Quote of the day

August 28, 2015

. . . The nature of CYF is chaotic because it deals with chaotic people. The organisation is in crisis because it exists to respond to crisis. No law changes, or system revamps, or ‘best practice’ applications will change that.

I feel sorry for the people who work with deeply dysfunctional families. The best of them burn out, and the worst become desensitized.

This latest from the Commissioner, and then s panel to “transform” CYF are just part and parcel of the ongoing drama that is chasing the tail of  inter-generational social malaise driven by paying people to have babies. . .Lindsay Mitchell

She was responding to the release of The Children’s Commissioner Dr Russell Wills’s State of Care report.


Quote of the day

June 16, 2015

“The government currently invests $331 million each year in this sector, and we need a structured plan to ensure this funding is making a difference for our most vulnerable Kiwis, and that it is being invested in the right places,” says Mrs Tolley.

“At the moment there is little evidence of the effectiveness, or not, of funding in this sector, because up until now most contracts have focused on the numbers of clients receiving services, rather than the effect that the service has on improving the lives of vulnerable people.

“We need to address this so that future contracts are built around positive results and evidence of what is working.”  –  Anne Tolley

Hat tip: Lindsay Mitchell


More of what’s working not boring

May 21, 2015

Several commentators are criticising today’s Budget for being boring.

Boring in the sense of no surprises is good for Budgets.

We should be grateful the days when everyone stocked up on fuel and fags then sat round the radio listening to the Finance Minister add taxes here and give out subsidies and other taxpayer largesse there are long gone.

But a Budget that delivers more of what’s working for New Zealand shouldn’t be written off as boring and the programme being built on in successive Budgets is working.

NBR editor Nevil Gibson writes of a Budget success story we don’t hear about:

One of the biggest contributors to the reduction in the budget deficit is the money not being spent on welfare.

It’s a success story you won’t hear much about as opposition parties insist a rise in the welfare budget is a better measure.

But, like the ACC reforms and its lower fees, the savings in welfare benefits are like a tax cut for all other taxpayers. . .

The reduction of people on benefits pays dividends in financial and human terms.

The reduction in benefit numbers since the reforms began in 2012 and the projections are described as “startling” by an Australian commentator, Rick Morton. 

His column quotes figures that show the number of years people will spend on benefits has fallen 12%, worth 650,000 years of benefit receipt in the next five decades.

“Two-thirds of this is due to a reduction in the number of people who will gain benefits and one-third is a reduction in the time they will spend on those benefits,” Mr Morton writes.

“From $NZ86 billion, the future liability of the welfare recipients shrank to $76.5 billion in 2013 and to $69 billion last year, largely on the back of economic factors such as inflation.

“But $2.2 billion of the reduction was attributed, in a report released earlier this year, to the ‘effectiveness’ of the policy, which is measured by fewer people getting access to benefits and more people leaving them.” . .

Lindsay Mitchell notes the success in reducing the number of teen pregnancies:

. . . To be demonstrating prevention-success alongside support for the diminishing number who do become teenage parents is a political dream. 

Stopping people going on to welfare and getting beneficiaries from welfare to work are two of the best ways to alleviate poverty.

Whatever further measures to address the problem of poverty are announced in today’s Budget, the significant reduction in the long-term financial and social costs of welfare are anything but boring.

An email from the National Party yesterday made these points:

  1. 194,000 new jobs created since the start of 2011 under National – that equates to around 120 new jobs every day.
  2. We’ve turned the Government’s books around – the deficit peaked at $18.4 billion in 2011 and now we’re expected to be back in surplus next year, a year later than the target we set in 2011. We’ll still be one of the first developed countries to be back in surplus after the global financial crisis.
  3. This will be the type of Budget a responsible Government can deliver when it’s following a plan that’s working.
  4. Budget 2015 will contain $1 billion in new spending. It continues to support New Zealanders and help families while responsibly managing the growing economy and the Government’s finances.
  5. The Government will continue building on what we’ve put in place to address the drivers of hardship. This approach is working – there are now 42,000 fewer children in benefit-dependent families than three years ago. So our spending will make a difference to those who receive it, while at the same time we respect the taxpayers who pay for it.

There is no money for a lolly scramble budget and even if there was that would be wrong.

A business as usual budget might be boring to some but it’s working for New Zealand.

 


Better results not ideological obsessions

April 30, 2015

A new funding system for people with disabilities was the subject of this exchange at question time yesterday:

CARMEL SEPULONI (Labour—Kelston) to the Minister of Finance: Is the Productivity Commission report released yesterday indicative of a Government agenda to privatise the welfare system?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): No. It is indicative of a Government agenda to get better results for people who really need them. We are happy to debate the kind of toolset that the Productivity Commission has laid out, but I would like to signal to that member and to the Labour Party that we are focused more on getting better results and less on their ideological obsessions. What we are doing is building a system that allows Governments to invest upfront in personalised interventions for the child, the individual, or the family for a long-term impact, and to track the results of that investment. The Productivity Commission has produced a framework that gives the Government a wider range of tools. It has been heavily consulted on with the social service sector to a draft form, and now it will be further consulted on before it gives us a final report. But I expect at the end of that that the Labour Party will be out of step with pretty much everybody by sticking to its 1970s models.

