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Special Education Funding – Robbing Peter, Paul, and Mary to pay Tom, Dick, and Harriet

1 September 2016 3 comments

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mother-and-children

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Beware of so-called “Reforms”

In December last year, National announced plans to  “overhaul its educational support for children with special needs“. Radio NZ reported;

From the middle of next year it said the system would be significantly redesigned to be simpler and provide more support for teachers and parents.

Today it published the results of 150 public meetings held this year to identify ways of improving education for children with special education needs, such as a physical or mental disability.

As a result of those meetings it is planning changes that would include giving families, teachers and specialists a single point of contact for arranging support for children.

Before that happened, the Education Ministry would begin 22 projects aimed at improving special education in groups of schools and early childhood centres around the country.

As with all reforms from National, there would be ‘fish hooks’.  Promises to  “provide more support for teachers and parents” would prove to be a sugar-coated pill at best – or most likely illusory in actuality.

Rumblings in the Education Sector

On 15 April this year, Radio NZ reported further criticisms of under-funding for children with special needs;

Special education desperately needs more funding, which should be included in the government’s overhaul of the sector, parents and educators say.

The Ministry of Education says it is simplifying the $590 million system for helping children with disabilities, but there won’t be any more money to accompany the changes which will be introduced in 2017.

Critics say that is not good enough, because too many children are not getting the help they need.

The Early Childhood sector criticised National for under-funding special needs children;

Early Childhood Council chief executive Peter Reynolds said more support was also desperately needed in the early childhood sector.

“The model isn’t working that’s there at the moment. It needs to be changed and it’s got to be done quickly.

“It’s okay to take your time over doing a review or whatever you want to call it, but at the end of the day we’ve got people falling through the gaps right now, and they shouldn’t have to.”

Parata responded;

But Education Minister Hekia Parata said she was confident there would be tangible benefits from the special education changes, without more money.

“We want to get this right. We have a vision for a system that is inclusive, we’re recognised internationally as being so and we just want to continuously improve.”

Note the caveat from Parata; “without more money“.

Where would increased funding for under-fives with special needs come from if it was achieved “without more money“?

Answer: National resorted to one of it’s old tricks.

Parata’s Proposal

The answer came as a bombshell on 22 August.

Education Minister, Hekia Parata, revealed that primary and secondary schools’ funding for special needs students would be slashed, and the money re-directed to under-fives. As Radio NZ explained;

The [Cabinet] documents also indicated the government would reduce the amount of special education funding spent in the school sector, and dramatically increase the amount spent on those under the age of five.

“Analysis of the spend by the age range of the recipient indicates that a disproportionate amount of the funds are for school-age children. This is despite clear evidence in some areas that early support can have greater benefits in terms of educational outcomes.”

As implications of Parata’s scheme began to percolate through the education sector, reaction was scathing. A day later, the Secondary Principals’ Association responded;

A proposed cut to special education spending in schools would be a disaster, the head of the Secondary Principals’ Association says.

Documents show the government wants to greatly increase its spending on under-5s with special needs, at the expense of spending on school-aged children.

One of the areas it has singled out for urgent review is the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme for children with the most significant special needs, and in particular, the those aged 18 to 21 who use it.

Secondary Principals’ Association president Sandy Pasley said secondary schools would not cope well with a cut.

“We haven’t got enough as it is and to lose some funding from secondary sector would be quite dramatic for schools.

“We understand that it’s good to put it into the early years but not at the expense of students in secondary schools because often the special education needs don’t go away and sometimes they’re exacerbated by adolescence.”

Ms Pasley said the association would try and persuade the government not to go ahead with the proposal, which she said would be a disaster.

Kim Hall from Autism Action told Nine to Noon children under 5-years-old with autism needed more support – but funding for that should not be taken from school-aged children.

Hall made this critical point;

“Some children aren’t diagnosed until they start school or even later, so that means those children already miss out on that vital funding at the start.”

More on that issue in a moment.

Shamefully, the Early Childhood Council seemed willing to be an accomplice to National’s shuffling of scarce funding for vulnerable children. Early Childhood Council CEO, Peter Reynolds, did not hide his enthusiasm;

“On paper it looks good. It’s a shame we’ve got to wait another few months before we start seeing this thing roll out, but we’ll be wanting to work very closely with the ministry to ensure kids who are struggling right now get some sort of relief in the future and their parents get that relief as well.”

Parata justified the money-shuffle, with the usual spin;

“Evidence shows that providing learning support early in a child’s life will have much greater impact. We’re at a proposal stage of the process. Any changes wouldn’t come into effect until March 2017 at the earliest and will be managed incrementally and carefully to ensure ongoing support. What we are looking at, based on a year’s worth of consultation with the sector is, how do we redsign the service going forward, without compromising the service for those currently in it. So there will be a long transition.”

However, it is simply not correct that early detection and support for children – who will only gradually exhibit complex behavioural, intellectual, and other disabilities over time – is possible.

For children on the Autism Spectrum, recognising that a child is presenting may take up to five years, according to the  on-line  Ministry of Health document,  “Does this person have ASD? New Zealand Autism Spectrum Disorder Guideline“;

There are three more common times when individuals are likely to present:

1. between the ages of 1 and 3 years, lack of development in the areas affected by ASD, such as language and play, becomes more obvious
2. between the ages of 5 and 8 years, when increased social and educational demands highlight difficulties
3. in adolescence or adulthood, when social isolation or relationship difficulties result in depression and other comorbid conditions.

