The Dim-Post

February 22, 2011

Death by Burke

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 8:20 am

Via Stuff:

Radical new welfare proposals are set to become a defining moment in New Zealand’s history, the Salvation Army says.

A welfare working group will report to the Government tomorrow on options to reshape the welfare system, including tough new rules on getting parents on the domestic purposes benefit back to work.

People still don’t ‘get’ this government, or the character of its Finance Minister (who I suspect is also the de facto Social Welfare Minister, at least in terms of policy development). There will be no defining moment. There will be no radical reform for good or for ill. There will be super-short term cost-cutting, some outsourcing to the private sector and much ineffective tinkering around the margins: compelling solo mothers with dependants over the age of three to go out searching for jobs that aren’t there being a classic example.

Like almost everything this government does, ‘welfare reform’ will be a political advertising campaign and nothing more.

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39 Comments »

  1. Three … months, that is. Not ‘the age of three’.

    L

    Comment by Lew — February 22, 2011 @ 8:22 am

  2. Yep, well said Danyl.

    Comment by Gooner — February 22, 2011 @ 8:30 am

  3. TVNZ are reporting three years.

    http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/sole-parents-could-forced-find-work-4035746

    Comment by danylmc — February 22, 2011 @ 8:32 am

  4. TV3 reports 14 weeks.

    If so, that would constitute a genuinely epochal moment in NZ’s welfare state. There’s no way to spin that as ‘tinkering at the margins’.

    That said, this is (one outlet’s sneak-peek of) the WWG’s findings, which (like the Brash taskforce) are intended as relief, to make the government to make their actual policy track look humane and reasonable. So I think it’s very unlikely that such a policy will be adopted, & I generally agree with your incrementalist analysis.

    That said that said, a three-year cutoff is hardly ‘tinkering at the margins’ either. It’s infinitely more acceptable than 3 months, but still a fairly draconian departure from the status quo.

    L

    Comment by Lew — February 22, 2011 @ 8:49 am

  5. When Rebstock was interviewed she talked about 3 years, since that’s when they typically see working mothers go back into employment; if they’re actually suggested 14 weeks then that will undermine the credibility of the entire report. Something that insane isn’t even useful as a means for making the government look moderate.

    Comment by danylmc — February 22, 2011 @ 9:04 am

  6. Ah – the plan is to disincentivise having additional children by lowering the work test age to 14 weeks. Utter madness.

    Comment by danylmc — February 22, 2011 @ 9:05 am

  7. Three years (if that is what it is) imo is fairly out there. There would need to be a truly massive increase in childcare. Typically kindergarten only provides about 3 hours per day of care, which doesn’t leave much time for work. That is a critical stage in a child’s development, and sending them to daycare for the rest of the time would be quite negative for their development.

    Comment by DT — February 22, 2011 @ 9:10 am

  8. So 95% of the folks they’re targeting will see nothing change (because there isn’t the damn job there for them anyway) and the remaining 5% will be put into some minimum wage job, somehow come up with the $300 a week that daycare costs and everything will be just fine on the home front.
    So we get largely nothing, a slight degradation in the family life for some and all in reponse to something that isn’t really a huge drain on the country. Huzzah!

    Comment by garethw — February 22, 2011 @ 9:23 am

  9. The average term of DPB receipt is about three and a half years, and given the long tail of the distribution the median will be a lot less. So changing the threshold won’t have a huge effect. I suspect the bulk of recipients who are on the DPB long term are less employable than those who re-enter the work force quickly.

    Comment by danylmc — February 22, 2011 @ 9:24 am

  10. Given the massive, massive effect nurturing has on neurological and cognitive development during infancy and early childhood, even suggesting a 14 week maximum is monstrous, incredibly shortsighted, and shockingly ignorant.

    Granted, it’s unlikely to be acted on, but it doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in any thing else the group recommends.

