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Guest Post: Tracey – Blinglish single handedly reduces teenage pregnancies

Written By: - Date published: 9:30 am, August 5th, 2014 - 42 comments
Categories: benefits, bill english, national, paula bennett, welfare - Tags:

Below is a post from Tracey, showing the result of her OIA requests in response to a published comment from Bill English.  English’s quoted statement is a bit odd.  Is he claiming to have found a way to reduce the numbers of single NZ women giving birth?  Or is it about single women on benefits? It looks like the endless cycle of OIAs and responses will wind the clock down til election day.

– karol

Blinglish single handedly reduces teenage pregnancies – by Tracey

On or about 8 June 2014 Mr English attended a data forum. He made the following reported statements

We’re now starting to adopt an investment approach. Where you would say we invest now for income later, we’re saying we invest now for cost reduction later, such as in our sole parents under 20,” English said, referring to how the Government had reduced the number of single mothers under the age of 20 by 2,600 or 40% over the last three years, thus reducing future liabilities by hundreds of millions of dollars.

How does he know the Government has directly impacted the reduction in single mothers under 20 by 2600 through their policies? I decided to ask him directly as well as the Department of Statistics and the Minister and Ministry of Social Development.

On 2 July 2014 I sought the following information from them all;

Please provide detail (no names of course) of where the 2600 single mothers under the age of 20 have gone to enable the minister to state the govt has reduced the number of single mums under 20 by 2600 since 2011. Please include (but not be limited to) a breakdown of

How many in full time work and when
How many in part time work and when
How many in casual work and when
How many adopted their child
How many moved into tertiary or high school study, and how many of those received government assistance including but not limited to student loan and or allowance
How many have moved from the dpb to another benefit, and state what benefit

How many formed a partnership or marriage and rely on their partners income
What was the number of under 20 single mums on benefits for each year from 2002 to date

Please be specific, in relation to the 2600, including references to numbers, how the govt has reduced these numbers.

Given Mr English was so bold in his statement we could assume that the underlying facts were already available to him or his Ministry prior to making the statement?

All sent automated responses.

The MSD wrote on 3 July 2014;

Thank you for your email received 2 July 2014, under the Official Information Act 1982. Your request has been forwarded to the appropriate officials at National office to respond. You may expect a response to be sent to you as soon as possible.

The Department of Statistics were the first to respond in detail on 11 July 2014 and advised me that it was not their area and they had forwarded my request to MSD.

On 17 July 2014 Mr English responded that he got the information from Paula Bennett and she got it from the Ministry for Social Development. He explained he only got it in summary form and did not have the depth of data I requested, so he forwarded my request to MSD.

On 21 July 2014, Ms Bennett’s Private Secretary had received Mr English’s request to transfer to MSD on 17 July 2014 and that MSD would now deal with it.

On 30 July 2014 the MSD sent a response. It should be noted that 30 July 2014 was the 20th working day since I made my request. The Act states a recipient has 20 working days within which they must respond.

Their response requested an extension until 3 September 2014. This means the MSD requires two months to respond to a request for information underpinning a statement they sent to their Minister, who forwarded it to the Minister for Finance and who used it to trumpet the successes of his Government’s policies. It seems odd to me that MSD would be able to prepare a summary for Ms Bennett to give to Mr English to use publically without having material on which to base the summary and which could be forwarded to me? I am essentially asking for the facts that lie beneath the statement.

Why the delay?

The Ministry requires further time to consult with other parties on the release of the information you have requested. These other parties may be affected by the release of the information you have requested and I need to provide them with an opportunity to identify any prejudice which might arise from its release before I make a final decision.

General Manager Ministerial and Executive Services

I have been advised I can complain to the Ombudsmen. My experience is the Ombudsmen will have barely acknowledged my referral before 3 September 2014. I will lodge my objection with them for what it’s worth.

I am interested in how “other parties” could be affected by the release of the information. I have specifically stated that I accept I cannot have the single mother’s names. Who would these other parties be? In what ways could these other parties be prejudiced by the release of the information?




