What works

February 26, 2015

Quote of the day:

This is a Government that believes that what works for the community is what works for the Government’s books. So every time we keep a teenager on track to stay at school long enough to get a qualification or have one more person pulled off the track of long-term welfare dependency, we get an immediate saving, of course, and an immediate benefit for those individuals and for the community, and a long-term saving in taxpayers’ moneyBill English

Good social policy pays both social and economic dividends.

The stronger the economy, the more there is to invest in social investments.

The better these work, the bigger the social and economic dividends.

It’s a virtuous cycle in contrast to the alternative vicious circle of welfare dependency and poor educational outcomes with high social and financial costs.


Better public services

February 20, 2015

One of National’s goals in government has been to deliver better public services. It set firm targets and it’s making good progress towards achieving them, but it’s not resting on its laurels:

The Government has set itself ambitious new targets including 75,000 fewer New Zealanders being on benefits by June 2018 as part of its Better Public Services drive, Finance Minister Bill English and State Services Minister Paula Bennett say.

The ministers today released the latest results from the Better Public Services programme showing almost 5000 people (-6.6 per cent) came off long-term Jobseeker Support benefit in 2014, the number of children who experienced substantiated physical abuse decreased by almost 200 (-5.6 per cent) over the 12 months to September 2014, infant immunisations are at an all-time high and crime numbers continue to fall. 

“The latest results show that the programme, which measures progress in 10 areas chosen in 2012 to focus on improving the lives of people who most need the Government’s help, is working,” Mr English says.

“All the areas are making progress including improvements in the immunisation rate, a reduction in the incidence of rheumatic fever and we expect that results for NCEA Level 2 will show progress towards the 85 per cent achievement target.

“However, in some of our target areas it is not yet clear whether the positive trends are sustainable.  The challenge now is to find ways to influence those who are harder to reach and who may be in circumstances that make it more difficult for them to respond. This will require a broad search both inside and outside the public service for better solutions, more innovative ideas and   intensification of activity to keep making progress. We will track results and spend our social investment funds where they make the most difference.”

Mrs Bennett said ministers were today announcing they were extending the Better Public Services  welfare targets and, as signalled earlier,  also challenging themselves and the public service to do even better at reducing crime, and improving the workforce skills of young adults.

Mrs Bennett said the new targets are:

Result 1 –  A 25 per cent reduction (from 295,000 people as at June 2014 to 220,000 as at June 2018) in the total number of people receiving main benefits and a $13 billion reduction in the long-term cost of benefit dependence, as measured by an accumulated Actuarial Release, by June 2018.

This replaces the current target of a 30 per cent reduction – 78,000 people to 55,000 people – in the number of working-age recipients of Jobseeker Support who have continually received benefits for more than 12 months.

Result 6 –  60 per cent of 25-34 year olds will have a qualification at Level 4 or above by 2018.

This replaces the current target of 55 per cent of 25-34 year olds holding those qualifications by 2017, which has almost been achieved.

Result 7 – A 20 per cent reduction in total crime by 2018.

This replaces the target of a 15 per cent reduction by 2017, which has already been achieved.

Mrs Bennett said the change to the welfare reduction target recognised that many people who were not on Jobseeker Support also wanted to work and they deserved the same levels of support as jobseekers to do that.

“We know that around 90 per cent of people who went on benefits aged 16 or 17 also lived in benefit-dependent homes as children. This reinforces the urgency and importance of getting people in to work to improve their circumstances, and to help break the cycle of inter-generational welfare dependence.

“We have been making some real progress in this regard and it is good to see from the latest results that people who have been exiting Jobseeker Support have been staying in work for longer.

“There has also been real improvement in helping young people and young sole parents in to work so it makes sense to include them in this expanded new target because they are most at risk of long-term dependence, with a resulting heavy cost to themselves and taxpayers.”

Results on targets set so far are here.
We're already delivering better public services and we've just set ourselves tougher targets so we keep improving.<br /><br /><br />
ntnl.org.nz/1zPgs4q


Declining benefit numbers best way to counter poverty

January 19, 2015

Benefit numbers continue to decline, about which Social Development Minister Anne Tolley says:

There were 309,145 people on benefit at the end of the December 2014 quarter.

“Compared with last year there are more than 12,700 fewer people on welfare. This is the lowest December quarter since 2008 and the third consecutive quarter (June, September, December) with such record lows.” Mrs Tolley says.