The US group, Autism Speaks, points out;

In the United States, the average age of diagnosis with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is around 4 years of age.

All of which is confirmed by the very personal story of “Sally” and her son, “Zack”.

“Zack” – A Personal Story

From a blogpost published on 6 March 2012 (see: Once upon a time there was a solo-mum), on the problem of Minister Paula Bennett cutting the Training Incentive Allowance;

Sally* is 37 and a solo-mother with an 18 year-old (Wayne*) and 11 year (Zack*) old sons.

Sally had Wayne to her first partner, but the relationship did not last because of drug-taking and violent abuse on his part. (Some months after they separated, he committed suicide.) Sally went on to the DPB, raising her newborn son by herself.

Seven years later, Sally met someone else and formed a relationship with him. The relationship went well and she became pregnant (a son, Zack) to her new partner.

As  her pregnancy progressed, Sally’s partner seemed to go off the rails,  and he increasingly  took up  drink and drugs with his boozy mates. As Sally said, he “was more into his mates than his family” and she finally  threw him out.

Sally was adamant she did not want someone like him as a role-model for her sons. She went back on the DPB and began to examine her options in life.

Eventually, Sally  applied for a course at Victoria University for a bachelors degree  in early childhood education. She applied for, and got, the Training Incentive Allowance (TIA).

Zack’s father saw his young son a couple of times during his first year as a newborn and infant, but thereafter showed little interest in maintaining contact. He eventually disappeared from Sally and her children’s life. She was on her own to raise her sons – a role she took seriously, and sought no new relationships with men.

Instead, she applied herself to her university course.

Sally says that the TIA helped her immensely, paying her transport, study-costs, fees, and childcare for her sons. She says,

You could only get the TIA on the DPB, not on the dole, which I thought was unfair.”

After her graduation, Sally followed up with a Masters degree, which took another four years in part-time study. During the final two years of her uni studies, she took up a part-time job. This decreased the amount she received on the DPB, and her part-time job was taxed at the Secondary Tax Rate (her benefit was considered as a “primary job” by the IRD).

Sally took out a student loan for her M.Ed, as WINZ would not pay the Training Incentive Allowance for higher university education.

One could view the “claw back” of her DPB and higher tax-rate on her part-time job as a dis-incentive which penalised Sally, and others in her position, but she persevered. With end-of-year tax refunds, she says it “all squared out” – but she could have done with the extra money through the year.

Sally graduated and got her Masters degree in early childhood education. By this time, Wayne was 14 and Zack, 6. One month later, she found a full time job and replaced the DPB with a good salary. She says that the MA gives her an extra $11,000 per annum.

During her studies and part time job, Sally raised her two sons – one of whom was increasingly “challenging” with Aspergers and ADHD.

(This blogger can confirm that young Zack – whilst a bright, personable child – can also be “a handful”, and was effectively thrown out of his previous school for “disruptive behaviour”.)

Zack’s story was continued in another blogpost on 8 June 2013 (see: When the State fails our children), on the issue of Special Needs Education. I provided more detail on Zack’s circumstances;

Zack is an intelligent, charming, highly curious, young man (12) who requires one-on-one support during his entire school day. Not having that one-on-one support is untenable for both Zack or the school, as he can “flip out” at provocations which other children might not notice.

Zack was expelled from two previous schools for lack of one-on-one support from a teacher-aid.

He was enrolled at his current school with the specific agreement that Zack would be provided full-time, one-on-one support from a dedicated teacher-aid.

It soon become apparent that the Ministery had assigned this teacher-aid (who was doing the best she could under the circumstances) to two children; Zack, and another child at another school.

Not being able to violate given laws of physics by being in two places simultaneously, the school took action to cut down Zack’s hours in class. He was permitted to attend class only when the teacher aid was present (approx 4 hours per day). When she left to attend her second client, Zack’s grandmother collected him. (Zack’s mother, Sally, is a solo-mum who works at an early childhood facility.)

Implementation of promises of full support – the current fashionable term is “intensive wraparound support” – by the Ministry of Education have been erratic and never fully implemented. (At the beginning the Ministry was reluctant to offer any support for Zack. They relented only when schools refused to accept him unless there was  funding for a teacher-aid.)

Zack’s teacher-aid was funded through the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS). According to the Education Ministry website, ORS is described as;

“Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) funding is used to provide specialist services and support for students with the very highest needs for special education.

ORS helps students join in and learn alongside other students at school. Any student who meets the ORS criteria is included in the scheme.”

For Zack, ORS provided;

“teacher aides to support teachers to include students in class programmes and activities”

Without a teacher’s aide present, Zack was easily distracted or could become stressed and angry at the usual background classroom noise, chatter, and other stimuli which other children mostly never notice. The consequence  almost always resulted in an outburst from Zack and disruption of the class.

Without support from a  teacher aide, funded by ORS, Zack’s education would have been limited and no school would have enrolled him. He would have had to be home-schooled by his mother who would have had to quit her job and return to the Domestic Purposes Benefit. Even that form of home-schooling would have had limited success, as Sally found it increasingly difficult to manage her son.

With minimal education and an Aspergers-personality, Zack’s future prospects would have been grim.

