Saturday, October 09, 2010

John Campbell: Should Paul Henry be sacked?

Short on time this morning so a quick post.

John Campbell ran a text poll last night from 6.30 to 7.30 which was responded to by 29,000 (from memory): Should Paul Henry be sacked?

The result was 41 percent said yes and 59 percent, including me, said no.

The site is also polling and the yes/no split is currently at 35/65.

Paul Henry is a very funny man. Sometimes he laughs at things that I don't find funny. Like a lone donkey being hoisted up and flown out to sea under a para-glider. Some say the way he behaves is 'inappropriate' for his role. But what is his role? Breakfast TV seems to be a work in progress to me. It's still a relatively new phenomenon. If Henry wasn't on it I'd find no reason to watch. In the same way as when he left Radio Pacific I stopped listening.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Home of public service wealthiest

I extracted the regional tables from the latest Income Survey released yesterday and made a simple graph which provides an unpretty picture of bureaucracy looking after itself.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Bradford calls Treasury recommendations "evil"

An interview from National Radio Morning Report yesterday;

Treasury recommendations "evil" and "ridiculous"

The Alternative Welfare Working Group, which includes former Green MP Sue Bradford, is describing recommendations to move sickness and invalid beneficiaries onto the unemployment benefit in order to get them ready for work, as"evil"and"ridiculous".

The interview includes comments from Phil Goff and me. My focus was on the DPB which Treasury had identified as having the greatest potential for reform.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Treasury finds greatest opportunity for reform with DPB

A Treasury report prepared for the Welfare Working Group has correctly identified that the greatest opportunity for welfare reform lies with the Domestic Purposes Benefit. Treasury identified six ways in which welfare reform could improve outcomes for both beneficiaries and the economy. They are improved labour force participation; reduced poverty risk; fiscal savings; improved intergenerational outcomes; greater individual and social well-being and increased economic growth.

The DPB ticked 4 of these boxes as presenting a large opportunity. The Invalid's benefit ticked 2, the sickness benefit one, and the unemployment benefit, none.

Treasury has also identified the DPB as being the most expensive benefit at $1.7 billion in the last financial year, with the highest future liability costs. Liability associated with current domestic purposes beneficiaries is around $17 billion compared to only $3 billion for the unemployment benefit yet 'administration expenditure is primarily focused on Unemployment Beneficiaries'.

It has long been my contention that the DPB is most in need of reform because it is adversely affecting the lives of hundreds of thousands of children many of whom will grow up to be beneficiaries themselves. The report states that, 'child poverty rates are almost 75 percent for ‘work-less households’ compared to 11 percent where at least one adult is working-full time, ' and, ' living in a benefit dependent home has serious impacts on child wellbeing. '

In light of this, Treasury's recommendations are disappointing. Guaranteed entitlement based on having dependent children is preserved. There is no recommendation to cap the number of children a beneficiary can add to a benefit (with increased payments each time). While they identify that mothers entering the benefit system aged 16 and 17 have a high probability of remaining there for a very long time, changes to eligibility or conditionality for teenagers is not explored. Perhaps most surprising is a lack of discussion about time limits, which have the greatest potential to change expectations and behaviour.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Women's Refuge propaganda exposed

The Women's Refuge is a highly politicised propaganda machine. In a welcome new development they have been taken to task for exaggerating about the number of New Zealand women "living in fear". I will not support this organisation on principle. That is unfortunate because there are women who desperately need the sort of help provided by the refuges. But the distorted image of NZ women, and by implication NZ men, they promulgate serves no useful purpose. In fact it is detrimental to their cause.

TV3 reports;

Women's Refuge breached advertising standards by claiming that "one in three" New Zealand women were "living in fear" because of domestic abuse, without having adequate proof, the Advertising Standard Authority(ASA) has ruled.

The ASA made the ruling in two separate decisons after receiving complaints.

The upheld complaints related to two separate advertisements, one printed in the Waikato Times and the other broadcast on television.

