No questions asked (no sanctions) welfare

One of just three changes as a result of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group report is contentious – it will remove (next year) a sanction (reduction in sole parent benefit) for mothers who don’t name the father of their child or children:

The Government will scrap the discriminatory sanction that cuts income to women and their children if the name of the child’s father is not declared to the Government.

Removing the section 192 sanction will cost $113.4 million over 4 years and will come into effect on 1 April 2020.

The Green Party has wanted a range of sanctions and requirements for getting benefits removed for some time. It was championed by Metiria Turei as she crashed and burned her political career just before the 2017 election, and her successor as Green co-leader, Marama Davidson, has also promoted much higher benefits with no questions asked.

It doesn’t actually start today, it starts in April 2020.

National imposed the sanctions and oppose their removal. Stuff: Government to scrap benefit sanction for solo mums, among welfare changes

National’s spokeswoman for social development, Louise Upston, said her party disagreed with the bulk of the report, “which would see fewer obligations imposed on beneficiaries and fewer incentives to get back into work”.

“Increasing the abatement threshold for people on benefits means people can keep more of what they earn. This is a welcome incentive to encourage more people into work.

“National believes that New Zealanders should be given a hand up, not a hand out and those who can work, should.”

ACT leader David Seymour…

…said removing sanctions on women who don’t name the father of their child is a complete reversal of position for Labour.

“In 2004, Social Development Minister Steve Maharey said: ‘It is a rort, and I have said time and time again in this Parliament that fathers must front up to their obligations, and we will make sure they do … It is not unreasonable to penalise financially those who do not.’

“This change will mean taxpayers will assume greater responsibility for supporting children, rather than their fathers.

Auckland Action Against Poverty…

…said it was glad to see the Government “finally taking action to stop punishing sole parents and children”.

It urged the Government to also ensure that every woman who had been penalised by the sanction received back pay, however the Minister told media this would not happen.

From the WEAG report:

The current benefit system is based on a one of conditionality and sanctions. We heard overwhelmingly through our consultation that such a system diminishes trust, causes anger and resentment, and contributes to toxic levels of stress. The application of obligations and sanctions in New Zealand (and elsewhere) is problematic.

The empirical literature provides no single, overarching answer to whether obligations and sanctions in welfare systems bring about the desired forms of behavioural change, such as movement into paid work or whether the positive effects of obligations outweigh the negative (Watts & Fitzpatrick, 2018: 111).

Research does indicate that obligations and sanctions can be costly to administer and comply with and have many harmful unintended consequences that compound social harm and disconnectedness (for example, movement in and out of insecure jobs, interspersed with periods of unemployment; disengagement from the social security system; increased poverty; increased crime to survive; worsened ill-health and impairments) (Economic and Social Research Council, 2018; Watts & Fitzpatrick 2018; Butterworth et al, 2006; Kiely & Butterworth, 2013; Davis, 2018). There is even less evidence that non-work-related obligations and associated sanctions achieve the stated aims of intended behavioural modification.

A high number of obligation failures15 are disputed (46%) and almost all (98%) of these disputes are upheld with the failure being overturned.

Require mutuality of expectations and responsibilities

The current obligations and sanctions regime must be immediately reformed into a system of mutual expectations and responsibilities that are applied according to the circumstances of the individual. They must be applied in a way that meets the values of the system, with robust checks and balances to mitigate potential negative impacts on individuals and their families and whānau.

Removing the father naming sanction makes it easier for fathers to avoid responsibility.

The report recommended a range of obligations and sanctions be removed.

