Budget changes will benefit children – Dr Lance O’Sullivan

Northland GP and New Zealander of the Year says the Budget announcement of more money for beneficiary families and the requirement to seek work when the youngest child turns three is a good move:

Dr O’Sullivan says in the Northland communities he works in, the kids of beneficiaries are often better off out of the home because they’re less exposed to social dysfunction.

“Now that could be alcohol, drug abuse; that could be violence; that could be mental health problems; that could be problems with incarceration,” says Dr O’Sullivan.

He says putting those children into childcare during the day ensures they have some good role models early on.

“I think we should be able to expose them to positive environments, keep them warm, safe and dry and give them a learning opportunity that will prepare them for school. I don’t believe we should waiting until they’re five.” . . .

Home ought to be the safest place for children.

Parents ought to be the best teachers and role models but tragically for too many children they aren’t.

Dr O’Sullivan sees them and knows that these children will be better away from their homes, if only while their parents are at work.

52 Responses to Budget changes will benefit children – Dr Lance O’Sullivan

  1. JC says:

    O’Sullivan puts his finger squarely on what most of us already know.. that getting kids *away* from the sometimes awful parents is the best thing that can happen.

    When I see the likes of Bradford protesting for mothers to be bonded exclusively to their solo mothers for five years or more I wince.

    NZ has the second lowest solo parents in work statistics and as a group the Nordics have the best.. of course the average age of the child when the solo parent is expected to seek work is 13 months in those countries.

    The other irony of our system is that for a solo parent to be able to be supported for five years is that some working mother must go back to work within a few months to help pay for her sisters’ indulgence.

    JC

  2. Dave Kennedy says:

    However all sole parents are not bad parents and spending most time with a good parent until at least five is the best possible scenario. A one size fits all approach to this important stage in life seems a little draconian to me.

    New Zealand by far spends one of the least amounts on parental leave and maternity support in the OECD and families with young children tend to be the poorest household (around 50% of children experience poverty at some stage in their childhood).

    While there are fewer sole mothers in work in NZ we still have almost 50% of sole mothers of preschool children working. Being a parent of preschool child is important and challenging work in itself and coordinating childcare and work can be very stressful. One of the problems with New Zealand society is that in many cases the extended family support doesn’t exist as it does in other countries and many young mums are operating solo in more ways than one.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11426102

    When traveling overseas with preschool children I became aware how badly we support children in NZ. Here children are the parents responsibility and problem. In other countries children are treasured as the country’s future and all in society have a responsibility to look after them. No wonder our children’s health and welfare statistics are the third worse in the OECD. Our way of helping failing young parents is to often withdraw support and place sanctions on benefits.

    For children in the most vulnerable environments we try and force parents to comply by giving them less. This approach never worked when I taught high needs children with behaviour problems. Poor parents don’t suddenly become good parents because their financial support depends on it, they become good parents if they are mentored and supported in an empowering way. The late Celia Lashlie’s book, the power of mothers describes the mothers of children who went on to be some of our worst criminals and murderers. She was able to show how helpless and unsupported each was mother was and how all had the potential of being a good mother had they lived in a more caring society. Most failing parents make bad decisions through ignorance and desperation, not malice.

  3. Dave Kennedy says:

    Sorry sentence at bottom of second para should read: “Our way of helping failing young parents is too often withdrawing support and place sanctions on benefits.”

  4. Paranormal says:

    “Here children are the parents responsibility” – and that’s just as it should be. A big chunk of the problems we have in society come from those that consider children a revenue source.

  5. Dave Kennedy says:

    Paranormal, why do you ignore the the fact that 40% of children living in poverty have working parents. You need to read the facts: http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/money/68712886/debunking-the-child-poverty-myths

  6. Will says:

    Too many parents have far more children than they can afford, despite both being employed.

    RESPONSIBILITY

  7. JC says:

    “You need to read the facts”

    If those are the facts then so are these from the same two authors

    “The second is more straight forward. It’s revealed in a passage from Child Poverty in New Zealand, by Simon Chapple and Jonathon Boston:

    “Work undertaken at the Department of Labour and based on matching Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS) and administrative welfare records indicated, firstly, that in 2011 about 10 per cent of people whose welfare records showed that they were receiving an unemployment benefit reported to the HLFS that they were actually in full-time employment (i.e., working at least thirty hours a week), and hence were ineligible for the benefit; secondly, that more than one-third of people on an unemployment benefit self-reported as not actively seeking work – and one in five expressed no intention to seek work in the coming year; and, thirdly, that about 10 per cent of people whose welfare records showed that they were receiving a DPB reported being partnered or living as married.”

    That is, over 50% of beneficiaries were lying about their benefit status or defrauding the taxpayer or not seeking work. Straightaway we can ignore your link to a couple of well known pimpers of the poor.

    I’d much rather accept the findings of the inter agency approach of 2013 of research, survey and statistics that I’ve quoted and linked to that give us a much clearer picture of a much less alarmist situation of persistent hardship.

    But perhaps the best indicator of a problem with the poverty industry comes from the public.. they simply don’t believe the alarmists and in the washup of the UK general election it was found that what Labour thought was its natural constituency supported a crackdown on benefits and the entitlement industry.

    Back here the public was treated to a violent demonstration from a former Green MP and potential co-leader and various others protesting the first non inflation benefit increase in over 40 years plus a welter of lefty academics, commentators, politicians and fellow toe rags.. we await reaction from the aptly named Lucy Lawless to complete the gormless picture of the left.

