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CYF – The Hollowing Out of a State Agency

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cyf-low-quality

 

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“CYF’s is gone, you know, it’s finished, it’s gone. It hasn’t worked and we’re changing.” – Anne Tolley

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Information passed on to this blogger raises questions as to why CYF has apparently been “under-performing” and why it seems stretched to deal with a mounting crisis of increasing numbers of  at-risk families.

A fall in staffing levels may have played a part in CYF’s “under-performance” – an allegation which seems to be supported by recently obtained figures under the Official Information Act.

1. Setting the Stage

As announced on 1 June, last year, National was casting it’s eye over social-services as part of it’s next step in it’s privatisation agenda;

Social bonds, in which the return for investors will be partially determined by whether or not agreed social targets have been achieved, will become another tool in the Government’s social investment approach that is aiming to improve the lives and prospects of the most vulnerable New Zealanders.

The announcement was couched in usual flowery terms of spin-doctored waffle;

“The Government is focused on achieving better results for individuals and families in highest need,” Finance Minister Bill English says.

“Where we succeed, there are opportunities to help people fulfil their potential, a chance to break inter-generational cycles of dependency and, in the long term, potential savings for taxpayers.

“So social bonds are a consistent fit with our wider social investment approach which aims to better understand both the drivers and risks of social dysfunction and where we can have the greatest impact in improving people’s lives.”

Vague promises of improved provision of services were made;

Dr Coleman says social bonds are an innovative way for the Government to contract social outcomes. They will see private and public sector organisations operating together to fund and deliver services.

But the ‘crunch’ was this statement;

If they achieve agreed results, the Government will pay back the investors plus a return. The return depends on the level of results, up to an agreed amount.

Jan Logie, from the Green Party, voiced concerns which many people throughout the country must have felt after hearing or reading National’s announcement;

“Mentally ill New Zealanders need the Government to provide more of a commitment to them, not to abdicate all responsibility for them to foreign banks and big money investors.

National doesn’t care that the biggest stumbling block facing New Zealanders with a mental illness who want to work is discrimination. Having a big bank breathe down the neck of a social service provider, demanding outcomes so it can make a profit, isn’t going to make that discrimination go away.

The National Government has ignored the advice of the Department of Internal Affairs which warned investors will only want to put money into programmes that are certain to work – which completely defeats the purpose.

Social bonds are a continuation of National’s attempt to privatise public services, which will always see the most vulnerable left out and National’s mates better off. In two years of charter schools, not one has enrolled a student with the highest special needs.”

2. Reasurances made…

On 26 September last year, Tolley issued stern reassurances that there would be no outsourcing of front-line services;

Lisa Owen: “Can you rule out today that you won’t be outsourcing front-line care and protection services?”

Anne Tolley: “Look, let’s put it to rest. This is a state responsibility. There’s no talk within government at all of outsourcing that responsibility.”

3. And reassurances broken
Seven months later, on 9 April, on TV3’s ‘The Nation‘,  Tolley flip-flopped, and admitted that privatisation of some aspects of CYF was now likely;
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the nation - anne tolley interview - cyf

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Lisa Owen: “But here we have outsourcing, so how do you square that away? Because you were specifically talking about front-line staff.”

Anne Tolley: “So we’re not outsourcing care and protection. What the report talks about is two things – first of all, a partnership arrangement with NGOs and iwi and community organisations as we have currently, and secondly, being able to direct purchase the services that children need when they need. But that will still be the operating system; the responsibility for those children will still be held by government.”

Lisa Owen: “Yes, but you’re talking about people or services that have direct contact with these children. “

Anne Tolley: “Yes.”

Lisa Owen: “Psychologists is one of the examples you talk about.”

Anne Tolley: “Yes.”

Lisa Owen: “That is front-line services, so that is outsourcing.”

Anne Tolley: “Well, that’s no different from what we are now. What was being presumed last time was that we were going to contract some company to take responsibility for children in care. We’re not doing that. It is the government’s responsibility, and the whole focus of the expert panel’s report was a single point of accountability in government for the long-term outcomes of those vulnerable children.”

Lisa Owen: “So you say that using these people from outside agencies, NGOs, et cetera, that’s all about getting the best people?”

Anne Tolley: “Absolutely. Getting the best people for the children when they need it, that’s the whole— one of the major changes about what’s being proposed. At the moment, various people working with those children have to negotiate with all the different agencies, fit in with their criteria, and children wait in line. What we’re saying now, what Cabinet has accepted, is that we need to be able to purchase those services for those children when they need it, and it could well be from DHBs, it could well be from the education service itself, but it could be from NGOs, and it could be from private psychologists, et cetera.”

Tolley’s admission that CYF services would be outsourced/privatised was confirmed only days before her interview on The Nation, with this press release from her office;

“A new system will be in place by the end of March 2017 which will have high aspirations for all children and address their short and long-term wellbeing and support their transition into adulthood.

It will focus on five core services – prevention, intensive intervention, care support services, transition support and a youth justice service aimed at preventing offending and reoffending.

The overhaul, which is expected to take up to five years to be fully implemented, will include:

[…]

  • Direct purchasing of vital services such as health, education and counselling support to allow funding to follow the child, so that these young people can gain immediate access to assistance.”
Veteran interviewer, Lisa Owen asked the Minister about the problem of private-providers “cherry-picking easy cases” of  problem-children;

Lisa Owen: “But one of the concerns is that there is a risk of cherry-picking. You know, if you have a private provider, are they only going to take the easier kids? Because we know… The Nation’s been told of a situation this week where a private provider wouldn’t take a particular child because they said the case was just too tough… Will you stop that happening? … So will they lose their contract if they keep refusing to take tougher cases? one of the major concerns is that the too-hard basket will still be full and it will be CYF who deals with those people.”

Tolley’s reply was like a bombshell – and one that Lisa Owen apparently did not pick up on. In terms that were unusually unequivocal for a politician, the Minister  announced the impending demise of Child Youth and Family (CYF);

Anne Tolley: “Well, CYF is gone. You know, it’s finished. It’s gone. It hasn’t worked and we’re changing, so we’re now going to a system that works with children from prevention right through to transition.”

Further into the interview – and this is also a salient point – Lisa Owen asked the Minister;

Lisa Owen: Okay, there’s a couple of quick things I want to cover off. When you were last here, you said that you may well hire more social workers, but the report says you’re not going to significantly expand in-house delivery, so are you going to have more social workers or not?

In stark contrast to her definitive statement that “CYF is gone… you know, it’s finished… it’s gone“, Tolley’s response to whether or not there would be more front-line social workers seemed more noncommittal;

Anne Tolley: “Well, we’ll see. I can’t see we would be dealing with any less, but, remember, the panel have identified that a large part of the workload is the churn of children coming back through the system several times.”

Tolley’s plans to finish off CYF appears set in concrete. Despite being the  fourteenth restructuring in twenty eight years, CYF’s problems and failures are apparently “unsalvageable”. Or so Minister Tolley would have us believe.