Zack’s fascination with fire resulted in coming to the attention of Police (though this aspect of his behaviour has improved considerably in the last few years). The local community police constable played an outstanding and sympathetic role in helping Zack move past this dangerous obsession.

Zack’s Aspergers condition was not identified until later in his childhood, as this interview with Sally revealed;

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Frank: “Kia ora Sally.

You’ve heard of government proposals to shift funding for Special Needs programmes from schools to pre-schools. As someone who works in Early Childhood Education, and with a teenage son with Aspergers, you have a foot in both camps. What are your views on this?”

Sally: “Rather than a ‘shift’ I think there needs to be an increase across the board. There are big gaps in funding meaning many children miss out on funding and thus the extra help that could benefit their education greatly.”

Frank: “At what age was Zack diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum?”

Sally: “He was 4 when we first wondered. By 5 or 6 he was considered to have aspects. I think he was about 8 or 9 when he was officially classified as having Asperger Syndrome.”

Frank: “So funding for pre-school Special Needs children would not have met Zack’s needs?”

Sally: “It wouldn’t have been available because [his] ‘needs’ at that age wouldn’t have met the requirements for funding.”

Frank: “So in effect, that would have left him ‘stranded’, without any government-funded support?”

Sally: “Yes.”

Frank: “Without funding for Zack’s teacher aide, would Zack have been able to cope at school? He was asked to leave one school at least, wasn’t he?”

Sally: “He didn’t and doesn’t cope without extra teacher aide support. The funding for anyone not considered ‘high needs’ is non-existant. He only ever received funding when, because he wasn’t coping, his behaviour was out of control. Then when the extra support helped and his behaviour went down, funding and thus support was taken away and then his behaviour became an issue. ‘Asked to leave’. That’s a nice way to put it. Yes he left two schools because without funding and support they couldn’t deal with him. Although in all fairness I need to point out that the first of those schools didn’t try to work with him in appropriate ways and didn’t have a positive attitude towards children with special needs.”

Frank: “So if Zack was unable to cope at schools, without funding for support through a teacher’s aide, what would have happened to his education opportunities?”

Sally: “Not ‘would have’ but ‘has’. He is years behind academically and is struggling to gain credits for NCEA Level One. This is partly due to the several years at primary school where he didn’t learn a lot due to no funding or support and being in a highly emotional and behavioural state. It is also because of what workload he can cope with though. He will do Level One NCEA over three years so he can cope.”

Frank: “Would you have been able to carry on working in your own career if Zack had been forced through circumstances beyond his control, to stay home and be home-schooled?”

Sally: “No. I would have ended up back on the DPB. Luckily he ended up in a wonderful Intermediate for his last year there and then a great college that, even without extra funding, has an amazing learning support system. He doesn’t have teacher aides though because he gets no funding and that would help immensely, especially with English.”

Frank: “Without funding for a teacher’s aide, what do you believe would have been the outcome for his development?”

Sally: “The only teacher aide funding he ever got was in primary when his behaviour was out of control. If that had not been available he wouldn’t have been able to be supported to cope in class. The outcome of him not getting funding for a teacher aide in terms of his learning for all these years is he has learnt things a lot slower than he could of and he is still struggling to understand a lot of the curriculum.”

Frank: “Without funding for support for other children with Special needs at schools and secondary schools, what do you foresee as the outcome?”

Sally: “Schools being under even more pressure to help children without the funding or resources they need. The already limited resources being stretched to breaking point. An increasing number of children who leave school without the education they deserve or need to be active members of society. An increasing burden on the welfare system to support these adults that weren’t supported as children.

Plus an increased burden on the criminal system because without a good job people are more likely to steal to survive.”

Frank: “What do you say to Education Minister Hekia Parata’s proposals to cut Special Needs funding for schools and shifting the money to pre-schools?”

Sally: “Hekia, heck no! Funding needs to be increased across the board. While it is true that in ECE there needs to be increased funding for children with special needs and that the early years are the most important in terms of development, children still need support throughout their school lives.”

Frank: “Finally, how is Zack these days?”

Sally: “Struggling academically but he is at a very supportive school who are tailoring their approach to his learning to suit him. He no longer has extreme behaviour at school, partly because he is older but also because of the positive school environment he is in.”

Frank: “Thank you, Sally. All the best to you and your sons.”

Sally: “All good.”

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Conclusion

National has come up with many “reforms”, proposals, policies, and ideas that eventually fail, or create unforeseen (or often foreseen; pre-warned; and ignored) problems.

On this occasion, the proposal to increase spending for under-fives children with special needs, at the expense of older children, is short-sighted madness that beggars belief.

There is simply no sensible rationale for this ill-considered, incoherent policy.  If there is scientific backing, Parata is yet to release it to the media and public.

Parata is playing god with the lives of vulnerable children – children who are often unable to cope in a classroom-environment without constant  “wraparound” support.

Taking money from children who can barely cope is simply beyond any measure of comprehension.

Is Parata so badly advised by her officials that she cannot understand the consequences of cutting support for children with special needs?

Is Parata’s Ministry so cash-strapped that she even considers taking funding from those who need it the most?

Children with special needs are highly vulnerable,  facing considerable difficulties, with many lacking simple coping mechanisms. They live stressed, difficult lives that most New Zealanders are unaware of. They have started life several steps behind their peers. They are running, just to barely keep up.

If Parata is willing to undermine what little support these children receive, then she is a damaged person lacking in any measure of human empathy. I hold her in utter contempt.

