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Outsourcing poverty: Paula Bennett’s shame

Written By: - Date published: 8:30 am, October 29th, 2013 - 51 comments
Categories: benefits, bill english, brand key, business, child welfare, class war, health, housing, john key, national, paula bennett, poverty, slippery, uk politics, unemployment, welfare - Tags:

So, we now have a charity taking on the funding of the essential work on monitoring poverty, in the face of Paula Bennett, Bill English and John Key failing to do their job: a job that should be looking to ensure all Kiwis are adequately cared for and supported.

Simon Collins reports:

Children’s Commissioner Dr Russell Wills has decided to publish his own annual stocktake of child poverty after the Government spurned his call to publish official measures and targets.

His first annual update will be published in December with analysis by experts at Otago University, edited by a private communications company and totally funded by a $525,000 grant from the philanthropic Wellington-based JR McKenzie Trust.

He said the project would not involve any taxpayers’ money and he did not need to get it signed off by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett, who appointed him in 2011 for a five-year term.

This is a response to Bennett’s refusal to adequately measure and monitor poverty, while she continues to produce and support policies that demonise and harass beneficiaries so they are increasingly living in desperate circumstances.

Failing to produce a meaningful and accurate analysis of relevant statistics contributes to the demonising of beneficiaries.

Dr Wills’ expert group proposed five similar measures charting relative and absolute poverty, deprivation, persistent poverty and “severe” poverty.

Most of the data required for the measures is already published annually by the Social Development Ministry but Dr Wills said it needed to be interpreted for the public. He cited TV3’s The Vote in June, where he was challenged about a figure in the ministry’s report that 60 per cent of the median income for a family of two parents and two children, after housing costs, was $600 a week or about $30,000 a year.

The “expert group” points to the most urgent areas that need to be addressed:

The expert group said the three most pressing areas for further action were adopting child poverty reduction targets, reforming child tax credits to pay the same for young children as for teenagers, and more investment in housing and health through social housing, the rental housing “warrant of fitness”and free primary healthcare for children.

Meanwhile the Fabians in the UK have shown how similar circumstances are for those struggling on low incomes today, compared with 1913 Britain:

When the Fabian Women’s Group published ‘Round about a pound a week’ in 1913 it caused quite a stir. The pamphlet’s edge came not just from its forensic analysis of over forty working families’ budgets and its relentless account of their lives. Alongside this, author Maud Pember Reeves* coolly dismissed many of the myths that surrounded poverty then, as indeed they do today.

‘Round about a pound of week’ is acutely relevant to our times. The high rates of child mortality that originally motivated the study are thankfully a thing of the past, but low pay and precarious work are as familiar now as they were one hundred years ago. Similarly, the decisions low-income families made in 1913 between heating and eating are choices that are still being made today, and the link between overcrowded, damp housing and childhood illness remains intact.

One of the differences today in the UK is that most two parent families on low incomes now need both parents in paid work outside the home to survive financially.

That women’s paid work does make an important contribution to the family finances is clear – it is female employment that has protected many families from the worst effects of the recent recession, for example. However, the impact of women working on household budgets is muted for two reasons: women’s work remains lower paid than men’s and, as ‘The cost of a child’ research shows, much of the financial gain from female employment evaporates once childcare costs are paid.

Shame on Bennett, Key, English at al (NActs), for following the British government’s prescriptions for a return to a Dickensian approach to make life a living hell for those on low incomes.  This is especially so for those in precarious circumstances in times of a shortage of secure jobs paying a living wage.

poverty rescue

 

[Update] h/t mickysavage, who commented:

And here is a video showing the comprehension of and compassion for poverty by Paula Bennett …

Footnote

* Maud Pember Reeves, has an NZ connection. h/t Leopold, who commented,

Slightly off-topic, but there is a NZ connection. Maud Pember Reeves was married to W Pember Reeves, who as a member of the Seddon govt was shunted off to UK as Agent General – Seddon found WPR to be too leftish for his taste…

51 comments on “Outsourcing poverty: Paula Bennett’s shame”

  1. mickysavage 1

    And here is a video showing the comprehension of and compassion for poverty by Paula Bennett …

  2. LynWiper 2

    I posted on this earlier this morning on Open mike..but didn’t get accepted. Glad it has it’s own heading and article …thanks Karol. Thank goodness for people who won’t be silenced, people who donate to charities and journalists who write the facts. Oh, and bloggers who care!