3. The subversion of CYF

We can no longer have a system which sees social workers spending half their time on administration, and less than a quarter of their time actually working with kids and families.” – Anne Tolley,  7 April 2016

On 7 April this year, Minister for Social Development, Hon Anne Tolley, released a public statement accepting the report of the “Expert Panel on Modernising Child Youth and Family”.

Amongst the “Expert Panel’s” Terms of Reference, two main points were given priority, as made clear on pages 34 and 35;

Specifically, the Expert Panel was tasked with:

  • providing the Minister for Social Development with a programme level business case by 30
    July 2015, which was delivered to the Minister in the form of the Interim Report,

and

  • providing oversight and challenge on the development of a detailed business case and a high
    level assessment of options for a proposed future operating model, with any Budget
    decisions considered as part of Budget 2016 (this report, termed the Final Report).

Note the heavy reference to  “a programme level business case” and “development of a detailed business case“.

A more detailed version of the Terms of Reference can be found on pages 241 to 243 of the Final Report.

Nowhere in the Terms of Reference, nor in the latter Objectives is there any mention of poverty, low wages, high living costs, etc.

Indeed, in a critical review of the “Expert Panel’s” Final Report, the group Re-imagining Social Work In Aotearoa wrote;

On receiving the report  Investing in New Zealand’s Children and Their Families I used the very simple textual analysis technique of searching for the frequency of what I considered important words. Such a simple analysis does not necessarily create a window into the minds and thinking of the authors; however it does give some indications about what they consider important at least as measured by how frequently they talk about it.

In descending incidence of occurrence and not including the references and appendixes this is what my word count revealed:

Investment mentioned 240 times
Trauma mentioned 50 times
Love mentioned 36 times
Deprivation mentioned 4 times
Inequality mentioned 1 time
Poverty mentioned 1 time

Despite the often unspoken reality that the vast majority of return visit CYFS clients are poor, and that people on reasonable incomes seldom have long-term contact with CYFS, it seems that the authors of the report do not see poverty as having any great relevance to the business of CYFS. Given the truly astounding amount of data demonstrating clear links between poverty, deprivation and increased levels of neglect and abuse of children it seems an extraordinary oversight (Duva, Metzger, 2010; Wynd, 2013; Sedlak, Mettenburg, Basena, Petta, McPherson, Greene, & Li, 2010).

This seems even more the case when you consider the equally astounding amounts of data (Szalavitz, 2010; Murali & Oyebode, 2004) showing that poverty plays a causative role in many of the other factors associated with increased levels of child abuse and neglect: these are factors such as parental depression, poor mental health, high levels of family stress, insecure overcrowded and unhealthy housing, and increased levels of drug and alcohol abuse as self medication to manage misery (Brown, Cohen, Johnson & Salzinger, 2010).

None of this is news to social scientists, or to anybody who has spent any time at all working with abused and neglected children and their families. People have known this since the days of Dickens. It does not take a great leap of empathic imagination to understand that the fear, despair, and hopelessness created by trying to survive day to day without adequate resources are not useful additions to the tool box of good parenting.

The Final Report led to a raft of recommendations (see pages 20 – 33) but two (on page 21) stand out;

14.

Agree the future department will directly purchase specialist services for vulnerable children and
their families. If other Crown agencies or entities cannot provide them in a timely manner, the
future department will purchase from them, or pursue other sources. (Refer page 65).

15.

Agree the future department take a market building role to create capability, capacity and
supply of services required to meet the needs of vulnerable children and families. (Refer page
67).

“Directly purchase specialist services”, “market building role”, and “supply of services” are specifically what Tolley referred to on TV3’s The Nation on 9 April;

Lisa Owen: “But here we have outsourcing, so how do you square that away? Because you were specifically talking about front-line staff.”

Anne Tolley: “So we’re not outsourcing care and protection. What the report talks about is two things – first of all, a partnership arrangement with NGOs and iwi and community organisations as we have currently, and secondly, being able to direct purchase the services that children need when they need. But that will still be the operating system; the responsibility for those children will still be held by government.”

Lisa Owen: “Yes, but you’re talking about people or services that have direct contact with these children. “

Anne Tolley: “Yes.”

In justifying the outsourcing/privatisation of CYF services, the “Expert Panel” delivered to Minister Tolley a Final Report that presented CYF as a “basket-case”; a totally broken organisation. The term “fragmented” was used no less than thirteen times in the Final Report, to drive home the perception of an irreparably dysfunctional state agency.

This is the same Final Report that mentioned “deprivation  4 times”,  “inequality  1 time”, and  “poverty 1 time”.

It is hard to escape the suspicion that CYF – a government department dealing with “child abuse and neglect, parental depression, poor mental health, high levels of family stress, insecure overcrowded and unhealthy housing, and increased levels of drug and alcohol abuse as self medication to manage misery” – is being undermined and portrayed as itself dysfunctional and in need of radical “reform”.

The “reform”, it seems, consists of “toughlove” privatisation of services.

4. The gutting of CYF

During Lisa Owen’s interview with Tolley on  The Nation on 9 April, she asked the Minister if more social workers would be hired;

Lisa Owen: Okay, there’s a couple of quick things I want to cover off. When you were last here, you said that you may well hire more social workers, but the report says you’re not going to significantly expand in-house delivery, so are you going to have more social workers or not?

As if finding the simple question discomforting, Tolley responded vaguely;

Anne Tolley: “Well, we’ll see. I can’t see we would be dealing with any less, but, remember, the panel have identified that a large part of the workload is the churn of children coming back through the system several times.”

Sources have revealed to this blogger that MSD has been conducting a covert  “sinking lid” policy not to replace departing front-line social workers. This blogger understands that at least  one CYF branch lost at least a dozen front-line staff in the last twelve months. They were not replaced. Existing and new cases are passed on to remaining staff.

In an OIA request made to the Minister’s office on 13 April (and passed on to MSD) released information  appears to confirm the Ministry  has been shedding front-line social-workers from it’s ranks.

To establish a base-line for staffing levels, I first asked;

“How many social workers were employed by Child, Youth Family services in 2008?”

In a response dated 16 June (two months after my initial request), MSD replied that 1,175.8 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff were employed as “Field Social Work Line (FSWL) which is composed of social workers, senior practitioners, and supervisors“. By 2015, that number had increased to 1,349.9 full-time equivalent staff.

But by March this year, that number had fallen to 1,335.0 full-time equivalent staff.

The total number of full-time equivalent staff employed by Child Youth and Family at 2008 was 2,848.3, rising to 3,025.2 full-time equivalent staff in 2015 – and falling to 2,956.9 by March this year.

The MSD response also confirmed “that 147 FSWL have departed between April 2015 and March 2016“.

