The Nation: welfare, social investment and poverty

This morning on The Nation :

What’s the best way to provide for those who need help? and talk welfare, social investment and child poverty.

These are two MPs not generally to the forefront of election campaigning. Tolley is 11th on National’s list, Sepuloni is 8th on Labour’s. Both are electorate MPs.


Tolley talking about what the Government has been doing to improve help for beneficiaries, and what is planned to happen in April next year through their Families Package.

Sepuloni is doing little more than reciting Labour’s election lines, in line with what Ardern and others recite. Some of them quite are quite misleading.

The main points from al of the panel – Lisa Owen, Patrick Gower, Fran O’Sullivan and Sue Bradford – was the vagueness and stark lack of policy on welfare from a quite likely incoming Government led by Labour. Fairly scathing from all of them.

More punitive policy from National

National are rattling off policies that seem more intent on targeting voter demographics and ignoring evidence based approaches to issues.

Yesterday:

National will help more young people become drug free, move off the benefit and get a job to help ensure they reach their potential.

“Most of our young people are doing incredibly well. There are more job opportunities and more support than ever in our country, as a result of our strong economic growth,” Social Development Spokesperson Anne Tolley says.

“But some young people on a benefit need more support. National is committed to helping them into work to ensure they can stand on their own two feet.”

National will invest $72 million over the next four years to support beneficiaries under 25 years of age by:

  • Guaranteeing work experience or training for those who have been on a jobseekers benefit for six months or longer, and financial management training to help them develop financial responsibility
  • Providing rehabilitation services if drug use is identified as a barrier to employment
  • Ensuring all young people under 25 who are on a job seekers benefit receive intensive one-on-one case management to get a job.

“Only 10 per cent of young people who go on a jobseekers benefit stay for more than six months – but for those that do, their average time on benefit is almost 10 years,” Mrs Tolley says. “We want to invest early, and give them one on one support so they can develop the skills they need to move into the workforce.

“We will guarantee them access to work experience or training courses designed specifically to get them ready for work.

“In addition, one in five beneficiaries tell us that drug use is a barrier to them getting a job – so we are increasing the support we give them to kick drug use and get work ready.”

National will also place obligations on those who do not take up the significant opportunities available in New Zealand to start work or training.

A contentious component of this policy:

Job seekers without children who refuse work experience or training or recreational drug rehabilitation will lose 50 per cent of their benefit entitlement after four weeks of not meeting their obligations, with further reductions if that continues. This will also apply to those who continue to fail recreational drug tests, where these are requested by prospective employers.

The lower benefit payments will only be able to be used for essential needs such as rent and food – like we currently do with our Money Management programme for 16 to 19 year olds.

Lower benefits for drug addicts is also likely to result in them committing more crime to feed themselves and their habit.

“This significant extra support we are announcing today will come with obligations and personal responsibilities, so those who won’t take the opportunities available to them will lose all or part of their benefit until they take steps to turn their lives around.

“We know benefit sanctions are an effective tool to help people into work, as 95 per cent of people who receive a formal warning meet their obligations within four weeks.”

Any benefit reductions will be made at the discretion of WINZ staff, to take account of individual circumstances. And once individuals decide to meet their obligations, benefits will be reinstated.

“New Zealanders are creating real opportunities for themselves and for New Zealand, through hard work and a commitment to doing better. National supports those efforts and is focused on helping all New Zealanders get ahead, even our most vulnerable,” Mrs Tolley says.

The Drug Foundation has concerns about the punitive approach to dealing with drug addiction.

RNZ: New sanctions could push young beneficiaries to P

Putting further sanctions on young beneficiaries who use drugs could push them from cannabis to methamphetamine because it’s harder to detect, the Drug Foundation warns.

if an under-25 year old, with no children, refused to do work experience and training, or continued to fail drug tests, their benefit would be halved after four weeks of not meeting obligations.

Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said that risked unintended consequences.

“Drug testing can encourage people to move away from using easy to detect drugs like cannabis, to harder to detect drugs like methamphetamine,” he said.

Mr Bell argued the policy failed to take into account the stages of beating chronic drug dependency.

“Drug dependency is a chronic and relapsing condition, so people might be in recovery, but they might slip – they might fall off the wagon. Is the government going to sanction them for something that seems to be a natural part of the drug recovery process?”

Figures provided to the Drug Foundation by the Ministry of Social Development showed that of the more than 100,000 beneficiaries who failed to meet some sort of obligation in the year to the end of June 2016, just 144 of those failures were to do with drugs.

So it is a relatively small part of the problem.

Benefit advocate Kay Brereton said while the focus on young people was great, it was hard to build their trust when the threat of sanctions loomed large.