Carmel Sepuloni: Does the Minister intend to establish a voucher system for social services in New Zealand?29 Apr 2015 Oral Questions Page 11 of 15 (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes. We are under way in establishing a voucher system particularly for people with disabilities. It is called Enabling Good Lives. It has been broadly welcomed by the disability sector. I suspect that the mass adoption of it by the Australian Government in the form of the National Disability Insurance Scheme is going to put a lot of pressure on New Zealand to further develop a sophisticated voucher system for people with disabilities. The reason why is that it gives them some choices rather than being subject to a system where the Labour Party tells the providers—

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Jami-Lee Ross: What progress has the Government made in delivering better outcomes from social services?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: We have made considerable progress in focusing on our customers—that is, getting to know much better the circumstances and prospects of those most vulnerable New Zealanders. For instance, a child under the age of 5 who is known to Child, Youth and Family, whose parents are supported by a benefit, and where either parent is in contact with the Department of Corrections—and there are a lot of those families; around 470 of them in Rotorua, for instance—is around five times more likely to end up on a long-term benefit and seven times more likely than the average to get to be in prison before the age of 21. In the light of that information, we feel a moral obligation, as well as a fiscal one, to act now to reduce the long-term costs, and we are not—

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Carmel Sepuloni: Does he agree with the findings of the draft Productivity Commission’s report he commissioned that the Government faces incentives to underfund contracts with NGOs for the delivery of social services, with probably adverse consequences for service provision; if so, does he agree that greater contracting out could harm service provision?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I agree with the first one but not the second one. The Government often does deliberately, as a result of Government policy, actually, pay less than the full cost of services, and often the users of those services need a higher level of more sophisticated service that what we currently offer them. There is no evidence at all that contracting out, as the member calls it, will reduce service provision. Sometimes that is the right way to do it. For instance, the Government owns no elderly care beds in New Zealand. It is all contracted out. That has been a bipartisan approach for many years with a highly vulnerable population. There are other areas where there are benefits from competition and also benefits from cooperation.

Jami-Lee Ross: What results has he seen from investment in Better Public Services?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: One of the first results we are seeing from taking an investment approach to public services is a much better understanding of our customers. The reports, now published 6-monthly, into the welfare liability have lifted the lid on a very complex ecosystem of dependency. Now we are starting to take initiatives in order to change the way that system works. For instance, around 70 percent of the people who sign up for a benefit in any given month have been on a benefit before. They are long-term regular and returning customers. In the past we have thought that because we found them a job once, that was the end of it. In fact, they need sustained support and employment, and we expect to be taking more measures in order to back up that initiative. But there will be hundreds of others that will involve contracting out, will involve competition, will involve the private sector, and will involve better results. . .

Carmel Sepuloni: Does he agree with the finding of the report, which he commissioned, that “Problems with contracting out are often symptoms of deeper causes such as the desire to exert top-down control to limit political risk.”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes.

Carmel Sepuloni: Does he agree that the Government needs to take responsibility for system stewardship and for making considered decisions that shape the system, including taking the overarching responsibility for monitoring, planning, and managing resources in such a way as to maintain and improve system performance?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, the Government can do a better job of what the Government does. We are still unravelling the damage done by the previous Labour Government to our social services delivery, where that Government turned it into what I would call a dumb funding system. Communities and families have an important role as well as Governments—in fact, a more important role. In fact, one of the programmes that the commission refers to is Whānau Ora, which is designed around the radical proposition that a lot of our most dysfunctional families can actually heal some of their own problems and improve some of their own aspirations. . .

This exchange shows a stark difference between National and Labour.

National is determined to improve the delivery of social services, give people with disabilities more choices and reduce dependence.

Labour which is still ideologically opposed to private provision of services even if that gives better results.

And it’s not just Labour which has the wrong idea of welfare and the government’s role in services.

Lindsay Mitchell writes on Green MP Jan Logie’s contention that social problems aren’t solved one individual at a time:

If problems aren’t solved “one individual at a time”, when it is individuals who abuse or neglect each other, when it is individuals who successfully resolve to change their behaviour, what hope? And why have role models eg Norm Hewitt to show what individuals can achieve? Why have organisations like AA who focus on each individual owning and addressing their problem; in living one day at a time to break their addiction?

Logie believes in deterministic explanations for human behaviour. Causes are outside of the control of the individual. For instance, colonisation and capitalism cause social chaos to entire groups. Therefore the largest representative collective – government – must play the major remedial role.

And she has the gall to talk about private service providers securing an “ongoing need for [their] services”.

When for the past forty odd years  government policy has been creating and increasing social problems through the welfare state.

This reinforces this morning’s quote from Thomas Sowell: Although the big word on the left is ‘compassion,’ the big agenda on the left is dependency.