Parata must resign.

 

 

* Sally and her son’s names have been changed to protect their privacy.

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References

Radio NZ: Govt promises to overhaul special education

Radio NZ: Children with disabilities missing out as education funding falls short

Radio NZ: Govt to phase out ‘special needs’

Radio NZ: Secondary principals fear special education ‘disaster’

Autism Speaks: Hunting for Autism’s Earliest Clues

Ministry of Education: Overview of Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS)

Ministry of Health: Does this person have ASD? New Zealand Autism Spectrum Disorder Guideline

Other Blogs

How Melulater Sees It: Special Education – Let’s Change the Name and Solve Everything!!

How Melulater Sees It: Where are those wrap around services, Hekia?

Public Address: Some aspects of New Zealand’s disability history – part one (Nov, 2014)

Public Address: Some aspects of New Zealand’s disability history – part two (Dec, 2014)

Public Address: Some aspects of New Zealand’s disability history ‒ part three (Feb, 2015)

The Daily Blog: Martyn Bradbury – Removing the word ‘special needs’ so you don’t have to fund ‘special needs’

Previous related blogposts

Why Hekia Parata should not be sacked

When the State fails our children

National’s prioritises Education needs

Once upon a time there was a solo-mum

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1995 Tom Scott Cartoon featuring Minister of Education Lockwood Smith and three children with special needs. Ref: H-242-020 Turnbull Library

1995 Tom Scott Cartoon featuring Minister of Education Lockwood Smith and three children with special needs. Ref: H-242-020 Turnbull Library (Acknowledgement: Public Address Blog)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 August 2016.

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National and the Cult of Buck-Passing

22 December 2012 12 comments

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said no teacher ever 2

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Successive National governments have had a problem.

New Zealanders, like all other human beings, don’t like paying taxes.  National, like all other right wing political parties, are only too happy to oblige  and try to cut taxes at every opportunity. They did this in 2009 and a  year later in 2010. (Though recently they have been sneakily raising indirect taxes wherever possible. See: Parents face burden of preschool squeezeTax hikes disguised as reinvestment’,   Petrol, road charges hikes are ‘bad news‘)

But at the same time, New Zealanders love their tax-payer funded social services. Whether it be free hospitals; highly-subsidised medicines, nearly-free education; free roading, etc. Quite simply, we like the “goodies” that are expected of a developed, First World nation.

What we don’t like are governments that attempt to tinker with, and cut-back, on our state-provided social services.

Which is where Miniaster of Education, Hekia Parata, has gone disastrously wrong.

Her first “crime” was the announced – discovered, more like – policy just after the Budget was released on 24 May. It did not take long before a cunning plan for teacher cuts and larger class sizes, buried deep within the Budget, was uncovered,

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Schools face teacher cuts threat

Full story

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The uproar from parents, teachers, principals, school boards, and others throughout the community was such that the policy was literally ‘gone by lunchtime, two weeks later,

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Backlash forces Government class size U-turn

Full story

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Parents and sector workers were no fools. They knew precisely what this cash-strapped “government” was trying to do.  National had already reached into the pockets of paper-delivery children, to extract taxes from them. (See:  Budget 2012: ‘Paper boy tax’ on small earnings stuns Labour)

National had previously blown billions in it’s 2009/2010 tax cuts (see:  Government’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting) and they were now gearing up to recoup those losses by cutting back on State services.

This was pure, unadulterated, and re-cycled National Party policy from the 1990s. Who remembers National’s attempt in 1991, to implement a User-Pays charge of $50 per day in hospitals, up to a maximum of ten days? (See: Teara – Funding public hospitals) The policy was hugely unpopular and failed because New Zealanders simply refused to pay it.

The classroom-teacher debacle was the first of several major crises (I refuse to call them “issues”) to confront Hekia Parata and her Ministry.

Others included,

  • the ongoing Novopay fiasco
  • the enforced amalgamation/closures of 30+ Christchurch schools, using data that was discovered to be hopelessly wrong,
  • the attempt to force closure of Salisbury School, which would have placed special-needs female students in a male school, and making them potential victims of sexual abuse (See:  Parata did not heed warning over closure),
  • Ministry of Education suggestions that misleading information be given in respect to Official Information Act requests about Christchurch school closures. (See: Education ministry criticism ‘serious‘)

It seems fairly clear that Parata has wilfully ignored the advice of her own officials and failed to consult with parents, teachers, and others in local communities. The result has been a growing dillusionment and enmity between Parata and her constituents.

The problems became so great; coming one after another in over-lapping succession; and seemingly increasing in intensity, that Parata eventually ceased to front up to the media.

Instead, it was left to bureacrat, Education Secretary Lesley Longstone, to answer for the Education Minister,

Education Minister Hekia Parata declined an interview with Campbell Live last night. Instead, the ministry’s chief executive Lesley Longstone fronted, and admitted mistakes had been made – though defended the ministry’s processes.

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Lesley Longstone - John Campbell - TV3 - Ministry for Education - Campbell Live - Hekia Parata

Full story

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Hekia Parata could no longer answer to the public without appearing to be hopelessly ineffective in her own portfolio.

As a Minister, she seemed utterly out of her depth and this blogger strongly suspects that she has been given instructions from on high (Steven Joyce?) to steer clear of the media.