“When people’s benefits get sanctioned, they’ve got this choice between ‘do I have somewhere to live or do I eat food’. I think for the young people we’re talking about, they will choose to have food and they will have nowhere to live. They may end up couchsurfing.

“Do you want to hire someone who doesn’t even have stable accommodation – are they going to still be in the same city next week?”

But National social development spokesperson Anne Tolley said sanctions worked.

“Ninety-five percent comply, but then you know it’s a personal choice for people. Very few turn up looking for social housing, but the numbers are very small,” she said.

Addiction is not really a ‘personal choice’. It is more of a medical condition, and punitive penalties are unlikely to address that effectively.

Using beneficiaries and drug addicts to try and attract a few votes seems a silly and cynical approach, but that’s what National has been tending to do more of as they try to hold onto power.

This is disappointing. National are looking increasingly undeserving of being returned to power.

Questions over ‘no surprises’ policy

Audrey Young writes Peters’ case highlights an abuse of the ‘no surprises’ policy

No story with Winston Peters at the centre of it was ever going to be a one-day wonder.

And it just got a whole lot more serious.

There are disturbing and unanswered questions about his superannuation overpayment, whether you think he is the victim of a media beat-up, or are not willing to accept his assurance it was an error without proof.

The Government is now at the centre of the controversy after an admission by Social Development Minister Anne Tolley to the Herald.

She said she was told on August 15 by an official about MSD’s private meeting with Peters and what the subject of the meeting was – well after the meeting, well after he had paid back the money.

She was technically told under the “no surprises” policy, in which the public service chiefs and SOE boards forewarn ministers of issues that could suddenly become news and which will require their response. The “and” is important.

The fact that Tolley is unwilling to discuss the issue any further because it is a private matter is evidence enough that she should not have been told in the first place.

It is an abuse of the no-surprises policy. No minister should have been privy to that sort of information any more than the Health Minister should receive reports on any hip replacement operation Peters might have.

If Tolley had no expectation of receiving such information, she should say so publicly and conclude that the ministry’s decision was a misjudgment.

If she doesn’t, it is safe to assume that she and ministers have created an expectation they should get information like that.

This on it’s own is an important issue.

But, especially with Peters on the warpath, there are possible serious repercussions in the short term.

What Tolley did with the information is not yet clear, nor how far up the chain it went and whether National’s black ops guys are back in business.

But the very fact it was fed to the Beehive will cause suspicion by Peters that National leaked the information to discredit him.

It was obvious that some suspicion would fall on National. So if someone in National is responsible for the leak it would have been very stupid – stupid isn’t uncommon when politics gets dirty.

If National are found to be responsible, or even just widely perceived to have probably been involved, it could be very damaging for their election chances, and for their chances of negotiating a coalition with Winston Peters.

Other possibilities shouldn’t be ruled out. Because it was predictable that National would be implicated they could have been set up here.

I don’t think Winston has has embarrassed himself.

Who would do that? Who has been gunning for National and English for months?

Yesterday morning on Whale Oil Face of the Day:

But what you have here is one of Bill English’s failed hit jobs.  Leaked via Tolley, the NZ Herald has tried to make it stick.

Don’t you love election time?

Oh, and it’s not dirty politics if they don’t use blogs.

That’s an accusation yesterday that it was “leaked via Tolley”. Even if it was someone seems to have leaked that information to Whale Oil. They could just have easily leaked straight to Whale Oil.

And being unable to resist bragging Whale oil has more today: “The Herald can reveal” something Whaleoil published yesterday

It was leaked to “the media” days after it was “leaked to Whaleoil”.   We sat on it for the weekend, but first thing Monday morning, we wrote…

…what I have quoted above.

And as we know about the New Zealand Herald, first they will take the leak and make it a story and then they make the leaker a story.  Two stories for the price of one, especially when the first hit fails.  Winston ends up being the victim here instead of the villain.

God what a bunch of amateurs on the 9th floor.  Especially Eagleson.  You’d think he’d have learned a thing or two back in the day.   It seems not.

Now they are all running for cover and doing Sgt Shultz impressions.  And you know what I always say:  It’s not the original offence, it’s the cover-up that gets you.   

Anne Tolley will have been told she’ll be looked after if things get too bad.   You see, it’s never the likes of Eagleson or English that will go down for this.  Releasing private MSD information on a political opponent is a career ending move.  And Tolley was told to do it.

Whenever John Key phoned he always made sure that I was to know that if Wayne called me that he was for all intents and purposes the same as Key… He would say “When Wayne speaks he speaks for me”.

So now Tolley has been told to hang in there.  She’ll be ok.  Just  look how that worked out for Jason Ede and Todd Barclay.

She has this morning to throw Eagleson under the bus and save her career.   Doubt she will have the smarts to do it.

