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Un-employment; under-employment; and the plain unvarnished truth… *** UP DATE ***

11 February 2014 1 comment

Continued from: Un-employment; under-employment; and the plain unvarnished truth

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Unemployed under-employment

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Additional to my original blogpost on The Daily Blog on 6 February.

In up-coming unemployment stats, I’ll be focusing on the Jobless and under-employed numbers, as well as the narrower “unemployed” stats from the Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS). It is evident from the numbers of under-employed and the extremely narrow defining on what constitutes an unemployed person, that we are not getting the full picture from the HLFS.

Coupled to that, the Census last year revealed unemployment to be at an astonishing 7.1% whilst Roy Morgan poll (5 December 2013) had the figure at 8.5%.

By comparison, the HLFS (at roughly the same time) had unemployment at 6.2%.

So unemployment stats ranged from 6.2% (HLFS) to 8.5% (Roy Morgan).

Coupled to that is the narrow definition of the HLFS used by Statistics NZ (see below), and we begin to see why the “official unemployment rate” appears more ‘benign’.

From the January 2014 Parliamentary report, Unemployment and employment statistics: the Household Labour Force Survey in context;

The Reserve Bank has expressed concern at its variance with other indicators. [2]   A commentator in the Westpac Bulletin, puzzled by the continued weakness of the HLFS in 2012 compared to the Quarterly Employment Survey (QES) and other labour market indicators, described it as ‘confusion reigns’ and suggested that survey ‘volatility’ played a role. [3]   The ANZ commentator is cautious: ‘The HLFS has been very volatile in recent years, and we and the Reserve Bank will treat the result with a degree of scepticism, preferring to take note of a wide range of labour market indicators.’ [4]  

These broader labour market indicators include external ones such as business and consumer surveys and job advertisements. These are in addition to those derived from official statistics such as changes in the employment and labour force participation rates, full- and part-time work, and hours worked, together with fine-grained analysis of changes by region, industry and age.

Various reasons for the volatility of the unemployment rate and its variance with other labour market indicators have been discussed – the impact of the recession, the dynamic nature of the labour market, the survey nature of the HLFS, and differences in coverage of the statistics. It has been suggested that the HLFS is more volatile at a turning point – either going into or out of recession…

The latest Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS) stats;

Officially unemployed stats;

The unemployment rate decreased over the quarter, down 0.2 percentage points to 6.0 percent. This decrease reflected 2,000 fewer people being unemployed [147,000]. The fall in unemployment was from fewer men unemployed.

Official unemployment: down

The  under-employment stats;

Over the year, the total number of under-employed people increased by 27,200 to 122,600. As a result, the under-employment rate increased 1.0 percentage points to 5.3 percent.

Official under-employment: up

The HLFS Jobless  stats;

In the year to December 2013, the number of people in the jobless category fell 27,400 to 257,100. Alongside the 15,000 fall in the number of people unemployed, there was also a 10,200 fall in the number of people without a job who were available for work but not actively seeking.

Official Jobless: down

Source

Observation #1: Under-employment is increasing, which brings into question how effective the “drop” in unemployment and Jobless actually is. As being “employed” is defined as working for one hour (or more) per week; with or without pay: the whole statistical reporting of true unemployment in New Zealand is now called into question. Especially with regards to the next point.

Observation  #2: “A 10,200 fall in the number of people without a job who were available for work but not actively seeking” signifies that the drop in Unemployment/Jobless can also be attributed to people giving up, as this Radio NZ report stated in February last year (2013).

Observation #3: As stated in the “Definitions” below, a person who is job seeking only through newspapers is not considered in the “Unemployed” category, but under the wider “Jobless” definition. Considering that a number of  households  cannot afford the internet, and do not qualify for WINZ registration, this makes a sizeable “chunk” of unemployed effectively invisible.

Observation #4: The above Observation suits successive governments, which are desperate to report lower unemployed so as to gain support from voters.

 

Definitions

Jobless: people who are either officially unemployed, available but not seeking work, or actively seeking but not available for work. The ‘available but not seeking work’ category is made up of the ‘seeking through newspaper only’, ‘discouraged’, and ‘other’ categories.

Under-employment: employed people who work part time (ie usually work less than 30 hours in all jobs) and are willing and available to work more hours than they usually do.