Numbers on the Jobseeker Support benefit have decreased by over 5,500 since last year and have been consistently declining since 2010, even as the overall working age population has increased.

Performance is strong around the country with only two regions, Wellington and Taranaki, registering a slight increase compared with the same period in 2013.

“Sole parents continue to move off the benefit and into work, confirming that welfare reforms have been successful.

“There are more than 5,300 fewer people on the Sole Parent Support benefit compared to last year, a drop of 6.8 per cent, and every region around the country recorded a reduction.

“Both Canterbury and Nelson’s Sole Parent Support numbers declined by more than 9 per cent, while Waikato and East Coast reduced by more than 7 per cent,” Mrs Tolley says.

“This Government’s welfare reforms are continuing to support New Zealanders into work. The reductions we’re now seeing will mean fewer people on benefit in the years to come which means we’re going to see healthier, more prosperous households.” Mrs Tolley says.

Benefit numbers are now back to levels recorded before the Global Financial Crisis.

That’s still too high but the downward trend is encouraging.

Moving people from benefits and work is one of the best ways to reduce poverty and the poor health, education, and other social and financial outcomes which go with it.


Sallies do tough love

December 23, 2014

The headline suggests a sob story: Kids to go without Christmas, mum says:

An Invercargill couple say their six young kids will go without on Christmas day and it’s the Salvation Army’s fault.

However, the Salvation Army says the parents are to blame for their family’s predicament because they have relied on handouts rather than trying to help themselves.

Shelly Edwards and Leo Hewett said their six children aged 3-10 will get no presents and have a diet of chicken and bread on Christmas day because the Salvation Army failed to help them in their time of need.

“How can we tell the kids there’s nothing for Christmas?” Shelly asked from their south Invercargill state house yesterday.

Shelly said she was on the invalid’s benefit and received a working for families benefit, while her partner was unemployed and seeking employment at the meatworks. Their weekly income was $631 but just $15 was left over after paying for their rent, bills, food and petrol.

Struggling to afford a decent Christmas for their kids, they thought it was sorted when the Nga Kete trust referred them to the Salvation Army scheme called adopt-a-family, which sees businesses and individuals sponsor struggling families during Christmas by providing them with a hamper filled with food and treats.

The family had been on the same scheme last year and received presents for their children, a supermarket voucher and a food hamper, they said.

However, when Shelly failed to turn up to a budget advice meeting early this month she was told she had been taken off the adopt-a-family scheme this year, she said.

She said she did not go to the meeting because she had no petrol money for their vehicle and it would have been difficult to take her six kids, one of whom is disabled, on public transport to the meeting. . .

Some people don’t have family, friends or neighbours to turn to for child minding, but surely there was an alternative to simply failing to turn up.

Salvation Army spokeswoman Brenda King said the family had never been put on the adopt-a-family scheme this year, effectively because they had failed to help themselves.

Shelly had been using the services of the Salvation Army for about two years and when she received more than three food parcels in one year she was referred to a budget advice centre to receive financial planning assistance, King said.

However, Shelly had not engaged with the budget advisory service so was not put on the adopt-a-family scheme, King said.

The Salvation Army’s aim was for its clients to get to the point where they could look after themselves and be self sufficient.

“If we keep handing out we are enabling them to stay in the situation they are in. We aren’t actually helping them at all in the long run.”

Shelly and her partner had six children and they were responsible for them, King said.

“I have been in touch with her budget advisor and she assures me they do have money. Like everyone Shelly has known Christmas is coming.”

Jubilee Budget Advisory Service manager Sharon Soper confirmed Shelly had been on its books in the past but said she had not called in to see the a budget advisor since July 11 and she had failed to front for a meeting on December 4. . . .

I’m on the side of the Sallies who do a lot of good work with very vulnerable people.

Their time and resources are limited and cannot be wasted on people who won’t take up the help that’s available to help themselves where they can.

Benefits aren’t designed to cover more than the basics, though Kiwiblog calculates they’re getting more than $631 a week:

Incidentally I think their estimate of their income is low. I make it:

  • Invalids Benefit (couple rate) $217.75
  • JobSeeker (couple rate) $174.21
  • Family Tax Credits (for six kids) $414.00

So that is a total of $805.96 a week net, not $631. On top of that it is highly likely they get the accommodation supplement or a statehouse subsidized rent. . .