Bill English is causing a lot of stress inside National.  As I predicted he is effing up the unlosable election and loyalty becomes paper-thin once people feel their own jobs are on the line.

If I knew about this before the Herald did, just think about how unhappy the people around Bill must be.

Of course, I decided to sit on it for a bit.   No point helping Bill out.  He’s too busy working his way into opposition.  Attacking Winston Peters like this has all but assured a Labour/NZ First government.

And I say this without a trace of smugness or satisfaction:  you all didn’t believe me.  You thought it was personal.  I told you Bill English is exactly what you are seeing now.  He was the wrong man for the job.   And I will not vote for National while he is in charge of it.   The man is not capable of being a party leader.

His real problem is that he’s lost the confidence of his team.  I knew days before the Herald knew.  And the Herald was leaked to as well.   These are the hallmarks of a power structure crumbling and falling to dust.

Whale Oil claims it was leaked to them first and they did nothing with it. That seems out of character going by past attention seeking.

They could be right, they could have been informed before anyone else, did nothing about it and waited to let it all turn to custard, then claim bragging rights afterwards.

If so then National deserves to be dumped in disgrace.

But at this stage I would prefer to keep an open mind on who is responsible.

What is most credible?

That National would blatantly abuse privacy in a political hit job knowing the spotlight would be on them, and knowing there was a huge political risk?

Or that Whale Oil would bring down the Government they have openly been trying to undermine and destroy for years – pretty much since National cut Cameron Slater loose after Dirty Politics broke during the last election campaign.

Slater has been noticeably out of the political loop for a long time, but suddenly he claims to know everything that has happened and everyone responsible.

That flashes some warning lights to me. he has a habit of throwing around incriminating and false claims.

There’s certainly dirty politics going on here. What’s not so clear is who is actually responsible.

There is a lot to clear up here. One that could do with clarification – Tolley is MSD. Peters claims that the leak came from IRD.

Turei versus Tolley on benefit fraud

Metiria Turei continues to attract much of the media attention on her stand on benefit fraud.

Stuff:  Greens co-leader Metiria Turei won’t report woman committing benefit fraud

On Tuesday Turei confirmed she had met with a woman while travelling in the South Island last week who told her about a flatmate with a baby “who is doing exactly what I did”.

“She’s trying very hard to be the best Mum she can be but she isn’t telling WINZ about all her flatmates and I won’t condemn her.”

Turei was completely against the idea of dobbing her in to the authorities and said her job now was to “make sure nobody needs to make those choices”.

“I’ve had people come and disclose to me their circumstances and I’ll never abuse that trust.

What I will do is fix the system so they never have to lie again.”

I think that an MP is obliged to keep conversations with constituents confidential. What is different here is Turei choosing to talk about something like this publicly, using constituent confessions to promote her agenda.

But Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said members of parliament had “certain obligations” and while there’s laws people don’t agree with it doesn’t mean people “shouldn’t abide by those laws”.

“My advice to anyone struggling is to go and talk to their case manager, because sometimes there’s stuff that can be done, so that’s the advice I hope Metiria, or any member of parliament, is giving to someone who is really struggling,” she said.

There’s no doubt that Turei means well, but she is on potentially shaky ground if she approves of instances of benefit fraud.

Turei has proposed WINZ operate an “amnesty” for people who have broken the law so they can approach a case manager and not be judged.

An amnesty for any law breaking no matter how serious? Writing off all past instances of fraud? This is tricky territory, especially for an MP.

In Question Time in Parliament today:

9. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Social Development: Does she believe that the Ministry of Social Development has a responsibility to treat unemployed people, sole parents, and people with disabilities with respect and dignity, and ensure every person on a benefit has all the support they are entitled to?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development): I believe that the ministry should treat everyone with respect and dignity, regardless of whether they are on a benefit or not.

Metiria Turei: Does she think that her ministry lives up to this standard, given the hundreds of examples made public this week describing denigrating and obstructive responses by Work and Income deliberately denying people their entitlements?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I have travelled all over New Zealand and have been into Work and Income offices and talked with staff. I have never met anyone yet who is not absolutely passionate about helping people get back on their feet, get into work, and live successful lives.

Metiria Turei: Given that a recent study into grandparents seeking financial support has found that “the service standards published by Work and Income are continually breached, not displayed in offices and are not subject to a complaints procedure, …” will she commit to changing the punitive culture in Work and Income so that it focuses on giving people the help when they need it?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: The benefit that the member is referring to is the unsupported orphans benefit. I think that is the name of it. There are procedures that do take a long time to process—determining whether or not a child is in the full care of a grandparent. I have met with Grandparents Raising Grandchildren on a number of occasions. What I can say to the member is that this issue in particular is being addressed through the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki, which focuses on the needs of the child and, therefore, will enable much better support, I believe, to be wrapped around any people who are taking care of those children and in particular, grandparents.