    Comment by The PC Avenger — February 22, 2011 @ 9:32 am

  11. Like almost everything this government does, ‘welfare reform’ will be a political advertising campaign and nothing more.

    There will be change. The Tories are genuinely convinced that welfare recipients impose a serious moral and financial harm on the country, and whatever means are necessary to reduce this harm, without going to extremes or beyond the tolerance of the electorate, are justified.

    It may not be on the scale of what is proposed – then the Government can look “centrist” and reasonable – but it will occur sooner or later, and have very real effects. Calling it all political theatre is both naive and callous.

    (I’m reading Brash’s biography at the moment. I’ve heard it argued here that he was an abberation from the party’s natural trajectory. I don’t buy that.)

    It also bears repeating that this was entirely obvious years ago. Suggesting that National would be “Labour lite” and roughly maintain existing social provisions is stupid, yet most of the commentariat seemed to buy it. They haven’t touched WFF yet, but look for measures designed to seriously undermine its real value in the next couple of years.

    Comment by George D — February 22, 2011 @ 9:41 am

  12. I’ve also just been playing and interacting with my 14 week nephew. The thought of him being taken away from his mother, and her sent to work is unbearably cruel, and something that would harm his development irreparably.

    That Key is prepared to entertain people who entertain these notions is beyond disgust, in a supposedly civilised country.

    Comment by George D — February 22, 2011 @ 9:44 am

  13. What I don’t understand about the “forcing unemployed out into a lacklustre job market” argument, is that shouldn’t that already be happening? Shouldn’t those on an unemployment benefit be constantly on the lookout for a job, or other means to self sufficiency?

    Surely these reforms will result in policies such as “We must see evidence you are looking for work, or we will cut your benefit” rather than “You must find a job and be employed or we will cut your benefit” The former sounds fair and reasonable, for both UEB and DPB recipients, the latter sounds horribly expensive in terms of law enforcement spending, and I think this (or any) government knows this.

    Comment by Bed Rater — February 22, 2011 @ 9:52 am

  14. as an interest group/stakeholder “long term DPB recepients” are known by Candian ex Act presidents, Martin and Jenkins et al as “easy fucken meat”.

    Comment by k.jones — February 22, 2011 @ 9:54 am

  15. Bed Rater, how does it sound fair and reasonable for a DPB recipient? I’m not sure if you’ve had the pleasure, but looking after kids is a job.

    L

    Comment by Lew — February 22, 2011 @ 9:55 am

  16. The thought of him being taken away from his mother, and her sent to work is unbearably cruel, and something that would harm his development irreparably.

    On that, you’re in full agreement with religious conservatives, which is why National will use it only to make themselves look moderate by rejecting it out of hand – no sense in antagonising a major support base.

    There’s nothing cruel about it in principle, though – from 6 months on up, there’s no genuine reason why a single parent shouldn’t be checking out the prospects for professional childcare and a job (just like a lot of non-single parents do). The fact that you enjoy staying home with your child isn’t a reason for the taxpayer to fund it.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — February 22, 2011 @ 9:57 am

  17. PM, in what alternate dimension is 14 weeks > 6 months?

    L

    Comment by Lew — February 22, 2011 @ 10:09 am

  18. MIlt
    - for the third of DPB recepients that stay longer 3 years: They dont do it to be “be happy/ or as a lifestlye (like owning a vineyard or a racehorse) These mums are just too poor, and on the outer to be happy.

    Sometimes as a parent, with limited employment options (like night shift cleaning work for example) staying with your kids is the best move – here’s some research which agrees with me

    Singley, S. (2004). Barriers to Employment among Long-term Beneficiaries: A review of recent international evidence

    Anything that supports the development of a DPB kid’s development is in the interest on all of us…

    Comment by k.jones — February 22, 2011 @ 10:12 am

  19. from 6 months on up, there’s no genuine reason why a single parent shouldn’t be checking out the prospects for professional childcare and a job

    I can think of one reason. They can’t get a job that earns enough to pay for child care.