Employed: people in the working-age population who, during the reference week, did one of the following:

  • worked for one hour or more for pay or profit in the context of an employee/employer relationship or self-employment 

  • worked without pay for one hour or more in work which contributed directly to the operation of a farm, business, or professional practice owned or operated by a relative 

  • had a job but were not at work due to: own illness or injury, personal or family responsibilities, bad weather or mechanical breakdown, direct involvement in an industrial dispute, or leave or holiday.

Source

Up-coming unemployment stats will focus  on  Jobless and under-employed numbers, as well as the more restrictive “unemployed” stats from the HLFS. Hopefully this will create a more comprehensive ‘snapshot’ of what is happening in the jobs ‘market’.

Further Information

“4 out of 5 New Zealand homes had access to the Internet, up 5 percent since 2009.”

- Statistics NZ

The corollary to that is that one in five households – a staggering 20%! – do not have internet access.

Which means that job seekers on little or no income (especially if they do not qualify for WINZ support) may rely solely on newspapers to look for jobs.

But as I’ve reported above, using a newspaper to be job-seeking does not quality you as “unemployed”.

20%.

That’s quite a number.

No wonder of official unemployment stats are dodgy as hell.

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References

NZ Parliament: Unemployment and employment statistics: the Household Labour Force Survey in context

Roy Morgan:  New Zealand real unemployment steady at 8.5% and a further 11.3% (up 2.7%) of workforce are under-employed

Roy Morgan:  Roy Morgan measures real unemployment in Australia not the “perception” of unemployment

Statistics NZ: 2013 Census QuickStats about national highlights

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey: September 2013 quarter

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey: December 2013 quarter

Statistics NZ: Definitions – About the Household Labour Force Survey

Statistics NZ: Household Use of Information and Communication Technology: 2012

Radio NZ: Unemployment rate falls as more give up job hunt

Previous related blogpost

The REAL level of unemployment

Roy Morgan Poll: Unemployment and Under-employment up in New Zealand!

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18 percent of 18-24 year olds unemployed

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 9 February 2014.

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Un-employment; under-employment; and the plain unvarnished truth…

11 February 2014 Leave a comment

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Continued from:    Roy Morgan Poll: Unemployment and Under-employment up in New Zealand!

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Unemployment logo

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This is the plain, unvarnished truth that most New Zealanders don’t know; don’t understand, and quite frankly, many do not want to know or understand. For many – especially National/Act supporters living in their own fantasyland – this is the reality that would shatter their comfortable upper-middle-class world-view.

First, read Mike Treen’s excellent analysis on The Daily Blog, on 30 January;

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EXCLUSIVE - Billions of dollars stolen from the unemployed

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(Note the pathetic and largely ineffectual attempts by right wing blogger; self-proclaimed “social welfare expert”; and ex-Act candidate, Lindsay Mitchell, and one or two other National Party supporters to undermine Mike’s analysis. They are unable to address or answer even the most simple points Mike and others have raised.)

Then, read Matt McCarten’s piece in the NZ Herald, a few days later;

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Matt McCarten - Rose-tinted view cruel fairy tales

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And now, here’s the ‘kicker‘;

According to Statistics New Zealand, which carries out both the five yearly Census as well as the Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS), the definition of an employed person is so loose and wide-ranging as to make the term meaningless;

Definitions

About the Household Labour Force Survey

The Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS) provides a regular, timely, and comprehensive portrayal of New Zealand’s labour force. Each quarter, Statistics NZ produces a range of statistics relating to employment, unemployment, and people not in the labour force.

The survey started in October 1985 and the first results published were for the March 1986 quarter.

More definitions

The labour force category to which a person is assigned depends on their actual activity during a survey reference week.

This section includes definitions used in the HLFS release. These conform closely to the international standard definitions specified by the International Labour Organization.

Employed: people in the working-age population who, during the reference week, did one of the following:

  • worked for one hour or more for pay or profit in the context of an employee/employer relationship or self-employment 

  • worked without pay for one hour or more in work which contributed directly to the operation of a farm, business, or professional practice owned or operated by a relative 

  • had a job but were not at work due to: own illness or injury, personal or family responsibilities, bad weather or mechanical breakdown, direct involvement in an industrial dispute, or leave or holiday.