Sarah Dowie: What recent actions has the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) taken to ensure people do receive the support they are entitled to?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: We have been working our way through a number of issues to ensure that the practice aligns with the legislation and that people do receive their full entitlements. For example, one issue that was identified was a coding error that meant some clients were being paid the accommodation supplement at the wrong rate. When this was discovered, MSD took the appropriate action to reimburse 22,000 current clients at around $14 million and undertook to identify previous clients who may have been underpaid. MSD is absolutely committed to ensuring that people get the support that they are entitled to.

Metiria Turei: When Work and Income tells 85 percent of grandparents who are caring for their grandchildren that they are not entitled to benefits that they should in fact be receiving, will she instruct Work and Income to review every case to ensure every single person on a benefit is receiving their full entitlement?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I am not aware of where that figure comes from. If it comes from a survey that was done recently, then I would question the assertion that that relates to all grandparents. As I have said, there is a process by which Work and Income has to be satisfied that the grandparent now has the full care of and responsibility for the child, and that does cause, from time to time, some lengthy delays. As I say, this has been raised with me on a number of occasions by the organisation representing those grandparents, and we are addressing it as best as we are able to.

Metiria Turei: When so many stories of people being driven into poverty and despair by the broken welfare system have emerged in this last week, will she instruct the MSD to hold an amnesty for every current beneficiary—

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Oh! Now we get to it.

Metiria Turei: —for every current beneficiary, so not me, Minister—so that they can talk to Work and Income about—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Would the member complete her question. It is a very long question.

Metiria Turei:—so that they can talk to Work and Income about their full entitlement without risking investigation or financial punishment?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: First of all, I reject the assumption that the social welfare system that this country so proudly has is broken. In fact, on the contrary, I would say the results—that people are working very hard throughout New Zealand—have shown a record number of people coming off reliance on a benefit and into work. Sixty thousand children in New Zealand now no longer live in houses dependant on a benefit, and I think that is a huge success for this country and a huge success for the people who are now living totally independent lives, able to support themselves and their families.

Metiria Turei: Why will the Minister not hold an amnesty for current beneficiaries when she cannot guarantee that every parent on a benefit has enough money to feed their kids and pay their power bills this winter without having to ask for extra assistance?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I think the member forgets that this Government was the first Government in over 40 years to raise the amount of money paid to beneficiaries—the first Government in 40 years. There is no doubt that it is difficult to manage on a benefit, but that is why the staff at Work and Income work so hard with families to help them into sustainable employment, because the best way out of poverty is to be self-reliant, to be independent, and to be able to be working in New Zealand supporting their own families.

Metiria Turei: How many beneficiaries are currently homeless?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I suggest the member puts that down in a written question.

Metiria Turei: Given the Minister does not know how many current beneficiaries are homeless, how can she agree with the use of financial sanctions to threaten the poorest people in New Zealand with worsened poverty?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Sanctions are only ever applied after several warnings, and are only applied when people do not comply with their obligations. Some of those obligations are very simple—turning up for an appointment. If there is a good reason, the sanction is not applied. It is very easy for people to re-comply, but there has to be some accountability when you are abusing spending taxpayers’ money.

Metiria Turei: Why does the Minister believe that it is OK for the Government to use poverty as a weapon against solo mums and their children, disabled people, and homeless people who have already lost everything?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I completely refute the assertions of that member.

Metiria Turei: How many people on a benefit have committed suicide in the last 5 years?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I do not believe that the MSD has ever collected those sorts of statistics.


Turei is on a roll. She also had this oped published: Children shouldn’t be punished for their parents’ choices

I also revealed that as a single mother and law student in the 1990s, I lied to Work and Income about how many flatmates I had.

Since then, I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of people who’ve revealed on social media, and who’ve told me in person, that my story was theirs too, or their mother’s, or someone else they know. It’s been unexpected, and very powerful.

Section 70A requires single parents to name the father of their child, or risk losing their benefit.

This particular sanction is currently being handed down to 14,000 single parents, almost all of whom are mums. They are having up to $28 per week per child taken off them. The victims of this punitive and nasty law are the more than 17,000 kids who are then being deprived of that money – money that could be spent on food, or school books, or for paying the power bill so they can keep the heater on in their bedroom this winter.

Why anyone believes that children should be punished for their parents’ choices is beyond me. And why is taking money from a mother and her kids the only option if the state wants to track down the father? The Government is essentially holding kids’ welfare to ransom.

I have no doubt that some women, mostly women, are put in very difficult situations. Cutting benefits for non-compliance is tough on some.