    JC

  8. Gravedodger says:

    DaveK if 40% of New Zealand Children are living in poverty how do you assess children living in say Eritrea? just asking.

  9. TraceyS says:

    “In other countries children are treasured as the country’s future and all in society have a responsibility to look after them. No wonder our children’s health and welfare statistics are the third worse in the OECD.”

    The fewer the children born to mothers without proper supports the easier it will be for “society” to carry out this role. Therefore the drop in teenage birth rates is very positive.
    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/264085/teen-birth-rates-at-record-low

    “Our way of helping failing young parents is to often withdraw support and place sanctions on benefits.”

    There is only so much to go around. This is one area where there is definitely not strength in numbers. Getting pregnant because all your friends are is not cool because all are going to be drawing from the same limited pot of resources. The higher the numbers the worse off everyone will be.

    I think Celia Lashlie would have been pleased to see the teenage birth rate decreasing.

  10. Dave Kennedy says:

    “DaveK if 40% of New Zealand Children are living in poverty how do you assess children living in say Eritrea? just asking.”
    Misquote GD. This is what I said: “40% of children living in poverty have working parents.” its 40% of 25%

    Tracey, I don’t disagree with you, the fewer children being born without support the better 🙂

    You guys are an amazing group of blinkered beneficiary bashers. Of course some beneficiaries are hopeless and have made bad choices. A good number of wealthy people stuff up as well but have greater income to absorb a broken washing machine, a car that needs an expensive repair to get a warrant, or an unwise purchase. But if you only have a few dollars leeway after paying rent, power and basic food it becomes tricky…fix the car or feed the kids?

    It appears solo mums really press your buttons but many on benefits trying to support children are:
    -women leaving abusive relationships, in 2013 the police conducted 95,080 family violence investigations (an average of 270 a day).
    -Widows and widowers with children
    -People on genuine sickness benefits suffering from cancer etc or a serious injury
    -People who have recently become unemployed through large business closures… http://environment.wordpress.fos.auckland.ac.nz/files/2014/11/Chapman-M.pdf

    Lots of clever, capable women can unintentionally become parents (it happens) and end up doing well through support, like Paula Bennett and Metiria Turei. Sadly the training incentive that both Paula and Metiria used to advance their qualifications has been wiped. Using the training incentive allowance Metiria Turei went from being a solo mum with no qualifications to a commercial lawyer and an MP (in ten years). The training incentive allowance no longer supports tertiary courses.

    By labeling all beneficiaries through a bigoted stereo type (that is largely a myth), you are actively supporting a regime that causes all to suffer and causing lasting damage to kids who had no choice in the home they ended up in.

    Also how come we treat tax fraud differently when it costs us up to $7 billion a year in lost revenue and welfare fraud costs a fraction in comparison, both are bad but the most costly gets lighter treatment.

    http://www.victoria.ac.nz/research/expertise/business-commerce/fraud-sentencing

    Interestingly for the sake of easy accounting over payments to beneficiaries that were a clerical error are also called fraud, even if the beneficiary immediately pays it back.
    http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/welfare-errors-cost-taxpayers-millions-3952058

  11. Dave Kennedy says:

    JC, while 10% may very well be dishonest about their work situation, 90% were honest 😉

  12. homepaddock says:

    “You guys are an amazing group of blinkered beneficiary bashers. ”

    I think we all agree there is a responsibility for those who can to look over those in need.

    The difference in opinion is over how this is done in a way that balances that with the responsiblity on us all to do what we can for ourselves; and to provide help for people out of work that doesn’t make them better off than those in work.

    Measuring povery as a percentage of other people’s income is not the best way to determine need. By that measure you could solve poverty by making the rich poorer but that would do nothing to help the poor.

    This is why the government talks about hardship which is not about how much people have in comparison to others but whether people have enough. How much is enough is debatable but the increase in benefits acknowledges beneficiaries with families don’t have enough.

  13. Paranormal says:

    I would suggest the only one blinkered here is you DK. To suggest children will have better outcomes by removing parental responsibility and the state taking over is willfully ignoring reality and history.

    As for your bleat about the working poor. There was a study carried out by MSD in the early 2000’s that showed outcomes were far better for children whose parents worked than those on a benefit. Of course it was deep sixed at the time as that was not what the left wanted to hear.

  14. TraceyS says:

    “Lots of clever, capable women can unintentionally become parents (it happens) and end up doing well through support, like Paula Bennett and Metiria Turei.”

    Notably they both stopped at one child. If everyone stopped at one child whilst on welfare then child deprivation would be significantly less of a problem.

    How many women who give birth to three, four, or five children while on a benefit “end up doing well”?

    There should be a limit to how much additional welfare income can be acquired from the State by having another baby. For the sake of those babies…and their mothers.

    This would free up more resources to help families escaping violent situations, parents suffering from illness or job loss, and where a parent dies.

  15. JC says:

    “You guys are an amazing group of blinkered beneficiary bashers.”

    Thats because.. “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”.

    Or to put it another way.. someone has to mind the store while you guys are out chasing rainbows in vehicles powered by unicorn flop.

    JC

  16. Dave Kennedy says:

    “To suggest children will have better outcomes by removing parental responsibility and the state taking over is willfully ignoring reality and history.”

    Paranormal, I do not believe the we should remove parental responsibility, you misrepresent me and you are assuming all who need financial support are falling down on their responsibilities and that is a huge and dangerous assumption.