So, if youworked for one hour” – even without pay! ” – you are automatically classed as employed by this country’s statisticians.

No wonder that the Roy Morgan poll consistently reports that New Zealand has a higher unemployment rate than is generally reported by Statistic NZ’s HLFS or Census.

Quite simply,

  • It appears that our stats are horribly wrong and are under-stating the severity of unemployment in New Zealand by several degrees of magnitude,
  • Lower unemployment figures suit the agendas of successive governments (National, as well as Labour-led),
  • Community organisations are over-worked struggling to put  band-aids on the growing problem of hidden unemployment,
  • New Zealand as a whole suffers through loss of productivity; increasing costs due to poverty; and other socio-economic problems.

When a government agency purports to measure employment and unemployment, and defines being employed as “working for one hour or more”, either paid or unpaid, those are not statistics – they are a sick joke. In effect, we are fooling ourselves as a nation that we have “low unemployment”.

These are not facts – they are propaganda; half-truths; mis-information; lies-dressed-up-as-comforting-facts. The reality – unpalatable as it may be for many – is that our unemployment is much, much worse than we have been led to believe.

If New Zealanders want to keep up this pretense, they will eventually have to “pay the Piper”, as societal problems worsen. And then, the rioting begins.

Note: For future reference, any subsequent use of Statistics NZ data referring to unemployment, in any upcoming blogposts,  will carry the caveat;

Definition of Employed (by Statistics NZ) includes any person who is;

  • anyone working for only one hour (or more)
  • anyone not paid for their labour

Accordingly, Statistics NZ information may not present a fully accurate picture of this country’s unemployment/employment rates.”

*** Up-date ***

The HLFS results for the December 2013 Quarter reported a “drop” in unemployment from 6.2% to 6.0%.

Interestingly, as Radio NZ reported, “the fall in unemployment did not match the pick up in jobs, due to more people searching for work“.

This ties in with the fact that “employment” is defined as anyone working for one hour (or more).

If more people are looking for work, this suggests any number of factors,

  • The HLFS survey is failing to pick up accurate numbers of unemployment,
  • Statistics NZ’s definition for unemployed is too narrow,
  • The number of under-employed is (as Roy Morgan reveals) so high as to mask real unemployment.

Also interesting to note that the drop in the HLFS survey results mirror the fall in Roy Morgans polling, further lending credibility to the latter.

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References

NZ Parliament: Unemployment and employment statistics: the Household Labour Force Survey in context

Statistics NZ: Hours Worked in Employment

Scoop News:  New Zealand Real Unemployment at 9.1%

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey: June 2012 quarter

The Daily Blog: EXCLUSIVE: Billions of dollars stolen from the unemployed

NZ Herald: Matt McCarten: Rose-tinted view cruel fairy tales

Roy Morgan: New Zealand real unemployment down 0.3% to 8.5% and a further 8.6% (down 1%) of workforce are under-employed

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey: September 2013 quarter

Scoop News: Inequality keeps rising, says UC social research expert

Statistics NZ:  Labour market statistics for the December 2013 quarter

Radio NZ: Unemployment falls to 6 percent

Previous related blogposts

The REAL level of unemployment

Roy Morgan Poll: Unemployment and Under-employment up in New Zealand!

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unemployed welfare beneficiaries paula bennett

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 6 February 2014.

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The REAL reason for the drop in welfare numbers

22 December 2013 22 comments

There is an underlying reason for this headline,

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Number on benefits drops, reaction mixed - 16.7.2013

Source

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In the above July 2013 article, Social welfare Minister, Paula Bennett proudly asserted,

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said today there are now 309,782 people on a benefit compared with 320,041 last year.

[...]

That’s a reduction of more than 10,000 on welfare over the past 12 months and I am particularly pleased that 5600 of them are sole parents.”

IBID

Nowhere in the article does it state where those 10,000 welfare beneficiaries ended up.

Was it in paid work?

Did they go back into full-time education or other courses?

Or were they simply dumped from WINZ’s books?  Like the recipient of these letters that were recently provided to me? (We will call him/her “Citizen X” – all identifying details have been redacted to respect his/her privacy and protect him/her from possible reprisals by Bennett, her office, or MSD official. Same for the WINZ officials whose names appear on the letters.)