It is a stark contrast that as notifications to CYF have been steady increasing since 2008 (ref1, ref2), the numbers of front-line and other support staff at the department have fallen.

Which brought into question the case-load of front-line social workers. I asked;

What was the case-load, per CYF social worker in 2008? What was the case-load, per CYF social worker last year and   what is the current case-load, per CYF social worker?

The response was astonishing;

Due to the varying nature and complexities of cases it is not practical to set practice
benchmarks for closure. As you will appreciate, many cases are active over a period
of years and some cases, while not active, may not have yet been formally closed.
The Ministry is unable to provide the current case load per social worker and case
load per social worker in 2008 and 2015 as as this is not a standard reporting
procedure. Therefore, this part of your request is refused under section 18(e) of the
Official Information Act as the information does not exist.

It beggars belief that MSD  is unaware of the case-load of it’s social workers.  It also raises suspicions of ducking the question.

A May 2014 report from the Office of the Chief Social worker, (Workload and Casework Review – Qualitative Review of Social Worker Caseload, Casework and Workload Management, p84) stated;

According to Child, Youth and Family’s organisational caseload report of 31 August
2013, the average care and protection caseload was 14 families or 30 children and
young people per social worker. For youth justice social workers, the average
caseload was nine children and young people.”

The Workload and Casework Review can be found on the MSD website, and was launched by the Ministery’s Chief Executive, Brendan Boyle.

It seems inconceivable that a report commissioned by MSD; released by the Chief Executive; and containing information relating to case load for front line social workers was not available to Viv Rickard, the Ministry’s Deputy Chief Executive, who signed the OIA release.

However, the pertinent point from the Workload and Casework Review is that front-line social workers were over-worked with case-loads (p79);

4. The review found a number of care and protection social workers were holding
unreasonably high caseloads. Priority action needs to be taken to reduce caseloads
for these staff.

The recommendation;

d. As a priority, assess social workers’ caseloads and safely reduce those that are
unreasonably high.

That was two years ago.

Since then, the number of social workers has fallen, whilst notifications continue to rise. The Review by the Chief Social Worker appears to have been Filed and Forgotten.

This is exacerbated by MSD’s response to these follow-up questions;

How many CYF offices/branches lost social workers over the last twelve months? How many CYF offices/branches have not replaced departing social workers over the last twelve months?

MSD replied;

The Ministry is unable to provide you with the number of departing social workers
who have not been replaced or the number of offices which have not replaced
departing social workers over the last months as this is not a standard reporting
procedure. Therefore,  this part of your request is refused under section 18(e) of the
Official Information Act as the information does not exist.

Again, it seems inconceivable that the MSD is oblivious as to how many social workers have not been replaced over the last twelve months.

Social work is the core-business; the raison d’être of the Ministry of Social Development. How can it adequately measure and report it’s KPIs  (Key Performance Indicators) if it is unaware of it’s own staffing levels?

This response from MSD is utterly inadequate and reveals either a high level of incompetence on the part of  senior management – or a crude attempt to evade answering questions. If the latter, then MSD has broken the law by not following the Official Information Act.

My final question to MSD asked if there “was  a CYF policy not to replace social workers departing from CYF?

The answer was perhaps more revealing than the author of the letter intended;

There is no specific policy in place around replacing or not replacing departing social workers.”

At a time of increasing notifications; falling numbers of social workers; and increasing case-loads – which has led to the Minister Anne Tolley being highly critical of MSD – there is no “no specific policy in place around replacing… departing social workers”.

5. Consequences and Cunning Plans

When Tolley gave a blistering condemnation of CYF on The Nation on 9 April, she did not hold back;

“Well, CYF is gone. You know, it’s finished. It’s gone. It hasn’t worked and we’re changing, so we’re now going to a system that works with children from prevention right through to transition.”

Furthermore, in response to a point raised by Lisa Owen on privatisation;

Lisa Owen: “Because the thing is, when the Government went to private providers to manage some of other services, for example, when you got Serco in to look after some of our prisons, in this government press release that I’ve got here, actually, at the time, Judith Collins says— she gave the same justification that you’re giving now, that it was to access world-class innovation and expertise to get the highest standards of professionalism. Well, that didn’t work out, did it, so what’s to stop that happening in this case?”

Anne Tolley: “Well, first of all, we’re not in the least bit talking about big companies like Serco for this. Again, the thrust of this is keeping these kids in their communities, so you’re talking about local services. But are you seriously suggesting that we should continue? One of the outcomes from the current system is that these children wait in line until they can get into the health system, so are you seriously suggesting that that’s better for those kids than if there’s a private psychologist whose services can be purchased to give immediate help to that child who has been damaged and needs that care? I’m going to go every time with meeting the needs of that child when we need it, so that’s what the focus is – on meeting the needs of these children, having them at the centre of everything we do, rather than ideological agendas which say you’ve only got to deal with the health system, the public health system. Actually, let’s deal with whomever can provide. And if the health system can provide that, I have no doubt they’ll step up, as they have with ACC.”

Yet, it appears that one of the prime causes of CYF’s alleged under-performance has little to do with it’s structure.  The loss of skilled social workers and failure to replace their numbers at a time of increased notifications and demands placed on remaining front line staff have one predictable outcome: a down-grading of service.

Which then allows for the Minister to call for yet another “Review” which happens to offer recommendations that Paula Rebstock is noted for: privatisation (or “outsourcing”, to put a polite label on the same process).

Which brings us back to announcements made on 1 June, last year, when  National put social-services on the block as next  in it’s privatisation agenda;

Social bonds, in which the return for investors will be partially determined by whether or not agreed social targets have been achieved, will become another tool in the Government’s social investment approach that is aiming to improve the lives and prospects of the most vulnerable New Zealanders.

The degradation of CYF is not due to the social workers who are at the front-line of this country’s growing social problems – something even John Key was forced to concede was worsening  in 2011, and which is continuing to grow;

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key admits underclass still growing - poverty - foodbanks - homelessness

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If there is fault with CYF, it lies with a covert National government plan to hollow out the service; publicise it’s alleged “short-comings” through “reviews” with pre-determined outcomes; and then announce ‘solutions’ which involve privatisation/outsourcing and an “investment approach”. As Gordon Campbell  pointed out;

“Whenever the government announces an inquiry into a contentious matter, those reviews now routinely function as a tool of political management that’s been tailored to achieve a pre-determined outcome. Such inquiries have neither been set up nor are expected to result in a balanced re-appraisal of all the relevant issues. To that end, the terms of reference are usually conveniently narrow, and selective – and thus allow for the evidence to be then cherry-picked in line with the government’s desires and expectations. “

As usual, Paula Rebstock’s Expert Panel has executed it’s part in National’s secret agenda.

This was never about improving CYF. This was always about National’s maniacal ideological obsession with privatisation.  This time, there are none more vulnerable than the children and young people who will pay dearly for this cunning plan.

National has scrapped the bottom of the barrel with this one.