The untreated human effluent finally hit the fan when Ms Longstone became the “patsy”, falling on Parata’s sword as a political sacrificial ewe.   Only about thirteen months into a five year contract, Ms Longstone is leaving New Zealand with her tail firmly between her legs. (See:  Education Secretary Lesley Longstone resigns )

One doubts she will be in a hurry to return, even to savour the delights of the  touristy-destination of  “Middle Earth New Zealand”.

During this crisis, Parata was again nowhere to be seen. The resignation and resultant media conference was handled by State Services Commissioner, Iain Rennie (along with a blond “Minder”, wearing copious quantities of red lippy, standing anxiously in the background),

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State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie announces Longstone's resignation

Full story

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So to re-cap,

  1. Parata has stuffed up at least half a dozen critical problems impacting on her ministerial portfolio,
  2. She has succeeded in alienating almost all her constituents,
  3. When she could no longer function effectively as a Minister, nor field media queries, she dumped the whole stinking mess into Longstone’s lap,
  4. The  entangled mess of problems were such that Ms Longstone was unable to cope. Her overseas background and lack of knowledge of New Zealand society and politics was probably one of her greatest handicaps,
  5. Longstone finally had a gutsful and bailed. (And who on Earth could possibly blame her?!)
  6. And Parata was still nowhere to be seen – instead dumping the mess into yet another lap; Iain Rennie.

Talk about dodging responsibility and passing the buck!

So what was our Esteemed Dear Leader doing during this crisis?

Apparently, he was busy,

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See also: Key puts dancing ahead of explaining

Buck-passing – best done as a group National thing.

Considering that Ms Longstone’s resignation was known in advance – with State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie confirming Longstone resignation was made two to three weeks ago – it defies belief that Key was goofing around on radio stations that morning.

It occurs to this blogger that John Key no longer wants the highest job in the land. We saw a hint of this earlier in the year, in May, when he told children at Holy Family School in Porirua East,

Frankly, the way it’s going at the moment you can have the job“.

See: John Key’s midterm blues?

I’m sure there are many people in this country who would love to see someone else take Key’s job.

As  for Hekia Parata, this blogger is ambivalent about her resigning her portfolio.

A new Minister would simply take up the reins and pursue current National Party policies. Perhaps with a new vigour. That would be of no help to this country whatsoever.

Parata’s presence as Minister of Education has an ongoing “benefit” of focusing on the ideological nuttiness of National’s education “reforms”.

National’s education portfolio is a mess because National’s policies are, in themselves, a mess.

Why take away a constant reminder of National’s failings, by sacking one of it’s most inept Ministers?

Why put a fresh, new, clean face on a cesspit of problematic policies?

Why let the Nats off the hook?

Let Parata stay. It will give voters something to think about in 2014 (if not earlier).

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Addendum

National seems to have a dodgy track-record when it comes to losing highly skilled, talented, managerial staff,

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Work and Income boss quits

Full story

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And of course we had the recent extraordinary spectacle of Canadian ex-Supreme Court Judge, Ian Binnie, being publicly derided and humiliated by Justice Minister Judith Collins – despite Justice Binnie being invited by National to oversee an indepent review of the Bain case   (See:  Bain could have an enemy in the Beehive).

At this rate, the most highly skilled and experienced professionals and civil servants will think twice before coming to New Zealand to take up government contracts. Like some evil Master Mind in a James Bond story,

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Dr Evil John Key

“National does not tolerate failure, Ms Longstone. Would you like a Speights or water with your Professional Cyanide Pill?”

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References

Dominion Post: Schools face teacher cuts threat

Fairfax media: Backlash forces Government class size U-turn

Radio NZ: Education ministry criticism ‘serious

NZ herald: Work and Income boss quits

Radio NZ: Education Ministry head resigns

Dominion Post: Key puts dancing ahead of explaining

NZ Herald: Is Parata next?

Fairfax media: Education secretary quits

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Guest Author: MSD. WINZ. IT. OMG!

– Alan Benton

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I wonder who is handling the hiring of staff for the IT side of MSD. I highly suspect it is a private firm, such as Addecco who I know have a concrete and firmly locked up contract for instance at StudyLink, and adminster all their temps and contractors. Some of those staff have been rolled over for years my flatmate tells me, one person he works with had been rolled over for more than 6 years.

That means, to me, there is possibly a whacking great sum of budgeting that is just used as straight out corporate subsidy. This simply means in turn that there is a whacking great some of money that is not and cannot every be put into operational budgets, it’s literally flying out the door in “costs” to have an outside private firm do the work that internal management ought to probably be handling themselves.

My last contract at MOH was handled by an outside firm. I worked out they made just short of $15K off me on one stint there, even though the only work they did was sourcing me, and that was it. Absolutely nothing more. I was interviewed by internal staff, my workload was set by internal staff, my performance was monitored by internal staff and payments came from within the MOH’s system, not the Agency, YET the Agency actually still made money off me every single hour I worked there.

I couldn’t help wondering what would happen if this sort of thing was dropped, and the budget that gets set aside for such “management” using these outside companies actually went into operational matters.

And I was just one of many there at the time who got brought in to help oversee the next iteration of one of one of the systems there … multiply that by more staff and more departments across the Government, and you’re probably looking easily at millions and millions going to these private companies instead of the systems themselves.