  • the requirement to complete specific activities before a benefit is granted (pre-benefit activities)
  • the sanction where benefit payments stop if people have a warrant out for their arrest, and continue data matching with the Ministry of Justice and take a proactive supportive approach to contacting these people
  • social obligations that require people receiving a benefit to take all reasonable steps to have their children enrolled with a medical practice, be up to date with their Wellchild/Tamariki Ora checks and be attending early childhood education or school
  • pre-employment drug testing and provide specialised support for people with substance use disorders
  • the mandatory work ability assessment for people with health conditions or a disability and link workability assessments to return to work plans
  • the requirement to reapply for a benefit every 52 weeks – MSD is expected to provide full and correct entitlements through regular reviews (at least annually)
  • work obligations when an additional child is included in a benefit (the subsequent child rule)
  • the sanction on not naming another parent (was section 70A in the Social Security Act 1964 and is now section 192 of the Social Security Act 2018).

Only the last of those is being being removed by the Government, so most sanctions will remain.

The cost of removing the s192 parent naming sanction is estimated to cost $113.4 million over 4 years, which is $28.35 million annually.

“Around 24,000 children will be significantly better off as a result of this change, with many sole parents’ incomes increasing by an average of $34 a week,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

That’s a lot of children with unnamed fathers.

Doing some calculations the budget suggests about 16,000 solo mothers will have an income (benefit) increase, that’s a lot who don’t name fathers – it’s nearly a quarter of the total of about 60,000 receiving Sole Parent Support  (some of those will be fathers).

Why don’t mothers name fathers?

Some will genuinely not know who the father is, or will be uncertain. And some mothers will have legitimate reasons for having nothing to do with fathers.

In other cases men named as fathers may deny they are the parent.

And there must be some arrangements of silence of convenience, where the mother doesn’t name the father so he doesn’t have to pay maintenance, but under the table support arrangements are made.

$28.35 million annually is not a lot in the whole scheme of social welfare, which has a current  annual budget of $30.6 billion.

This is a small win for the Greens, but when the sanction is removed many children and low income families will be better off, which generally is a good thing.

It may cost a bit more as more solo mothers are likely to choose to not name the fathers, which is likely to reduce the number fathers paying maintenance, but this is likely to be not substantial.

Welfare advisory group – 42 recommendations, 3 to be implemented

The Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG) report has been released containing 42 ‘key recommendations’. The Government has announced that one will start to be implemented soon, and another two next year.

This was initiated by the Green Party Confidence and Supply Agreement with Labour.

Overhaul the welfare system, ensure access to entitlements, remove excessive sanctions and review Working For Families so that everyone has a standard of living and income that enables them to live in dignity and participate in their communities, and lifts children and their families out of poverty.

The Government has announced that three recommendations will be implemented.

  • Removing the section 192 sanction will cost $113.4 million over 4 years and will come into effect on 1 April 2020.
  • Increasing the abatement thresholds of main benefits over the next four years will benefit around 73,000 low income individuals and families and is a total investment of $97.1 million over 4 years and will come into effect on 1 April 2020.
  • $76.3 million will be allocated to fund up to 263 new front line staff over four years to help support more people into work
  • The combined cost of these three pre-budget announcements is $286.8 million over the next 4 years.

That’s about $70 million per year. That’s very frugal (you could say paltry) compared to the NZ First $1 billion per year that was available from last year’s budget.

Carmel Sepuloni (Minister of Social Development):


Supporting people into work and income security – priorities in welfare reforms

The Government is taking immediate action to support people into work and improve income security for New Zealanders on benefits, in response to the release of the Government’s Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG) report today.

The WEAG report, Whakamana Tāngata: Restoring Dignity to Social Security in New Zealand, contains 42 key recommendations that call for a systematic overhaul of New Zealand’s welfare system with a renewed focus on support to help those on benefits into sustainable work, improved income adequacy to ensure families on benefits are not living in poverty and a culture change in MSD to ensure people are treated with respect.

“Our welfare system is not providing the right support for people in need. This is contributing to issues of inequality and hardship which have been long-term problems for New Zealand that this Government is committed to fixing,” Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni said.

“The release of the expert working group report and the three announcements made in response to it, represent good first steps to improving the system, but major change will take years.