    If parents are failing in their role than cutting their benefits and tough love is the very last thing that will make a difference for their kids. As a past teacher of high needs children, with severe behaviour problems, there is generally a history of abuse and neglect. Neglectful parents have generally been neglected kids and there has been a cycle of dysfunction. To break that cycle needs some form of intervention and support that changes behaviour and improves the lives of the children. But these are the very worst cases, the vast majority of those on benefits use it to transition from a difficult situation to one where they can participate fully in society and the economy.

    I agree, Tracey, that money could be better spent targeting the causes of dysfunction in families, one example of support that worked was through Relationships Aotearoa and we all know what happened to it today.The news that the Government has forced its closure when there is a history of the NGO desperately tying to take on an increased workload and rigid contract outcomes (with praise for their efforts coming from the same Government) only to have its funding cut, is deplorable.

    Relationships Aotearoa was the leading family counselling provider in New Zealand, working with 250,000 people a year while there are around 100,000 cases of domestic violence being reported a year. The organisation has operated in some form for 66 years and today that history and service ends. It was nothing about the quality of its work but the fact it couldn’t satisfy autocratically constructed and impossible contracts.

    Because of this irresponsible decision the immediate effects are:
    -7,000 clients immediately left without support
    -900 people being referred back to court
    -183 skilled people sacked

    This is how this Government supports vulnerable families and that is why today I am feeling less tolerant of the ongoing bigoted attacks on people who are poor, unfortunate, ignorant and helpless which actually makes up the majority on benefits. For every dishonest and fraudulent beneficiary I could find a white collar fraudster who has caused more harm to society. You shouldn’t label all beneficiaries by the extreme examples to deny support to those who genuinely need it.

    I guess the most vulnerable of our beneficiaries should feel grateful that although support services have been wiped they should celebrate that the Government has generously raised benefits by the largest amount for some time and they will now have $3.57 a day extra to spend on groceries, or power or a new pair of shoes for one of their kids.

  17. Paranormal says:

    There’s a disconnect in your comments DK.

    You’re against Welfare for Families in that it subsidises employers, and yet you are openly suggesting that the working poor (by your definition) need subsidising? Whaaat?

    You are also willfully ignoring the incentives in benefits. If you give more free stuff away the demand will increase. Part of breaking the cycle is making sure we don’t incentivise people to get stuck in the benefit dependency cycle.

  18. JC says:

    “But these are the very worst cases, the vast majority of those on benefits use it to transition from a difficult situation to one where they can participate fully in society and the economy.”

    So we are talking about a temporary situation for the “vast majority” of beneficiaries and they are not in persistent hardship?

    As for the most vulnerable such as sole parents.. Paula Bennett gave us some idea of that in 2013.. a sole parent living in Sth Auckland with two kids receives $642 per week (tax free) in benefit and allowances. That puts them at the top end of decile three and now with an extra $25 per week comfortably into decile four when you adjust to a before tax situation.

    As for Relationships Aotearoa struggling… with $1.5 million in assets and $3 million in the bank they were hardly struggling.. then there’s the small unexplained matter of more than doubling central administration salaries to $1 million.

  19. TraceyS says:

    Dave, presumably the money for those contracts will remain in the system to serve the same or similar purposes. There are different ways of helping. Sometimes renewal is a good thing.

    I appreciate your concern for vulnerable people and think that you are generally well meaning.

  20. Dave Kennedy says:

    “You are also willfully ignoring the incentives in benefits. If you give more free stuff away the demand will increase”

    Para, There is no evidence for this, the majority of beneficiaries move back to independence when they are able. There is even evidence that many who actually deserve support (mental health etc) are being denied this. You would have seen the recent case of a mother who had to regularly prove that her son still had Downs Syndrome (a permanent condition) for a tiny allowance.

    JC, Paula Bennett may indeed have claimed that one sole parent was receiving $642 per week, but gave no indication if there were other contributing elements. That gives an annual income of $33,332 when the median income from all sources (benefits and wages) is only around 28,000 nationally. The Government is very careful to keep benefits below wages, so I would be interested in the breakdown. Few sole parents I am aware of get anything like that.

    Tracey you are very trusting that this Government knows what it is doing. I am clear that it doesn’t as I know too many people working in welfare and corrections who tell me of the crazy, unobtainable targets being set.

  21. Paranormal says:

    “There is no evidence for this” – oh really?

    How about the reduction in teenage DPB recipients following the governments change to managing teenage mums budgets? it’s pretty telling.

    Society is full of evidence if you would only see it. I’m not denying there are genuine cases but as TraceyS points out above the system is set to incentivise breeding with more money paid the more children you have.

  22. Dave Kennedy says:

    Paranormal, there are many reasons for a drop in teenage mothers:
    -improved education
    -greater availability of contraception
    -improved teenage counselling and services (Invercargill’s centre is threatened with closure after another funding threat).
    -Easier access to abortions.
    -New sanctions which removes benefits from those not meeting expectations.

    Claiming that the drop is just because of new budget management is an interesting idea 😉

  23. Paranormal says:

    An interesting idea that you are ideologically incapable of accepting perchance?

  24. JC says:

    “JC, Paula Bennett may indeed have claimed that one sole parent was receiving $642 per week, but gave no indication if there were other contributing elements.”

    She said that was inclusive of other benefits which are well enough known..

    (2014) Sole parent support , two kids.

    $299 basic benefit
    $75-225 accommodation
    $156 Family support

    ie, $530-680 per week or $27560-$35360pa.

    “Few sole parents I am aware of get anything like that.”

    But then again, Boston and Chapple reckon over 50% of beneficiaries lie about their situations.

    The bottom line is the vast majority of your fellow NZers don’t believe all these scare stories and they keep telling you so through polls. Latest Roy Morgan poll has the Govt up to 54%, labour 25.5% and the Greens down 3 to 10%.

