Lindsay Mitchell on joining the right dots and on the sobering outlook for people who will be lifetime beneficiaries

THE Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister has been braying about the Government lifting “about 66,000 kids out of poverty in the past few years …” 

In its latest annual report the Ministry for Social Development takes pride in its focus on getting people jobs resulting in 226,836 clients moving off benefit into work in the last two years (“our highest recorded result”).

But social commentator LINDSAY MITCHELL points out that 415,266 benefits were granted in the past two years, when more benefits were granted than cancelled.  She writes: –  

The Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister says:

“We’ve lifted about 66,000 kids out of poverty in the past few years …”

What he neglects to add is they have also consigned about 37,000 more to life on a benefit bringing the total to over 209,000. Continue reading “Lindsay Mitchell on joining the right dots and on the sobering outlook for people who will be lifetime beneficiaries”

Bryce Edwards draws attention to the time the PM has devoted (it’s not much, apparently) to her Child Poverty Reduction duties

A reader of Lindsay Mitchell’s blog has prompted an article– headed PM spends 0.2 percent of her time on Child Poverty Reduction? – which draws attention to the time Jacinda Ardern apparently devotes to her child poverty portfolio.

The blog reader seized on something Bryce Edwards wrote for The Democracy Project in an article (published by the BFD) headed Labour has given up on the poor.

Edwards drew attention to the mounting evidence that, under Labour’s watch, the problem of wealth and income inequality is spiralling.

He says he sees signs that Labour ministers have put this crisis into the “too hard basket”, then references recent reports on the topic. Continue reading “Bryce Edwards draws attention to the time the PM has devoted (it’s not much, apparently) to her Child Poverty Reduction duties”

Lindsay Mitchell: On child poverty, racism and colonisation

A table in an article posted on Bassett, Brash & Hide shows there are 53,000 NZ European compared to a total of 47,000 combined other ethnicities (using the most recent data reported in June 2021).   

Poverty, plainly, has no colour.  There are more New Zealand European children in material hardship than all other ethnicities put together. 

Social commentator LINDSAY MITCHELL – the author of the article  – writes:  

A just-published Listener article asks, “Why doesn’t middle-class NZ care about child poverty?” It gathers views from half a dozen people including a principal, a teacher, an advocate against child poverty, a charity head, a Māori provider chair and Pasifika social worker. Apparently, they told the Listener that the middle-class has become indifferent to child poverty.

Yet a careful reading of the piece finds it is primarily the Child Poverty Action Group advancing the idea that,

“For middle white New Zealand, poverty is equated with being brown. This is where the indifference comes from.”

The Chief Executive of the Auckland City Mission goes further claiming active hostility to solo mothers, especially Māori:

“As a society, the narrative is ‘how dare you raise a child alone? We are going to make it as hard for you as we can – we will punish you.’ And secondly, in our country, poverty has a colour. It is about racism and colonisation.”

In fact, there are more NZ European children in material hardship than all other ethnicities put together.

The table below shows there are 53,000 NZ European compared to a total of 47,000 combined other ethnicities (these are the most recent data reported in June 2021):

Continue reading “Lindsay Mitchell: On child poverty, racism and colonisation”

Sepuloni is chuffed about reduction in numbers on benefits – but more than 300,000 Kiwis are being succoured by the state

Social Development  and  Employment Minister Carmel Sepuloni  was  quick  off  the mark to announce  the government’s  achievement in  getting  more  people off benefits. She  says the government’s response to COVID-19 has helped keep people in work, with March Quarter Benefit statistics showing a further fall in the number of people receiving a main benefit and jobseeker assistance.

There were 19,883 fewer people on a main benefit, compared with December, with near-record numbers of people moving into work, Sepuloni said.

The figures also showed an annual fall of 4.8 per cent in the number of people receiving a main benefit.

She  claims  it  was the government’s quick response to COVID-19  that had worked, with initiatives such as the Wage Subsidy and the economic support packages keeping people in work and delivering record low unemployment. Continue reading “Sepuloni is chuffed about reduction in numbers on benefits – but more than 300,000 Kiwis are being succoured by the state”

Bigger benefits from tomorrow – bravo! But they might not buy as much as before

Ministers  have been celebrating  their  wisdom in raising  benefits  substantially from  April 1.