42 comments on “Guest Post: Tracey – Blinglish single handedly reduces teenage pregnancies”

  1. ianmac 1

    What seems to have happened is that English has made political statements and has been stunned that you Tracey would question the validity. His/their reaction defer, obscure, and delay until the issue gets lost in the Election hooha. In the real world most people would be angry at this dishonesty.
    I seem to remember either Bennett or English quoting those stats in the House recently. (I don’t know how to find the speech but I think it was in Question Time.)
    Well done Tracey.

      • ianmac 1.1.1

        Thanks OAB.
        Borrows, Chester: Estimates Debate — In Committee 01 July 2014.
        What we know is that when we started this policy there were 4,300 solo mums under 20 receiving that benefit. Now, 2 years later, we know that there are 2,600 of those mothers. They are still having their babies, so it is not the circumstance of pregnancy or a lack of relationship that finds them on a benefit. What we do know is that this Government is doing a heck of a lot for those people who otherwise could easily make up the statistics of children living in poverty that the previous speaker was speaking about.”
        They have apparently reduced the benefit payout. But started that other controlled benefit.

        • One Anonymous Bloke

          Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government is concerned about those parents who do not qualify for paid parental leave, and in particular the most vulnerable of that group, who are young parents of young children. In fact, I think figures used in this House indicate that as a result of the very good work done by the Minister for Social Development and others, the number of sole parents under the age of 20 has in the last 5 years dropped from 4,300 to 2,600.

          Note his form of words: “figures used in this House”. Is he fully aware they’re dodgy much?

      • ianmac 1.1.2

        I did find a quote under Borrows but it is in moderation???

  2. Good article Tracey – Thank you for documenting that – it shows how they work the system and when you get to the nub – they’re just making it up as they go along.

  3. Tom Gould 3

    Perhaps someone can also ask about all these ‘beneficiaries’ having babies that Bertha Bennett is so fond of repeatedly mentioning? It’s a powerful dog whistle, but are there actually so many they literally threaten the viability of social security?

  4. tricledrown 4

    That was after a jump of solo parents on benefits in the first three years under National from historic lows under Labour of 83,000 receiving the DPB up to 114,00 under National in their first term.

    • karol 4.1

      Was that part of the impact of the Nats stopping study allowances for single parents?

    • Tracey 4.2

      are you saying numbers jumped due to GFC and then began falling 3 years ago as we recovered?

  5. Crocodill 5

    I’ve discovered the true factual answer:

    Bill randomly visits young women in “at risk” areas of the country, and the impact of his radioactive charm is so strong the poor girls are immediately sterilised. On a quiet day it’s possible to hear the pop of ovaries as they implode.

    Not just a girl thing either. Recent research released from MSD indicates males suffer an order of magnitude reduction in sperm count when proximity to Billy Boy is less than 300m.

    • ianmac 5.1

      Maybe Catholic lad English is visiting and supplying the young ones with a new-fangled device that the Pope forbids called a shhh, a condom.

  6. BLiP 6

    Nice work, Tracey. The story of how the bureaucrats are obfuscating this is probably more important – in some respects – than Blinglish being caught in yet another lie.

  7. john 7

    Radio NZ headline “Steep drop in teen pregnancy rates”

    “The Salvation Army’s State of the Nation report showed the overall pregnancy rate among 15 to 19-year-olds in 2012 had dropped 29 percent on the previous five years, from 59 per thousand to 41.

    The number of abortions had fallen by 40 percent in that age group, from 4097 in 2008 to 2489 five years later, while live births decreased 23 percent from 5185 to 3768.”


    That took me 30 seconds on to find with google.

    yet your attitude is that it’s fine to waste the taxpayer thousands of dollars with your ridiculous requests, all in the aid of hopefully scoring a little and pretty much irrelevant political brownie points that only the converted care about.

    • Tracey 7.1

      funny that bill english, bennett and msd couldnt just google it john? Maybe its because it doesnt answer the questions.

      Could you post your source for my request costing taxpayers “thousands “?

      I see you decided not to sack gerry, nick, and the other buffoons. Birds of a feather aye

      • john 7.1.1

        So you’re interested in wasting more time.