    If you poll them they will tell you they care but they require more from beneficiaries than they are getting. It may be a case of public morality in play.

    JC

  25. Will says:

    “Crazy, unobtainable targets.” Sounds like your party’s ag policies.

  26. Dave Kennedy says:

    I would really enjoy seeing what many of you see as a viable fair system. I can imagine what would happen to vulnerable children and the level of actual evidence that will inform it 😉

  27. JC says:

    Now, this is interesting and cuts to the core of what I’ve had a go at in my last post (heh!).

    DPF has the General Social Survey where the answers pretty closely mirror the survey results from the 2013 Ministerial Committee on poverty..

    http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2015/05/nz_general_social_survey_2014.html

    “Families who say they have enough money have gone from 51.3% in 2008 to 62.8% in 2014
    Families who say they do not have enough money have gone from 15.4% in 2008 to 12.2% in 2014
    Families who say just have enough money have gone from 33.3% in 2008 to 25.0% in 2014
    The proportion feeling safe walking home at night has gone from 51.5% in 2008 to 60.9% in 2014

    Some other interesting data:

    82.6% rate their overall life satisfaction as 7/10 or higher
    70.5% of unemployed rate their overall life satisfaction at 7/10 or higher
    73.0% of families with income under $30,000 rate their overall life satisfaction at 7/10 or higher
    Only 24.6% of families with income under $30,000 say they do not have enough money to meet everyday needs
    Recent migrants are happier with 88.3% saying they rate their overall life satisfaction as 7/10 or higher
    Those rating life satisfaction as 7/10 or better are Maori 77.9%, Pasifika 78.1%, Asians 81.5% and Europeans 84.1%
    86.4% say they are in good or better health

    In terms of being comfortable with a new neighbour who is different to them:

    76.4% comfortable with new migrant
    76.0% comfortable with different religion
    75.1% comfortable with GLBT neighbour
    74.8% comfortable with different ethnicity
    51.7% comfortable with mentally ill neighbour

    The political opposition are beating themselves into oblivion trying to push gloom and doom on a largely contented population crossing nearly all the social and economic boundaries. The aftermath of the UK election found very similar results.

    Like here the UK population has responded to what they see as competence in Govt, social aspiration, contempt for the dinosaurs on the left who increasingly look like the upper class twits of the Beano comics, and a rejection of the politics of division.

    The decades of welfarism and increasing education has changed peoples’ perception of class.. many beneficiaries and the low paid no longer see themselves as lower class but middleclass because they have light, heat, electricity in general, communication, sewerage disposal, clean and reliable water supplies, affordable and safe cars, health, education, safety, recourse to the courts and a bunch of other advantages that their parents and grandparents never had. As shown by many elections in recent years they can be very hard on people who abuse these advantages and the politicians who pimp them.

    JC

  28. TraceyS says:

    “That [benefit] gives an annual income of $33,332 when the median income from all sources (benefits and wages) is only around 28,000 nationally. The Government is very careful to keep benefits below wages, so I would be interested in the breakdown.”

    Dave questions the benefit amount based on a very rudimentary back-of-the-envelope analysis; the logic of which makes little sense. Many people earning income from wages and salaries are working part time and therefore their earnings are pro-rated. Where the partner is working full-time, the other partner working part time is often a lifestyle choice and/or for supplementary income. This brings down the median income from wages and salaries because the numbers of people influencing the statistic in this way are substantial. There would be correspondingly fewer sole parent support recipients (with two or more children, receiving the accommodation supplement, and other support) to influence the statistic.

    I know you like the median as a statistic (in preference to the mean) but it is not very good for the type of comparison you are trying to make here. As you know, the median is simply the middle – above and below which falls 50% of the population. But it says nothing of the distribution of incomes either above or below the 50th%ile. It is important to know the distributions.

    It may be hard to imagine that a welfare recipient receives an income above the 50th%ile but I believe it is the case. In fact, it would be possible to achieve an income above the 70th%ile simply by having more children. Mum may be technically a sole parent but Dad is living cheaply just down the street in a flat with his mates who also have kids somewhere. His unemployment benefit is pocket money, and when it’s gone he sponges off her, disadvantaging the kids. If he’s got problems with drugs, gambling, debts etc – can she say no? And what happens if she does?

    People should not be insulted with terms like “beneficiary basher” for querying what we are funding; and I don’t mean in terms of dollars, but in terms of social consequences.

  29. Paranormal says:

    It seems DK that you prefer a system that creates vulnerable children. What does that make you?

  30. TraceyS says:

    “Tracey you are very trusting that this Government knows what it is doing.”

    Dave, I am very trusting that well-meaning, educated, middle-class persons in positions of authority all have something in common despite coming at these problems from different political schools of thought. It is that their policy and other instruments,and even the taxpayer funds they have access to, are limited in reaching the root causes of issues.

    I am grateful to have spent a little time with Celia Lashlie over lunch one day. Her message was pretty clear, encapsulated in this recount of a discussion with a woman:

    “When after talking for around 45 minutes, she finished her account of her life as she saw it, I thanked her for her honesty and asked why she was willing to talk so candidly to me when she already had any number of women like me, well-meaning educated white middle-class women, meddling in her life. She smiled and said it was easy to talk when someone listened. ‘You mean they don’t listen?’ ‘Hell no’ she replied, ‘they come to tell you what to do’.” (my bold)

    Doesn’t this perspective suggest that increasing, or even maintaining, the amount of “meddling” might not be the answer? Getting out of the welfare system and into the world of work, while not a complete solution by any means, will reduce the invasion. Employers are likely to be far less intrusive in peoples private lives than the State.

