Wednesday 26 January 2011

Policy Watch

I believe that if we live by the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi - mutual recognition and respect, reasonable co-operation and the utmost good faith – our hearts can sing Psalm 133:1 –
“Ano te pai, ano te ahuareka o te nohoanga o nga teina, o nga tuakana i runga i te whakaaro kotahi!”
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity (Pita Sharples)

Dwelling in Unity requires a Fairer Country with less Inequality

Inequality rose faster in New Zealand in the late 1980s than in any other country according to Richard Wilkinson, one of the authors of The Spirit Level. He ranks New Zealand as the sixth most unequal society of 23 rich countries, when the incomes of the richest 20% are compared with the poorest 20%. Problems associated with inequality include reduced life expectancy, child mortality, drug abuse, crime, homicide rates, mental illness and obesity.

And some kiwis agree. A number of respondents to a recent survey of 2000 people agree the gap between the 'haves' and the 'have nots' is getting too big, resulting in poverty and major social problems. Among suggestions for improvement are 'removing the tax breaks for the rich' and to 'stop bashing beneficiaries.' Other people see things differently. They want government to 'get tough on benefit fraud', 'pay benefits in the form of food stamps', and make beneficiaries 'find interests so they do at least some work rather than sit at home, drink alcohol and take drugs as well as abuse their own children.'

So, are there too many people receiving benefits?

Not according to Laura Black from the Methodist Mission. She points to a new report by the German conservative think-tank Bertelsmann Stiftung showing New Zealand has the 11th lowest unemployment rate and the 5th lowest long-term unemployment rate in the OECD. This shows New Zealanders are very good at moving out of unemployment, according to Black.

The Welfare Working Group makes its final decisions next month. The Group’s focus on parents’ paid work leaves parents of children with disabilities fearful they will no longer be able to care for them. Chief Families Commissioner Carl Davidson, Single Women as Parents, and the Christchurch Methodist Mission amongst others have raised concerns. The Methodist Mission works with people benefits and comments “most would choose not to be on a benefit if they could.”

Young people who can’t get jobs or training become beneficiaries

Benefit numbers increased by 10,631 in December, according to Minister of Social Development, Paula Bennett. A large proportion was young people completing education and training and looking for work. December benefit numbers included: unemployment – 67,084; Domestic Purposes -112,865; - Invalid’s -85,105; and Sickness - 59,988. Labour's Social Development spokesperson Annette King says "Government has no plan to create jobs or to grow our economy."

Jacinda Ardern, Labour's Youth Affairs spokesperson, is concerned the young people who have recently finished training and can’t get jobs may well head to Australia where "1000 new jobs were created each day last year." Youth rates will not solve New Zealand’s high rate of youth unemployment says Ardern. New Zealand is facing a crisis in youth unemployment, according to the Council of Trade Unions, and both the CTU and Salvation Army are concerned about reduced opportunities for our young people.

Government funding increased for universities (9%) and polytechnics (6%) between 2005 and 2009. Training funding for less privileged young people fell. Funding for long-term unemployed people with no or low school qualifications deemed at high risk of labour market disadvantage fell by 5% and funding for unemployed people aged under 18 fell 7%. Meantime the unemployment rate for people aged 15 years and over, with no or few high school qualifications, increased from 10.6% to almost 17%. Six out of ten 15 to 19 year-olds with no or low school qualifications are currently jobless. Major Campbell Roberts from the Salvation Army says this recent Ministry of Education research clearly shows we are disadvantaging our most at-risk unemployed people at a time of high unemployment. “It illustrates what we already know; that the current regime discriminates against funding the development of disadvantaged unemployed people with no or low qualifications, in favour of university or polytechnic students who on average are significantly better resourced.”

Government committed to improving rest homes

Health Minister Tony Ryall is committed to addressing all of the recommendations from the Auditor General's report into rest home performance. The report on rest home monitoring was damning. The Minister blamed the previous government.

But Labour’s Ruth Dyson described the Government’s response as “self-serving rubbish”…

Caring roles can be very stressful

"Caring for elderly relatives while raising children and working can make people depressed, exhausted and isolated if they lack adequate support", says Barbara Horrell, a doctoral researcher based in Oamaru. Carers may come are under greater pressure physically, mentally and socially if the person being cared for becomes more unwell and less mobile over time. Her study is to find out about the kinds of things that carers need, or value, to maintain their health and wellbeing while caring for older people more

Our youngest people need care too

Better care, according to the Child Poverty Action Group. Australia’s parental leave policies have just got more generous. They emphasise the benefits of parental leave for the full development of all children, while recognising parent’s links to the labour market. New Zealand’s Paid Parental Leave and the Parental Tax Credit both have narrow work requirements. Babies cared for by beneficiaries (and superannuitants) are specifically excluded from these provisions.
The Child Poverty Action Group have written a backgrounder on Paid Parental Leave. See also the Labour announcements around paid parental leave policy.

All of our children need better care

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has examined how New Zealand is implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Committee expert, said 'that in spite of the favourable situation for most children, child rights-based policies and an overarching comprehensive child policy did not exist in New Zealand: there is no specific department or ministry responsible for child-related issues; no National Action Plan; very limited coordination; and the Convention is not an integrated internal legal provision or a framework to develop strategies,' More. See CPAG’s Submission to the UN Committee.

Good news - Substantial drop in the number of people experiencing partner violence

Anti-violence campaigns such as “White Ribbon” and “It’s Not OK” are having an impact according to the Families Commision. The Ministry of Justice’s Crime and Safety Survey showed a large drop in confrontational offences by partners from 22 crimes per 100 adults in 2005, to 14 per 100 in 2008. The Survey is a nationally representative sample of 6106 New Zealanders aged over 15 interviewed during the first half of 2009. People were asked if they had been a victim of crime in 2008. It had a 70% response rate. more.


Info for service providers to assist teenage fathers

This Ministry of Social Development resource is a starting point for helping improve work with teen fathers. It includes info on: what we know about teenage fathers in New Zealand; things to think when we develop services for teenage fathers; and profiles of five groups who work with teenage fathers in New Zealand now. Email to get a printed copy of the booklet.

SKIP Resources for Children’s day on 6 March

Order now. Resources take up to 2 weeks for delivery.

A ‘must read’ on NZ superannuation

Improving the affordability and equity of NZ Superannuation – excellent policy paper from Auckland University Business School (Susan St John & Andrew Familton)

What’s On?

Funding round for community projects

The first funding round is now open for community projects in New Zealand to improve attitudes and behaviours towards disabled people.
The Making a Difference Fund is part of the Campaign to Improve Attitudes and Behaviour towards Disabled People. The fund gives priority to projects that are collaborative, have support from across the community and have a well-thought-out plan to effect local change. More

Conference to debate sport and alcohol

Sport and Alcohol: Finding the Balance will bring together speakers from sciences, social sciences, public health, liquor enforcement, local government, injury prevention, business and other stakeholder groups to discuss the ways alcohol and sport interact. The conference runs from February 9-11. More

1 comment:

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