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“Young people have told me they don’t want the system to experiment with their lives.” – Anne Tolley

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Addendum1

Correspondence: OIA response from MSD – Staffing levels

Addendum2

Expert Panel on Modernising Child Youth and Family“:

Paula Rebstock (Chair)
Ms Rebstock has extensive governance experience and is Chair of the ACC Board, Chair of the Work and Income Board, Deputy Chair of KiwiRail, Chair of the Insurance and Savings Commission, a member of the University of Auckland Business School Advisory Board and a Director of Auckland Transport. She is also a Senior Lead Reviewer for the Performance Improvement Framework for the State Services Commission.

Commissioner Mike Bush
Commissioner Bush joined New Zealand Police in 1978 and has held a number of senior operational and administrative positions including Counties-Manukau District Commander, where he pioneered the Prevention First operating strategy. Commissioner Bush led significant operational changes to Police through the Policing Excellence programme. He was awarded the MNZM for his service as New Zealand Police’s South East Asian liaison officer following the 2004 Asian tsunami.

Peter Douglas
Mr Douglas has extensive senior management experience in both the public and private sectors. He was the principal Māori adviser at the Ministry of Social Development, a Senior Manager in business banking at Westpac and an adviser in the Prime Minister’s Department and Cabinet during the time of the 1992 Māori fisheries settlement. Mr Douglas is the Chief Executive of Te Ohu Kaimoana Māori Fisheries Trust.

Duncan Dunlop
Mr Dunlop has been Chief Executive of Who Cares? Scotland, an independent advocacy charity for young people in care, since January 2012. He has led the development of youth-work infrastructure and programmes in a range of environments from Lithuania and Ghana to the Balkans and across the UK.

Helen Leahy
Ms Leahy is Chief Executive for Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu, the South Island Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency, and a Specialist Advisor, Strategy and Influence, for Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu.She has held several senior roles in Parliament including Chief of Staff of the Māori Party and SeniorMinisterial Advisor for the former Minister of Whānau Ora. A former high school teacher, Ms Leahyhas worked in a range of community sectors such as domestic violence, adolescent health anddevelopment, youth and women’s affairs.

Professor Richie Poulton
Professor Poulton is the Chief Science Advisor to the Ministry of Social Development and has led the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study at the University of Otago for the past 15 years. He is a Professor of Psychology, Co-Director of the National Centre for Lifecourse Research and Director of the Graduate Longitudinal Study. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand, and recipient of the RSNZ Dame Joan Metge Medal.

 

Addendum3

The chairperson of the so-called “Expert Panel”, Paula Rebstock, has been heavily criticised by the Ombudsman for a previous investigation/report she carried out in 2012 regarding leaks from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Rebstock’s report, attacking the reputations of two senior State servants, Derek Leask and Nigel Fyfe, was released the following year.

Complaints were laid with the Ombudsman who found that that Rebstock’s report into the leaks were “unfair, flawed and caused significant damage to a former diplomat and senior public servant“.

One of the former senior diplomats, Derek Leask, was justifiably angry at the way he had been pilloried by Rebstock;

“It is good to have the slur on my reputation removed. Today’s findings by the Ombudsman go beyond the vindication of my actions. The Ombudsman’s report suggests that the 2012/2013 SSC investigation was out of control from start to finish.”

Despite the 2012/13 flawed report being damned by the Ombudsman, Minister Tolley has announced no plans to review the more recent Rebstock’s report on CYF;

Dame Paula also spearheaded a major report into Child Youth and Family (CYF), for which she was paid $2000 a day, double the normal maximum fee.

That review is now being used as a basis for an overhaul of CYF and the government has no plans to review her work in this area before restructuring begins.

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley, who had wanted to pay her $3000 a day, said Dame Paula did a fantastic job which would deliver better long-term results for vulnerable children.

There is therefore no guarantee that Rebstock’s CYF review is, in itself, also not flawed.

Acknowledgement

I acknowledge and thank the person who brought the critical matter of CYF’s under-staffing to my attention. Whilst keeping the identity of the “whistle-blower” confidential, I will continue to look into this  problem at every opportunity.

Postscript

This blogger will be laying a complaint with the Ombudsman’s Office at the length of time for this OIA request to be answered. Fortyfour days is well outside the 20 working-days stipulated in the Official Information Act. Also, a question will be raised whether or not some of the answers were factually correct.

 

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References

Beehive.govt.nz: Budget 2015 – Social bond to focus on mental health

Green Party: Mentally ill NZers are not a cash cow for National’s mates

TV3 News: The Nation – Transcript – Anne Tolley

TV3 News:  ‘CYF’s is gone, it hasn’t worked’ – Tolley

TVNZ: ‘It’s time for a clean break – CYF is gone’ says Anne Tolley

Beehive.govt.nz: Radical changes to child protection and care

MSD: Expert Panel Final Report – Investing in New Zealand’s Children and their Families

Re-imagining Social Work In Aotearoa: The absent elephant in the 2016 ‘Modernising Child, Youth and Family Expert Panel Report’

MSD: Social work services to children, young people and their families – Notifications

MSD: Notifications

MSD: Workload and Casework review – Qualitative Review of Social Worker Caseload, Casework and Workload Management

NZ Herald: Key admits underclass still growing

NewstalkZB: Demand for food banks, emergency housing much higher than before recession

State Services Commission: Paula Rebstock appointed to investigate Cabinet paper leak

State Services Commission: Report to the State Services Commissioner on Unauthorised disclosure of Information

Fairfax media: Damning inquiry points finger at the Government, State Services Commissioner

Radio NZ: Rebstock MFAT inquiry errors not terminal, says PM

Additional

MSD: Investing in New Zealand’s Children and Their Families

Office of the Children’s Commissioner: State of Care 2016 Report

Ministry of Social Development: Workload and Casework review – May 2014

Treasury: Budget 2008 Vote Social Development

Treasury: Budget 2009 Vote Social Development

Treasury: Budget 2010 Vote Social Development

Treasury: Budget 2011 Vote Social Development

Treasury: Budget 2012 Vote Social Development

Treasury: Budget 2013 Vote Social Development

Treasury: Budget 2014 Vote Social Development

Treasury: Budget 2015 Vote Social Development

Treasury: Budget 2016 Vote Social Development

Related blogposts

No Right Turn: Paula Rebstock should pay for this

Polity: Decrypting “social investment”

Pundit: Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the Leask of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me

The Daily Blog: What’s that? – choke, splutter! – Dame Paula Rebstock???

The Standard: No accountability under Key

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell on the Ombudsman’s verdict on Paula Rebstock and Ian Rennie

Previous related blogposts

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – the social welfare safety net

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012 – inequality & poverty

Budget 2013: State Housing and the War on Poor

“You Break It, We Fix It” – Is That How It Works?

On ‘The Nation’ – Anne Tolley Revealed

Child Poverty: Labour on track

Letter to the editor – Key suggests private providers for children in CYF services?!