And in one of my older roles as mentioned, when staffing was cut, it was still a case of crank out even better and “more efficient” systems but with a steadily diminishing ability to do it properly to start with. It seemed complete madness to demand that sort of thing. Kind of like MSD demanding people get off their butts to work and berating them for not having the ability to cope when they’ve gone and cut the programs that were helping people in the past get OFF the bloody thing in the first place – including one Ms Paula Bennett of all people!!!

I was constantly told that we couldn’t do this, couldn’t do that, didn’t have the money. And yet it never seemed to stop pay rises for the CEO, never seemed to stop splashing out on decor, never seemed to stop demands for the latest and greatest flashing lights and gizmos … but if I as Manager tried arguing for server investment, security investment, it was uphill all the bloody time. Yes, there was capital outlay involved. But it was banging my head against a concrete wall to make them see that if they did right first time, we wouldn’t constantly be mired in patchup jobs, make do workarounds and the threat of chronic system failure dangling above our heads. And I just got very apprehensive when this was happening in the security area. “Can we get a student to do that?”, always looking for the cheapest solution to fix highly complex problems. I’ve nothing against students, but we were laying off some real gun workers. As I said, we just ended up with burnouts and layoffs. Including myself.

I guess being insistant and not afraid to get up the noses of people who had no clue on what they were managing didn’t make me appeal to the Managers, but I happened to view critical infrastructure as a bloody important investment, especially when we would have rural Dr’s going mental because we couldn’t give them the appropriate technology resources to help them get on with their jobs in difficult to reach areas and the like. And I always viewed people who didn’t have a clue about it as the last people to be making the critical decisions on the support thereof of such technology and systems.

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= fs =

Citizen A – 4 October 2012 – Online now!

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Citizen A

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– 4 October2012 –

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– David Slack & Selwyn Manning –

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Issue 1: two inquires, one Police investigation , spies meeting in Wellington, Key visiting Hollywood and an official apology – how much more weird can the Kim Dotcom scandal get?

Issue 2: Does the Education Ministry’s handling of school closures in Christchurch make the GCSB illegal spying look competent?

Issue 3: If crime is down, why are we building a new billion dollar private prison?

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Acknowledgement (republished with kind permission)

Tumeke

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= fs =

If size doesn’t matter…

5 February 2012 6 comments

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Source

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Well, it seems that we’re about to witness yet another broken promise from this shabby government. It seems that after three years, John Key, Bill English, and their mates were hoping we had forgotten their pledge “that National will not cut spending to education“.

Because now we have this,

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Source

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It occurs to me that…

“I can tell you categorically that National will not cut spending to education,” the party’s education spokeswoman Anne Tolley said in a statement today.” – Anne Tolley, 5 August 2008

conflicts with…

Finance Minister Bill English is not ruling out an increase in class sizes, saying all Government departments are tasked with finding ways to save money, and staff costs are one of them.” – Bill English, 3 February 2012

Bill English’s comments that “there is clear evidence that class size does not significantly affect the quality of students’ education” is all rubbish, of course. Common sense will tell us that a teacher can give more attention to each child in a class of 20 – than s/he can in a class of 40. Especially if there are children with disabilities; special needs; or just plain disruptive kids in the room.

Professional studies confirm this common sense approach.

But even if it were true that  “class size does not significantly affect the quality of students’ education” – can that  rule-of-thumb be applied elsewhere?

What about… the government Cabinet?

New Zealand reportedly has one of the biggest Cabinets (ministers, and suchlike) for a country the size of ours,

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New Zealand Cabinet:  28

Population: 4.4 million

Ratio: 1/157,142

British Cabinet: 23 (currently)

Population: 62.2 million

Ratio: 1/2.7 million

Australian Cabinet (Federal only – excluding State Cabinets): 21

Population: 22.8 million

Ratio: 1/1.08 million

Irish Cabinet: 20

Population: 6.2 million

Ration: 1/310,000

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We have more Cabinet minister per head of population than Britain, Australia (Federal Parliament), and Ireland.

And it’s costing us truckloads of cash. Ministers of the Crown don’t come cheap these days,

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How They’re Paid

Prime Minister –  New salary (backdated to July 1): $411,510. Was: $400,500.

Deputy Prime Minister –  New salary: $291,800. Was: $282,500.

Cabinet Minister –  New salary: $257,800. Was: $249,100.

Minister Outside Cabinet –  New salary: $217,200. Was: $209,100.

Speaker and Opposition Leader – New salary: $257,800. Was: $249,100.

Backbenchers – New salary: $141,800. Was: $134,800.

Source

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So, excluding the Prime Minister, 27 cabinet ministers is costing the tax-payer;

Deputy PM: 1 X $291,800 (p/a) = $291,800

Cabinet Ministers: 18 X $257,800  (p/a)  = $4,640,400

Ministers Outside Cabinet: 8 X $217,200 = 1,737,600

Total cost of Cabinet, per annum (ex Prime Minister) = 6,669,800

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Six point six million dollars each year. Throw in one smile & wave Prime Minister at $411,510 p/a, and the wages bill for that talkfest comes to over $7 million a year.

And that figure does not include allowances such as housing, superannuation, etc.

If we followed the Irish ratio, we would have fourteen ministers (including the PM), or, one Minister per 314,285 people (approximately). That would roughly halve the cost of Cabinet minister salaries.

And if a Minister needed assistance, there are another 106 or 108 (depending on over-hangs) MPs in Parliament who could assist with Ministerial duties (but still be paid a Back-bencher’s salary).