    I would choose dependency on employment, complete with all its intrinsic imperfections, over dependency on the State any day. Indeed I did, when aged about 15 and realising that the country promoted teenage motherhood as an alternative career path to finding a job. Jobs were very hard to find at the time, but I found one. The pay was sh*t and the business didn’t treat me very well but I wasn’t going to have meddlers in my life. I’d already seen enough of what well-meaning middle class “helpers” couldn’t do.

    “For me the answer is simple, amazingly simple. We have failed to realise that it is only through working with women, working with them as opposed to telling them what to do, that we have any hope of changing the destiny of the children we are seeking to protect.”

    Encouraging women to get off welfare and into work was clearly seen by Celia as “telling them what to do”. It is, I suppose. But it is also fostering empowerment through eventual independence. It is a beginning – not an end. It may be brutal, but sometimes one step backwards is needed to take two forwards.

  31. Dave Kennedy says:

    Tracey, considering you would be hard pressed to find someone receiving a benefit who is not struggling it must mean many wages are exceedingly low. In fact we know that because of Working for Families, a wage subsidy that is needed to ensure low wage earners earn more than beneficiaries.

    Paranormal, as I have said before I’d love to see your idea of a fair system. We already have one of the worst levels of poverty and health and welfare for children in the OECD while our elderly our the most financially comfortable. You seem to be in favour of dropping benefits even lower and forcing many of our most vulnerable into an even greater level of Poverty to teach them a lesson.

    JC you have produced some reassuring statistics but to put some context on that, what people deem to be adequate has shifted as expectations have dropped. Over the last few years we have been bombarded with the specter of the GFC and the need to tighten belts. In talking to many workers they are grateful to have a job, the fact it pays little is secondary. Those who can’t find a home are grateful that they can share with another family, at least it beats a garage. The poorest are getting poorer too. When you have whole communities living in relative poverty, their existence becomes the norm.

    Like you I do believe that people should be empowered to live independently and not need support but the fact is that there are many who genuinely do need help. By characterising all beneficiaries as lazy bludgers and having children as an income source is not helpful.

    Even using your statistics we have 46% of families that either just have enough or don’t have enough to get by. To me that is almost half of all families that are struggling to keep heads above water. For a family that just has enough a sudden financial crisis like a major car repair will push them over the brink. The 12.2% of those who don’t have enough mean that in an average school of 300 students 36 of those students will be living in poverty. Because of our decile system most of those children will be concentrated in a few low decile schools so that in Invercargill we now have a decile 1 school for the first time and most of those families are living in poverty.

    Poverty is relative and it is clear that the very worst examples of poverty in New Zealand have got worse, so those above that feel better off. To compare a perception from 2008 to 2014 can be misleading just as most New Zealanders feel that we live in a less corrupt country and will say so when questioned, but when asked if they have experience corruption more people are saying they have than ever before. http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/better-business/67511312/rising-bribery-and-corruption-tarnishing-nz-image-deloitte

    Median family incomes have actually dropped in dollar terms in many areas of New Zealand since the 2006 census and the largest group of non-responders was in the lowest incomes which can skew results. According to statistics NZ:

    “High non-response rates can lead to bias in the data.

    It could also lead to the number of people within the low-income bands being under-counted.”

    Almost 10% did not respond.

  32. Paranormal says:

    DK – define “fair”.

    The current system, and one you would design with ‘Rolls Royce’ benefits will not be “fair” to those that it captures in the poverty/dependency trap. It won’t be “fair” to those it robs the incentive to improve themselves and their situation, those who are deprived of the opportunity and motivation to become the best they can be.

    All so the supposedly ‘caring’ left can buy themselves a voter base.

    “Fair” is such a misused word in your lexicon. Who said the system had to be “fair”? After all we are talking about something that is supposed to be a safety net, not a hammock. Now where have we heard that sentiment before?

  33. TraceyS says:

    “Tracey, considering you would be hard pressed to find someone receiving a benefit who is not struggling it must mean many wages are exceedingly low.”

    Some people working part time may only earn a few thousand dollars a year. But they may also only work very part time. I acknowledge this is not always by choice but often it is eg. Mums with a full-time working partner who are tentatively re-entering the workforce while their kids are still young. If there are high numbers doing this, and there are, their sheer number will bring the median individual income from wages and salaries down. In fact my own income resulting from wages and salaries is under $10k per year and would help to bring down the median. I know lots of women who are similar – in fact most of the women my age. I’m sure you will agree that this wage is exceedingly low! Yet I am perfectly financially secure and happy. How can this be? That was my point about the median not being a very good measure on its own.

    When comparing the income of a family getting a benefit with the income of others on different income streams, you would be much more accurate to do the comparison with household income, because a person receiving sole parent support is obviously not getting that on the basis of being an individual – but a household.

    No one here is disputing that some families are struggling. But likewise, I have known families that were comfortable on the level of benefit they were getting and even had enough to send money to elderly relatives living in much poorer countries.

  34. Dave Kennedy says:

    Para, I thought so, nothing specific. You appear to think that the current system is to generous and soft and encourages dependency. So my guess is that we should have a more punitive regime that pays less and punishes those who abuse the system more.

    Your use of safety net and hammock as an analogy is interesting. Your idea of a safety net is obviously the barest minimum so that a woman who leaves an abusive relationship with children should only have enough to barely survive, a roof and bread and water existence. It may take three or more years with young children to find her feet and to set herself up to find a job will be hard under those circumstances. For those in work life is already hard and you may have seen the woman on John Campbell who worked up to 18 hours a day (five hours sleep) doing two jobs to support her family on close to the minimum wage.