The advertisements were part of Women's Refuge annual appeal which was held in July.

Both complainants argued the advertisements breached standards because there was no evidence to back the claim, which asserted that one in three women needed help because of abuse, and the complaint about the print version also argued the advertisement discriminated against men.

"This is absurd and it's impossible that they can produce honest stats proving this," one complainant said.

Women's Refuge argued that it was not in breach of standards as the assertion was based on a World Health Organisation (WHO) study which concluded that 33 percent of woman in Auckland and Waikato experienced physical or sexual violence from a partner in a life time.

The ASA disagreed and said it was concerning that Women's Refuge had used a local study as the basis for national statistics.

The majority of ASA members also thought it was inappropriate to base the claim that "one in three" women were living in fear on statistics which concluded one in three women experienced partner abuse in a "lifetime".

The ASA did not uphold the complaint that the print advertisement discriminated against men.

The ASA found both advertisements to be in breach of basic principle four which says "all advertisements should be prepared with a due sense of social responsibility to consumers and society" and rule 2 which says advertisements should not make exaggerated claims or mislead consumers.

"In the Complaints Board's view there was nothing in the advertisement to indicate that it reached threshold to cause serious and widespread offence in relation to it's portrayal of men," the ASA's decision read.

A minority of ASA members disagreed that the advertisements breached standards in both complaints.

The minority members should be sacked.

Prison populations and sleight of hand statistics

A commentor from yesterday points out that most prisoners serve only short sentences hence they do not qualify for rehab programmes. That is why only slightly more than half of the prison population is working or training apparently.

The commentor links to this;

Clearly the majority of offenders ending prison sentences spent relatively short periods of time (less than six months) in prison as sentenced prisoners. Less than five percent of those released each year have spent more than three years in prison.

Now that paints a very different picture from the last Prison Census (discontinued after 2003) which looks at a point in time population as opposed to all prisoner movements. This table shows that only 4.9% of prisoners were serving a sentence of 6 months or less. Granted that was 2003 but the statistical phenomenon will persist. The same happens when considering how long people spend on benefits. If it is worked out over all people who ever used a benefit, the time is dramatically shorter than if it is calculated at a point in time.

Leaving aside the issue of remand prisoners, it looks like over 90 percent of prisoners are serving sentences over 6 months but a large chunk of them are not involved in work or training.

And returning to the remand or short sentence inmates, given the illiteracy and life skills deficit problems surely there should be mandatory programmes operating for these inmates as well.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Welfare discourages prisoner rehab

Surely the following statement will provoke the same response in most readers;

More prisoners are undertaking job training and literacy and numeracy education than ever before, Corrections Minister Judith Collins and Associate Minister of Corrections Dr Pita Sharples said today.

In the 10 months to July 2010 the number of prisoners in employment and job training increased 9 percent (from 4415 to 4791). More than half the prison population was in some form of employment or training during the 2009/10 year.

What the heck are the rest doing?

According to Corrections;

The 20 prisons situated throughout New Zealand house over 8,000 prisoners. The majority of these prisoners have limited education or work experience. The last prison census (2003) identified that 52% of prisoners had no formal qualifications and only 45% were in paid work before going to prison.

My own data from OIA requests shows that in 2009 there were;

4,192 cancellations of a benefit for reason ‘going to prison’
3,496 grants of a benefit for reason ‘leaving prison’

The problem is that prisoners only participate in employment or training on a voluntary basis. Whereas a beneficiary can be sanctioned for refusing the same, there is no penalty that can be applied to a prisoner. But it does appear that for many people who have been on a benefit prior to incarceration, prison actually presents a real opportunity to learn some useful skill. And an uptake and acceptance of just over half is pretty appalling. Perhaps if inmates knew there would be no benefit on release they might be more inclined to make the most of what ever is on offer.

So there is yet another example of how welfare has a perverse and unintended effect. It works against rehabilitation.