        You are making out repeated requests for lists of detailed statistics on thousands of people, to various very highly paid officials, as well as asking for an ombudsman investigation into your complaints.

        If you can’t work out you attempt at petty point scoring will come at a significant waste to the taxpayer, then you’re on another planet.

        You happily and deliberately waste taxpayers money. It will be difficult to blame others for the same thing without looking like a hypocrite.

        • MrSmith

          Holding people to account john is the only way we can keep then in check, transparency and the light of day tends to keep people honest.

          But you seem to be a believer john, someone that just sits back or bends over and believes whatever is being dished out should be taken as the gospel.

          Cost should never be an issue in the search for truth and justice.

          • john

            It’s about “truth and justice” – yeah right – that’s sooo believable.

            Anybody that has a life can see it’s about people who need to get one, trying to score petty and irrelevant political points.

        • Descendant Of Sssmith

          Oh bugger off.

          WINZ produces information on a regular basis giving benefit numbers by age, ethnicity, gender, location, benefit type, benefit cancellations and so on.

          I used to go into the local office and get this information in the 80’s. The staff used to give me the local numbers pretty much instantly off the reports they got.

          That information is used today to create these:


          It’s not difficult for the data to be obtained so something else must be causing the delays.

          Some reduction in sole parent numbers (by benefit) is also due to changes in government policy eg sole parents with children over 14 are now on Job Seeker benefit as are those who have subsequent children while on benefit.

          You can no longer simply look at the old DPB numbers and compare those to the current Sole Parent Support numbers.

          The fact sheets don’t have those details so in the absence of that info you have to ask.

          The question about movement onto student loans and allowances is also valid. The removal of TIA and the introduction of worktesting has likely reduced the likelihood of staying on a sole parent benefit and going onto a student loan/allowance combination. Previously you could study and stay on DPB because you got additional help with study costs and you could do your study without being hassled to look for work at the same time. It seem logical that some people would have simply changed one for of assistance for another – particularly those studying with youngest child 14 and over.

          Other disabled and unwell sole parents, who have always been unwell and would likely always have qualified, will have now opted to go onto Invalids Benefit / Supported Living Payment. There was no need to do so before as it made no difference.

          So yeah where they have gone is now much more important than it was previously because it’s not just about going into work when you look at any reduction/ increase. Study ones too will be interesting as that may present a jump in numbers in the future as study finishes.

          You also seem to miss the point that Bill English must have had some information to make that claim so a report presumably had already been prepared (whether for him or another Minister).

          It’s not difficult to hand over that report and would take little effort.

        • Tracey

          so you have no evidence of how much my complaint will cost despite asserting your simple google search answered it?

    • weka 7.2

      John, please show how your figures relate to the claim by English that the National govt’s policies reduced the numbers of solo parents under 20 by 40% over the three years he is referring to. There are three things there. One is whether your figures actually match the claims. Another is how the timeframes relate. And the last is how National govt policy had an effect on those numbers.

      Here’s the full quote from RNZ,

      “Updated at 1:18 pm on 12 February 2014

      Greater access to long-term contraceptives could explain a steep drop in the teen pregnancy rate, according to Family Planning.

      The Salvation Army’s State of the Nation report showed the overall pregnancy rate among 15 to 19-year-olds in 2012 had dropped 29 percent on the previous five years, from 59 per thousand to 41.

      The number of abortions had fallen by 40 percent in that age group, from 4097 in 2008 to 2489 five years later, while live births decreased 23 percent from 5185 to 3768.

      Family Planning executive director Jackie Edmond said a wider range of contraceptives with low failure rates was available.

      “Generally, young women are on the pill but with the introduction and the subsidization of implants, we’ve given them another really significant option,” she said.

      “Young women in that age group are taking up that form of contraception quite readily.”

      However, that did not fully explain the drop as contraceptive implants were only subsidized in New Zealand three years ago, Ms Edmond said.”

      • miravox 7.2.1

        It’s great that young women can get the contraception advice and devices more readily. I applaud any effort to make contraceptive information and devices freely available to any teens who want them.

