Monday 5 November 2012

Policy Watch

We are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act.  One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway.
Martin Luther King Jr, from  A Time to Break Silence,
Quoted in Marshall, C (2012) Compassionate Justice

Stop Press: Payment for Carers Consultation due tomorrow (6 November)

No doubt you’ve heard the Ministry of Health is looking at its policy around (not) paying family carers who provide home and community support to their disabled adult family members. Carers NZ wants us to:
1. Complete the online survey
2. Send an email or letter to the Ministry: or post your letter to Family Carers Consultation, Ministry of Health, PO Box 5013, Wellington 6145
3. Print the  submission document and post it to Family Carers Consultation, Ministry of Health, PO Box 5013, Wellington 6145. Family-Carer-Submission-Form.doc(107.00 KB).
Questions to think about:
How should family carers be paid?
What should they be paid for?
What can the Government afford?
How can the Government ensure good outcomes for disabled people and carers with the new policy?
 The new policy is expected to come into effect in May 2013.

Please sir, can we have some help?

Don’t expect help in a hurry.  In fact, ways of not getting help are really on the increase.  Anyone who has had anything to do with Housing New Zealand will have noticed there seem to be more and more things you need to do before you even make it into the housing queue.  First you ring the 0800 number, then if you make it through that process, you go through a full needs assessment where you have to bring a pile of evidence to prove housing need.  Then and only then, do you make it to the waiting list.

Suppose you don’t just need a home, but you also need a benefit as well, or maybe just a benefit without the home.  The Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill 2012 requires a whole lot of convincing Work and Income.  You do that now? Yes, but from now on, it’s not just about you (the applicant).  From now on, your spouse / partner  may need to undertake pre-benefit activities as well.  The idea is “pre-benefit activities have a significant effect in reducing the number of people going on to receive a benefit."   And if your partner/ spouse does not do the pre-benefit activities required, you, might get sanctioned (clause 9).

Further opportunities for not getting help come with reapplication.  You need to reapply annually or have your benefit cancelled if you are on a jobseeker benefit (essentially old unemployment benefit, sickness benefit, DPB if youngest is now 14+).  Work and Income notes “annual reapplications have proven very successful in reducing the number of unemployment benefit recipients.”   Then there is the overseas option.  Restrictions on people receiving benefits while overseas “will be extended to beneficiaries with a specific work preparation requirement, and to people receiving an emergency benefit”  so “all beneficiaries will need to inform Work and Income of any international travel plans to prevent their benefit being automatically suspended when they leave the country”.
No one will be getting an unemployment benefit while studying full time, despite our country’s desperate need for well educated people and Government’s aspiration that everyone has at least NCEA level 2.  Then, decline an offer of “suitable employment” at your peril.  It will result in cancellation of the benefit and a 13-week stand down (50% of the benefit if children are involved).
There are even options for not getting help when you are seriously ill / disabled.  Even if you are eligible for a Supported Living Payment (old Invalid’s benefit), guess what?  Work and Income has discretion to require you to “undertake certain work preparation activities if they think you have the capacity.”

Moral of the story: expect many opportunities to not get help.

Creating contradictory policy

NZCCSS recently completed its analysis of the White Paper for Vulnerable Children.  You can read it here. We wonder if government policy is a little bit at odds with itself with its concerns about vulnerable children  vs ideas of cutting benefits by 50% for families with children who do not perform all the MSD required benefit requirements.  Or concern about vulnerable children but not dealing with the poisonous poverty and family violence combination.  Or concern about vulnerable children, but leaving out families on benefits from the increase to the low income Working for Families tax credit timed for 1 April next year.  Or wanting good educational outcomes for children, but not considering parents who home school their children.  Or wanting to improve adolescent mental health, but having youth health clinics either close or be under threat of closure at the same time.

Missing the house boat (again)

Government does appear to be hearing some of current grumblings around housing, at least enough to make some announcements in the area.  John Key and Bill English appeared on TV.  The PM focused on things getting better if the economy is more competitive, and Bill English (Finance Minister) announced the supply of houses is "simply not as responsive as it could or should be".