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 26 June 2016.

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On ‘The Nation’ – Anne Tolley Revealed

2 October 2015 5 comments

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On past occassion, I have been critical of ‘The Nation‘ for not making greater use of facts and data when confronting National ministers. Without cold, hard facts and stats, slippery Ministers like Steven Joyce can find wiggle-room to avoid straight answers and indulge in wild flights of fantasy-spin.

But when the team at ‘The Nation‘ get it right, they do it well, and Ministers are laid bare for the public to see, hear, and assess for themselves.

Cases-in-point, the 2 May interview with Corrections Minister, Sam  Lotu-Iiga, and the more recent (26 September) interview with Social Development Minister, Anne Tolley;

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The Nation - Interview - Social Development Minister Anne Tolley

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Both interviews showed Ministers out of their depths, and grappling with critical problems that apparently have “snuck up” on them – though the rest of the country had long been aware that not all was well in the Land of the Long White Cloud (and possible Red Peak).

Recent “revelations” of massive problems for children in State-care are only confirmation of what many in the sector already knew. According to Tolley’s own speech to the Fostering Kids New Zealand Conference  on 24 September;

By the time children with a care placement who were born in the 12 months to Jun 1991 had reached the age of 21:

Almost 90 per cent were on a benefit.

Over 25 per cent were on a benefit with a child.

Almost 80 per cent did not have NCEA Level 2.

More than 30 per cent had a youth justice referral by the age of 18.

Almost 20 per cent had had a custodial sentence.

Almost 40 per cent had a community sentence.

Overall, six out of every ten children in care are Māori children.

[…]

64 per cent of the 61,000 children notified to CYF in 2014 had a previous notification.

In 2013, children who had been removed from home were on average 8 years old and many of these children had been involved with the system since 2 or 3 years of age.

[…]

Seven year-old children should not have eight different home placements.

A study of those in care in 2010 showed that 23 per cent of children who exited care and returned to their biological parents were subject to neglect or physical, emotional or sexual re-abuse within 18 months. Ten per cent of those who returned to kin or whānau were re-abused, while re-abuse rates for those who exited into non-kin and non-whānau placements was one per cent.

It has taken seven years for a National minister to come to understand this? Where have they been all this time – playing golf on Planet Key?

But not only has  this government ignored this crisis in supporting young people in State care – but they have been criminally guilty of making matters worse by job cuts and destabilisation by constant re-organisation of  MSD (Ministry of Social Development);

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Job cuts for MSD

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Then Social Development Minister, Paula Bennett, was adamant that there would be more frontline social workers, despite the massive number of redundancies. Her mantra at the time was;

”I can absolutely assure them that the concentration is on frontline staff, on social workers that are working with those people that need it most, and that’s where this Government is putting their priorities.”

Take note that in the “re-structuring”  in 2009, the job cuts included “a team of 18 child abuse education social workers“.  In effect,  skilled professionals working on behalf of children suffering abuse were sacked.

Only the Minister of Finance trying to balance his books, and those who perpetrate child abuse on small bodies, could possibly have been delighted at that announcement.

To deflect criticism from the growing problem of  child poverty and New Zealand’s “under-class” (which, in  October 2011, even Key was forced to admit was rising), Bennett resisted demands to assess just how bad the problem really was;

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Combating poverty more important than measuring it - Paula Bennett - MSD

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No measurement; no way of telling how bad it is. Very clever, Ms Bennett.

But worse was to come, as National slashed the state sector to make up for revenue lost through two tax cuts and the recessionary effects of the Global Financial Crisis;

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MSD restructure lacks transparency

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98 MSD staff face the axe - union

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This time, the person over-seeing on-going job-losses and re-structuring was the current Social Development Minister, Anne Tolley. This time, the cuts were given a new euphemism; “re-alignment”.

Despite Bennett’s reassurances in June 2009  that there would be a “concentration […] on frontline staff, on social workers that are working with those people that need it most” – six years later the cutting of back-room support staff resulted in inevitable (and predictable) consequences. As Tolley herself was forced to admit on ‘The Nation‘;

“Well, there’s 3000-odd staff, but only 25% of them are actually working with children. And of that 25%, they’re only spending 15% of their time actually with children.”

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twitter - msd job cuts - anne tolley - the nation

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At that point, Lisa Owen asked Minister Tolley the question;

“So are you telling me that we need more back-room staff to allow those people to get on to the front line and deal with the kids?”

Tolley’s reply was pure gobbledegook;

“What we need is a system that is designed to look after those children when they first come to our attention, we need good interventions with them and their families, and we need to free up the front-line social workers to do the work they come in every day to do which is to work with children, not a system that’s built on layers and layers of risk management and bureaucracy and administration, which is what we’ve got now.”

The reason it is risable gobbledegook is that after hundreds of job losses – of mostly so-called “back room staff” one assumes – and restructurings, there cannot be too many “layers and layers of risk management and bureaucracy and administration” left in MSD.

Lisa Owen pushed the Minister further;

“…But some evidence that was provided last year was the case-load review, which said that you were 350 social workers short. So can we expect more social workers?”

When the Minister offered vague assurances that “we may well” expect more social workers, Ms Owen was blunt;

“But ‘may well’ is not a definitive answer, is it, Minister? So yes or no? Will we get more?”

Tolley’s response was anything but reassuring;

“I don’t know, because the final system proposal will come to me in December, so I’m not going to pre-empt what the panel’s coming up with. What they’ve done in this interim report is give us the building blocks…”

Listening to the Minister was not only far from reassuring, but left a sense of unease.

Our esteemed Dear Leader, John Key, has already said that “outsourcing” to private providers for MSD services is possible;

“Child Youth and Family does outsource to the private sector already some contracts, and I think last year $81 million of business went to private sector contractors, so I can’t get up and say there is no involvement with the private sector, because there already is that.

I don’t think we’re seriously talking about the private sector taking control of all the children, but if there is some small function they could do, maybe, I’d have to see what that is.”

“Some small function”?

What is Key referring to – delivery of afternoon tea and biscuits to CYF staff?

Or, as more likely, would “some small function” involve Serco – already in deep trouble over it’s incompetence over running of Mt Eden prison?

This is a possibility that Tolley herself touted as a possibility on TVNZ’s ‘Q+A‘, as recently as June this year;

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Tolley Serco could run social services - MSD - CYF

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On 31 August,  CEO of the Association of Social Workers, Lucy Sandford-Reed,was reported on Radio NZ as saying  she believed call-centre operations might be outsourced;

“That really creates an opportunity for further fragmentation of the service delivery and could potentially create the opportunity for failure. And there has been a sense that a organisation like Serco could be looking at picking up those contracts.”

Tolley was adamant on ‘The Nation‘ that there would be no outsourcing of MSD’s front-line services. She told Lisa Owen to her face;

“Look, I- Let’s put it to rest – this is a state responsibility. There’s no talk within Government at all of outsourcing that responsibility.”