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WINZ letter dec 2013 (1)WINZ letter dec 2013 (2)

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A few days later, “Citizen X” received this letter. Adding insult to injury, they were demanding that an outstanding amount (an amount between $200 to $300) be repaid;

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WINZ letter dec 2013 (3)

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This was despite that “Citizen X” had had her/his unemployment benefit cancelled – not because s/he had found paid employment (s/he hadn’t) – but because s/he had fallen foul of National’s harsh new welfare laws.

In part, the MSD website states,

On Jobseeker Support for more than 12 months

If you still require Jobseeker Support after 52 weeks you’ll have to re-apply for your benefit. We’ll let you know when you have to re-apply and tell you what you need to do.

When you re-apply, you’ll also need to complete a Comprehensive Work Assessment. This will identify what steps you’ve taken to find work and what help you might need from us to be more successful in getting a job.

Source

In effect, National has placed a one year time limit on all unemployment benefits. They haven’t advertised it as such – they refer to it as “re-applying”.

As Simon Collins reported in the NZ Herald back in January (2013),

The Council of Christian Social Services pointed yesterday to “a growing gap between those who receive a benefit and those in genuine need who are either losing or unable to obtain social welfare assistance”.

Unemployment increased in the two years to last September from 144,500 to 170,000, but those on unemployment benefit dropped by almost a quarter from 65,281 to 50,390.

Sole parents on the domestic purposes benefit have also dropped in the past year. Rules for both benefits were tightened in September 2010, when unemployment beneficiaries had their benefits cancelled if they failed to reapply after a year.

Sole parents were required to look for part-time work when their youngest child turned 6, an age reduced to 5 last October.

Christian Social Services executive officer Trevor McGlinchey said his members were reporting increases in demand for their services as people found benefits harder to get.

[...]

Ironically, the tighter welfare rules may also partly explain the rise in unemployment, as beneficiaries are counted as unemployed only if they are actively looking for work. Employment slipped only slightly from 63.6 per cent to 63.2 per cent of adults in the two years to last September, but the “jobless” rose from 7.1 per cent to 8.4 per cent because those not looking for work fell from 29.3 per cent to a record low of 28.4 per cent.

Source

What this  means is that eventually a significant number of people simply give up re-applying for the minimal amount that the dole pays ($206.21 per week).

Constant, repetitive, incessant demands for information and a less than helpful attitude created by MSD policy create an atmosphere of naked hostility.

The complexity of applying, with the multitude of 73 pages of WINZ  forms and other bits of paper, may also prove to be a dis-incentive for many – especially those for whom English, reading ability, and general low education is a real problem.

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73 pages of WINZ forms

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The massive number of WINZ forms and other documents handed out to applicants has been covered in this previous blogpost; WINZ, waste, and wonky numbers

These are some of the bureacratic barriers which National and MSD have created for the most vulnerable and dispossessed people in our country.

All done to “massage” beneficiary statistics.

As Bennett said, back in July,

That’s a reduction of more than 10,000 on welfare over the past 12 months and I am particularly pleased that 5600 of them are sole parents.”

No doubt, National will use this “success” at the next election and a sizeable portion of the voting population will be sufficiently uninformed and  gullible enough to accept this without question.

It will be up to those who oppose National and it’s virulent brand of right-wing politics to spread the truth; under this party, poverty and inequality will continue to worsen.

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Hungry kids scavenge pig slops

Source

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Because even the Prime Minister has had to reluctantly concede the enormity of what we are facing,

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Key admits underclass still growing

Source

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Pushing people off welfare, regardless of whether or not they have jobs to go to, just to massage welfare statistics, is a vile obscenity.

This will not “lift people out of poverty”, as Key has promised.

It is increasing poverty.

How long will it be before this growing poverty, sense of hopelessness, and constant attacks by National and MSD results in the inevitable outbreak of violent civil disturbance? Desperate people tend not to care – especially for the empty promises of well-fed, well-housed, comfortable politicians.

Is this really what New Zealanders want for their country?

The clock is ticking…

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clock.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 15 December 2013.