“In Budget 2019 we will be allocating funds to employ up to 263 frontline staff over four years to support more people into good work, allowing beneficiaries to keep more of what they earn when they do work by lifting the abatement threshold and eliminating a discriminatory sanction that cruelly singled out 24,000 children raised by sole parents.

“Our plans will result in fewer children growing up in extreme poverty and see more people moving off benefits and into decent long term work.

“The Government can’t deliver on every recommendation at once. We are taking a balanced approach and are committed to delivering change over the longer term and prioritising areas like housing and mental health which impact on all New Zealanders but especially those in the welfare system.

“We have decided not to implement the report’s recommendations to increase benefit levels by up to 47% immediately. As we have said, we will be looking at a staged implementation of the report. There are a range of ways to improve people’s financial wellbeing and reduce the number of people on benefits that live in poverty, in line with our commitment to reduce the overall rates of child poverty in New Zealand, and we will be looking at these over the coming years,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

Green Party Co-Leader Marama Davidson says the report released today creates a vital roadmap for significant change and the new budget initiatives our Government is implementing will provide a solid start on that journey.

“We are committed to an inclusive society where everyone is treated with dignity and respect, and supported to participate fully in the community,” Marama Davidson said.

Minister for Children Tracey Martin says that we need a welfare system that is fair to everyone and that supports child wellbeing.

“We need to ensure all parents and caregivers have the resources and ability to provide the best possible care for their children, Tracey Martin said.

Government announcements

The Government will be repealing Section 192, formerly known as Section 70A, that cut incomes to parents and their children if the name of the other parent was not declared to the Government.

“Around 24,000 children will be significantly better off as a result of this change, with many sole parents’ incomes increasing by an average of $34 a week,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

“This will have a meaningful impact on some of New Zealand’s poorest families and fixes an unfair and discriminatory sanction that penalised children because they didn’t have a named father.

“The Government supports parental freedom, and ensuring sole parents and their children are not pushed into poverty because of a private parenting decision that the Government has no need to be involved in.

“National was briefed in 2016 that there was insufficient evidence to support the discriminatory sanction as it didn’t achieve its initial purpose to get money from the partner that’s not named in the birth certificate.

73,000 individuals and their families will be better off by the Government raising abatement thresholds for those on benefits who work.

“This is about ensuring wage fairness and making sure low income beneficiaries can take home more of what they earn.

“This change is about catching up with the times. Abatement thresholds for Jobseeker Support haven’t changed in over 20 years and many people find they are no better off for working, after travel and childcare costs.

“We are supporting more people into work by funding up to 263 new frontline staff over four years.

“The report shows that proactive employment case management is integral to ensuring that people are upskilled and trained so they are matched to sustainable and meaningful employment” Carmel Sepuloni said.

The full report: http://www.weag.govt.nz/assets/documents/WEAG-report/aed960c3ce/WEAG-Report.pdf

National’s Upston criticised for ‘soft on benefit sanctions’ claim

Kay Brereton from the Beneficiary Advocacy Federation has hit back against National’s Social Development spokesperson  saying “the Government going soft on benefit sanctions, saying it was sad when parties seek to punish people with ‘inadequate incomes’.

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni: ““MSD has made significant shifts in its service delivery over the last year to improve its service culture and ensure that people are getting the support they are entitled to and that they are not unfairly sanctioned”

Louise Upston (National): “The number of people claiming the job seeker benefit has increased by 11,000 because the Government is going soft on benefit sanctions and those who don’t want to work”.

Ensuring people get benefits and assistance they are entitled to has been an issue for some time. There has also been obvious philosophical differences between National and other parties over whether benefits shouldn’t be difficult to get, that they should be more of a choice for those who feel they need assistance. National opposes benefits being a sort of lifestyle choice.

Carmel Sepuloni:  Benefit rates remain low

The total proportion of working age people on a main benefit is 9.9% compared to 9.8% in the December quarter last year.