Should the children suffer because of their parents?

In general no. But this isn’t depriving children of basic needs.

They’re missing out on extras for Christmas in a family where, if what’s reported is accurate, the parents haven’t done everything they can to help themselves.

The Sallies aren’t being heartless, they’re demonstrating tough love.


Break in the inter-generational cycle of social dysfunction

September 13, 2014

Lindsay Mitchell blogs on one of National’s significant achievements - breaking the inter-generation cycle of social dysfunction:

. . . I asked MSD how many sole parents were on any benefit in 2008, 2011 and 2014 (June quarter).
Knowing they would provide working age numbers (18-64) I also asked for sole parents aged 16-17.

The results are graphed below. 18-64 year-olds follow an expected pattern – up during the recession. Though it should be noted that today the numbers are lower than after the economic boom period up to 2008.

Most interestingly though, the 16-17 year-old numbers have just plummeted. Across all ethnicities! Exactly what National wanted to achieve. And it’s not a the result of more 16-17 young parents being denied assistance. The teenage birth rate is also tracking down quite significantly.

This development cannot be overstated in importance. It means fewer children at risk of ill-health, under achievement, neglect or abuse, disaffection and drop-out, ending up in state care, and ultimately convictions and imprisonment – all most common among children with very young parents.

It represents a break in the inter-generational cycle of social dysfunction. Truly good news. . .

It is indeed truly good news for the people who are not trapped on welfare with all the negative consequences that is more likely to lead to.

It is also good news for the rest of us – more people in work and fewer on welfare saves us the long term social and financial costs of benefit dependency.

If people are looking for just one reason to vote for National this is one of the better ones because it is determined to carry on addressing the causes of problems like this rather than just throwing money at the symptoms.

A strong economy means more jobs, higher wages, and fewer people on welfare. #Working4NZ


Work best way out of poverty trap

September 1, 2014

Welfare has a place for people who can never support themselves and others who, for a variety of reasons, need temporary help.

But it’s a safety net that can turn into a poverty trap.

The best way out of that trap, and the best answer to poverty, is work which is why National has put so much effort, and so many resources, into helping those who can help themselves to do so.

The policy is working for the people going off benefits on to work and its working for New Zealand by reducing the long term economic and social costs of welfare dependency and poverty which comes with it.
Clearly, our policies are #working4nz.


Better off not just about money

August 19, 2014

The Herald is comparing party’s policies and gives an example of a woman who says she’s not much better-off working than she would be on a benefit:

Solo mother Mia Silverman works 20 hours a week in a professional job – but she is virtually no better off than she would be on a benefit.

A media production assistant at Auckland University, volunteer yoga instructor and established singer-songwriter, Ms Silverman is multi-talented.

But when she tried working fulltime when her second son Frankie was still under 2, soon after her marriage broke up, it was too much.

“After working two weeks fulltime, I did a breakdown of my budget,” she says.

“What is better – being really, really stressed and working is great, but the stress of running around was too much.”

She received $680-$690 a week on a benefit. Current rates are $299.45 for a sole-parent benefit, $157.17 in family tax credits for two children, and Ms Silverman got about $205 a week in accommodation supplement for rent.

Now her 20-hour university job pays $430 a week after tax, her tax credits and accommodation supplement are reduced, but she also gets the $60-a-week in-work tax credit, taking her total net income to about $850 a week after tax.

Out of that she pays a net $100 a week for Frankie’s childcare after allowing for a government subsidy, a $16 top-up for her older son Monty’s kindergarten because he needs to be there slightly more than the 20 free hours a week, plus $35 for parking at university and $100 a week for petrol.

“I enjoy being back at work, but I’m not really that much better off.”

“My feeling with National’s approach to welfare reform is that the focus on obligation in much of the wording needs to be replaced with the idea that there will be some incentive to get back to work.”

There is no mention in this story of the children’s father and how much, if any, support he gives his family.

It also misses the point that being better-off isn’t just about money.

Children raised in benefit-dependent homes are more likely to be represented in negative social statistics for health, education and crime.

She admits she really enjoys the work – that should count for something.

That she is helping herself, albeit with top-ups from the taxpayer should also be taken into account.

By helping herself she is not using scarce tax-payer funds which can be better used on those who need more help than she does.

We’re all better off when those who can help themselves do so by both financial and social measures.


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