    [karol:I see your comment went into the “spam” folder, along with comments from a couple of other regular TS commenters. Not sure why]

    [lprent: looks like akismet got some bad instructions last night. Seems to be fixed now. ]

    • karol 2.1

      Thanks, LynW.

      Simon Collins is one of the few NZ Herald journalist who writes well on social issues, especially with respect to beneficiaries.

  3. Leopold 3

    Slightly off-topic, but there is a NZ connection. Maud Pember Reeves was married to W Pember Reeves, who as a member of the Seddon govt was shunted off to UK as Agent General – Seddon found WPR to be too leftish for his taste…

  4. King Kong 4

    I don’t know how much history you understand, but I feel you might be getting a bit carried away with your claims of a return to Dickensian conditions for the poor.

    Ill informed or massively exaggerating. A pretty embarrassing choice.

    • karol 4.1

      I said “Dickensian approach” not “Dickensian conditions”.

      But, with the current NAct/Tory approach, we are heading towards Dickensian conditions for increasing numbers of people on low incomes.

      • King Kong 4.1.1

        really?

        ” Bill English and John Key et al failing to do their job: a return to Dickensian & Edwardian times”

        • emergency mike 4.1.1.1

          “failing to do their job” refers to the performance of the government, i.e. their approach.

          Really Kong if you’re going to make up a “quote” that karol didn’t even type to press a point at least try to turn your brain on. Talk about ‘pretty embarrassing’.

        • karol 4.1.1.2

          yes – a return to Edwardian times” refers to the approach and values, and is not an exact match with the conditions in England and NZ now. Also, even though the NZ government is following the same approach as the current British government, the conditions in each country are not exactly the same.

          I think the poverty and struggle for lower income people in 21st century Britain is more extreme than here: partly to do with the size of the population, and the legacy there of an aristocracy, and upper class whose “reality” is significantly divorced from the everyday struggles of low income people.

        • Foreign Waka 4.1.1.3

          If the government was to sit in an Employment review meeting – just lets not forget the general public is their employer, to make this clear on no uncertain terms – and would be measured against their targets, it would be a fail by all intent and purposes.
          Unemployment is up, despite revenues for companies increasing (peculiar isn’t it?!)- fail. Employment growth and planning – fail. Acting against the majority of shareholders and owners of assets – fail. Child poverty and a decrease in standard of living – fail. Corporate governance reform, review and implementation of measures to protect NZ interests – fail. Environment protection and preservation of valuable land and resources – fail. Employment conditions for all (no 0 hour employment, casualisation etc) – fail. Water resource protection, fresh water and sea – fail. Christchurch earthquake debacle -fail.This is just what is officially available on information. God knows what else could be added.
          Please list for every fail a plus for the NZ public – please do not use a corporate balance sheet where the bonus is being paid to the 0.5%.

  5. phil 5

    $9.4 M over 4years to feed
    poor kids in schools, by this government, and $5 million, straight away to feed the Americas Cup campaign. This is a mean and shonky government in ‘deed’ .

    • fender 5.1

      Good comparison, don’t forget the 5million to feed the overpaid unemployed boat enthusiasts will only provide caviar until May 2014.

    • dv 5.2

      What has anything actually been delivered in the food for schools program?

  6. Treetop 6

    I will trust Will’s over Bennett any day when it comes to stating what the actual position is regarding child and family poverty.

  7. Richard Christie 7

    Dr Wills said it needed to be interpreted for the public. He cited TV3′s The Vote in June, where he was challenged about a figure in the ministry’s report that 60 per cent of the median income for a family of two parents and two children, after housing costs, was $600 a week or about $30,000 a year.