        “However, that did not fully explain the drop “

        Wouldn’t part of the decrease would also be explained by the trend of lower fertility rates for all women under 40? (2.19 in 2008; 2.03 in 2012 according to Statistics NZ).

        John seems to be equating every ‘missing’ teen birth is a to a single mother with one child, reducing “single mothers under the age of 20 by 2,600” doesn’t match changes in births, which is half that figure. In 2008 there were 5,209 births to under 19 year-olds and in 2012 there were 3,886 (Stats NZ). Moreover, a teen parent is not necessarily a sole parent. NAct may not have had successful ‘investments’ in 2,600 young women at all.

        Tracey is right… what has happend in terms of teen parenting (apart from the natural movement of teens in to 20+ year-old age groups combinded with the trend of decreasing fertility rates – accelerated in the 15-19 year-old age group)? If there is anything outside of the trend for later pregnancies, and improved access to contraception for young people (I’m assuming young men have better access to contraception as well) it’s important to know which of the investment approaches may have made a difference, and also how young families are faring with the changes in ‘investment’ in them.

        On a related point, it would be nice to see in NAct doing something to reduce pregancies in under 14 year-olds if they’re claiming they can single-handedly claim success for lowered fertility rates for teens (It’s difficult to see a trend here on the low numbers – the rate bounces around between 0.1-0.3). But they’d have to do an awful lot more about social conditions and child abuse rather than implanting 10-14 year-old girls.

      • Tracey 7.2.2

        so unless Mr English, Ms Bennett and MSD supplied extra contraception, John’s quote doesn’t help?

  8. john 8

    For the last few years the govt has certainly been putting more public health nurses into schools to educate teenagers about how to get and use contraception – I know – I have a family member who was employed because they needed more people to do that work (as well as the drive to increase levels of preschool vaccinations).

    Teenage pregnancy has remained at the same very high levels – the third highest in the world – for the last three decades. It’s only been in the last few years that it’s finally started to come down.

    This is good news.

    The desperate attempt to try to prove that….

    a/ the good news is not real, and
    b/ if it is, the govt can’t be given any credit for it.

    …..is a waste of taxpayer money to try to score pathetic, petty, and irrelevant political points.

    • BLiP 8.1

      a/ the good news is not real, and
      b/ if it is, the govt can’t be given any credit for it.


      No one is saying its not good news, or that its not real, and nor is anyone saying the government cannot be given credit for it. What is being said is that Bill English, as usual, is unable to provide the data to back up his claim. One would expect that if it was ever the intention of National Ltd™ to reduce the number of unplanned or otherwise unwanted pregnancies it would have an accurate, easy to access, publicly available measurement system in place to guage the success, or not, of its policies. Holding Bill English to account for his statements is hardly petty. He is, after all, the Minister of Finance who delivered the forecast budget surplus . . . oh, hang on! Bit of a pattern of mendacity, hmmm? Exposing more of that is not pathetic nor a waste of money.

      • Tracey 8.1.1

        Thanks BLiP, I worry about the level of comprehension amongst National supporters. IF National has done this, they must be applying it across many age brackets and can exponentially reduce single mums on benefits? That would be good news.

  9. Sacha 9

    “other parties” you say?

    National, Act, United Brylcreem..

  10. felix 10

    He can do some pretty amazing things, this English. Just the other day he rebuilt Christchurch too, according to him.

  11. Descendant Of Sssmith 11

    Social media / texting etc seems to be having a good impact amongst the young people I know.

    Word gets around pretty quickly amongst the young women about who the impregnating dads are who bugger off once they have had their way and who has got STD’s and so on.

    The information gets disseminated much wider than word of mouth used to.

    That’s likely making a difference as well.

  12. Tracey 12

    Thank you for your correspondence received on 4 August 2014 about the Ministry of Social Development. Your correspondence has been allocated reference number: 386022.