Minister of Housing Heatley made reassuring announcements about how government is addressing the housing problem.  There will be more houses in Hobsonville, and Papakura, and access to Kāinga Whenua loans will be easier.

Labour is unimpressed, reminding people the Hobsonville housing project was a plant they devised involving “500 state houses and 500 affordable houses built alongside upmarket properties in John Key’s electorate.”  According to Labour’s Annette King “… it was scrapped by Mr Key after he called it 'economic vandalism’ and suggested the project would relegate the area to 'a lifetime of mediocrity.'

Other commentators suggest government trying to deal with housing supply is just ‘missing the house-boat.’   In fact we are not really going to get anywhere with housing problems as long as (1) the Reserve Bank treats “mortgage lending as the safest form of lending and therefore expands it far more than loans to businesses that create jobs and incomes; and (2) we dish out “tax break that tell us all that investing in property is a tax-free path to prosperity.”

While all the debate, policy papers and announcements about housing rumble on, Housing New Zealand is busily divesting itself of houses, either because of some clever new policies, i.e. kindly donating houses to social housing projects – “transfers of HNZC properties or Crown land to community housing providers” or deciding current houses are either dangerous or a potential earthquake risk and around 700 of them need to be demolished.

Other housing issues include:

- Housing New Zealand’s Post-Canterbury- Earthquake – Fixup
- Auckland house prices rising because some highly skilled Cantabrians have headed north.
- A wide ranging opinion piece from Brian Fallow

And if you don’t have a house?

Auckland has a specialist court for homeless people charged with low level offending.  Despite some big successes, it may not survive, as funding is short.  Short funding could prove very short sighted as the court has reduced arrest rates by 66%, bed nights in prison reduced by 78 per cent, and emergency department visits by more than 15 per cent.

Lifewise’s John McCarthy is concerned “only half of the eight financial backers of the court had committed to the next round of funding” and “going to the Government for extra funding [is]difficult as there [is] no department that deals specifically with homelessness.

Wellignton is taking a community approach with the city council’s unanimous endorsement of Te Mahana - a draft Strategy to End Homelessness in Wellington. The strategy is a collaboration between Wellington City Council and the agencies which gathered for a summit in May.  The idea is to find ways to stop people becoming homeless in the first place, deal with homeless people’s needs quickly when they do arise, and stop them from becoming homeless again.

More measures for increasing numbers of older people

Training Nurses for Aged Care - no more “wallflowers” through a dedicated unit at Howick Baptist Healthcare. Manukau Institute of Technology is working with HBC in operating an aged care unit that is designed to incorporate up to 6 trainee nurses as part of their routine work. Trainee nurses appreciate being fully incorporated into the team and not just “wallflowers” who stand and watch, not feeling able to contribute to the nursing work.

Trying to look busy? – The fast-tracking of the introduction of the aged care assessment tool InterRAI into rest homes announced by the Associate Health Minister Jo Goodhew is a strange decision. The sector has been working hard to trial this system already and there is a great deal of interest in it, but it has also brought with it a huge range of challenges to overcome, not the least training up staff and dealing with all the complex data technology problems implementing this computer-based system brings with it.

1080 morphs into youth rate – submissions required

We’re not sure who pointed out the 1080 double entrendre, but it’s not original.  As well as being a nasty poison, $10.80 is also the proposed new youth rate.  Public submissions are now being invited on the Minimum Wage (Starting-out Wage) Amendment Bill. Submissions can be made by clicking on the link at the bottom of the linked  page.  The closing date for submissions is Tuesday, 27 November 2012.

There is more employment law reform in the pipeline too.  The CTU has a user-friendly summary of the proposed changes which include ‘making it easier for employers to walk away from negotiations, harder for workers to take industrial action, reduced protections for new employees (who can now be offered worse terms and conditions than the collective agreement) and some catering and cleaning staff who will be offered a choice between worse terms and conditions and losing their jobs where their employment is contracted out.’

In brief

White paper work

has started with a review of the Child Youth and Family complaints process already underway. Former Police Commissioner Howard Broad has been appointed as the independent reviewer.
Terms of Reference include:
• current arrangements for members of the public to have a complaint about Child, Youth and Family heard
• how the current arrangements are working
• Options for independence and report on the financial, legislative and accountability implications of these options.
Review will be completed by the end of 2013.