However, only two days earlier (24 September), it was reported that Serco had indeed been ‘sniffing’ around CYF facilities in Auckland;

CYF sites visited by Serco – Tolley

Thursday 24 Sep 2015 4:30 p.m.

Serco case managers have visited several Child, Youth and Family facilities in Auckland, Social Development Minister Anne Tolley has confirmed.

She’s previously denied knowledge of such visits, and told Parliament today she had been given incorrect advice by her ministry.

“I apologise for giving an incorrect answer (to previous questions)… I’m disappointed that I got incorrect information,” she said.

Opposition MPs suspect the visits were connected with the possibility of some CYF services being contracted out to Serco.

The question that begs to be asked is; why has National drawn attention to the (supposed) “failings” of CYF/MSD? Why was Tolley so eager to receive a report so scathing of her own department, as she stated in her 27 August press statement;

“I welcome the release of this report, which makes for grim reading for those involved in child protection, and have met with the Commissioner to discuss his findings.”

Usually, this is a government whose ministers are desperate only to present “good news” stories. They are quick to dismiss, minimise, or deride any criticism that does not fit with their “good management” narrative. Blaming the previous Labour government has become the #1 Default position of National ministers.

The only possible rationale why Tolley has commissioned a report into MSD/CYF – where no public or media pressure had demanded one – is that Paula Rebstock’s highly critical findings of MSD/CYF were pre-determined.

As Chris Trotter wrote in his analysis of Rebstock’s report on 2 April;

“The Rebstocks of this world are spared the close-up consequences of their recommendations. They are experts at reading between the lines of their terms of reference to discover exactly what it is that their commissioning ministers are expecting from them – and delivering it. So it was with Paula Bennett’s welfare review, and so it will be with Anne Tolley’s review of Child Youth and Family (CYF).

Once again in the lead role, Ms Rebstock will not have to work too hard to decode the meaning of Ms Tolley’s comment that: “CYF has drafted its own internal modernisation strategy and while it is a good starting point, it doesn’t go far enough”.”

Without doubt, Rebstock’s eventual (and predictable?) report into MSD/CYF was highly critical of that organisation.

Key has publicly disclosed that he is not averse to privatisation (aka, “outsourcing”) aspects of MSD/CYF’s services.

Despite Tolley’s denials, Serco has shown interest in CYF facilities.

Which leads to the inescapable conclusion that the Rebstock report; the willingness of Ministers to front up to the media to candidly admit to MSD/CYF’s shortcomings; is setting up a Problem demanding a Solution.

That “Solution” is privatisation of services.

Which perhaps is what Tolley was referring to in her 24 September speech;

“While the new operational model is being developed, a feasibility study of an investment approach to improving outcomes for vulnerable children is being commissioned by MSD on behalf of the panel, and the findings will inform the Panel’s December report.”

Investment approach”?

As in business investment.

This explains  Tolley’s rejection of Lisa Owen’s suggestion of paying caregivers more money;

“Well, I think you’ve always got to be very careful that you’re not setting up a professional caregiving regime. And when you talk to people who are fostering, most of them don’t do it for the money.”

Indeed, “people who are fostering, most of them don’t do it for the money” – but it sure helps pay the bills, especially for professional services for some very damaged children.

No wonder Tolley was vague on whether more money or social workers would be provided to MSD/CYF, in her replies to Lisa Owen. This was never about increasing resources to the Ministry or caregivers.

This is about a private enterprise “solution” to a National government “problem”.

The Rebstock Report is simply the means to sell that “solution” to the public and media.

Machiavellian does not begin to cover this mad agenda.

 

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References

TV3: The Nation – Interview – National’s Chief Strategist Steven Joyce

Beehive.govt.nz: Speech to Fostering Kids New Zealand Conference

Fairfax media: Job cuts for MSD

NZ Herald: Key admits underclass still growing

Scoop media: Combating poverty more important than measuring it

Radio NZ: MSD restructure ‘lacks transparency’

Fairfax media: 98 MSD staff face the axe – union

Twitter: Frank Macskasy to The Nation

Radio NZ: Key – More CYF private sector involvement possible

TV3 News: Tolley – Serco could run social services

TV3 News: CYF sites visited by Serco – Tolley

Beehive.govt.nz: Minister welcomes State of Care report

Additional

MSD: Redesigning the Welfare State in New Zealand: Problems, Policies and Prospects (1999)

Other Blog posts

The Daily Blog: Fixing CYFs – Paula Rebstock is asked to “rescue” another state agency

The Daily Blog: Why The State Needs To Support Young People Until They’re 21

Previous related blogposts

WINZ, waste, and wonky numbers – *up-date*

Bill English: When numbers don’t fit, or just jump around

The law as a plaything

Random Thoughts on Random Things #3

John Key’s government – death by two cuts

The cupboard is bare, says Dear Leader

Government Minister sees history repeat – responsible for death

“I don’t know the details of that particular family” – Social Development Minister Anne Tolley

Polls and pundits – A facepalm moment

“The Nation” reveals gobsmacking incompetence by Ministers English and Lotu-Iiga

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Phil-Disley-30102010-005

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 September 2015.

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Radio NZ: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams – 16 December 2013

16 December 2013 2 comments

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– Politics on Nine To Noon –

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– Monday 16 December 2013 –

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– Kathryn Ryan, with Matthew Hooton & Mike Williams –

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Today on Politics on Nine To Noon,

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radio-nz-logo-politics-on-nine-to-noon

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Click to Listen: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams ( 22′ 37″  )

This week:

  • Len Brown

Listen to Matthew Hooton’s surprising analysis of Len Brown’s hotel room upgrades.

  • Paula Rebstock and the MFAT Inquiry
  • Asset sales referendum
  • Christine Rankin vs Paula Bennett

en Brow.

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Three Jokers and an Ace

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This has been one of those strange weeks that only a National-led government can give us. Part of that strangeness has been described in a previous blog, with the antics of  Paula Bennett, Pita Sharples, and a slow train-wreck called ACT.

See: 20 May: End of the Week Bouquets, Brickbats, & Epic Fails

But before the weekend was over, there was more neo-liberal nonsense to follow. One thing you can always count on with the Nats – they’re good for a facepalm on a regular basis…

First Joker: David Carter

Local Government Minister, David Carter’s performance on TVNZ’s  Q+A, on  20 May,  was an exercise in National’s  ‘Daddy State‘ policies revving up several notches.

Not content with forcing assets sales, fracking, and deep sea drilling on us – the NPPB (National Party Politburo of Bunnies)  is now issuing diktats from on-high to local body councils.

Firstly, Kommissar Karter instructed local bodies what was  acceptable “core services” by local body councils,

GREG

Okay, core services – what on earth are core services? Because there seems to be a lot of scope in what a core service is and what a council should be taking care of.