    Too right, it needs translation. Are we really being told that the median household has $600 p/w after housing?. I simply don’t believe it.

    • karol 7.1

      RC, in the article, the next quote is:

      “So there’s people thinking that everybody [who is poor] is on $30,000,” he said. “They are not. If you look at the graph of people by income, the graph is really steep, so 60 per cent is the top of a really steep curve which falls away steeply below that, so of all the people under $30,000 the median is about $10,000. It’s tiny.”

      Maybe I should have included that in my post.

      • Wayne 7.1.1

        Karol,

        Just so I understand the figures, is Dr Wills saying that if you take all the people under the overall median, that their median, after housing is $10,000. Effectively the median of the bottom half or alternatively the 25% quartile.

        In NZ of course there is an effective floor, provided by the minimum wage, WWF, and accommodation supplement (or a Housing NZ house, given we are talking families here). Or alternatively the unemployment benefit as paid to a family of 4, plus accommodation supplement.

        It would be worth knowing how many people in this situation (family of 4) actually have Housing NZ houses, and how many are dependent on the private rental market.

        • karol 7.1.1.1

          Wayne, I can’t see any reference to HNZ stats in thereport from the Expert group on Child Poverty.

          Can you expand on the significance of families in Housing NZ Homes compared with those in private rentals?

          For me the aim should be to minimise tax payers providing profits to rentiers or supplementing employers wage bills.

          So, particularly there needs to be more state homes.

          • Wayne 7.1.1.1.1

            Karol,

            The reason I mentioned the role of Housing NZ houses is that they are much cheaper than private rentals, even taking into account the Accommodation Supplement.

            Basically a family of 4 will have a minimum income of around $30,000 net taking into account WFF (or UB for a family of 4). Housing NZ rentals are 20% of income, so that leaves around $24,000 money to live on. Not great, but not absolute grinding poverty.

            That is why I can’t really follow Dr Wills figures. They only make sense if the family is in a private rental, with a very low AS. As I understand it, AS is around $200 pw in Auckland. Lets assume the rental is $500 pw week (which is on the high side), so that means net income after housing will be $15,000 per year, which will be very daunting for a family of 4.

            By the way my figures are approximates, but I know they are not far off for minimum levels of income.

            • karol 7.1.1.1.1.1

              Wayne, you ask an interesting question. The 2012 (published 2013) Household Incomes Report offers some evidence but requires some maths analysis to make sense of it.

              Housing costs relative to income

              12 High housing costs relative to income are often associated with financial stress for low- to middle-income households. Low-income households especially can be left with insufficient income to meet other basic needs such as food, clothing, transport, medical care and education for household members.

              13 For the bottom income quintile (Q1), around one in three households have in recent years had housing costs of more than 30% of their after-tax income.

              14 There is evidence of increasing numbers of second quintile households with high housing costs. The rate has been rising strongly since 2004, so that in HES 2012, 42% of these households had housing costs of more than 30% of their income, more than for the bottom quintile.

              15 Half of households in the bottom quintile are mortgage-free (mainly older New Zealanders) or are paying only the subsidised income-related rent while living in HNZC houses. This is keeping the Q1 trend line reasonably flat. On the other hand the bulk of second quintile households (75%) rent privately or have mortgages and are therefore more affected by rising housing costs.

              [..]
              New Zealand had 217,000 children (21%) in beneficiary families at 31 March 2013, and 820,000 in working families. 25% of children (270,000) are in households with no FT worker.

              19 Poverty rates for children in working families are on average much lower than for those in beneficiary families (12% and 65% respectively), but 2 out of 5 poor children come from families where at least one adult is in FT work or is self-employed. This is an OECD-wide issue – the working poor. The In-work Tax Credit is really important here for alleviating poverty..

              20 70% of poor children live in rental accommodation (20% HNZC, 50% private).

              My bold.
              But it does show that life is a struggle for lot of Kiwis on low incomes.