Who is cheating who?

We hear heaps about welfare cheats and the occasional report of tax cheats.  But the media info is out of proportion.  It turns out, “tax evaders cheated the country of between $1 and $6 billion, while welfare fraud cost $39 million.”  The average tax evader helped themselves $270,000, and only had a 22 percent chance of going to jail if found guilty.  The average welfare offender had $70,000 more than they ought, but had a 60 percent chance of being behind bars.

Did you hear about…?

The injured worker in Taumarunui who was deemed by ACC to be suitable for a job as a customs officer, and therefore lost his access to weekly compensation. Problem- there are no customs officer jobs available in Taumarunui, but ACC wasn’t too worried about this.

All sorts of privacy breaches within MSD

New Zealand's major banks made a net profit of $914 million for the three months ending June, up a whopping 45 per cent on the previous quarter.  The combined bank profits are equal to $206.20 for every man, woman and child in New Zealand, or about $2.26 a day


Forums for the future between Rich and Poor

Excellent presentations from Te papa discussions on reducing inequality

Safe not Sorry - a practical, easy to use handbook, complete with sample application forms, checking forms and more, to help keep child abusers out of organisations responsible for children. from Child Matters

Community connection -  Lifewise 'Know Your Neighbour' evalaution

Families Commission Resource for Māori grandparents: Tūpuna – Ngā Kaitiaki Mokopuna

What’s on

Improving Productivity in NGOs and the Sector: Better Value Better Outcomes;
 Robert Fitzgerald, Commissioner Australian Productivity Commission Monday 26 November at 10 am Celebration Centre, 81 Bickerton St (off Pages Rd or Wainoni Rd)CHRISTCHURCH
Tuesday 27 November at 6 pm St Johns in the City, Corner Willis and Dixon St WELLINGTON
Register with John Dickson, SSPA at or phone 027 510-1517.

Professor Greg Duncan, will be based at the Institute for Governance and Policy Studies, School of Government.
Public forum on The Cost and Challenge of Child Poverty
Thursday 15 November: 7.00-9.00pm Venue: Conference Centre, St John’s-in-the-City, Willis St
Lunchtime lecture Solutions to Child Poverty Wednesday 21 November: 12.30-1.30pm Government Building Lecture Theatre 2, Lambton Quay
Sir Frank Holmes Memorial Lecture The Long Reach of Early Childhood Poverty Monday 26 November: 5.30-6.30pm, Lecture Theatre 1, Rutherford House, Bunny Street
Greg Duncan (Ph.D)., Economics, University of Michigan, 1974)  has published on issues of income distribution, poverty and welfare dependence and child development for three decades

Methodist Mission Christchurch -  Supporting families at Christmas

Poverty Action Waikato invites you to the launch of two reports:
(a) Food and (b) Housing
Whānau and Communities working together to feed children and develop affordable housing options Friday 9th November 2012 Gathering 10am St David’s Church, 158 Rifle Range Rd, Hamilto to launch Affordable and Social Housing  Then a short hikoi to Rhode Street School, 7 Rhode St, Dinsdal to launch at 11.30am Food and Waikato School Communities  A healthy lunch for $5.00 is available at Rhode St School Kai Time Café.  RSVP to Ph 07 929 4814 by Wednesday 7 November if you wish to have lunch so we can let the Kai Time Café know numbers to prepare for.   Reports at

Living Standards and Equity: Understanding the Issues and Debunking the Myths
Gabriel MakhloufChief Executive and Secretary, The Treasury 22 November at 12 noon Waipuna Hotel, 58 Waipuna Road, Mt Wellington AUCKLAND  Free to SSPA members, but you will need to register. Gold coin donation for non-SSPA members to help with catering costs.  Register with John Dickson at or phone 027 510-1517.

Last word

“We need sound social housing and we owe it to the people who are finding the going tough, and to our 200,000 State house tenants, to find better options on a scale that will relieve housing pressures and boost productivity”

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