DAVID

Well, it’s certainly clear what core services are, and they are rates and rubbish and water, et cetera. But this legislation’s not about saying to councils, ‘You can only embark on core services.’ It is still the responsibility of the council to engage with its community and find out what services that community wants. But we want that debate to be far more transparent than it has been in the past.

GREG

Well, hold on. It sounds like the Government’s wanting a bob each way in this. They’re wanting to say they keep in touch with what’s happening with the rates, but they’re only to go and do core services at a local level or not. Which way is it to go?

DAVID

We are not saying that councils can only do core services. If you take my Christchurch City Council, for example, and it runs the Ellerslie Flower Show in Hagley Park. You could argue that’s not a core service. The council has determined that there is value in delivering that show for the people of Christchurch, and, frankly, I meet a lot of people on planes who are travelling from all over New Zealand to come to that. The council’s decision is to run the Ellerslie Flower Show, and that is a decision for the council to make. It’s certainly not a decision for central government to make or for myself as minister.  “

Then the Minister advised the Great Unwashed what was not acceptable “core services”,

”  DAVID

We’re certainly going to get local government to be far more focused on what activities it undertakes. In the past, some councils have stepped too far and undertaken activities, Hamilton city, for example, with the Grand Prix racing. I think that was an activity that went far beyond where local government should have gone. It cost local government in that area a lot of money. We’re not saying you cannot run race cars; we’re saying you need to think very very carefully before undertaking that activity. And by putting these financial management tests in place, I think councils will think more carefully about some of those longer-term extraneous activities they’re undertaking than they did in the past.  “

So according to Kommissar Karter,

  • V8 car races – out
  • Flower shows – in
  • Asset sales – in
  • local democracy to choose our own expenditure: out
  • centralised, National Party control over expenditure: in
  • core service by councils – tba

The Minister then added, for good measure in case the proles had not understood his Diktat from On High,

”  DAVID

You’re hitting on the essence of the relationship that should be between local government and central government. It has to be truly a partnership, but it’s not on for local government then to step into the space which is clearly central government’s role. And it is central government’s role to establish the education system in this country. It is central government’s role to establish parameters of measuring the success of that. We can then work with Len Brown and his council, particularly as he tries to develop solutions to some of the social problems in South Auckland, and we’re happy to work with him in a partnership. But the core responsibility still remains with central government.

Which, if implemented, would mean that Otorohanga’s Council-led  and community-based initiatives – which has seen unemployment and youth problems plummet – would not be a core Council responsibility?

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Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking Blog

Full story

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Had National’s policy of curtailing Council activities been in full-force, youth unemployment and associated problems would remain unchanged, or probably much worse in that small town.

See also:  Youth unemployment a growing problem

Or was the Minister expecting Otorohanga to wait for Central Government to address the worsening crisis of youth unemployment? Youth unemployment which has rocketed from 58,000 to 87,000 this year?

How would National’s policy, to “reign in” local Councils,  impact on other towns and cities that attempted to take steps to address our growing social problems? Would Auckland prohibited from pursuing a programme similar to Otorohanga?

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Frankly Speaking Frank Macskasy Blog

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David Carter’s performance on Q+A was simply breath-taking. If anyone thought that Labour was guilty of  creating a “Nanny State” – they had to watch Carter to see National go several steps further. In effect, central government will be dictating to local bodies what they can or can’t do.

Democracy? Not in our towns or cities, according to Minister Carter.

National is taking over. Curfew at 7PM.

See transcript: Q+ALocal Government Minister David Carter interview

See video:   Q+A: Local Government Minister David Carter (15:28)

The irony here is that whilst National stands by and watches unemployment soar, local communities, through their elected representatives,  are taking steps to address this growing problem.

Meanwhile, National’s response to unemployment is not to implement job creation programmes – their  response is to fiddle with welfare.

Which leads us to the next issue…

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Second Joker: Paula Rebstock

Q+A’s interview with Paula Rebstock – appointed by Welfare Minister Paula Bennett to head a board to oversee the implementation of National’s welfare “reforms” – is continuing National’s mission to demonise the unemployed; widows; solo-mums (but never solo-dads), and others who rely on social welfare to survive.

Since National has no job-creation plan,  Dear Leader and Paula Bennett are shifting responsibility for lack of jobs onto welfare beneficiaries. (Because we know that welfare pays for the mansion, limousine in the drive-way, and the beach house in Hawaii. Oh, wait, no, that’s John Key.)

It is a most pernicious form of scape-goating.

It is shameful, and panders to the nasty prejudices that reside in the dark depths of our vestigial reptilian hind-brain. For the Working and Middle Classes, who have always had the sneaking suspicion that welfare offers an opulent lifestyle – until they themselves are made redundant – only to then discover the true nature of just how paltry welfare actually is.

To put this issue into some context, New Zealand’s unemployment doubled after the global financial crisis and resulting recession,

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Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking Blog

Source

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Rebstock headed the infamous “Welfare Working Group” in 2010. Some of the  recommendations of the WWG were so punitive and inhumane as to return to the Victorian Era. Even John Key was moved to reject many of Rebstock’s extreme proposals.

In November 2010, Rebstock was interviewed by Paul Holmes on Q+A,

”  PAUL

So that means a bit of government intervention, that means government providing these [jobs], presumably.

PAULA

Well, I don’t know if it does, and I think this is a really important point. If we look at how the labour market in New Zealand has performed, it is true we’ve been in a recession and we’re now moving into a slow recovery and jobs have been an issue, but since 1986 this economy has created more than 500,000 jobs. Now, it responded as well as almost any economy in the world to the economic environment. We had one of the highest employment rates in the OECD. I think that it is a little bit of a cop-out to say that we can’t deal to some of the issues around long-term benefit dependency because of the job market.

PAUL

Oh, come on, Paula, the jobs simply aren’t there. I mean, if you look at 2006, there was a 30,000 net gain of jobs. In 2008 it had gone down a bit – 9,000 net gain. God knows what it is this year.

PAULA

We actually are experiencing a gain in jobs. The labour statistics that came out last week show that. I’m not saying that we haven’t been in a recession, Paul, but this is the time right now to prepare people for the recovery. They need to be ready to take the jobs that are there.  “

See:  Holmes interviews Paula Rebstock (15 November 2010)

Unfortunately for everyone, the jobs were not “out there”.  With the recession is full swing, exports were down, and companies were laying off staff in their hundreds.

Unemployment in November 2010 was 6.4%. By January 2011, it had reach 6.8%. The rate moved up and down, and currently sits on 6.7%.

See:  Unemployment rate lifts to 6.7pc

Fast forward 18 months, and despite the economy continuing to stagnate, National is pursuing it’s scape-goating of unemployed and solo-mothers (but never solo-dads), and Rebstock and Bennett are both  still ‘singing the same song’.

On 16 May, Bennett said,

The cost of today’s total number of beneficiaries is estimated at $45 billion. It makes good economic and social sense to provide targeted support up front to get more people into work sooner.