But a much higher benefit with a no questions, no responsibility approach is fraught with unintended and predictable consequences.

A comfortable house and a comfortable income for everyone is a great ideal, but if it results in too many people choosing not to work because there’s no need then our society could end up in a serious situation.

Family violence response guides launched

Amy Adams, Minister of Justice and Minister for Courts, and Anne Tolley, Minister for Social Development and Minister for Children, have launched family violence response guides at a Family Violence Summit in Wellington.

“Family Violence is a complex issue in New Zealand with no single solution. We are making it our priority to help reduce the rate of family violence in New Zealand.”
Hon Amy Adams, Minister of Justice

“We want to draw on the expertise of NGOs and the frontline sector to inform our efforts to build a more integrated system and break the cycle of violence.”
Hon Anne Tolley, Minister for Social Development


Family violence response guides launched

New guides to support the family violence sector to provide consistent and effective help to victims and perpetrators are being launched today by Justice Minister Amy Adams and Social Development Minister Anne Tolley at the Family Violence Summit in Wellington.

Over 120 key players in the family violence sector are attending the Summit today to build on conversations to date about how to work together better to tackle New Zealand’s horrific rate of family violence.

“Thousands of New Zealand families are affected by family violence every day and too many of them are not getting all the help they need,” Ms Adams says.

“The current system for dealing with family violence is too fragmented so in addition to the work we’re doing to improve it, including the Family and Whānau Violence Legislation Bill and the Integrated Safety Response pilots, we’ve developed a framework which sets out common understanding of family violence, a clear protocol for assessing risk, and a consistent approach for supporting victims and perpetrators.

“The Risk Assessment and Management Framework aims to ensure that no matter who a victim or perpetrator approaches for help, the risks they face will be consistently identified, assessed and managed.”

Alongside the Risk Assessment and Management Framework, a guide outlining the capabilities needed by those in the family violence sector to successfully support victims, perpetrators and their families is also being launched.

“The family violence workforce is large and complex, involving government agencies, family and sexual violence specialists, NGOs and practitioners. There is a wide range of different practices and understandings, resulting in varying degrees of effectiveness,” says Mrs Tolley.

“The Workforce Capability Framework outlines the skills, knowledge and organisational support the workforce needs in order to provide an integrated, consistent and effective response to victims, perpetrators and their families.

“Both frameworks have been developed with the help of the sector, some of whom are at the Summit today. By working together we stand a much stronger chance of achieving better outcomes for victims and their families.”

Outcomes from the Summit will feed into and inform the work of the Ministerial Group on Family Violence and Sexual Violence. Sector members who could not attend the Summit are invited to give their views via an online survey.

The frameworks can be found here.


See NZ Herald:  Family violence: New holistic approach announced

MSD deputy cops one for the team for data bungle

Murray Edridge, a deputy chief executive in the Ministry of Social Development, has resigned over an embarrassing data bungle, but the Public Service Association (PSA) says that responsibility went wider than that.

Stuff: MSD deputy quits after botch-up with client data security, despite having ‘no direct involvement’

A senior civil servant has quit after a privacy botch-up at the Ministry of Social Development – but a union says others are also responsible for the bungle.

Murray Edridge​, a deputy chief executive at the ministry, will step aside, even though his boss, Brendan Boyle, said Edridge had “no direct involvement” in the client data controversy.

But responsibility went “wider than Mr Edridge and his colleagues”, PSA national secretary Glenn Barclay said.

The Public Service Association (PSA) said Edridge had taken the blame for security and privacy issues arising from client data collection.

Is one person falling on their sword sufficient?

The ministry’s poor handling of issues around the handling of sensitive and personal data in late March and early April triggered an independent inquiry.

Data sharing is a contentious issue and this was an embarrassing stuff up.

Former Deloitte consultant Murray Jack, who led the investigation, made it clear the ministry was asked to implement policy in an unworkable timeframe, and the security issues were a direct consequence of that, Barclay said.

“At a time of major organisational change, putting pressure on agencies to implement complex IT projects is unfair and unwise.

“We are very concerned about the pressure the Government can bring to bear on ministries when their pet policies are at stake.”

Political pressures in election year? Not a good reason to rush things.

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley announced details of the independent review into MSD’s individual client level data system last month.

Client level data included beneficiaries’ demographic information and vital statistics, such as client addresses, details of their dependants and details of MSD programmes clients were enrolled in.

No privacy breach occurred in the IT botch-up, but the review found the IT system gave organisations access to other groups’ folders, with the potential to reveal vulnerable clients’ personal data.

The botch-up infuriated Tolley, being revealed as she promoted policies forcing non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to hand over personalised client data if they wanted Government funding.

Was she poorly advised about reasonable timeframes, or did she push things too hard?