    Comment by danylmc — February 22, 2011 @ 10:52 am

  20. PM, in what alternate dimension is 14 weeks > 6 months?

    Like I said, the govt will reject 14 weeks out of hand – the idea is too insane to have any purpose beyond making them look vaguely moderate for rejecting it. But in principle, there’s no reason why a parent on the DPB shouldn’t be looking for work once the child is old enough for professional childcare. Is there?

    Anything that supports the development of a DPB kid’s development is in the interest on all of us…

    The stats tend to suggest that not being raised on welfare is in the intersts of a child’s development.

    I don’t object to providing the DPB or other forms of welfare, but as an ex-abuser of the welfare system myself I see excellent reasons for minimising the scope for abuse.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — February 22, 2011 @ 10:54 am

  21. Psycho: The stats tend to suggest that not being raised on welfare is in the intersts of a child’s development.

    Perhaps, but spending all day in the care of a stranger while your mother works for no tangible increase in quality of life (Danyl is right – childcare is expensive as hell) is hardly in the interests of the child.

    Comment by Simon Poole — February 22, 2011 @ 11:05 am

  22. I can think of one reason. They can’t get a job that earns enough to pay for child care.

    The idea that only uneducated thickos end up on the DPB is a myth.

    That said – maybe the govt could do with another working party to look at the NZEI’s “early childhood education” gravy train, which has made childcare an expensive and bureaucratic nightmare. Lots of scope for improving things there.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — February 22, 2011 @ 11:06 am

  23. …spending all day in the care of a stranger…

    Childcare workers aren’t strangers beyond the first day. That “care of a stranger” stuff is conservative propaganda.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — February 22, 2011 @ 11:09 am

  24. “‘welfare reform’ will be a political advertising campaign and nothing more”

    Replacing aspiration, jobs, wages, cathcing up with Australia, cycleway, perk busting, etc

    Comment by aj — February 22, 2011 @ 11:10 am

  25. “There’s nothing cruel about it in principle, though – from 6 months on up, there’s no genuine reason why a single parent shouldn’t be checking out the prospects for professional childcare and a job (just like a lot of non-single parents do). The fact that you enjoy staying home with your child isn’t a reason for the taxpayer to fund it.”

    I’m going to hazard a guess and say that you’re not a parent.

    Comment by Rich — February 22, 2011 @ 11:10 am

  26. In current reports the 14 weeks refers to something a bit more specific to the three years – babies concieved while on the benefit. Or ‘within benefitlock’ as I’ve decided to think of it.

    Comment by lyndon — February 22, 2011 @ 11:14 am

  27. “The stats tend to suggest that not being raised on welfare is in the intersts of a child’s development.”

    We actually have the silly situation where mothers in better socio-economic groups are back in the workforce in 6-12 months and paying taxes to support mothers in the lower SE groups so they don’t have to look for work for years.

    Anecdotal evidence might suggest that the more time a child spends *away* from some mothers in professional child care.. the better its future prospects will be.

    JC

    Comment by JC — February 22, 2011 @ 11:17 am

  28. PM, being a single parent and working is very different to being a couple with children and working. I’ve done both and as a single parent it is way way way harder. You have less support at home and less flexibility around childcare drop-offs and pick-ups and who looks after the kids when they are sick.

    As a single parent – especially if you don’t have extended family living nearby who can help – you have to do everything, there is no one to share it with. So, Rebstock claimed her justification on returning to work when the youngest child was 3 years by saying that 50% of couples with children had the mother working at that point.

    Again – for the slow – it is not the same!

    Comment by Me Too — February 22, 2011 @ 11:18 am

  29. Hey it all makes perfect sense at a time of recession and slashes to early childhood funding and training! Yay more crappy childcare centres for poor mothers to get out and work for minimum wage!

