

IF TV’S Benefits Street raised a fuss, James Bartholomew’s The Welfare State We’re In should cause an earthquake. Never mind a few scrounging scallywags, Bartholomew’s book (just republished) gives us the total historical horror of the welfare state in living Technicolor.

Bartholomew is a Redbull double-espresso to Iain Duncan Smith’s limp chamomile tea. Forget reforming the welfare state. We must blow it to smithereens! Bartholomew is clearly a monster. Why else would he attack the welfare state with such ferocity? It is, after all, a modest attempt to help the vulnerable in difficult times. If it has grown enormously, it merely reflects the increasing cruelty of capitalism.

Ha! Bartholomew grabs the welfare state by the throat, and exposes something ugly, frightening and dehumanising. This isn’t a dry book about public policy. It’s an explosive blockbuster, guaranteed to boil your blood, beautifully written, sweeping in its scope.

It is about the transformation of a once independent, prosperous people into a demoralised, dispirited, lumpen mass. It explains why we marry less and divorce more (and the terrible human cost). It tells us why we are so stupid and unhealthy, why our state health system is so inadequate and cruel. It tells us why we don’t save any more, why we are no longer so charitable or polite. It tells us why popular entertainment has descended into pornographic imbecility, why human progress in the past century has fallen so far short of expectations.

The cost is huge in money terms. ‚ÄúBenefits‚ÄĚ alone account for about ¬£200bn a year ‚Äď more than the combined GDP of 30 African countries. But the result of this Niagara of handouts is not contentment. As Bartholomew shows with heartbreaking clarity, the real victims are those whom welfare is supposed to help. It has created legions of single mothers, fatherless children, and jobless boys and men. For them, the welfare state hasn‚Äôt given, it has taken. It has taken their savings, dignity, independence, initiative, pride, it has denied them full lives as productive economic agents. Walk through a council estate, as Bartholomew has many times, and witness what he calls the tragic ‚Äúconcentration of despair‚ÄĚ.¬† Read more »

Why David Shearer had to be replaced as Labour leader

Last year David Shearer surprised everyone by jacking it in and quitting as Labour leader.

He faced an unruly and disloyal caucus, along with an activist membership who were implacably opposed to his way of thinking. They were more inclined to go for a charlatan from the top end of town spouting socialist mantra than follow a leader who actually is smart and proves it.

His column yesterday in the Herald shows why Labour had to replace him as leader…he is focused on solutions not providing systems that encourage and develop locked in entitlement mentalities.

Since my Food in Schools Bill – to provide food to lower-decile schools – was drawn out of the Parliamentary ballot in October, I’ve been rethinking this course of action.

My meetings with principals, doctors, charities and communities have convinced me that some important adjustments should be made to the bill.

My research took me to a wonderful school, Owairaka District School, where 8-year-old students served me a lunch of vegetarian pizza from their own pizza oven, salad from their garden, and muffins made with eggs from their chickens and honey from their hives.

Owairaka is a decile 2 school but the children are kept nourished and learning through this innovative garden-to-table programme.

But more critically, they are picking up the lifetime skills of gardening and food preparation – and they are doing it alongside family and community volunteers who also benefit.

It’s win, win, win – so much better than a hand-out for the kids – and it raised a question I have grappled with since my bill was drawn.

Is it right to impose a one-size-fits-all solution on to every low-decile school in the form of a food hand-out?¬† Read more »