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Sources

NZ Herald: Welfare rules force people to struggle on without benefits

Fairfax media:  Number on benefits drops, reaction mixed

Fairfax media: Hungry kids scavenge pig slops

NZ Herald: Key admits underclass still growing

References

Work and Income:  Jobseeker Support

Additional

Gordon Campbell: Ten Myths About Welfare -The politics behind the government’s welfare reform process

Previous related blogposts

<p>. Source . National today announced that ” href=”http://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2013/10/21/random-thoughts-on-random-things-4/?relatedposts_to=8882&relatedposts_order=1″ rel=”nofollow”>How Paula Bennett and National are wasting our taxdollars

Random Thoughts on Random Things #4…

OIA Request points to beneficiary beat-up by Minister Chester Borrows

The REAL level of unemployment

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Another “satisfied” WINZ client…

- Peter

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UNEMPLOYMENT-LINE-JOBS-SCHOOL-CEOS-CAI-021209-COLOR
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I ran a blog called Aotearoawolfing, but stopped posting after I ran out of things to say. Obviously I did it anonymously, as like everyone I have things to hide i.e. my life off the internet.

Basically have left New Zealand for good to the United States (where I also have citizenship – though my family live here). I got out while I still could.

In my case I was depressed and I could no longer could work at my job like I used to, and I couldn’t get a job again at a decent wage. By the time I got through the W&I process I had full-scale clinical depression. No support exists, and the whole experience made me think the sole focus of W&I right now is make young people homeless (which aren’t counted on unemployment statistics) or force the burden of care onto the family.

Hopefully National gets turfed out next election, but if it doesn’t then I am no longer in New Zealand – even if I have to pay off a big student loan with interest (no thanks to the cut to the student loan holiday while overseas). But on that story, most don’t pay it off as John Key has no jurisdiction in places like Canada or the US – only in Australia. In fact most never want to go back to New Zealand, John Key threatening them with prison if they return will only ensure that the best and brightest never return.

Really I don’t understand the government’s paranoid obsession about the unemployed, and student loan borrowers. As the reason there is a shortfall in the budget is due to stagnant wage growth, the richest 10% avoiding tax, and everyone with qualifications leaving the country as they can’t get work in New Zealand. It is the worst crisis since the 1980s-1990s and the government isn’t doing anything to fix it.

Hope I didn’t go on too long, hopefully I can find the time to start blogging again – even if it is from the other side of the world.

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Previous related blogpost

Student Defaulters – to be arrested on sight at all borders

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Benefit fraud? Is Chester Borrows being totally upfront with us?!

26 July 2013 8 comments

As I blogged five months ago, when National is attacked with bad publicity, it’s Party strategists retaliate;

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National under attack – defaults to Deflection 2 - chester borrows - welfare reforms - beneficiary bashing

See previous blogpost:  National under attack – defaults to Deflection #2

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As I wrote in the above blogpost, when threatened with bad headlines or a scandal of some description, National’s automatic defense is to generally to default to one of three deflections;

  1. Blame previous the Labour government
  2. Release story on ‘welfare abuse’
  3. Blame Global Financial Crisis or similar overseas event

In February of this year,  the Auditor-General released a report into Key’s dealings with Skycity. The resulting  publicity became positively toxic for the Nats.

Toby Manhire, in a Listener  article dated 19 February, listed  ten quotes from the AG”s report, which were highly  damning of National. It was by no means the “vindication” that Key claimed (knowing full well that 99% of the public would never read the AG’s report).

On cue, Associate Social Development Minister, Chester Borrows, issued media releases on National’s latest “crack down” on “welfare abuse”;

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Government cracking down on benefit fraud

Source

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National is once again being hit by a slew of bad headlines;

Smith gives nod for open-cast coal mine on conservation land

NZ unprepared for a deep water oil spill,  Greens say

Consumers hard hit by hefty electricity price rises

National’s fix over GCSB draws a storm of protest

Loans door shutting on first-home buyers

High petrol prices hit struggling families

Job ad stall hints at unemployment rise

SkyCity deal doesn’t add up: Treasury

Housing plan ‘a weak compromise’

And again,  on cue, Chester Borrows has done his bit, by defaulting to Option #2,

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beneficiary bashing - chester borrows - paula bennett - social welfare - welfare abuse - bene bashing

Source: Radio NZ – Thousands stopped from getting benefits not entitled to

Checkpoint: Listen to Chester Borrows on Checkpoint

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However, Borrows is mis-leading the public in one respect. On 18 July, the Minister released a media statement where he said,

“Enhanced information sharing between Inland Revenue and the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) has identified and stopped 3139 illegitimate benefits in just six months, says Associate Social Development Minister Chester Borrows…

[...]