    To me fairness is for people in genuine need of support to live with dignity and be supported into independence as soon as is practical. This is for the good of the children and the general well being of the family. I would like you to break down the cost of rent, food, insurance, transport, electricity in a uninsulated rental (all that can be afforded) and all the things necessary for a minimum level of existence and see what that comes to. I think you will find that current benefits don’t cover those adequately with enough of a safety margin to deal with an unexpected expense.

  35. TraceyS says:

    “…you may have seen the woman on John Campbell who worked up to 18 hours a day (five hours sleep) doing two jobs to support her family on close to the minimum wage.”

    That woman was indeed a hard worker. But the reporting was inaccurate. Both the jobs were six hours each. This does not total 18!

    I do not count the time I spend doing homework with the kids and cooking as part of my working day.

    She works hard, and good on her, but the programme did her a disservice by over-egging it. Why not just present things as they really are?

  36. Dave Kennedy says:

    You are probably right Tracey, however it was still 2 jobs and a day that began at 5am and ended at midnight. Even when expressed more honestly it is a good example of how hard people have to work when making low incomes livable.

    You seem to agree with me that for many life is not easy. To me in a country that is as wealthy as ours there should be few who should struggle if they are employed and contributing well to a job and their community. We also have one of the highest levels of volunteerism in the world and many jobs like St Johns ambulance and firefighting are supported by a large number of unpaid people when they would be paid jobs elsewhere.

  37. Paranormal says:

    Yet again you make assumptions DK that are well wide of the mark. Your constant use of the word ‘fairness’ should be met with disdain. It is merely a political propaganda tool at best.

    I gave you an indication that the safety net and hammock analogy came from somewhere – did you realise it was from Savage himself talking on the start of the welfare state?

    I have no problem looking after those truly in need, but what you want to put in place that you think is “fair” will have the opposite outcomes for those it traps in dependency.

  38. Dave Kennedy says:

    Para you are great at throwing around general criticisms with only anecdotal evidence and tenuous connections. There have been far more people on benefits since the 1980s and 90s and over that time the value of benefits have dropped. Recent research has shown that the draconian controls around receiving benefits and the compliance involved actually limits people in their ability to find work and many have given up on getting benefits that they should receive. The benefits themselves didn’t cause the problem, high unemployment and the dropping value of wages have had the largest influence.

    Once many people have been out of work for some time, have no routine and have no need for discipline, then it is much harder to get them back into the workforce. You will find that the highest levels of mental health issues and substance abuse is amongst the unemployed, especially unemployed youth.

  39. JC says:

    “There have been far more people on benefits since the 1980s and 90s”.

    Of course, and for the right reasons at that time. Recall that NZ Railways employed over 20,000 and this was dropped to 5000 in a short space of time.

    In agriculture we dropped 20-40,000 workers and in forestry 20, 000 plus. We had simply been propping up these and many other industries with subsidies, tariffs and employment make work programmes for political purposes whilst the economy went to the dogs and public borrowing hit 70% plus of GDP.

    “and over that time the value of benefits have dropped.”

    Crap. All the main benefits except WFF have been linked annually to the CPI since the early 90s.

    http://www.treasury.govt.nz/publications/research-policy/wp/2010/10-01/29.htm

    “Recent research has shown that the draconian controls around receiving benefits and the compliance involved actually limits people in their ability to find work and many have given up on getting benefits that they should receive.”

    Recent research shows there are fewer people on benefits and more in work since we tightened up on benefit availability. With few exceptions ex beneficiaries are better off financially, mentally and physically and thats what they are telling the pollsters.. to National’s advantage.

    The left here, Oz, UK, Canada, the US and parts of Europe are chasing a shrinking demographic of sad sacks when what people want is aspiration, better education to *all* sectors and competent management. Across the Western world people are recognising that better living comes from investment in self improvement as opposed to living off others.

    The huge HUGE advantage non working beneficiaries have is time.. time to learn to cook, have a garden, speak better, read better, exercise, manage the household better and generally become better people, citizens and workers. And get this, the general public expects them to do this with the freely available services of media and online programmes.

    Its all there, in their newspapers, libraries and free local and national Govt programmes, on their Iphones, TVs, playstations and computers and the public expects them to take advantage of all these magnificent opportunities for a free upgrade of their educations, outlook on life and other good stuff.. and best of all the public will pay them hundreds of dollars a week to do just that.

    They have the time and the opportunities and it’s up to us to apply the carrots and sticks to make sure they take them.

    JC

  40. TraceyS says:

    “…it was still 2 jobs and a day that began at 5am and ended at midnight. Even when expressed more honestly it is a good example of how hard people have to work when making low incomes livable.”

    Actually, if you pay careful attention she was starting the first job, in-home childcare, at around 8-9am after taking her own kids to school. She works 12 hrs/day x 5 days per week on nearer to minimum wage than ‘living wage’ – say $16/hr. This works out to around $48k per annum and she also has a working partner. He may be earning a similar amount. But lets say they earn a little bit less than that to be on the safe side – say $80k pa combined. With four kids they would be entitled to $9,932 working for families tax credits on top of that. Generous tax credits can also be claimed against income earned from in-home childcare. Some providers say only around 50% of income is taxed because of the deductions allowed.