  8. Tracey 8

    Interesting that the charitable trust considered it worthwhile given the hoops you have to jump thru to meet their criteria.

    that leaves national and the large ape believing you cant measure poverty or we have none.

    ps chickenpox running rampant thru mt albert schools. Just giving folks a headsup

  9. Tracey 9

    Kk this part of dickensian times is similar tho

    low pay and precarious work are as familiar now as they were one hundred years ago. Similarly, the decisions low-income families made in 1913 between heating and eating are choices that are still being made today, and the link between overcrowded, damp housing and childhood illness remains intact.”

  10. tricledrown 10

    King Kong law of the jungle.
    Only the strong survive.
    Obviously civilization has passed you and your bullying lot behind.

  11. Allyson 11

    Bill and Melinda Gates seem to be doing a good job stopping spread of AIDS in Africa. Maybe once the evil AIDS is dealt with he can help out UN Development program. Their struggles against poverty seems to have stalled with still not one person fed or clothed despite billions spent. Seems to me not all charities are evil and not all Govt sponsored schemes are worthwhile. God bless, Ally

  12. Tim 12

    Pulla Bent’s response: Who moyeeeee? Ya jarkin incha?
    ….. one of those very ugle specimens we’ll all be expected to feel sympathy for in the not too distant: a future ‘victum’ of the Neshnool Party. No doubt Pita and Turey will be lining up to be her suppotas- probably aided and abetted by the likes of a Finlayson claiming minority status and putting it all down to (something like) colonial snobbery and class distinction.

  13. Mary 13

    It’s the same the way MSD deliberately keep the number of benefit applications turned down out of the statistics. People are still being turned away either at the reception counter or over the phone, which has been going on for years and years. The latest and most disturbing extension of this is inviting an application only after the interview has been completed and when a decision has been made to grant the benefit. It wasn’t that long ago that if you managed to get past all the gate-keeping and did have an interview then the first thing you did was fill out an application form. Then if you were declined a formal decision was entered and you’d receive a letter stating the reasons (or purporting to state the reasons) and notifying you of review and appeal rights. Not any more. Now the application is only taken at the end of the interview so if after the interview it’s decided the benefit will be refused that final step of taking an application is skipped, then no letter is sent out, no review and appeal rights are conveyed and nothing goes into the statistics. So the statistics reflect a far more palatable difference between the number of benefits applied for and the number granted which, in turn, help the government’s case of saying that main benefit levels are adequate, that hardship provisions are being utilised fairly with not too many people being turned away and that this must mean eligibility criteria are about right and not set too stringently. In other words, everybody’s doing okay. MSD’s response, of course, which is what it’s always been, is that people make inquiries and that it’s not their fault people choose not to make applications.

    But why would anyone apply when they’ve already been told that they’re going to be refused? There’s been plenty of research done on this issue, even by government, but nothing’s ever done to fix it. This government, of course, not only does not want to fix it but counts on making it worse.

    • Rogue Trooper 13.1

      some learnings about Family Violence in NZ; Police, utilising the Canadian Response System- 10 domestic disputes an hour, 89,000 per year: NZ offenders “score highly” on risk to familiars.

      What a freakin’ joke this government and the people they ‘oversee’ are. Get ya’ freakin heads outta your backsides!!! (something the bad among us might want to consider, ‘You’re on my Sh#tlist .)

    • AsleepWhileWalking 13.2

      You are right of course.

      The prerequiste for a Review of Decision has already occurred with the decline, therefore the review rights are automatically triggered regardless of whether or not the client was informed. Sadly most people just take MSD at their word and subsequently the stats look better than they should.

      FYI reviews can be lodged out of time and in cases like this where the client hasn’t been informed of their rights the BRC should look favourably upon the application. The Scoble case (among others) established that indication of need is an application for ANY benefit. It is the responsibility of the ministry to inform clients of anything they may be eligible for.

      • Mary 13.2.1

        If a person hasn’t been informed of review rights I would say that time hasn’t started therefore the person isn’t in fact out of time.