… The enhanced information sharing started earlier this year, highlighting beneficiaries whose taxable income did not match what they had declared to MSD. MSD staff reviewed each case, and where the beneficiary was earning enough income that they were no longer eligible to receive a benefit, that benefit was stopped.”

Source: Beehive – Information sharing stops more welfare fraud

This is simply untrue.

WINZ announced this in May last year – over a year ago,

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IRD and MSD improve information sharing

Source: WINZ – IRD and MSD improve information sharing

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But even earlier than last year, MSD/WINZ were leeping track of their “clients”. The following two letters are from an acquaintance, who luckily keeps every piece of correspondence from government departments.

The first is from 2009,

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winz-letter-2009

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[Published with permission.]

The letter clearly states,

“We regularly compare our records with other government agencies…”

(Note; the over-lap that so concerned the MSD was a matter of two weeks, and centered more around confusion as to when the WINZ “client” was deemed to start work.)

The second letter is from 2001,

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WINZ letter 2001

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[Published with permission.]

Even in 2001 – twelve years ago – WINZ and the Immigration Dept were comparing information.

Accordingly, I have emailed Chester Borrows, seeking clarification of  his claim that information sharing is a “recent development”. I have also sought details of the alleged 3,139 cases of benefit “fraud” that Borrows has asserted;

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from:     Frank M <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to:     Chester.Borrows@parliament.govt.nz
date:     Fri, Jul 19, 2013 at 1:50 PM
subject:     OIA Request Please

Kia Ora Mr Borrows,

I am lodging  an OIA request with your office.

According to recent media releases from your office, 3,139 cases of alleged benefit fraud has been identified, including 1,948 people who were wrongly getting the unemployment benefit and 559 illegitimately on the sickness benefit. These cases all supposedly invloved working whilst receiving a WINZ Benefit.

My questions are;

1. Over what period of time were these 3,139 cases detected?

2. When did IRD and WINZ begin sharing information?

3. Does WINZ and the Dept of Immigrqation also share information on WINZ beneficiaries who travel overseas whilst in receipt of a benefit?

4. When did that WINZ/Immigration Dept arrangement, in respect to Q3,  begin?

5. What other government ministeries, departments, SOEs, and other bodies does WINZ share information with?

6. When did those arrangements, in respect in Q5, begin?

[and in a follow-up email shortly thereafter.]

7. Of the 3139 illegitimate benefits  found, what was the time period involved with people receiving a benefit and earning income from another source?

How many were within the following periods;

- 1 week

- 2 weeks

- 3 weeks

- 4 weeks

- 2 months

- 3 months

- 6 months

– Over 6 months – under one year

- Over one year

8. How many prosecutions have been undertaken of all nine cohorts listed above?
9. How many have been convicted?

10. How many were in actual employment whilst receiving a welfare benefit, as opposed to some other source of income?

I look forward to your response within the legislated time period.

Regards,

-Frank Macskasy
Blogger

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If the rest of Minister Borrows’ claims are as dubious as his assertion that information sharing between government department “started earlier this year” – then all claims and comments from National ministers demand checking and confirmation.

Otherwise, claims of mass benefit fraud appear to be little more than a propaganda exercise designed to deceive the public and deflect criticism  from economic and social problems that National appears stymied to address.

At the very least, Borrows is taking credit for a policy – inter-departmental information sharing – that has been in place since 2001, at least. How many times can politicians take credit for policies they had little or no part in implementing?!

Wouldn’t that  be fraudulent on the part of the Minister?

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 22 July 2013.

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National on Child Poverty?!

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Poverty among Budget targets

Acknowledgment: Dominion Post – Poverty among Budget targets

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At first glance, it appears that National has recognised that a crisis exists in our country; a crisis involving 275,000 children living in poverty.

Without doubt, this problem (I refuse to call it an “issue”) hit the public’s collective consciousness on 22 November 2011, when Bryan Bruce’s sobering documentary,”Inside Child Poverty” hit our television screens (see:  Strong reaction to damning TV child poverty doco).