Rates on main benefit are different from the official unemployment rate, which was last recorded at 3.9 percent, down from 4.7 percent at the same time the previous year.

“The latest benefit figures show that more people who are applying for hardship assistance are getting it. The need has been there for years but under this Government people know where to go when they need support.

“This has seen a rise in the level of hardship assistance being given, particularly food grants and emergency housing grants.

“MSD has made significant shifts in its service delivery over the last year to improve its service culture and ensure that people are getting the support they are entitled to and that they are not unfairly sanctioned, driving them and their families into further poverty.”

Louise Upston (National MP):  Benefits up as Govt makes it easier to do nothing

The number of people claiming the job seeker benefit has increased by 11,000 because the Government is going soft on benefit sanctions and those who don’t want to work, National’s Social Development spokesperson Louise Upston says.

“Over the past year there has been a 42 per cent decline in the number of people who have been sanctioned for failing to meet the basic criteria which goes with receiving taxpayer’s money. That includes simply turning up to appointments.

“Given that unemployment has decreased, it’s inexplicable that the number of people on a jobseeker benefit would increase so rapidly and that the Government would make it easier for people to avoid work.

“The Minister needs to explain why so many more people are lining up for benefit, while at the same time there aren’t enough people to plant Shane Jones’ ‘billion’ trees or to pick fruit from our orchards.

“For the past ten years the total number of people on benefit has been decreasing because the National Government was focused on creating jobs and getting people into work, and making sure people met their obligations.

“Now for the first time in a decade with unemployment at record lows the number of people on benefits has increased rapidly – by more than 9000.

“It’s especially disappointing to see that the number of 18-24 year-olds receiving a benefit has increased by 10 per cent. It’s this age group which needs the most encouraging to get into work to avoid a lifetime of benefit dependency.

“National is aspirational for all New Zealanders. We believe that people deserve a fair go, but not a free ride. Employment is the best way to lift families out of poverty.”

National have a hard line ‘tough but fair’ approach that is quite different to the softer ‘more compassionate’ approach of the current Government.

About 134,000 people are receiving jobseeker support, an 8.3 percent jump from last year.

About 8500 sanctions were applied in the December 2018 quarter, a decrease of more than 6000 compared to the previous year.

1 News: Advocate hits back over National’s call for more benefit sanctions

Kay Brereton from the Beneficiary Advocacy Federation says it is sad when political parties seek to punish a certain percentage of people with inadequate income.

the easing of disciplinary action is being applauded by Kay Brereton from the Beneficiary Advocacy Federation.

Ms Brereton said she knew of people who had been docked for not attending an appointment, because they were at their part-time job.

The increase in people on the jobseeker benefit might be because more people were now being deemed eligible, she said.

She said it was sad political parties thought a certain percentage of those with inadequate income should be punished.

Some see limits to what assistance can be obtained, and inadequate assistance (not enough money), as punishment. Greens have gone as far as advocated for a virtual no questions asked approach to giving out benefits and grants.

National’s ‘firm, fair’ approach is seen by some as unfair and even draconian, but al they can do from Opposition is complain about the easing up on sanctions against people who appear (to some) to choose a benefit over work.

There has to be a balance between providing state care, assistance and money but encouraging people to be responsible for their own financial situations and earning money for themselves. There continues to be a significant difference between National’s tougher approach and the current Government’s more lenient leanings.

Ardern supports closure of Roxburgh vulnerable children facility

A care facility for vulnerable children and a regional town have taken a hit with the announced closure of the Roxburgh care facility for vulnerable children, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern seems to support this.

ODT: ‘Huge blow’ for Roxburgh as Stand confirms closure of children’s village

The closure of the Roxburgh village for vulnerable children has been described as ”desperately sad”.

Yesterday, Stand Children’s Services announced its children’s villages in Roxburgh and Otaki would close.

It would mean the loss of 31 jobs in Roxburgh, about 6% of its population of about 520.

