Tuesday 3 August 2010

Policy Watch

“CPAG argues that the focus of social assistance for families must shift from
parental work status to investment in children…arbitrary work requirements
…risk further compromising the wellbeing for thousands of NZ children in benefit
dependent households.”
(Executive Summary: What Work Counts?)

What work counts? A new report from Child Poverty Action Group

The latest CPAG report What Work Counts? asks the question –do work incentives really improve the wellbeing of sole parents and children? It finds that despite the prevailing philosophy that work is the way out of poverty, children are at risk economically because parents are dependent on a volatile labour market for sufficient income. Read the Executive Summary here. To get a full copy of the report contact Julie Timmins at admin@cpag.org.nz.

Unintended consequences of three strikes

On the 20 July the media reported that a 69 year old man with Parkinson’s disease was in Rimutaka Prison awaiting a 3 strikes hearing. According the Dominion Post, neither his home for the disabled nor his family would take him in. More recently it was reported that the man in question has appeared before Judge Geoffrey Ellis who ''regrettably'' sent the man back to prison ‘because there was no other alternative’.

While Corrections have said that his health needs are being met in prison, it’s difficult to imagine a prison having the appropriate support available for a prisoner who can neither walk unaided or feed himself. Only a fortnight ago Policy Watch featured a National Health Committee report that found the imprisoning people worsens their health, and presumably they weren’t referring to elderly prisoners suffering dementia.

The Corrections Minister has made assurances that there is no need to review the three strikes law “as ample safeguards are in place to safeguard mentally impaired people who might be charged with serious repeat violent offences”. However this doesn’t address the question of who should be responsible for their care or how this care should be resourced. With an ageing population and dementia on the increase it is likely that similar cases will occur again.

90 day trials – help or hindrance for vulnerable workers?

Will the 90 day trial period offer more job opportunities for marginalised workers (migrants, released prisoners, mothers returning to the workforce) as the National Party suggests? It appears that the Department of Labour research is not that robust and it could be erroneous to remove worker protections on the premise that it will increase their likelihood of obtaining employment. Read more…

Superannuation suggestions from Brash rejected

The Dominion Post has reported that the Labour and National Parties “have been quick to shoot down a novel proposal by former National Party leader Don Brash to raise the state pension age to 67, but with flexibility to retire earlier or later on different rates”.

The problem with this suggestion is that people who retire earlier would be paid the least even though, for many, retiring at 65 may not necessarily be a choice due to lack of employment or deteriorating health. Michael Littlewood of Auckland University's Retirement Policy and Research Centre is cited in the Dominion as saying “the proposal meant people who claimed their pension early at a lower rate would have to live the rest of their lives in poverty."

Grey Power president Les Howard is less diplomatic in his response to Brash’s suggestion saying “the idea stinks, and those who have worked a manual job all their lives on a low wage, would be penalised, while someone like a lawyer could work till they are 70 years old.” I think it is back to the drawing board for Brash.

United Future considers Policy on tax rebate for over 65s
Revenue Minister Peter Dunne says he is considering a tax rebate on health insurance premiums for people over 65 because of the spiralling costs of premiums for older people. Read more…

New Grey Power President in Marlborough will continue to fight injustice (source: Age Concern Senior Watch)

This is a great story that appeared in the Marlborough Express recently about one man’s lifetime pursuit of a fair deal for others. We wish him well in his new role with Grey Power.

ACC hearing aid funding cuts will impact on elderly

Proposed changes to the Accident Compensation Corporation's hearing aid funding will deprive low-paid and elderly patients of rehabilitation, hearing experts say. Read more…

Homeless and unwell – impact of hostel closure in PN

This story from the Manawatu Standard highlights the lack of accommodation options for people with complex needs. In January a boarding house known as Shepherd’s Rest closed for financial reasons and the 44 residents rehoused. However some of the alternative accommodation options haven’t worked out. The Shepherd’s Rest coordinator Lew Findlay attributed this to residents with personality disorders or mental health issues that meant they “were not well enough to be living a normal life”.

How much research do we need? – Government baulks at lowering drink driving limits

Cabinet recently agreed to introduce law changes related to drink driving but has backed away from lowering the blood alcohol limit for adults from .08 to .05. No doubt fearful of nanny state criticism the Transport Minister Stephen Joyce has said the government requires “more information and more public acceptance than we currently have”. Drivers under 20 years have not gotten off so likely with a zero limit being imposed. A raft of other changes are to be introduced in an attempt to lower alcohol related accidents. These include two compulsory breathe tests for drivers involved in an accident, increased penalties for dangerous or drink driving causing death and giving Judges the ability to impose interlocking devices on cars.

Rheumatic fever rates a national disgrace

NZ’s rates of rheumatic fever are 14 times the OECD average and are being described by health experts as a national disgrace. Porirua East has the highest rheumatic fever rate in the country. The disease, which starts with an untreated sore throat (Strep A) can lead to heart damage and is associated with poverty, poor housing and over-crowding. Wellington Hospital paediatrician Alan Farrell commented in a recent Dominion Post article that rheumatic fever “is an indicator of how we’re treating the people at the bottom of the heap”. Let’s hope that Gareth Hughes Members Bill on Warm Healthy Rentals gets drawn from the Ballot. This is exactly the type of issue the Bill hopes to address.