    It’s all just so sensible

    And takes nothing into account regarding the reasons many young women choose motherhood, because theya re chaotic and don’t really plan, it is part of growing up, because it brings them closer to family, because they are poor, because they love being mothers, etc etc

    Good paper out of Massey, of course never quoted:
    “In contrast to the bleakness which typifies the findings of the quantitative science, young mothers in these interview studies see themselves as making a success of their lives in a variety of ways. For example, according to participants, having a baby provoked positive life changes such as getting off drugs and alcohol (Anderson, 1990;Arenson, 1994; Rains et al., 1998; Lesser et al., 1998), reconnecting with their families(Arenson,1994; Goodwin,1996), improved self-esteem (Arenson,1994), and/or a sense of direction and purpose (Goodwin,1996; Hanna,2001; Schultz,2001).
    Countering the view that teenagers are ill prepared for parenthood, interview
    studies found that most young women were proud to be parents(Kirkmanetal.,
    2001),keen to be good parents(Arenson,1994;Goodwin,1996;Lesseretal.,1998;
    Clarke, 1999) and found motherhood enjoyable and/or satisfying (Lamanna,
    1999; Hanna,2001; Kirkmanetal.,2001).
    Ironically, in view of the anxiety about welfare dependency, there is evidence that by having a baby mothers have claimed independence and/or adult responsibilities(BuchholzandGol,1986;Daviesetal.,
    1999).
    http://muir.massey.ac.nz/bitstream/10179/609/3/Wilson2006.pdf

    Wilson, H., & Huntington, A. (2006). Deviant (M)others: The
    construction of teenage motherhood in contemporary discourse.
    Journal of Social Policy, 35, 59-76.

    Of course you can argue “they can have as many babioes as they like, but not if I’M paying” till youa re blue in the face. They, and their babies, exist. For complex reasons, almost nothing to do with the money, but with much more powerful motivators than that. Recognition, maturity, love.

    For girls with a pretty shitty range of choices, there are worse ones….

    Comment by Kerry — February 22, 2011 @ 11:19 am

  30. Is JC serious? Anecdote?

    Comment by DT — February 22, 2011 @ 11:24 am

  31. For me, work was the easy bit in being a working single parent – it was the home side that was difficult. Coming home at the end of the day, worn out by Auckland traffic, scratchy kids demanding food and attention, laundry piling up, dinner unmade, the house a tip, and no one to help.

    Just try it sometime – combining preschoolers with work and commuting and domestics and no one at home to even talk to let alone lend a hand. It’s a hell of a life.

    Comment by Me Too — February 22, 2011 @ 11:26 am

  32. Something that may or may not be addressed that I see really commonly is, young people living in part of a committed relationship, having children together etc, that say they are not. So she gets the DPB and he works/gets the dole. This is common in Porirua. He pays child support, which is less of a loss than there would be if they said they were a couple. People are clever, and the system encourages this arrangement. Some clever thinking , maybe higher minimum wages, or petter provision for young couples on the dole so they weren’t better off by saying they lived apart…. would encourage young couples to see themselves as families, together for their children. But thats long term thinking, and we don’t get that with this govt. Short term all the way…

    There is also the phenomenon of maraunding young men, who impregnate a series of girlfriends who live on the DPB, and move on creating new families, never seeing themseolves as part of a stable family arrangement – that is another picture that could be addressed with cleverer welfare thinking. The system encourages the young men to act this way, they can get the girls not to state them on the birth certificate too, she gets less money but he helps her out financially, and they are all better off than if they were a nuclear family , or solo with him paying liable parent for the various families.

    I’m not sure what can be done to address these things, there may be distasteful solutions, or if it should be necessarily – they are still poor, just not as poor. It goes against the terms of the rules though. But maybe the rules are the problem, maybe the rules are preventing the formation of functional families, and maybe some clever brains should look into that net disincentive for forming a family – rather than punitive measures aimed at the women, who are only part of the equation.