Stand chief executive Dr Fiona Inkpen said the organisation had been topping up the shortfall in government funding from its own funds for many years but reserves were used up and the organisation would need an extra $3million to keep the villages open.

Dr Inkpen confirmed southern children would be unable to attend the only other South Island Stand village, in Christchurch, as the waiting list was long and only Canterbury children could stay there.

Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan said it was a ”desperately sad” day for the children of the lower South Island.

”Even though I anticipated this news coming today, I still feel physically sick reading it. I’ve got to admit that when we got all the way to the top [Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern] last week, and got turned down, I didn’t see how the village could be saved.”

The Prime Minister can’t intervene in every funding decision and every care facility, but she appears to be indifferent to the closure. The issue was raised in Parliament yesterday:

9. Hon ALFRED NGARO (National) to the Minister for Children: Does she stand by her statement in relation to childcare services that “We need to know who the kids are; what places are best going to meet their needs; and then match them”?

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI (Minister for Social Development) on behalf of the Minister for Children: Yes. Those comments were made in relation to care placements. Obviously, the better we can match carers and children, the better the outcomes. What we know is that strong, stable, and loving relationships are key for children. Going forward, we also need to design and purchase services that work best for children and will best meet their needs.

Hon Alfred Ngaro: Does she agree with the Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan and Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan about Stand Children’s Services in Roxburgh meeting the children’s needs and, I quote, that they did “utterly critical work, … no other agencies provided the intensive, residential, wrap-around service[s] the Roxburgh facility provided for children who had experienced … trauma.”?

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: The mayor’s comments that are made in relation to Stand are made almost on the premise that funding has been cut. I need to assure this House that Stand is still receiving $20 million each year to provide intensive wraparound services to children and their families—the same amount of funding that was received under the previous Government. Stand, though, has decided to close two of their villages—

Hon Gerry Brownlee: You’re shutting them down.

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Stand has decided to close two of their villages. These villages have nine intakes per year with a maximum of 21 children per intake. The Minister has directed the chief executive of Oranga Tamariki—Ministry for Children to track the 21 children at any given time that would normally be referred to the village. The chief executive of Oranga Tamariki will ensure that any additional support that is required is made available to these children.

Hon Jacqui Dean: If her Government’s aim is about looking after vulnerable children, what service provider will replace the only facility in the whole of the lower South Island providing intensive, residential treatment for traumatised children and their families to best meet their needs?

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Oranga Tamariki has given assurances that the children will still receive the services they need through the ministry and through a range of other providers, including Stand, Anglican Family Care, Mirror Services, and Presbyterian Support Otago. That network of services is made up of competent, professional providers who are already moving towards more integrated ways of working across the child well-being, health, and education sectors in the region.

Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern: Can the Minister confirm that at any given time in Roxburgh there are roughly 21 children utilising this service and that therefore, by necessity, there are a range of other services available through the country to meet the kinds of needs Stand meets in just seven current facilities?

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: I can absolutely assure the House, on behalf of the Minister, that that is the case. There are other services providing the types of wraparound and therapeutical support that those two villages were providing, as well as there are still seven existing villages, I understand, that continue to operate and provide that therapeutical support.

Ardern seems to have washed her hands of this, feeding her Minister Sepuloni with a patsy question to help her dismiss the concerns of the people of Roxburgh, Central Otago and the lower South Island.

The care facility predecessor, the Roxburgh Health Camp, was opened on 6 November 1941 see Camp part of tradition going back to 1919

 

30% increase in funding for family violence services

One pre-budget announcement, a 30% increase in funding for family violence services, is long overdue.In dollar terms it isn’t a lot, but it is critical that much more is done to reduce both family violence and the effects of family violence.

I think it is one thing that was genuinely neglected by the National led government.

Significant funding boost for family violence services

Social services dealing most directly with the harm caused by family violence will get much needed support as the Government boosts funding to front line agencies for the first time in ten years.