    So why can’t they afford to give their kids a treat? Maybe the 12 hrs x 5 days work isn’t constant or perhaps the partner works only part-time and could do more to support her around home. Maybe they are making aggressive mortgage repayments or saving for their retirement? Wouldn’t that be good to know? But we don’t know. And we don’t because Campbell didn’t do this level of analysis unfortunately. So we can’t know.

    The best thing the Government can do for struggling working families is to give them more of their tax back so families like this one can do good things with it – like paying it off the mortgage, saving, or investing in their kids. But this family is likely to already be paying very minimal net tax.

  41. Dave Kennedy says:

    JC, Ruth Richardson slashed slashed benefits in her Mother of All Budgets and despite the CPI adjustments they have provided less support ever since.

    The Roger Douglas years created a huge number of unemployed, as you said, with no transition plan. We have also lost a large number of skilled manufacturing jobs through a more open economy over the years.

    Richardson’s philosophy was that around 5% unemployment was useful in driving down wages, but it has created a disenfranchised group of unemployed and low waged workers that have struggled ever since. According to Wikipedia:

    “In the early 1990s the fourth National government embarked on a free market programme aimed at reducing state spending and ‘dependence on the state’. Welfare benefits were drastically cut, and ‘user-pays’ charges were introduced for many formerly free public services. These policies were widely known as “Ruthanasia” after Finance Minister Ruth Richardson, although the welfare portfolio was managed by Social Welfare Minister Jenny Shipley.”

    “The impact of these changes was particularly pronounced as the unemployment rate was high due to the 1987 stockmarket crash and the cost-cutting programmes of the previous fourth Labour government, which had reduced the staff of many state services. The cutbacks have been partially reversed by the fifth Labour government, but inflation means that in real terms benefits are still lower than before the cuts.”

    We now have less skilled jobs in new Zealand and apprenticeships have been cut. We are known to be a low wage economy churning out low value commodities (logs, milk powder, fish…)

    It is really important to establish a work ethic and routines for our young as soon as possible but in 2013 (last figures I could find) around 85,000 young people between 15-24 were not in education or employment. This age group are the unhappiest demographic with one of the highest suicide rates in the world. Many who are in work are on youth rates, 90 day trials and zero hour and part time/casual contracts, which are often abused. Most do not have the support of a union and accept stuff they are told that is exploitative because of naivety and ignorance. For someone young having to survive without parental support it is really hard. Many have low motivation and feelings of self worth. Many who are forced to stay in education who are not academic find it difficult too. Maori and Pasifika youth have particularly high unemployment (almost 30% in Auckland) http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/68034078/fixing-youth-unemployment-in-west-auckland

    Government policy together with a poorly managed free market economy is continually creating a group that is permanently reliant on welfare and low waged casual jobs. The cause isn’t welfare, Roger and Ruth had a large part in it, and those who don’t start working when young often become a regular welfare statistic (and it doesn’t help when they are forced to live in substandard crowded houses).

  42. Dave Kennedy says:

    Tracey, you are making some huge assumptions (and I didn’t pick up many of the facts you are claiming) yet you are questioning the woman’s budgeting and priorities. Why can’t we just pay these people a decent wage in the first place instead of wage subsidies and forcing them to work long hours. In New Zealand we have one of the highest % of those who work over 50 hours a week and one of the highest underemployment statistics, that tells us something too 😉

  43. Dave Kennedy says:

    Also Hugh Fletchers views are worth noting regarding how we created a low wage economy:
    http://localbodies-bsprout.blogspot.co.nz/2012/10/hugh-fletcher-slates-laissez-faire.html

  44. Paranormal says:

    Hugh Fletcher – the man that destroyed the family business? Married to the left leaning politically appointed chief justice? And you want to be taken seriously?

    The policies you are championing are what creates a low wage economy. The Lange Douglas government reforms set in place the basis for 20 years of prosperity. That you want to return to Muldoon’s fortress NZ is telling. Shame you can’t see the poor outcomes for the vulnerable your policies will create.

    DK said – “you are questioning the woman’s budgeting and priorities. Why can’t we just pay these people a decent wage in the first place” – Um, she is paid a decent wage, but she obviously has problems with budgeting and priorities. This is a problem a lot of people have. It’s just better hidden in the higher income brackets. I can recommend http://enableme.co.nz/ for the stuff they don’t teach in schools and you are unlikely to learn off your parents.

  45. Dave Kennedy says:

    Para, typical 😉 attack the credibility of the person rather than the arguments he presents. The Lange/Douglas Government did not set us up for 20 years of prosperity, while an element of the changes was probably needed, it started us on the road to greater inequality (the fasted growing in the world). We no longer have an economy that works for all, just a privileged few. It has created a wealthy demographic (top quintile) that has never existed to this extent before, gutted middle income earners and expanded the numbers of working poor.

    Your arrogance in claiming that the women I referred to was just a poor budgeter is unbelievable. Most budget advisors say that for a good many of their clients they just do not have a viable income.

  46. TraceyS says:

    “Tracey, you are making some huge assumptions…”

    I have been clear about where I made assumptions.

    “…(and I didn’t pick up many of the facts you are claiming)”

    Then I suggest that you watch the programme again, Dave. Which facts do you dispute? I am happy to be corrected.

    “You are questioning the woman’s budgeting and priorities…”

    No, that’s not my intention at all. I’m questioning the balance of the programme.

    You harp on about fairness. In fairness, it is not acceptable to provide, or promote, an unbalanced view of issues. This is what you are doing and is what elicits responses such as Paranormal’s above. Divisiveness helps no one. But coming from your comfy middle-class background I forgive you for not ‘getting’ that.