Maori TV Doco on Tuhoe Raids – “October 15”

Maori TV has announced the screening of a documentary OCTOBER 15 that they have been working for the last 2.5 years. Please support the film and spread the word – 8.30pm on August 7 2010 on Maori Television.

Legislation & Consultation

Fringe Lenders Bill Rejected

Carol Beaumont’s Credit Reforms (Responsible Lending) Bill got voted out at the First Reading stage, having not garnered support from the National and Act Parties. The day after the bill was rejected during Questions and Answers Beaumont asked the Minister of Consumer Affairs Heather Roy whether she was willing to work with Labour and other parties to find real solutions to the exploitation caused by loan shark activities? The Ministers response helps to explain why the Bill was rejected. Apparently the Government has a range of other activities underway to address this issue. However we share Beaumont’s frustration clearly expresses when she asked the Minister “When will the Minister stop reviewing and start doing in relation to the harmful activities of loan sharks, who cause damage to some of our most vulnerable families?” Well said.

Residential Tenancy Bill finally passed

Last week the Phil Heatley’s Residential Tenancy Amendment Bill was finally passed. The purpose of the bill is to “provide a good balance between the needs of tenants for a decent home and landlords to manage their properties effectively”. What do the changes mean for landlords and tenants? Problem tenants who leave while owing rent can now be fined up to $1000. There are also higher fines for tenants who harass neighbours. Landlords now have the right to get rid on belongings that tenants leave behind. Landlords are now required to appoint an agent if they are out of the country for more than 3 weeks giving tenants better access should problems arise. Tenants and landlords are also now required to review fixed term tenancies before they lapse which should give both parties more clarity. A brief look over the changes suggest that there is more for landlords to be happy about than tenants with missed opportunities to increase protections for vulnerable tenants such as those in boarding houses. Gareth Hughes from the Greens identifies some of the unaddressed issues during the Third Reading of this Bill.

Review of Human Rights 2010 – two chapters released for comment on housing and living standards

In 2004, the Human Rights Commission first published Human Rights in New Zealand Today. It formed the basis for the New Zealand Action Plan for Human Rights 2005-2010 - Mana ki te Tangata. This year the Commission is asking what has happened since 2004 - where New Zealand has done well and where we might do better. The Commission has written draft chapters about key human rights issues in New Zealand. These include the right to an adequate standard of living and the right to adequate housing. These can also be downloaded on the Commission's website. The Commission is seeking comments by 26 August. These can be made online using the feedback form or sent to jackb@hrc.co.nz. If you have any questions please feel free to contact Jack on: (09) 375-8647.

New Greens Bill to promote Warm Healthy Rentals

Gareth Hughes from the Greens will be touring universities over the next month to discuss his new Members Bill, the Energy Efficiency Conservation (Warm Healthy Rentals) Amendment Bill. According to Hughes the aim of the bill is to “ensure that all New Zealand's rental homes meet basic standards for warmth and insulation by 2018”. The bill is in response to the majority of the 1.6 million occupied houses in New Zealand which do not have sufficient levels of insulation or efficient clean heating devices and the significant proportion which do not meet World Health Organisation guide lines for adequate internal temperature. In short, too many homes are too cold and damp and making people sick. If you are interested in this issue, the Greens recommend reading a University of Otago research report prepared for ECCA looking at what interventions would be needed to bring NZ houses up to World Health Organisation recommended standards, in all parts of the country.

Gambling Harm Reduction Bill

DCM has issued a press release supporting a Gambling Harm Reduction Bill, sponsored by MP Te Ururoa Flavell of the Maori Party which has recently been submitted for ballot. According to their release the Bill proposes several changes to the Gambling Act 2003 including: community consultation to reduce the number of pokie machines from areas where they are concentrated; phasing out the distribution of pokie funds through “pokie trusts”; and ensuring that at least 80% of funds generated from gambler losses are returned to the same community they were generated from.

Graeme Ramsey, Problem Gambling Foundation CEO, says the measures proposed in the Bill will strengthen the Gambling Act and bring into focus the devastating effect of pokies on communities.

Job Vacancies at NZCCSS

E nga iwi, e nga karangatanga, te iti me te rahi, tena koutou katoa.

The New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services is a representative body of six denominations with a vision of a just and compassionate society in Aotearoa New Zealand, with a commitment to vulnerable members of our society and to the Treaty of Waitangi:

The Council is seeking to fill 1.5 positions within its Wellington based Secretariat. We are seeking people with experience in

Policy Analysis; and/or
Communications; and/or

Within a supportive and flexible team environment, members take on a number of different roles and responsibilities, which include

Reviewing and critiquing emerging government policy.
Undertaking research on
social service, social policy and social justice issues to assist Council
develop policy positions.
Designing and implementing research projects.
Writing reports and briefing papers as well as producing articles for

The successful applicants will be self-starters who think strategically, contribute well to team work, have strong analytical skills and are passionate about a just society.

Hours of work are negotiable to fit in with family commitments.

For a Job Description and application pack please email admin@nzccss.org.nz or phone 04 473 2627.

Mehemea e hiahiatia ana etahi atu korero e pa ana ki tenei turanga me tono ki a admin@nzccss.org.nz , waea 04 473 2627 ranei.

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