This new approach will be embedded at all levels of the welfare system and the board will be responsible for ensuring accountability and overseeing the delivery of reforms that will see fewer people on welfare for long periods.

See:  Minister defends new welfare board

Not. One. Word. About. Job. Creation.

National is displaying an almost Obsessive-Compulsive antipathy on welfare issues.  Their sole focus is on welfare and welfare beneficiaries.

As if 80,000+ New Zealanders decided to chuck in their jobs in the last few years, and instead live the life of luxury on $204.96 a week (net).

See:   WINZ  Unemployment Benefit (current)

Yet, not too long ago (29 April), Social Welfare Minister Paula Bennett actually admitted,

PAULA         
No. There’s not a job for everyone that would want one right now, or else we wouldn’t have the unemployment figures that we do.

See:  TVNZ Q+A: Transcript of Paula Bennett interview (29 April)

So why is National spending $1.1 million on Rebstock’s ‘Work and Income Board’ to oversee WINZ – when it ain’t welfare that’s broke. It’s the job market that is 160,000 jobs short?!

See:  Rebstock to head welfare watchdog panel

Bennett goes on to say,

”  I’ve got fantastic frontline staff, I’ve got fantastic upper and middle management that are working hands on with policy changes and implementing that frontline.  “

“Fantastic front line staff”.

“Fantastic upper and middle management”.

“Working hands on with policy changes”.

But no jobs.

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Third Joker: John Key

National’s “Gateway” scheme had its origins during the Mana by-election, in 2010. As some will recall, it was National’s grand plan to beat the Labour candidate, Kris Faafoi.

National’s candidate was… Hekia Parata – the current Minister for Education.

Ms Parata lost by 1,406 votes to Labour’s candidate. (The margin widens when adding centre-left votes for the Greens and Matt McCarten.)

See: Mana By-election 2010

It appears that the “Gateway” scheme was little more than an election bribe for Mana voters; a “lolly” to entice people to vote for Parata.  National lost, and were stuck with fulfilling their policy pledge.

(Damned inconvenient when that happens, I guess.)

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Full Story

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Heatley touted the scheme, grandly proclaiming,

It is important the government provides opportunities for people to move into home ownership. Affordable homes schemes such as Gateway is another way we can assist more people into a home of their own.”

But by May of this year, it seems that it was ‘no longer important the government provides opportunities for people to move into home ownership’.

John Key announced it’s cancellation last week.

For a man who was raised in a taxpayer funded, and subsidised, state home with his siblings and widowed mum, and who benefitted from a societal  value that decent housing was a basic human right – John Key has some very strange attitudes toward providing shelter for the poor and vulnerable,

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Full story

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The Gateway scheme details,

GATEWAY SCHEME
* For first home buyers earning under $100,000 a year
* They can get a mortgage to build or buy a house on state land
* Must have at least a 10% deposit
* Have 10 years to buy the land

It’s interesting to note that Key is unable to deliver “low cost” housing for couples earning under$100,000 and says,

The Government has looked at that programme and decided that’s now not the most effective way of going forward.

So we think the capacity for lower income New Zealanders to own their own home is greatly enhanced by the fact interest rates are lower.

“If you have a look at the average home owner in New Zealand, they are paying about $200 a week less in interest than they were under the previous Labour Government.” – Ibid

His comments raises several issues,

  1. It says a lot about Key’s impression of what constitutes “lower income New Zealanders” when the threshold is up to $100,000 per couple. Perhaps by his multi-million dollar standards, a couple on $100,000 is “poor”?
  2. Derides the previous Labour government and claims credit for lower interest rates, by stating “they are paying about $200 a week less in interest than they were under the previous Labour Government“. As if current low interest rates are a result of National’s intervention? (Interest rates are determined by the Reserve Bank, and are currently low because our economy is stagnant. National can take credit for the latter, but not the former.)
  3. How can  providing decent, affordable housing for low income earners  be “not the most effective way of going forward” ?
  4. Key is living in a millionaire’s fantasyland if he seriously believes that “ the capacity for lower income New Zealanders to own their own home is greatly enhanced by the fact interest rates are lower“.  Dear Leader doesn’t understand that the interest rate can be irrelevant if people can’t afford to buy a home in the first place.

If ever there was ever an instance of the Silver Spoon mentality – look no further than our current Prime Minister, the Rt Honourable John Key.

New Zealanders are deluded if they think this man can relate to their ordinary, everyday, lives.

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The Ace: John Tamihere

As mentioned in a previous blogpost, John Tamihere is hosting an excellent, low-key, intelligent, current affairs chat show on TV3 (Sunday mornings) called “Think Tank“.  Last Sunday’s (20 May) episode focused on child poverty in New Zealand and what practical steps were required to address this growing social crisis.

Last week, it was pokie machines and their effects on communities.

As the show’s name suggests, the goal is not just to look into critical social issues – but to come up with solutions.  The show’s panel of four people offers solutions; and the guests scrutinises each suggestion.

It’s a chat show for sure – but instead of superficial inanities, the conversation is serious and fit for adult consumption.

This is good television. This treats the viewer as   intelligent and capable of considering complex issues.

This blogger can only live in hope that this is the turning point of 21st century television, and we are seeing an end (or at least slow reduction) of the execrable rubbish we have been served up, since  commercialisation and dumbing down became the norm for broadcasting in this country.

John Tamihere is perfect for the role of host for the show. Not a polished or trained media front-person, John Tamihere has walked the hard yards in life and has moved from the tough neighbourhoods of South Auckland to the halls of power in Parliament. He’s lived life. He’s seen things that Middle Class New Zealand has no wish to see or experience, outside of comfortable television shows.

This blogger’s only criticisms revolve around scheduling and lack of promotion.

Scheduling “Think Tank” on Sunday mornings ghettoises the show. It relegates it almost as an ‘after thought’.  It would be an act of naked political subversion to broadcast it during prime time viewing. (That should give National’s/NZ on Air’s,   Stephen McElrea something to howl about!)

The show also needs more promo on TV3. This blogger discovered it only by sheer fluke. Not promoting it leaves us wondering if TV3 doesn’t really want to draw attention to it? Perhaps doesn’t want to draw the ire of certain National Party ministers?

One hopes not.

TV3, as your print-media colleagues used to say, Publish and be damned !

It’s a good show.

Be proud of it.

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Media sources

Loans for housing on crown land

Holmes interviews Paula Rebstock (15 November 2010)

Otorohanga’s success story

Council goes solo to help young jobless

Key backs cut-off for cheap homes plan

Minister defends new welfare board

TVNZ  Q+A: Local Government Minister David Carter (video)

Reserve Bank to keep OCR unchanged though hikes flicker on horizon

References

Official Cash Rate (OCR) decisions and current rate

Previous blogposts

Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand

Bennett confirms: there are not enough jobs!

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