“Nearly half of those receiving the increase are women’s refuges who provide vital support keeping women and children safe,” said Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni.

“The 30 percent increase in funding is critical to the Government’s efforts to begin to turn around New Zealand’s tragic family violence record.

“Additional funding in 2019/20 will enable these critical front line agencies to expand into areas where there isn’t currently any support or start addressing over demand in existing services.

“Family violence has a damaging, yet often hidden, impact on victims’ lives including their ability to work and lead a normal life,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

Through Budget 2018, the Government is allocating an additional $76.157 million over four years to support the delivery of Ministry of Social Development-funded family violence services for victims, perpetrators and their families.

Carmel Sepuloni said, “This funding will provide a boost to around 150 providers of family violence services nationwide.”

This has benefits across portfolios.

 Jan Logie, Under-Secretary to the Minister of Justice on Domestic and Sexual Violence Issues, also welcomed the new funding.

“This funding is an important first step, supporting organisations which do vital work but have been stretched to breaking point,” Jan Logie said.

“As we get started on the broader work of challenging and responding to family and sexual violence, it’s crucial that victims and their families are able to get the support they need now. Because they can’t wait.”

Minister for Children Tracey Martin said Budget 2018 funding would have an impact right across New Zealand.

“The announcement delivers on the Coalition Agreement between Labour and New Zealand First to increase funding in this area,” Tracey Martin said.

Family violence feeds general societal violence, so it is critical it is reduced and dealt with more effectively.

I don’t care whether this funding was promised during the campaign, negotiated when the Government was put together, or has come later. Better funding to address awful amounts of family violence is something that had to happen.

After scrapping data-for-funding plan Government seeks consultation

As soon as the took over the Government Labour scrapped a data-for-funding plan, and they are now consulting on how it should use personal data to improve services.

Is this another case of acting first, consulting later?

RNZ: Govt calls for public’s views on social services

The government will consult with social service providers and the public on how best it can use personal data to improve services, it says.

 

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said 1500 groups had been asked to take part.

“There will be 28 locations where the consultation will take place. Tomorrow the letters go out that will invite people to participate,” she said.

“It will include NGOs, it will include iwi, it will include iwi organisations, it will include service users.”

Consultation is generally a good thing, especially on something contentious like the use of personal data by the Government.

In November the new Labour-led government scrapped National’s controversial data-for-funding plan, calling it dangerous and unnecessary.

The plan would have required social service providers to hand over personal client details in exchange for funding.

I don’t know whether it was as bad as it sounds here – it could have been a form of coercion, but it could also simply have been a requirement to provide what the Government wanted in order to be eligible for funding.

More details here: Govt not trusted with NZer’s personal data – Minister

Many people do not trust the government to safeguard their personal data, Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni says.

Ms Sepuloni said the previous government’s attempt to demand personal information from welfare groups had undermined public confidence.

The data-for-funding model would have forced social agencies like Women’s Refuge to hand over names, birth dates and ethnicity of their vulnerable clients in return for funding.

That does sound questionable, especially with very vulnerable people involved.

Ms Sepuloni scrapped the data-for-funding proposal when she took office, but she said it caused a lot of damage.

“It was a failure and it caused a lot of distrust publicly and so it’s important that we have a discussion with the public, with the [non-governmental organisations] NGOs, with all of those affected on how we use information.”

She said government has a lot of work to do to regain the public’s confidence.

“There is general distrust with respect to how the government uses information and it’s important that we regain that trust … and how we can assure New Zealanders that their private information is protected,” she said.

But data can also be useful to determine the most effective ways of using funds.

Social Service Providers, which is an umbrella organisation of NGOs and community groups, welcomed the consultation announcement. Its national manager, Brenda Pilott, said it was a conversation New Zealanders needed to have.

“I think we need to be very cautious about sharing private information. I think most of the time the things that people are thinking about, such as what programmes are effective, information that you need for planning and for things like funding decisions, I believe most of the time you can get that information from just using anonymous data – you don’t need to know the name of the person.”