On Tuesday, Boyle said the investigation confirmed the ability of other organisations to see one uploaded folder stemmed from human error, relating to the incorrect granting of access permissions.

Human error is easy with things like that, especially if under time pressure and with inadequate systems and tests to check crucial things like data security.

“While we are satisfied that no breach of privacy occurred, it is concerning that there was the potential for this to occur.”

Very concerning.

8 improvements for Oranga Tamariki

CYF (Child, Youth, Family) have a controversial record. They ceased to exist at the end of March, and have been replaced by the Controversially named Minister for Vulnerable Children, known less cringingly as Oranga Tamariki.

Stacey Kirk suggests there are Eight things the new Oranga Tamariki Ministry for Vulnerable Children must do better than CYF.

It’s carrying the weight of a record number of children placed in CYF care in the past year, and Government expects the ministry to usher in a new era of child care and support.

Here are 8 things it must do better, if it’s to be a success:

1. Children must be heard

A panel of former CYF kids has advised on nearly every facet of setting up the new system. Above all, they told Minister Anne Tolley and a panel of experts leading the overhaul that they only ever wanted to be in a safe, stable and loving home.

That may or may not be with their parents, but a child knows where they feel the most comfortable to thrive and often, it will be with family. Wherever possible, the children’s voice can’t just be heard but listened to.

Not just listened to but given priority to, except in exceptional circumstances.

2. All rates, (but in particular Maori rates), of re-abuse must come down

Rates of re-abuse among Maori children, once they leave the care of Child, Youth and Family, are startling.

It’s a given that abuse and especially re-abuse rates have to come down. It’s not just up to Oranga Tamariki but they will be an essential part of many solutions.

3. Children cannot be passed around 

Ministry research shows that countless numbers of children in state care said they wanted to stay in the same place. They wanted stability.

Taking a child away from their family is traumatic, but in some case the act of moving them back again multiple times can be just as harrowing.

After safety stability is important, but it can be difficult to achieve. There have to be enough stable alternatives to family.

4. Resources must be adequate

This new system will change the emphasis to working with families at the earliest opportunity, to make sure children don’t have to be removed.

For that, resources need to be bolstered and used far more efficiently than they are now.

If significant funding increases aren’t in next month’s budget then it will be an ongoing struggle to make any progress. Investing more money now should save it in the longer term.

5. Information sharing

Information between agencies like social workers and health professionals and police is very contentious, but kids have fallen through some very big cracks due to a lack of information being available to the right people.

6. Cutting down the paperwork

Many cry out for more social workers – they of course, would be helpful. But hiring more social workers is a wasted exercise if they’re still having to spend more than 50 per cent of their time on paperwork.

Tolley says work is being done by the new Oranga Tamariki chief executive Grainne Moss to cut down KPIs – or targets – from more than 200, to 60.

Good paperwork is essential, but too much paperwork takes too much time and there is a risk of information overload that detracts from effective care.

7. Reduce the number of children going into care

Tolley has set a lofty target here herself: “That within a generation of care we’re talking hundreds of children in care, rather than thousands.

The latest figures showed a record high of nearly 5500 children in CYF care at the year to December, 2016. Taking that down to the hundreds within a generation is a target many would be happy to hold the Government to.

That’s a huge improvement – if it can be achieved. It won’t be easy.

8. Support families to help themselves

The biggest measure of success surely has to be a country of families in which CYF does not need to have a presence.

There will always be some who need help. But if this work is a success, within that same generation it shouldn’t be hard to imagine a circuit breaker where New Zealand families thrive together and don’t abuse or neglect their children at all.

Abuse and neglect can’t be eliminated altogether, but it has to be significantly reduced. Massively reduced.

Failure to have state care abuse inquiry: “sticks like a knife in my guts”

The Prime Minister and Government ministers keep refusing to have an inquiry into historical cases of abuse of children while in State care (there are claims that abuses are still occurring).

Paora Crawford Moyle (at E-Tangata) describes what state care was like for her, and how “it sticks like a knife in my guts” whenever she hears a refusal to have an inquiry.

Every time Anne Tolley and Bill English talk about the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, or oppose an inquiry into the historical abuse of children in state care, it sticks like a knife in my guts.

I am Ngāti Porou through my mother, and I’m Weira — Welsh — through my father. After spending 14 years in state care, and 25 years in social work, I consider myself an expert on what it is truly like for a child with Māori whakapapa to grow up separated from all that intrinsically belongs to them.

I was five when I was taken into state care, and 18 when I was finally able to escape it. My mother, miserable and unwell, had left us, for her own survival as well as ours, to escape my father’s violence. She was deemed to have “abandoned her children”, and so my father was awarded legal custody of us.