2014 blogging in review

December 31, 2014

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 450,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 19 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Among the stats are most viewed posts:

The top referring sites:

  1. nominister.blogspot.co.nz
  2. keepingstock.blogspot.co.nz
  3. kiwiblog.co.nz
  4. twitter.com
  5. lindsaymitchell.blogspot.co.nz

No Minister is consistently the site from which most visitors come.

Keeping Stock is still a top referrer even though, sadly, it has gone into recess.

And the five most active commenters:

 

  • 1 robertguyton 1286 comments
  • 2 TraceyS 1197 comments
  • 3 Dave Kennedy 1045 comments
  • 4 Mr E 984 comments
  • 5 Andrei 645 comments

Thank you all for reading and even more for contributing to conversations.

I’ve been blogging much less since late September. Readership has dropped as a consequence – I’m hoping that’s a case of less quantity and more quality. :)

P.S. Thanks to WordPress and its staff who provide the platform for this blog, give prompt and helpful assistance when it’s required and provide such good service.

 


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


Must not hesitate to condemn, utterly, the evil

September 12, 2014

Brendan Boyle, Chief Executive, Ministry of Social Development spoke wise and compassionate words at the Ashburton Civic Service to remember Leigh Cleveland and Peggy Noble yesterday:

 

. . . Whenever people die at work, different communities of family, friends and colleagues are drawn together. We see different sides of people. Death illuminates the whole person.

The thoughts I have to share are about the work of Public Servants, such as Leigh Cleveland and Peggy Noble, and our injured colleague Lindy Curtis, whom I am pleased to say is making progress to the relief of her family, friends and colleagues.

New Zealand is a democracy, something for which many have given their lives.

Public servants rightly commit to implementing the policies of the elected government, under the law.

For all of us it is a job. For many – perhaps most of us – that job includes elements of a calling, a vocation, a commitment to others.

And so it was for Leigh Cleveland and Peggy Noble and Lindy Curtis at work last week.

In the Ministry of Social Development we say: “We will always be here to help people in need”.

Leigh and Peggy were at work, being there for people in need, when they lost their lives. Lindy was there for people in need when she was shot.

They were serving people directly by providing them with information, entitlements, and services.

They will not be forgotten. Family and friends will remember and mourn them with an intimate and personal insight.

Those of us who worked with them will remember their service to New Zealand.

Like our other staff, they came to work each day prepared to face the whole range of New Zealanders who seek our services and support.

Like our other staff Leigh and Peggy responded with firmness in implementing policy, with kindness in explanation, and with intelligence in seeking solutions to people’s problems.

You can’t work on our front desks without empathy, sympathy and commitment to people.

In marking this tragedy, let’s also mark the professionalism they showed on all the other, uneventful, days of their working lives.

All of us who are committed to public service can take pride that Leigh and Peggy were a part of us, and realise, in their loss, the importance of our own work and the public service itself.

It is an honour to be here with both families and to share your grief.

Our respect for Leigh and Peggy has been shown by government workers throughout New Zealand marking two minutes silence a week after the event and in many other ways.

It is shown in the expressions of concern for Lindy and for those affected emotionally by the experience.

Most of all, our respect is shown by our continued work – often difficult, and always challenging – to help New Zealanders to help themselves to be safe, strong and independent.

Those who do this work also need to be safe.

Their families should not have to fear that they will not return home at the end of the day.

In the days, weeks and years ahead we will continue to think about, and learn what we can from what happened.

I take my responsibility for this seriously.

I will be asking myself, over and over, what more could I have done?

I know others are doing the same thing, and that at times we feel as if we are searching in darkness.

I’ve heard it said that it is better “to light one candle than to curse the darkness”.  We are looking for those points of light, those things we can learn from what has happened.  

Every action we take so that in the future staff will be safer will be a tribute to Leigh, and Peggy, and all victims of this terrible act.

But while we look for lessons, we cannot ignore the darkness.

We must not hesitate to condemn, utterly, the evil that occurred in the Ashburton office that day.

We may in time learn to what extent it was a result of social conditions, or medical issues, or psychological processes, or an act of will, or all of these.

But the victims – those who have died and those who must live with these memories – bear no responsibility for what has happened.

By seeking concrete actions for the future we honour the victims, and we push back against the darkness.

Already, our people are reflecting on what has happened and, putting aside their shock and anger, concentrating on what this means for us and our relationship with clients.

We respect those who need our services.

I see indications that we will be stronger in our expectations of mutual respect.

We will not be less tolerant but we will be more willing clearly to say what cannot be tolerated.

In that process we will begin to restore and renew trust.

But today is about this moment and honouring two whose lives have been taken because they worked for others, and recognising all those wounded and harmed by this attack.

Today is about realising, in our shared grief and loss, the strength of that community and society we work to build.

And it is about our responsibility, even at this moment, to not back away from our commitment to serve New Zealanders.

Hat tip: Lindsay Mitchell


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