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni led  the  chorus by  telling Parliament it is the biggest lift to main benefits in decades.  For many years, the rate of main benefits has fallen further behind the average wage, placing  many people, including children, in undue hardship, she said.

That  was  an unusual admission, given the  Labour  Party has been in office  for  four years.

So  now  the  good  news:

“In addition to indexing main benefits to wage growth, we are further lifting main benefits so they don’t fall further behind. The Ministry of Social Development’s analysis shows that from 1 April, a couple on a benefit with children will now be, on average, $237 a week better off than they were when the Government took office in 2017.

“As a Government, we have worked hard to lift as many children out of poverty as possible, and while raising the level of main benefit is only one way to achieve our goal, it is an incredibly important step in the right direction”. Continue reading “Bigger benefits from tomorrow – bravo! But they might not buy as much as before”

Child poverty group presses for more govt help as demand for benefits and food grants surges

So   how  is  the  team  of  five  million  looking after  its   latest  encounter  with  Covid-19  and  its  more  transmissible  Delta  strain?

The  majority    will  be  relieved  to  have  escaped  its  clutches.

On  the  other  side  of the  ledger,  the virus  has  had  a powerful  impact  on  lower-  income  groups.

One  lobby  group,  noting the current lockdown triggered the largest weekly increase in numbers of people receiving benefits since the first lockdown last year, says the government isn’t doing enough to help affected families.

The latest MSD reporting also shows food grant numbers near the end of August were double what they were at the same time last year, when Auckland was in a level 3 lockdown. Continue reading “Child poverty group presses for more govt help as demand for benefits and food grants surges”

See how Maori have fared under colonisation (not too badly) and how Ardern has fared in averting criticism

We commend social issues commentator Lindsay Mitchell, who tirelessly digs up data that put a different perspective on matters reported by mainstream media or brings government policy and its implementation into question.

Two splendid examples have been posted on her blog in the past few days.

One post (using graphs to underscore the argument) contends the progress of Māori social and economic indicators that has occurred under the process of colonisation stands in stark contrast to the constant barrage of contrary claims

The second post challenges the Ardern Government’s claims to be the most open and transparent government ever. Continue reading “See how Maori have fared under colonisation (not too badly) and how Ardern has fared in averting criticism”

Greens see red despite benefit increases – but Michael Cullen could tell them (and the Ardern government) what safety nets are all about

The Ardern  government has  made  “well-being”  such  a  focus  of  its  policies  that many  New  Zealanders  think  it  is   now  the  way  forward.

Labour’s ally, the  Green Party, is so enamoured  with  the  “well- being”  philosophy  it  sharply criticised   the  government for raising the  level of  main  benefits  “by less than $8 a week” from April 1.

“We have a poverty crisis in NZ, and we must go further and faster to deliver income support that enables everyone to live with dignity,” says Green Party spokesperson for Social Development & Employment Ricardo Menéndez March.

“The government currently expects a single person over 25 years old to be able to get by on just $250.74 a week, and they’re supposed to celebrate that rising to $258.51. That extra eight dollars isn’t even enough to buy a block of cheese.”

Menendez  March  says it is  “disingenuous”  of  the  government to continue to say indexing benefits to wages is the best thing they could have done, and 

” … even the Children’s Commissioner said they need to be bold and courageous, and actually lift benefits.

“Indexation of benefits to wages means little without a substantive lift in core benefits to close the gap which has continued for decades.”

Continue reading “Greens see red despite benefit increases – but Michael Cullen could tell them (and the Ardern government) what safety nets are all about”

Widening gap between the “haves” and “have nots” is the burning issue for Ardern’s government to tackle

When  a  journal   as influential  as  “The Listener” flags  the  great  divide between  the  “haves”  and  the “have nots” as the  legacy of the Covid pandemic, it’s an issue  which should be  consuming   the  attention  of every politician — especially  the politicians in a government  with  ministers  who see  themselves wearing  the  mantle  of  Michael  Joseph  Savage.

The Ardern government has not  hesitated  to  throw money  at  the problem, as  other  governments  have done,  and  massive  stimulus  from  the Reserve  Bank  has helped  get the economy   back  on track. 

But, as  economist Cameron Bagrie points out  in “The Listener’s” study,  not  everyone has been a  winner. He  says  the  K-shaped  recovery has exposed pre-existing tension points  such as race  and gender  and  who bears the brunt of a  lift in unemployment.