National via Paula Bennett has responded: Data working group will do little to help NZers

“Minister Sepuloni today said that the Government will work with the ‘social sector to develop a single shared set of rules and tools for the use and protection of personal information in the social sector’.

“National has already done that – it’s called the Data Futures Partnership, and it delivered a report on the use of data in August 2017. ‘A Path to Social Licence’ made a number of recommendations to help organisations work with data in a way that builds trust with individuals and the community.

“The report reflects what thousands of New Zealanders told us as we engaged with people across the country. Now, the Government wants to ignore that and restart the conversation – presumably because it didn’t tell the Government what it wanted to hear.

“The only explanation for the Government’s decision today to form yet another working group, after years of work on how we use and protect data, is because they fundamentally don’t believe data will make a difference to the delivery of social services.

National have been trying to hammer Labour over their prolific use of work groups and inquiries.

However if social agencies major problems with the data sharing requirements it is more important than political bickering.

There seems to be a clash of government and politics here.

Data is an important aspect of providing effective services and funding, but it can be a tricky balancing act when vulnerable people who are suspicious of the Government are involved.

 

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.

Resistance to inquiry into forced adoptions

The pressure on young women and girls to give up their babies for adoption, effectively forcing them, was awful, albeit in a different social age (our society has changed hugely since the 1960s).

The petitioner Maggie Wilkinson, and Green and Labour MPs are complaining after National voted against an inquiry at a parliamentary committee.

Newstalk ZB: Government accused of shutting down calls for formal inquiry into forced adoption

Waihi woman Maggie Wilkinson, whose just-born child was taken away from her at age 20 fifty years ago, started a petition urging an inquiry into institutional abuses.

Wilkinson says unmarried women at the time weren’t even allowed access to contraception. They were naive, and taken advantage of by the state.

“It was a great opportunity to take our children and give them to married people who had either missed the boat in having a family, because of war, etcetera,” she said. “It was a supply.”

Although Wilkinson’s petition was rejected by the parliamentary committee, she’s refusing to listen to those who say she should just “get over it.”

“I can’t [get over it] because there are women like me who are still alive and there are some women who died without holding their child, without seeing their child,” she said.

It was a horrible thing inflicted on mothers, and on the babies regardless of what there adopted life was like.

Green MP Jan Logie…

…isn’t happy the government MPs who have dismissed the matter out of hand, and is critical of their view that times and practices have changed.

“That is an argument in terms of dismissing it, [and] robs all of us in this country of an opportunity of understanding and giving those women some closure,” Logie said.

Labour MP Carmel Sepuloni…

…believes holding an inquiry is important, and she believes the same mistakes could happen again if citizens don’t reflect on and learn from the past.

“So many women, and broader families as well, were impacted by this, and so they deserve to have their experience recognised.”

In Australia…

…a Senate inquiry was held and then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard made a historic national apology in 2013 to women similarly affected.

The Senate committee report found unwed mothers were pressured, deceived and threatened to give up their babies, so they could be adopted by married couples.

Much like in New Zealand. It was perpetuated by the State but family of the mothers were also complicit, trying to avoid social embarrassment.

Newshub: Tearful calls for forced adoption inquiry rejected

Women who sat in tears sharing their stories of being made to give up their babies through forced adoption have been refused an inquiry into the practice.

Parliament’s social services committee has rejected a petition by Maggie Wilkinson who called for a full investigation into the practice, which saw hundreds of children put up for adoption between the 1950s and 1990s against their mothers’ wishes.

In a report from the committee, tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, the committee acknowledged the “pain and suffering” women like Mrs Wilkinson and their children went through, but a majority found an inquiry wasn’t the best way to deal with the issue.

“Although we do not agree with many adoption practices from the 1950s to the 1980s, we note that these practices reflected the social values and attitudes of the time,” the majority found.