    As you may be aware, we receive a large number of enquiries from the public. These can be by telephone, email, online, in person as well as in writing. All of them first have to be appropriately assessed. Your complaint is currently at the initial assessment stage. A brief outline of our complaint handling process is set out in Appendix A. We will work through the complaint you have made and the facts you have given us and contact you again.

    Change of circumstances/new information In the meantime, please contact us if the circumstances relating to your complaint change or you believe that your complaint should be dealt with on an urgent basis. If you have new or additional information, you can send it to us by email or post (details below), and we will add this to your complaint.

    Contacting us You can contact us by email at: info@ombudsman.parliament.nz. Alternately, you can telephone us on freephone 0800 802 602 or write to our postal address. If you do contact us or send us additional information, please ensure that you provide the complaint reference number at the top of this letter.

    What our role is and what we expect from you In Appendix B we have outlined what the Ombudsmen do and what their responsibilities are. It also outlines our expectations of you when dealing with the Office. Please read this through carefully.

    Yours sincerely

    Office of the Ombudsman | Tari o te Kaitiaki Mana Tangata

    Phone 04 473 9533 0800 802 602| Fax 04 471 2254

    Email info@ombudsman.parliament.nz | http://www.ombudsman.parliament.nz

    PO Box 10152, Level 14, SolNet House, 70 The Terrace, Wellington

    • weka 12.1

      Thanks Tracey. Did English’s office give you a copy of the summary he refers to? Might be worth getting an OIA requested copy, just to see what it actually was.

      • Tracey 12.1.1

        good idea. Will ask for it now.

      • Tracey 12.1.2


        I sent this to english with a copy of his first reply from 17 July, outlined in the main post

        ” my email address>

        Aug 8 (8 days ago)

        to Bill English

        Please urgently provide the full summary form provided to you by ms bennett from which you quoted. ”

        Given they referred to the summary on 17 July, youd think they could get their hands on it pretty quickly… But it seems not.

        ” ———- Forwarded message ———-From: “B English (MIN)” B.English@ministers.govt.nz Date: 15/08/2014 11:14 AM Subject: RE: OIA REQUEST To: me> Cc:

        ▼ Hide quoted text

        Dear Tracey

        On behalf of Hon Bill English, Minister of Finance, thank you for your further request for information.

        Your request was received in this office on 8 August 2014 and will be responded to under the provisions of the Official Information Act.

        Yours sincerely

        Katy Greco-Ainslie

        Private Secretary to Hon Bill English

        Deputy Prime Minister; Minister of Finance; MP for Clutha-Southland “

        • weka

          Typical. Try telling them you are a friend of Cam’s and they’ll send it right over 😉

          • Tracey

            crazy shit. They told me had a summary but need more than seven days to get it to me?

  13. Barfly 13

    Err folks English didn’t claim a reduction of 2600 that’s Bernard Hickey getting it wrong in his article

    From the Hickey article
    ” English said, referring to how the Government had reduced the number of single mothers under the age of 20 by 2,600 or 40% over the last three years,”
    From OAB’s post
    “Hon BILL ENGLISH………..the number of sole parents under the age of 20 has in the last 5 years dropped from 4,300 to 2,600”

    BY 2600 versus TO 2600 Tracey you may wish to file a replacement request seeking information on the “1700” you may also want to ask for a breakdown by age as I believe Weka is least partially correct in his post
    “Greater access to long-term contraceptives could explain a steep drop in the teen pregnancy rate, according to Family Planning.
    “The Salvation Army’s State of the Nation report showed the overall pregnancy rate among 15 to 19-year-olds in 2012 had dropped 29 percent on the previous five years, from 59 per thousand to 41.
    The number of abortions had fallen by 40 percent in that age group, from 4097 in 2008 to 2489 five years later, while live births decreased 23 percent from 5185 to 3768”

    I don’t think the governments harassment of solo mums is responsible for the entire 1700 reduction though it would be good to know the answers to your questions..

    • Tracey 13.1

      thanks barfly

      None of the ministries have seen fit to correct the statement, not that that means much

  14. Tracey 14

    here is the final released response to my OIA on Bill English’s statement.