        In any case, there’s real unfairness in the test for “out of time” applications for review to be lodged in that it’s whether there’s a good reason for the delay which is very narrow compared to other jurisdictions where all circumstances including the overall justice of the case are important. Not for applications to the benefits review committees, though, which if the committee says there’s no good reason for the delay, which they regularly do, there’s no right of appeal the Social Security Appeal Authority because the decision was made the benefits review committee, not the chief executive. Extremely unfair, especially when the decision is clearly wrong. Situations involving large overpayments are particularly worrying when this happens. Parliament needs to fix this to allow for reasons relating to the justice of the case, including merits and anything else to be relevant when considering whether an application for review can be heard out of time. Any MPs out there who’d like to take this issue up?

        • Mary 13.2.1.1

          “Any MPs out there who’d like to take this issue up?”

          Answer: No

          Why not: Because we’re talking beneficiaries here. You know we can’t be seen to acting fairly to beneficiaries. Of course we’d like to, but we just can’t do anything that looks like we might be taking things too far. Once that happens everything just falls apart. It’s just too risky. I’d really like to help, but my hands are tied. You really do need to understand this.

  14. captain hook 14

    Hey the tories need money to buy big cars and waste on their carbon footprint swanning around the world to prove that they are not peasants.
    tossing a few coins to the hudled masses and watching them fight for it is their idea of benevolence.

  15. Rosie 15

    Yes it IS Bennett’s shame that she has washed her hands of the responsibility to monitor and measure child poverty in NZ, measurements and reporting that are critical to understanding the depth of the problem and critical information for devising strategies and policies to alleviate and prevent it. This is her department, the aims of the Ministry of Social Development are her responsibility to meet and all she can do is giggle about it. Life is sweet.

    Whats also disturbing is that by transferring the responsibilities of the Ministry on to Otago Uni and the private communications company, the government are transferring the connection the citizens of NZ have with government services to an external source. It’s further weakens the social contract. Dr Wills says the project would not involve any taxpayers money. We are citizens first, being “taxpayers” is only part of role, and as citizens it’s our role to stand by one another. Our tax money SHOULD be going towards the Ministry carrying out it’s work effectively, which includes undertaking such projects, for everyone’s benefit.

    Finally, as an aside I watched Ken Loache’s new doco, The Spirit of ’45 in the weekend. It covers the work the Atlee government of the UK in introducing the welfare system, social housing, public health services and strengthening workers rights and improving conditions. How sad it is to compare the goals of those days to what the British have now after years of Thatcher and now Cameron’s government finishing the job (and in a most sinister way if the atos system is anything to go by). Seems like Key is only too happy to follow the lead of his buddy and Bennett only to happy to carry out Key’s will. By outsourcing essential MSD work, (because they can’t be arsed doing it anyway) they are yet again demonstrating how much regard they have for their own clients – none.

  16. Dr Terry 16

    Good for you Rosie, very well said. Karol, so many thanks to you.

  17. Lan 17

    Then again, Rosie, (not saying this to be provocative) an “external” and independent report may be of better value and quality than one produced by the Minister’s department? Thinking of ACC here where department very unlikely to be critical of its own unethical and unfair processes these days.

    • Rosie 17.1

      I hear what you’re saying Lan, especially in regard to ACC. The view I’m seeing however is one of abandonment by a Ministry to uphold it’s aim’s which is also an abandonment of its responsibility to those it claims to support. (Although, lol, yes, that could relate to a number of Ministries and Departments these days, including education and conservation)

      Aside from that, the govt researchers and report authors SHOULD be producing accurate and necessary work, as is their role to do so. There’s no excuse for a department to not produce first rate work that is essential to it’s very functioning. It should have never come to this – the Children’s Commissioner being compelled to undertake the work because the government failed to. It comes right back to karol’s opening paragraph.

  18. johnm 18

    Shonkey and Pull your benefit
    Rubbish scumbags that the I wannabe rich like Shonkey brigade have voted in.It really is that simple.