    It seems that you take what you watch on TV programmes, such as Campbell Live, at face value and without any critical analysis. If policy-makers did the same, and took action based on face-value alone, then those in very dire need would be less likely to have their needs recognised and met. Critical analysis is necessary to target assistance to where it is needed the very most. I admit this can appear harsh, particularly when the media chooses to present it in that way, but it behooves people with intelligence to see through that.

  47. JC says:

    “JC, Ruth Richardson slashed slashed benefits in her Mother of All Budgets and despite the CPI adjustments they have provided less support ever since.”

    Not so. Lindsay Mitchell has the facts.

    http://breakingviewsnz.blogspot.co.nz/2014/06/lindsay-mitchell-calls-to-restore.html

    The difference is in targeting.. the accommodation allowance goes from $72pw to $75-220 per week plus now of course there’s an extra $25 added to the basic benefit.

    “Richardson’s philosophy was that around 5% unemployment was useful in driving down wages”

    Which was pretty standard thinking from economists and Govts around the Western world at the time. “Full employment” is a nice catchcall but mostly impossible without major distortions to the economy, ie, where we were in earlier decades with make work schemes.

    “We now have less skilled jobs in new Zealand and apprenticeships have been cut.”

    Really? According to Yearbook 1990 we had 316203 manufacturing workers producing $33 billion in sales and other income.
    In 2012 we had 214535 workers in manufacturing producing $91 billion in sales, ie, a 50% smaller workforce producing four times as much as in 1990.

    That means at least two things, todays workforce is much more highly skilled and productive than 1990 and back then there was a tremendous amount of fat in the system built up by crony capitalism, tariffs and restrictive trade practices.

    As for apprenticeships, thats offset by the explosion of Polytechs building the intellectual skill base for tomorrows workers.

    So our manufacturing is booming and excess labour, like in most other Western countries is being soaked up in the service industries.

    “Maori and Pasifika youth have particularly high unemployment (almost 30% in Auckland) ”

    I wonder why that is?

    Ah!
    http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/labours-good-intentions-led-bad-youth-unemployment-ck-115419

    (One explanation, and I think the correct one, is the Labour government’s abolition of the differential lower youth minimum wage effective April 2008.

    Youth unemployment rates did not spike immediately afterwards, but neither would we have expected them to; employers are not likely to fire youths en masse with a change in the minimum wage, but they are likely to avoid hiring younger and riskier workers when more experienced and similarly-priced alternatives are available. And they’re also likely to stop creating the kinds of jobs that can usefully be done by lower-paid youths.)

    As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.. in the above instances of full employment meant a failing and uncompetitive series of industries and youth minimum rates meant an explosion of unemployment.

    So far virtually all the Greens have come up with is a regression to Muldoonism, minimal productivity and a failing nation a la Greece.

    JC

  48. Paranormal says:

    So DK she’s not paid a decent wage then? As per Tracey’s calculations do you consider $90k into the household poverty?

    You are accusing everyone else of making assumptions and generalisations, when in fact you are doing the same in a most patronising manner.

    More to my point do you not think budgeting advice would be helpful to pick priorities and avoid the trap of non essentials eating away the income. I know it was in my household. I can recommend Hannah McQueens book for those that are struggling, even those considered well off like us. http://enableme.co.nz/

  49. TraceyS says:

    “Why can’t we just pay these people a decent wage in the first place…?”

    “We” the taxpayers have limited tools. We could vote in a government that would take “these people” under its wing and turn them into either working or non-working employees of the State, ie. public servants or beneficiaries.

    “We” cannot make private employers pay this ‘living wage’ moving target which is already estimated to be over $24/hr in Auckland. If the Government takes control of a major business expense such as wages and salaries then it must also be prepared to take responsibility for such.

    Does anyone really want that?

    You, Dave?

  50. JC says:

    “If the Government takes control of a major business expense such as wages and salaries then it must also be prepared to take responsibility for such.”

    I wonder if like the boiling frog this hasn’t already happened..

    In the last twenty years the over 65s who remain working have gone up nearly 500% to 140,000. For sure thats partly because of a change in health and attitude but it requires the willing co-operation of employers to achieve, ie, the wrinklies are seen as a better bet than youngsters now entitled to a wage that doesn’t match their limited abilities and experience.

    The apprenticeships are gone, perhaps because of a confused education system that doesn’t stream pupils early enough into trade or university and a polytech system that seems more like a dumping ground than a seamless and logical transfer between school and trade and services.

    Then there’s the aging unionists.. no way do they want to compete with the young in the low to semi skilled occupations.. they couldn’t agree more with overpricing their competition.

    JC

  51. TraceyS says:

    “In the last twenty years the over 65s who remain working have gone up nearly 500% to 140,000.”

    Largely due to the forced removal, since 1999, of mandatory retirement provisions from all employment agreements.

    “Then there’s the aging unionists.. no way do they want to compete with the young in the low to semi skilled occupations.. they couldn’t agree more with overpricing their competition.”

    Interesting perspective there, JC.

    I see the prime motivation being to ratchet up all wages. This the ‘living wage’ would do, in time, achieving what was impossible for the union movement. They failed, despite labour relations reform under a Labour government, to get substantial pay rises for workers. So Labour gave working families a massive, taxpayer funded, one through the Working for Families package.

    But that didn’t cover everyone, and now the recipients are used to the extra, so the unions et al. want the Government to step in again and deliver the next big round of pay rises. No wonder – as the precedent for this is already set!

    Transferring this responsibility to the Government effectively makes them both advocate and regulator. I think this is very unwise.

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