    I am awaiting the Finance Ministry’s release of the summary document Blinglish was given by paula (h/t Weka)


  15. Tracey 15

    in part it seems national is claiming it is implementing a dating/marriage service if it is saying its policy has resulted in moving many of these women into relationships and thereby off this benefit?

  16. Tracey 16

    More on OIA’s

    ” Judith Collins’ office processed an Official Information Act request in just two days to release an email embarrassing then Serious Fraud Office head Adam Feeley in 2011.

    The revelation comes as ripples from the Dirty Politics saga widened during the weekend after a series of bombshells including:

    ■ Collins stepped down as Justice Minister after an email handed to the prime minister’s office raised questions about her involvement in what leaked emails appear to suggest was a campaign by Right-wing blogger Cameron Slater and others to undermine Feeley while he was SFO boss.

    ■ Prime Minister John Key confirmed there would be an inquiry into Collins’s actions in relation to Feeley, with details of the inquiry to be announced today.

    ■ Senior staff in the PM’s office were summoned on Friday by Inspector General of Intelligence and Security Cheryl Gwyn to a closed-door inquiry to give evidence under oath about declassified information allegedly supplied to Slater which proved embarrassing to Opposition leader at the time Phil Goff.

    ■ Slater lodged a Privacy Act complaint over Key releasing his email. ”

    Also telling of a Bully

    “On October 17 Collins disclosed Feeley had emailed her an apology, but she expected him to travel to Wellington to deliver it in person.

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    With fewer than 40 per cent of eligible voters having their say in the 2016 local elections, the Government must get serious and come up with a plan to increase voter turnout, says Labour’s Local Government Spokesperson Meka Whaitiri. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Inquiry presents solutions to homelessness – Govt must act
    Labour, the Green Party and the Māori Party are calling on the Government to immediately adopt the 20 recommendations set out in today's Ending Homelessness in New Zealand report. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • A good night for Labour’s local government candidates
    It has been a good night for Labour in the local government elections. In Wellington, Justin Lester became the first Labour mayor for 30 years, leading a council where three out of four Labour candidates were elected. Both of Labour’s ...
    2 weeks ago
  • More contenders for fight clubs
    Allegations of fight clubs spreading to other Serco-run prisons must be properly investigated says Labour’s Corrections spokesperson Kelvin Davis. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Minister runs for cover on job losses
    Māori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell’s refusal to show leadership and provide assurances over the future of the Māori Land Court is disappointing, given he is spearheading contentious Maori land reforms which will impact on the functions of the Court, ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Kiwisaver contribution holiday not the break workers were looking for
    The number of working New Zealanders needing to stop Kiwisaver payments is another sign that many people are not seeing benefit from growth in the economy, says Grant Robertson Labour’s Finance spokesperson. "There has been an increase of 14 ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Fight Club failings
    The Corrections Minister must take full responsibility for the widespread management failings within Mt Eden prison, says Labour’s Corrections spokesperson Kelvin Davis. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Rethink welcomed
    The Labour Party is pleased that Craig Foss is reconsidering the return of New Zealand soldiers buried in Malaysia, says Labour’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson David Shearer. “For the families of those who lie there, this will a welcome move. The ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Disappointment over UN vote
    Helen Clark showed her characteristic drive and determination in her campaign to be UN Secretary General, and most New Zealanders will be disappointed she hasn't been selected, says the Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. "Helen Clark has been an ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Māori need answers on Land Court job losses
    Māori landowners, Māori employees and Treaty partners need answers after a Ministry of Justice consultation document has revealed dozens of roles will be disestablished at the Māori Land Court, says Ikaroa-Rāwhiti MP Meka Whaitiri. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Key’s ‘efficiencies’ = DHBs’ pain
          John Key’s talk of ‘efficiencies’ ignores the fact the Government is chronically underfunding health to the tune of $1.7 billion, says Labour’s Acting Health spokesperson Dr David Clark.       ...
    3 weeks ago
  • More than 1,300 schools to face budget cuts
    The latest Ministry of Education figures reveal thousands of schools will face cuts to funding under National’s new operations grant funding model, says Labour's Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins. ...
    3 weeks ago