Since then, the problem has become a major concern concern throughout the country.

More and more organisations, schools, political groups, etc, are adding their voice to a growing clamour for action. Most New Zealanders – those with eyes to see; ears to listen; and a mind to understand – want action. They want kids fed, so that they can attend their schools and learn and get a decent chance at life.

This is what Bryan Bruce, the documentary-maker of Inside Child Poverty wrote on his Facebook page;

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OK, let’s get some things straight about providing free healthy meals in schools.

1. First of all let’s decide on the principle before arguing about the detail.

Let’s admit there is a significant problem of children turning up to school hungry and that a lot of kids are eating low cost foods that contain a lot of sugar and fat , causing obesity , diabetes and long term health problems.

And at least get the Feed The Kids Bill to Parliamentary Select Committee. You can argue all you want about how it should be funded or what’s going to be on the menu there.

If you don’t think we have a community responsibility to feed children and/or educate their palates to healthy eating habits – then read no further it will only make you angry.

2. It doesn’t fill a hungry kids tummy to point at their parents and shout “Your problem is you have bad parents”. This page takes the view that kids don’t get to choose their parents and we have a community responsibility to ALL our kids to make sure they grow up healthy. And if that means feeding them for free- then that’s what we do.

3. No one is going to force feed any child food they don’t want to eat or is culturally inappropriate. If you watch the video below which I filmed in Sweden for the documentary you will see children from multi -cultural backgrounds CHOOSING their food. And Yes children with allergies are catered for and Yes children can still bring their own lunch prepared by the parents .

4.Free healthy school meals can be paid for without raising taxes. We just choose to re-distribute the existing pool of tax payer money and give up on some other things. Here are some suggestions, I’m sure you can think of other ways we could spend smarter.

(a) We could fund school meals out of the Health vote rather than the Education vote. In a document released under the Official Information Act I revealed that children under 14 receive 10% of the money set aside for health care. But children under 14 represent 20% of our population. So we could fund some of it – if not all of it – by giving kids their fair share.

(b )It is a well accepted health statistic that for every $1 we spend on preventing disease we save $4 in expensive hospital cure. So within a few years the scheme will fund itself out of what we save. If we DON’T do it, taxpayers will be spending much more than they are now on the Health budget in the future.

(c) We could make children a spending priority. National plans to spend a billion a year on Roads of National Significance over the next 10 years. What about Children? – aren’t they of National Signifcance? I’d much rather feed our kids than be able to by – pass small towns while driving to Auckland .

(d) We could pay the pension to people when they actually stop working and not just because they reach 65.

(e) We could spend more energy making sure people paid their taxes . Last year the IRD detected about a Billion dollars worth of tax evasion mostly by businesses. It’s estimated that the real tax evasion in NZ is between 4 and 5 Billion.
If you pay PAYE you can’t cheat your taxes. So we could easily pay for free school meals if more adults played fair.

Let’s impose greater penalties for tax evasion, and let’s stop thinking of tax as a bad thing. Tax is a good thing – it’s giving to ourselves. That’s how we can have schools and hospitals and yes even Roads Of National significance. Tax is the price of civilisation. Get over it.

Now whether you agree with some of the above, all of the above or none of the above , let’s at least agree that The Feed The Kids Bill should at least go to Select Committee after its First Reading so the issue can be properly debated.

Please contact your local MP today and urge them to support the Feed The Kids Bill.

You can find their contact details here, just click on their name :

http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/MPP/MPs/MPs

Thank you
Bryan

Inside Child Poverty New Zealand

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(Please give Brian support by going to his Page and “liking” it. The bigger the numbers, the more ‘clout’ he has.)

It’s fairly obvious to all by the most stubborn-minded that a malnourished child is not well pre-desposed to learning well. A child who cannot focus on his or her lessons and falls behind, eventually becomes alienated and disenchanted. The cycle of poverty, hopelessness, and anger perpetuates.

The Mana Party introduced a “Feed The Kids” Bill – aka the Education (Breakfast and Lunch Programmes in Schools) Amendment Bill – into Parliament last year, on 8 November 2012. The Bill is scheduled to come before Parliament for its first reading on 5 June this year.