So what about it, Mr English?

If “class size does not significantly affect the quality of students’ education” then obviously, we should be able to apply precisely the same rule to Cabinet,

Cabinet size does not significantly affect the quality of  Ministers’ performance.

And we could plow the $3.5 million (approximately)  saved, plus ministerial perks, into training and hiring more teachers to educate our children.

Brilliant!

We can start on Monday.

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A kronically inept government…

9 September 2011 6 comments

2009 BERL report estimated that “$4.437 million of diverted resources and lost welfare” could be directly attributed to alcohol abuse. That $4.4 billion  is reflected in  ACC, hospital admissions, crime, family violence, lost productivity, etc, and places a firm dollar cost on the harm that alcohol abuse is causing NZ society. These are costs we all pay for through ACC levies and taxes spent on medical intervention; policing; and the justice system.

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This research estimates the social costs of harmful alcohol and other drug use, excluding tobacco, in New Zealand.  Harms related to drug use include a wide range of crime, lost output, health service use and other diverted resources.  Harmful use has both opportunity costs, which divert resources from alternative beneficial uses, and psychological or intangible costs, such as reduced quality or length of life.

The report provides four broad answers.  It estimates the:

  • total social costs from harmful drug use in 2005/06.
  • potential level of social costs that are avoidable.
  • cost to society stemming from alcohol and other drug-related injuries
  • social costs from harmful drug use borne by the government

The study shows that harmful drug use imposed a substantial cost on New Zealand in 2005/06.

  • Overall, harmful drug use in 2005/06 caused an estimated $6,525 million of social costs.
  • Harmful alcohol use in 2005/06 cost New Zealand an estimated $4,437 million of diverted resources and lost welfare.
  • Harmful other drug use was estimated to cost $1,427 million, of which $1,034 million were tangible costs.
  • Joint alcohol and other drug use that could not be separately allocated to one drug category cost a further $661 million. If the joint costs are split proportionately, total alcohol and total other drug costs equate to $4,939 million (over three quarters) and $1,585 million (just under one quarter).
  • Using estimates from international research, this study suggests that up to 50 percent ($3,260 million) of the social costs of harmful drug use may be avoidable.
  • The research indicated that 29.9 percent (or $1,951 million) of the social costs of harmful drug use result from injury.
  • The costs of harmful drug use from a government perspective amount to an estimated $1,602 million, or just over one third (35.1 percent) of the total tangible costs to society. 

BERL project reference: #4577

Click here for the report.

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Add to that the non-dollar, unquantifiable terms of  human misery of injury, violence,  and deaths, and we have a perfectly legal product that is causing much grief in our communities.

Let me present to readers  a few recent headlines, to remind us of how this problem is affecting our community…

Public pressure has forced government to look at this serious problem and an Alcohol Reform Bill is currently being considered by Parliament’s Justice and Electoral Select Committee. It has been a slowly progressing Bill – first introduced in November last year. Thus far, over 8,000 written submissions have been recieved by the Select Committee.

The Select Committee was due to report back to Parliament in June. The deadline was extended to the end of August. That is now unlikely, and the report will probably not be presented or passed until after the election (in November). This means no action is likely until Parliament reconvenes next year.

Part of the problem has been heavy lobbying by the liquor industry, and associated business interests, to water-down any meaningful reforms.

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In fact, the liquor industry has been well co-ordinated in their opposition. Note the following from two different websites;

Hospitality Industry of New Zealand

Tourism Industry Blogsite

The sharp-sighted will note similarity in writing style – written by the same person(s)?

It is no great secret that this country – our society – has a considerable problem with alcohol. The financial costs; the social costs; the waste of police and Courts’ time in dealing with alcohol-fueled violence and crime; the injuries; and the deaths – all exacerbated by cheap, easily accessible alcohol, and promoted by ubiquitous million dollar advertising campaigns.

Those at the coal-face have to pick up the human ‘wreckage’ of the over-indulgence of some;

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They have to deal with drunken, aggressive idiots like this chap;

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Mr Lett is one of 700,000 heavy drinkers in this country. It is by no means a “small minority” as some would insist – this is a considerable social problem. And it is not restricted to specific age groups or ethnicities; alcohol is being abused by young and old; male and female; pakeha, maori, Pacific Islander, et al – booze is non-discriminatory.

The alcohol industry’s marketting of RTDs (Ready To Drink) is, in itself insidious. These are cheap products and easily consumed in handy cans and small bottles. RTDs give considerable cause for concern to health professionals and the Police.

These RTDs are especially favoured by young people, with their high sugar content; pleasant flavours that appeal to an immature palate; and off course the alcohol-content;

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Last year, I found these products available at “Super Liquor Stokes Valley”, in Lower Hutt. They are an RTD, “William Cody’s Bourbon and Cola“. Price, $2 a can. Alcohol content, 10%. Amount in can, 150ml.

The cans are 9cm high. Just the right size for a small hand – like a young teenager, or a child. And at $2, are very accessibly priced for young people who do not have much money. They are cheaper than buying a bourbon & cola in a bar or restaurant.

These products should be banned, or a higher, minimum-pricing, regime introduced.

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"William Cody's Bourbon & Cola" Price: $2.00

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Stokes Valley Super Liquor receipt

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William Cody’s Bourbon and Cola” is manufactured by Independent Liquor – a company well-known for producing and marketting RTDs. Their website unashamedly promotes these RTDs.