He then applied to Social Welfare to have us temporarily placed in its care. On my fifth birthday, he took me and my two brothers (my older sister was placed with other caregivers) to a children’s home, and left, promising to be back for us soon. I waited every day for weeks and months after that, but it would be many years before I saw him again.

Over the years, other children came and went, but my siblings and I stayed in those homes. To everyone who came to visit and view the “underprivileged” children, we looked well adjusted and cared for.

But our experience contradicted appearances and we suffered things children are not supposed to: psychological, sexual, and other physical abuse over many years. It still makes me sick to say that.

She goes on to describe how Maori children were subjected to institutionalised racism.

We are survivors, although none of us came through that experience unscathed. Even after I left state care, the trauma followed me. For many years, I tried to fill the emptiness with drugs and alcohol, and toxic relationships.

But, as my brother Tipene said to me: “Our stories have to be told. How would people know what it’s like for a child to go through state-imposed trauma unless we all tell our story?”

There are still thousands of kids in state care who don’t have a voice. And too many of them are Māori. According to the Children’s Commissioner, Māori make up 61 percent of all kids in state care and 71 percent of the total in youth justice residences.

If that isn’t institutional racism, what is?

There may be institutional racism, but there also seems to be a disproportional problem in Maori families – probably a minority of families but far too prevalent.

Problems continue:

Anne Tolley has ignored multiple recommendations to establish strategic partnerships with iwi and Māori organisations. Instead her ministry consults and engages with and privileges organisations like Barnardos and Open Home Foundation.

The refusal of Government to have an inquiry obviously hurts.

Bill English, interviewed on The Hui, denied again the need for an inquiry into the state’s epic abuse of children in care. What this says to survivors is: “It didn’t happen.” Or “You weren’t beaten or raped that badly”.

It sticks like a knife in our collective guts. And while it’s fantastic that Susan Devoy and others are calling for the inquiry, it shouldn’t be forgotten that Māori have been calling out state abuse of our mokopuna for decades. For example, in the landmark Puao-te-Ata-tu report in 1988.

Bill English and Anne Tolley keep referring to April 1 when the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki will kick in and miraculously make children safe. That’s like saying cigarettes are safe because Big Tobacco says it is.

Āe, we absolutely need an inquiry to know the scale of the state’s historical abuse on children. Without it, the cogs in the machine keep churning, trucking and trafficking.

English has changed his mind on a number of issues – like Super, like charging for water. Perhaps he will think again about how to deal with this.

 

Inquiry on state care abuse?

There has been a lot said recently about Anne Tolley’s refusal to consider an inquiry into state care abuse, despite one being recommended by  Judge Carolyn Henwood  after chairing a Confidential Listening and Assistance Service (CLAS) panel on the historic abuses.

Like many others I’m puzzled why Tolley won’t address this via an inquiry.

Deborah Hill-Come writes Memo to Anne Tolley – it’s time to stop talking and start listening

Note to Minister of Social Development Anne Tolley: Try stopping being a politician for a minute, and just listen.

. “If you listen to me …” Tolley kept saying to Kim Hill on Morning Report, but actually Minister sometimes it’s not your place to talk, it’s your place to shut up. You attest the victims don’t want an independent inquiry. However Judge Henwood, who chaired the Confidential Listening and Assistance Service (CLAS) panel that heard from more than 1100 people who were abused in state care, came to a different conclusion.

She recommended an independent inquiry. The government ignored this recommendation, seemingly for reasons to do with fiscal and legal risk. “It’s very disappointing for our participants. I feel offended on their behalf,” Judge Henwood said, bravely. Survivors had nowhere to go and no further support.

One of the most pertinent points:

It is insulting for someone who suffered at the hands of the state to be expected to go to the very same agency which allegedly traumatised them to lay a complaint.

Tolley says the historic claims unit is a separate part of MSD, but it is still an agency within ministry. This is hardly independent.

Child victims of abuse and inadequate state care often grow up unwilling to trust state agencies. Understandably.

Kim Hill: “You are not setting up an independent body and I’m interested to know why not?” Anne Tolley: “Because we are three-quarters of the way through settling those claims. Why would we stop that process?” Answer: Because the 1100 victims who spoke to the CLAS said that is what they want.

If the current process is fundamentally flawed due to not being done through an independent agency then rearranging the current process may be essential if it is serious about repairing as much damage as possible.

Tolley said “Some of the claimants have different sorts of care. In some cases they have received very good care.”

Kim Hill: “You mean when they weren’t being raped or abused, Ms Tolley?”

Tolley: “Part of their care was extremely good.”

Kim Hill: “You want them to focus on the good times?”