With pressure coming hard and fast on Key and his increasingly shakey,  poll-driven,  ‘government’, their strategists are planning to end National’s destructive austerity Budgets and begin spending on essential social services that are critical to the well-being of our communities.

Part of this is Key’s stated intention;

Children who aren’t fed become victims and the Government has to deal with that, Prime Minister John Key says.

His comments come as action on child poverty is tipped to be the surprise package in Finance Minister Bill English’s fifth Budget on Thursday.

“The vast overwhelming bulk are [fed] in New Zealand, but if a child isn’t fed then actually they become a victim and whatever we think of that we need to try and deal with that issue.”

Acknowledgment: IBID

At his regular press conference,  Key was coy at whether National would  rule in or out a  food in schools programme – but was more candid in ruling out support for  Mana’s “Feed the Kids” member’s bill.

So. What we have is;

  1. A firm “no” by National to Mana’s initiative
  2. A firm “no” by Peter Dunne to Mana’s initiative  (Why Peter Dunne won’t “Feed the Kids”)
  3. A vague committment;  “The vast overwhelming bulk are [fed] in New Zealand, but if a child isn’t fed then actually they become a victim and whatever we think of that we need to try and deal with that issue.”

Now, call me a cynic if you like, but National has a fairly poor track record on dealing with social matters, whether it be unemployment, solo-mothers, worker’s rights and conditions, etc.

To give an example; our high unemployment.

Unemployment is high.

Jobs are scarce.

National’s ‘solution'; “reform” social welfare and make it harder for the unemployed to access welfare support, or to retain it. Additional ‘solution'; demonise the unemployed and infer that that are bludging. Ditto for solo-mothers.

That was National’s ‘solution'; force people off welfare and make the numbers look good. (see: Bennett trumpets 5000 fewer on DPB, see: 5000 beneficiaries quit dole rather than reapply, see: Welfare rules force people to struggle on without benefits)

I hope I’m wrong, but my gut feeling is that the Nats plan to pull a “swiftie”. We’re going to see something along these lines;

  1. A WINZ-based “targetted” approach where families that cannot afford to buy adequate food will have an increase in their food grants – but will probably have to re-pay it from their weekly welfare assistance.
  2. A reliance on some form of “PPP”-style programme, such as Fonterra’s milk-in-schools programme. There will be nothing concrete – just a “promise” to “investigate possible options”.
  3. A commision of enquiry of some description.
  4. An increase for school budgets to buy food, but which will be limited; capped; and money will be taken from elsewhere in Vote:Education to fund this.
  5. No increase in welfare assistance; no food in schools; but a form of food vouchers making up a portion of a beneficiaries overall entitlement.
  6. A limited “trial” food-in-schools programme – for a handful of schools only.

Far from addressing this crisis, National, ACT, and Peter Dunne will apply a band-aid “solution” and present it to the public of New Zealand as “Mission: Accomplished”.

It will be nothing of the sort.

Only one thing will begin to address this problem – a change of government.

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References

NZ Herald: Strong reaction to damning TV child poverty doco (23 Nov 2011)

Feed The Kids website

Previous related blogpost

Why Peter Dunne won’t “Feed the Kids”

Can we afford to have “a chat on food in schools”?

Other blogs

The Daily Blog: Hungry Kids Annoy Frazzled Lobby Group Director

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= fs =

A tale of contrasts…

19 February 2013 9 comments

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Once upon a time, there was a small nation at the bottom of the world, where the people were proud of their egalitarianism…

Then they f****d it all up.

To he, who has plenty, they gave $100,000. Not because he saved lives or raised families out of poverty. He got it because he was leaving a high-paid job after just nine months in employment,

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ACC pays $100,000 bonus to former chief executive

Source

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From he, who has very little, they took away $3.73 (per week). Not because he did something wrong, but because a government department – supported by aParty in power that looks down on the poor – could.

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Jobless battler takes on Winz for a $3 cause

Source

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$3.73. That buys a ‘budget’ loaf of bread and maybe a small block of cheese or bottle of milk.

$100,000 – buys an upmarket sports car or a good deposit on a nice house.

Who needs the money the most; Mr Stewart or Mr Holmes?

Welcome to New Zealand, circa 2013AD.

Are we proud of what we’ve become?

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= fs =

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