“There’s  the perceived gap between the haves and the have-nots,  with  soaring  house prices at the epicentre. And  at the  very time we  are dealing  with that, the  financial cost of  our  ageing population is rising rapidly. By 2035, a  massive two-thirds of  welfare  benefit spending is projected to be spent on NZ Superannuation—and that’s not  counting  the growing  health costs”, says Bagrie.     

Covid  has exacerbated  inequality and driven  holes in the social  welfare   safety  net. Continue reading “Widening gap between the “haves” and “have nots” is the burning issue for Ardern’s government to tackle”

Child poverty measures show improvements – but the PM is pressed to pump more money into income support

All  nine child poverty measures showed downward trends, compared  with  two years  ago, Statistics  NZ reports.

Hurrah!  Another  victory  for  Prime Minister Jacinda  Ardern, it seems.

After  all, she made it  clear   as  she took office that the defeat  of  child  poverty  was her  special priority.

So  what’s  this grumbling from the Child  Poverty Action Group?

The poverty  statistics,  although not  surprising, are “deeply disappointing” and for  families  with disabilities  they are “absolutely shocking”, according to Professor Innes  Asher, chair  of the CPAG.

Most of the nine measures showed no statistical change over the 21 months to March 2020.

“We’ve long said that poverty for children is a huge problem and doing just a little bit will not be enough. We urgently need the government to raise income support significantly for our children in families receiving benefits, and the government needs to use a multi-pronged approach to tackling the housing crisis.

“Incrementalism isn’t working. Persistently delaying implementing the bulk of the recommendations of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group isn’t working.”

The Children’s Commissioner, Andrew Becroft,  chimed in  that the  government needs  to apply  “big, bold initiatives”.

The  first  priority must  be to lift benefits, he says.

The worry (both critics say) is that they know child poverty will have increased due to COVID-19. The data released this week was collected before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nearly one out of every five families living with disabilities live in material hardship, more than double the rate of families with no disabled members, the CPAG says.

“Discrimination is the reason why children who are disabled, or who have a disabled caregiver or sibling, are more likely to go without,” says Professor Asher.

“It doesn’t have to be this way, and it absolutely should not be this way. Other countries such as the UK acknowledge families with disabilities have greater expenses, and they support those families so they are no more likely to live in material hardship than others.”

Among the nine measures, the one bright note is that material hardship has definitely reduced overall (in a statistically significant way) from 13.2% to 11%.  That’s a reduction of around 24,000 children, and is likely (although not definitely) to have reduced somewhat for young Māori, from around 22.6% to 19% – around 11,000 young Māori may no longer live in material hardship.

“We expect that we’re probably seeing the effects of the Winter Energy Payment, the extension of free doctors visits to all those aged 13 and under, but also the mushrooming of private charity – food bank numbers have increased massively over the last few years,” says Professor Asher. 

However, material hardship rates for Māori and especially Pacific children are still far above national rates overall: nearly one in five Māori children (19%) live in material hardship (around 54,000 children), and more than one in four Pacific children (25.4% or around 37,000 children) compared with just over one in ten children overall (11% or 125,000 children).

Overall, 168,000 children are still in the severest income poverty, below the 40% income poverty line.

Perhaps  then it is  not  quite  the policy  triumph government  flaks  would  have us believe.

Still, the  Prime  Minister  says:

“We are still working  on it”.

And  the  Finance  Minister Grant  Robertson  is chuffed    that    NZ’s  sovereign currency ratings  have been raised by international agency S&P  on the basis  of  a  stronger-than-expected  recovery.

“The  real thing for  me  is that this is the first upgrade  that  Standard and Poors have done since pandemic, so I think that is  a real sign of  confidence in  our  recovery.  The  other  thing that is  important  is the general confidence   that will flow through, not  only  for NZ  businesses, but  also  for international  businesses, people  looking to invest”.

That’s  for certain:  NZ will need huge investments coming in if eventually it  is  to formulate  the policies  that  will  rid it of child poverty.

As  the  experts  say, the government will have to change its policy so that all low-income families with children are allowed to access all family assistance – currently  children in severest poverty are denied full access to key family assistance because their caregivers receive a benefit.