“We cannot undo what has been done before but we can stop the denial and silence and support people to move forward,” Ms Logie’s Green Party minority view says.

In their statement the party hit out at evidence presented to the committee by the Ministry of Vulnerable Children, which did not address the specific questions presented by Mrs Wilkinson and her backers, who also disputed parts of the official evidence.

They’re backing a broad and full inquiry and an apology.

The Labour Party also backs ongoing calls for an investigation.

“We moved a motion at select committee for an inquiry to be carried out; however, unfortunately this was costed down by the Government members of the committee,” the Labour minority view in the report says.

The first calls for an inquiry were to former National MP Trevor Rogers in 1992.

That’s a bit ironic.

The current National Government seems to be averse to inquiries into past injustices. They have also avoided an investigation into mental health abuses.

MPs on the Social Services Committee:

SocialServicesCommittee

 

Labour now oppose treaty settlement

Labour had initially supported a Bill that would release a public reserve in Auckland for housing and would also help settle a Treaty of Waitangi claim. But they are now opposing it, to the disappointment of Auckland.

It makes things awkward for Labour’s Maori MPs – Andrew Little recently claimed “Māori will be better served by a strong Labour Māori voice”.

Phil Twyford on Twitter today:

NZ Herald: Pt England reserve housing development opposed by Labour as ‘land grab’

When Labour supported the enabling legislation at its first reading in December its Tamaki Makaurau MP Peeni Henare said he was “extremely excited” about the opportunity for Ngati Paoa.

And Labour’s Kelston MP Carmel Sepuloni said the party supported the bill because “we will support any piece of legislation that is going to be about building more affordable homes in Auckland”.

“It does not make sense to use prime land for grazing cows when it could be used for affordable housing,” Sepuloni said.

However, in a press release today Twyford said the legislation was a “land grab” that flew in the face of the local community’s wishes.

“The Minister seems to think because some of the land has cows grazing on it, it’s fair game to take it for housing. The community needs this land for future generations. Once it is sold for housing it will be permanently lost to the public.”

Does anyone in Labour communicate?

Labour’s opposition has disappointed Ngati Paoa, who said without the land there would be no Treaty settlement between it and the Crown.

“By opposing the legislation Labour is opposing a Treaty settlement bill – for the first time in the history of the Treaty settlement process,” said Hauauru Rawiri, chief executive of Ngati Paoa Iwi Trust.

“All other iwi in Tamaki Makaurau support this transfer. Opposing the Bill pits the Labour Party against mana whenua of Auckland.”

Rawiri said he urged Labour’s Maori MPs to lobby colleagues on the issue and vote against their party if necessary.

That’s the Labour Maori MPs that Little was talking about in this press release on the Labour Party website:

“If Māori want to see progress on the problems they face in housing, health and education, then they should back their Labour candidate.

“We have a plan to turn the position of Māori around and we’ll be running a campaign to show how Māori will be better served by a strong Labour Māori voice around the Cabinet table.”

Who’s running Labour, Little or Twyford?

Will the Labour Maori MPs back the Auckland Iwi?

Twyford is leading Labour’s election campaign in Auckland. This puts party support at risk in Auckland electorates as well as Maori electorates.

Members’ bills

Three new Members’ bills were drawn today.

Carmel Sepuloni’s Social Security (Pathway to Work) Amendment Bill

This bill removes the disincentives to engage in part-time work by lifting the threshold of how much persons can earn before their benefit is reduced by abatement rates.

Dr Russel Norman’s Climate Change (Divestment from Fossil Fuels) Bill

This Bill will direct public fund managers to divest from companies directly involved in the exploration, mining, and production of fossil fuels

Clare Curran’s Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Amendment Bill

This bill amends the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act 2013, establishing a Technical Advisory Board to which matters must be referred in instances where the Minister will be required to exercise his or her discretion or prescribe an additional area of specified security interest.