The result of cheap, easily available liquor, is predictable;

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It’s becoming an urban “war zone”;  the injured and dangerously intoxicated; being patched up by para-medics; and then dashed to our ED Wards, for treatment.  But even our dedicated, over-worked, medical professionals seem to be be stressed to the point where some are wondering why they should bother anymore;

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Doesn’t it strike us as simply bizarre that we have ambulances stationed at “party hotspots” and our medical staff at public hospitals are abused, assaulted, and stressed by drunken fools – all on a regular basis? Is this acceptable to us, as the society we want to live in? Because it sure as hell doesn’t impress me as desirable or particularly sensible.

Since the heady days of de-regulation in the late 1980s and early 1990s, liquor has become easier to buy; outlets more prolific; and cheaper. Bars and liquor retailers can be open to the earely hours of the morning with many open 24 hours a day.

This has become a bone of contention in communities such as Cannons Creek, in Porirua, who are having to deal with the easy availability of booze, and subsequent abuse. It is simply outrageous that the liquor industry can make billions in profits, whilst local communities have to deal with the fall-out of alcohol abuse.

In what manner is this even remotely socially acceptable?

Or is it ok when it happens in socially-depressed areas such as South Auckland and Porirua?

Ironically whilst the  Alcohol Reform Bill is “stuck” in Parliament,

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“Among its more contentious provisions were a split drinking age of 18 for bars and 20 for off-licence purchases, alcohol limits for ready-to-drink beverages and reduced opening hours.

More than 8000 submissions on the bill were received and the select committee was granted two extensions, having originally been due to report back in May.

A spokesman for Justice Minister Simon Power said the Government intended to make progress on the bill, but whether it passed would depend on the legislative programme.” Source

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The Bill is unlikely to be passed before the coming election?  Yet,  Peter’s Dunne managed to get ‘Kronic’ banned in a matter of weeks;

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Number of deaths of young people due to ‘Kronic’:  1 (?)

Number of deaths of young people due to alcohol: 87 (!)

Obvious course of action: ban ‘Kronic’?!

Let’s not beat around the bush here. ‘Kronic’ is not a source of huge profits for liquor corporations and neither is it the drug-of-choice for Middle Class Baby Boomers. Hence it can be banned faster than anyone can say “moral panic”.

And yet, even the National Business Review called it, when they ran this article recently;

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Unfortunately, despite that NBR article acknowledging the problems caused by alcohol abuse, the author falls back on trite, libertarian cliches; it’s not our problem; alcohol restrictions are an over-reaction; and belittles those who advocate controls.  Calling alcohol the “new drug bogeyman” is not only unhelpful, but trivialises a $4.4 billion dollar problem in this country.

Suggesting that “proposal[s] to give greater discretion to local government in liquor licensing, hand over authority to people and bodies whose views tend to be less liberal” is actually not a reason not to address this growing community crisis. In fact, giving local people control over their communities is precisely where we should be heading. After all, who better to determine local needs than local people?

If it was good enough to de-volve power from the old Ministry of Education to local schools, and implement “Tomorrows Schools” – which allowed local communities to elect their own School Boards – then why shouldn’t communities make determinations when it comes to other issues? Especially issues involving, literally, life and and death problems?

Interesting, Ben Thomas’s article in the NBR was written in June 2008 – during the previous Labour administration. The “catch cry” of Labour’s political opponants was “Nany State! Nanny State!”.

I wonder if Mr Thomas has changed his views now that National is in power and confronted by the very same social problems that Labour faced?

The problem that our society is facing is brought into harsh focus by the deaths of young people like David Gaynor, Michael Treffers, James Webster, Frank van Kampen, et al. (I am mentioning only white, Middle Class New Zealanders, as they are the ones that the  White, Middle Class Baby Boomers seem to take notice of.)

The growing crisis of alcohol abuse, though, is much, much wider than most folk realise;

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Babies born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome should give us particular cause to worry. Such brain-damaged babies grow up into brain-damaged adults. Adult females with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome can exhibit brain damage through low IQ. They may become pregnant themselves; drink whilst pregnant; and the cycle perpetuates to the next generation.

Each person with FAS often requires high levels of medical intervention and ongoing community support from tax-payer funded services.  In other words, my fellow Middle Class Baby Boomers: we are paying for it. Hence BERL’s estimation of the high costs of alcohol abuse in NZ.

Am I getting your attention now?

Associate Health Minister, Peter Dunne,  had his “urgent legislation pass through Parliament last month. Urgent legislation to ban ‘Kronic’ – not control alcohol. ‘Kronic’ was simply “inserted” into the pending Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill that was proceeding through the House.

Amazing how politicians can move quickly on some problems, but not others?

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That’s how quickly it took, folks. A matter of a few weeks, and ‘Kronic’ was consigned to illegality.

I emailed Peter Dunne on this issue,

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To date, I have not received any response from the Associate Health Minister’s office.

As for the Alcohol Reform Bill, some up-dates;

Alcohol Reform Bill – Press Release: The Alcohol Advisory Council

Parliament

130 changes to alcohol reform bill given tick by Govt

Let’s hope that no one dies between now and the Bill being passed into law, next year.

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Additional Reading

Violence increases in Wellington

Vicious assault in central Wellington

Assault victim’s rehab ‘one to two years’

 

 

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