    People are clever, they do what they need to to manage, they are discouraged to declare their families at present

    Comment by Kerry — February 22, 2011 @ 11:31 am

  33. MilT

    we agree on most things, you like crass, and i think your’e cool – so this isnt a personal attack (like we do with leon)….

    “The stats tend to suggest that not being raised on welfare is in the intersts of a child’s development.”

    We’d all love no-one to need to the DPB or the Dole or widows benefits – but in our civilized society we look after each other in times of need.

    curiously benefit fraud isnt being really used by working party – perhaps because its so miniscule. Its all framed up as “reducing cost – social and and fiscal, by those ‘trapped’ by pernicious tentacles of welfare entitlements”

    A bunch of invalids, and struggling solo mums are about about to pay the price for some rightwing dipshit’s idea of political positioning.

    Comment by k.jones — February 22, 2011 @ 11:34 am

  34. I’m going to hazard a guess and say that you’re not a parent.

    Two children: one looked after by his mum to 5 months, me to 8 months, then childcare; the other in childcare from about 5 months. Did you have a point to make?

    PM, being a single parent and working is very different to being a couple with children and working.

    I bet it is. The number of times you depend on the other parent for pickups, sick care etc makes that pretty clear. But in practical terms, welfare for the able-bodied has to come with an expectation that at least some effort will be made to get back off it again.

    We’d all love no-one to need to the DPB or the Dole or widows benefits – but in our civilized society we look after each other in times of need.

    Absolutely. I’m happy to have my taxes helping fund a social welfare system.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — February 22, 2011 @ 11:58 am

  35. “Is JC serious? Anecdote?”

    Sure. I can’t prove what I’m saying, but, whilst a young mother might feel happy, fulfilled and better for having her baby it doesn’t follow that her baby is better off for being inculcated into mums lifestyle of single parenthood, boyfriends, uncles, booze parties, home alone etc. IMO the only chance for that baby is ECE, school and good teachers, ie time away from mum.

    In some of our social groups unwed mums are close to 80%, some will have long term partners, but a lot will produce that lifestyle I mention.

    JC

    Comment by JC — February 22, 2011 @ 12:05 pm

  36. Well you are just presuming the booze parties, home alone lifestyle

    i work with mostly young single mums, and most of them arent doing that at all. Most are doing their best and take responsible care of their loved children

    There is a small, very hard to reach section of “DPB mums” that do, but they are hard to reach in every way, overrrepresented in neglect and abuse and poor health care of their children. Men and women at the bottom. They are the true ‘underclass’ , not your average DPB mum hoping for the best for her children.

    It is in this governments interests to claim that is the normal lifestyle for beneficiaries, but it is just not the case. I can count on the fingers of two hands the families that would fit that classification, and I care for 1500 people. Most are doing their best

    Comment by Kerry — February 22, 2011 @ 12:25 pm

  37. JC,

    It isn’t that I am saying that those households that you describe do not exist. But the problem with anecdote is that its plural is not data. The important questions are: just how big a proportion of sole parent families behave in the way you describe? Is coming down harder on them by limiting access to benefits the best way to prevent this behaviour? Will doing so result in more harm to the `good’ sole parent families than the `benefit’ of coming down hard on the `bad’ families.

    Anecdote can indicate areas where more research is needed. But if you start making policy based upon it you will likely f#@k society up.

    Comment by DT — February 22, 2011 @ 12:42 pm

  38. DT@ 37.

    What is anecdotal to me may be well established fact to Govt.. and as usual it will be the political interpretation that will be the issue.

    Kerry, we’ve talked about this before.. we don’t talk enough about the 85% of Maori who are doing alright, just the 15% who aren’t and the even smaller numbers who are a real problem.

    JC

    Comment by JC — February 22, 2011 @ 2:48 pm

  39. “What is anecdotal to me may be well established fact to Govt.”

    Um yeah, or not. Just keep making shot up though big fella. You’re good at it.

    Comment by Guy Smiley — February 22, 2011 @ 10:47 pm


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