  19. Sable 19

    Bennett is human detritus. To expect anything that remotely resembles humanity from this callous well fed bitch is absurd. Whats also a joke is her inability to understand even basic stats, not only vicious but an ignoramus to boot. Apparently everything must be in pictorial form and even then tantrums are the norm. Its no wonder she is out of touch. Indeed she wouldn’t understand the results of any study even if she cared, which she clearly does not.

    • Murray Olsen 19.1

      I’m amazed at just how thick she is. It’s a bit of an indictment on the university that saw fit to award her a degree. She’s obviously Minister just because of her attributes as a performing seal. She can be trusted to do what she’s told – you can see it in the fawning adulation she has for Key whenever she looks at him. Yuck.

    • marsman 19.2

      Was talking with a family member and Bennett’s name came up and she said to me –

      ‘Paula Bennett should be shot with a ball of her own shit’

      Very apt I thought.

  20. AsleepWhileWalking 20

    Re the $10,000 left over after housing costs – that is a two parent family and it assumes they haven’t had to move three+ times a year. Moving costs could easily lop off a grand.

    Those who receive far less include:
    – frequent movers
    – disabled
    – people who do “portfolio” work ie multiple part time income streams without f/t benefits such as annual leave
    – single parents
    – single parents who have no support network (increases childcare costs + stress levels)
    – custodial parents who do not receive child support because their ex has a clever accountant etc

    These are the people in your neighbourhood.

    • miravox 20.1

      I agree with your comment AWW, I just feel like having a rant.

      “people who do “portfolio” work”

      The corporate framing of limited work conditions and no tenure makes me sick. This is precarious work for the precariat class.

      It’s not highly skilled contract workers and their ‘interns’ in IT, advertising and films that they pretend it is.

      “These are the people in you neighbourhood”

      Some years ago these people would have been in my neighbourhood, but now they’re ghettoised in suburbs that no-one wants to venture into and people like me have moved out of because we can afford not to have to deal with the stress of the poor houses, poor shops, poor schools, poor infrastructure and rip-off landlords, loan sharks and shopping vans that other poor people and their poor lives that the precariat children grow up thinking is normal because they haven’t seen any other way of being.

  21. Frank 21

    More outsourcing.

    Hi,

    A new news release is available for you to view on the http://www.police.govt.nz
    website:

    “NZ Post to trial fingerprinting process for employment/immigration”

    NZ Post will undertake a three month trial in the Auckland area commencing on
    31 October 2013 offering fingerprinting for employment, immigration and other
    purposes, a service previously provided by New Zealand Police.

    National Manager, Forensic Services Inspector John Walker says currently
    10,500 hours of staff time nationally per annum are spent by Police in
    providing this service.

    “Whilst the current service is time consuming, fully manual, and involves
    inking applicants’ hands, NZ Post will provide a cleaner, faster electronic
    capture and copy system,” Mr Walker said.

    Currently, the three month trial is limited to the Auckland area, with the
    participating PostShops being Wellesley Street (Auckland City), North
    Harbour, and Manukau. From 31 October Police will not be providing this
    fingerprinting service in the Auckland area. Applicants will need to go to
    one of the PostShops mentioned rather than to a police station to obtain the
    fingerprinting service. There will be a charge for this service.

    Outside of the Auckland area, this fingerprinting service will still be
    available from Police Stations as usual until further notice.

    EXCEPTION

    South African Nationals – Until further notice the South African High
    Commission has requested that Police advise all South African nationals
    requiring their fingerprints taken to contact the South African High
    Commission in Wellington.

    Ends

    Issued by:

    Kevin Sinnott, Police Public Affairs, tel: 04 4707316; mobile: 027 7050341

    Note: Queries regarding the new service being trialled by NZ Post should be
    directed to: Steve Wiggins, tel: 04 439 6914; mobile: 021 4684 20

    You can view full details online at:
    http://www.police.govt.nz/news/release/nz-post-trial-fingerprinting-process-employmentimmigration

    Thanks,

    New Zealand Police

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