That exchange is troubling. If Tolley tries to downplay abuse because  some care of some of the victims was ok then I really wonder whether she is the right person to be in charge of this Ministry and this issue.

Tolley on state care abuse claims

00

There has been a lot of reaction to an RNZ/Kim Hill  interview this morning of Anne Tolley on the handling of claims of abuse of children while in state care.

I haven’t had a chance to listen to it all. here is the initial interview (links to audio):

The Minister for Social Development Anne Tolley says the system has worked for claimants with most of the recommendations of Judge Henwood being implemented. She says the feedback she has had has been positive and there is no need for an independent inquiry. She says the claimants have suffered enough.

Anne Tolley defends government’s handling of abuse claims

RNZ followed up with details in Tolley rules out apology for child abuse in state care

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley will make no universal apology for the abuse of children in state care saying there is no evidence it was systemic.

There would be no independent inquiry either, she told Morning Report’s Kim Hill, arguing it would only retraumatise victims.

A judge who headed a panel hearing from more than 1000 people abused as children in state care is furious at the government’s response.

Judge Carolyn Henwood was the chair of the Confidential Listening and Assistance Service (CLAS) panel that heard from more than 1100 people who were abused in state care between the 1950s and 1980s, predominantly under the Department of Social Welfare.

More than 100,000 children were taken from their families and put into state institutions during that period.

CLAS wound up in June last year. Judge Henwood said survivors had nowhere to go and no further support.

Judge Henwood made seven recommendations, including that an independent inquiry be set up to discover the extent of the abuse, to monitor the Ministry’s care of children and to investigate complaints. She said the government ignored this and other recommendations.

The ministry is handling the complaints, rather than an independent body.

“It’s very disappointing for our participants. I feel offended on their behalf,” Judge Henwood said.

Tolley was questioned about it in Parliament:

Transcript:


Confidential Listening and Assistance Service—Recommendation to Create Independent Body to Resolve Complaints about State Care

12. JAN LOGIE (Green) to the Minister for Social Development: Why will she not implement a crucial recommendation of the confidential listening service that an independent body is needed to resolve historic and current complaints of abuse and neglect in State care?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development): The Ministry of Social Development’s historic claims resolution team is impartial and operates independently of Child, Youth and Family. It is important to note that the Ministry of Social Development did not exist in the 1950s and 1960s, when most of this abuse occurred. The recommendations from the final report of the Confidential Listening and Assistance Service have informed the work on the overhaul of Child, Youth and Family, and this Cabinet has agreed that the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki will consider an independent complaints service that will ensure robust monitoring and accountability. But I do note that we have made good progress in resolving these historic claims. Last year I introduced a fast-track process that gives claimants an option to have their claims resolved faster while still receiving an apology and, if they want, a financial settlement. Around 900 payments have been made to date, totalling more than $17 million.

Jan Logie: Will the Minister admit it is possible that some people who were abused in State care may not trust the State to properly investigate their claims of abuse?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: That is always possible. However, the Confidential Listening and Assistance Service, which was set up under the previous Labour Government and was in place for 7 years, heard from 1,100 people who came forward with their stories and not only had the opportunity to tell their stories and have them taken seriously but received various types of assistance. It is interesting that only half of those went on to make a claim, which indicates that the member is right—some people do not want to go further with the claims process.

Jan Logie: Will the Minister admit it is possible that some people who were told they could have an apology only if they gave up any legal claim against the State might feel that the process did not have their best interests at heart?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: That is a hypothetical question. What I do know is that in the claims process, which, as I said, has paid out compensation and given an apology both from the chief executive and, in any case where it is requested, from me as Minister, we do everything we can to ensure that, and the fast-track process means it is only fact-checked. There is no investigation. We only make sure that the person was in the place that they said, at the time that they said—we make that process as simple as possible. I have heard from complainants that what they want is recognition that they were abused—which we all find appalling—and they want the State to take responsibility for that, and they want an apology. In some cases, they want some form of financial compensation. But we all know in this House that no money can ever, ever make up for the abuse and the trauma that those people have suffered.

Jan Logie: Why does she think Judge Henwood said there is not a shred of empathy or remorse in the Minister’s response to this report? [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: There is a constitutional process whereby the judiciary respects this Parliament and Parliament respects the judiciary. I am not going to step over that.

Jan Logie: Considering the Minister’s apparent lack of empathy or remorse, how can we trust her to truly keep the best interests of children at the heart of the Child, Youth and Family reforms?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I have always been of the opinion that you judge a person by their actions, not their words. I think the legislation that I have brought to this House, and will bring to this House, will show that I am determined that the new system will keep children at the heart of it and that their voices will be heard. It is disappointing that the Green Party and the Labour Party do not support children having the right to have a say about their futures in the legislation that is before the House at the moment.