KickStart Breakfast programme report inconclusive

Lindsay Mitchell points out that there is a lot of uncertainty in a report on the KickStart Breakfast programme in Lots of ‘ifs’ and ‘maybes’

The report: KickStart Breakfasts and Indicators of Child Health in Linked Administrative Data

The existing evidence base

International evidence is that eating a healthy breakfast can lead to improvements in academic performance, appears to improve overall diet quality, and may protect against weight gain.

Existing New Zealand evidence establishes that school breakfast programmes reduce student hunger. Small New Zealand studies suggest provision of milk in schools increases the proportion of children meeting recommended guidelines for dairy intake and improves bone health.

Results from international and New Zealand studies assessing whether school feeding programmes have positive impacts on other student outcomes are mixed, but generally positive.

Evidence from research on dairy consumption and child health suggest that school food programmes that boost dairy intake could have positive effects on a range of measures of child health, with the potential to improve oral and bone health in particular.

What this study adds

This study was commissioned to provide a quantitative assessment of the impact of the KickStart programme on students’ outcomes. The Statistics New Zealand Integrated Data Infrastructure was used in this study.

Informed by the existing evidence base, and by the data available, we focussed on measures of students’ oral and bone health.

We found that after controlling for a range of other factors, students aged under 13 enrolled in schools and kura with higher uptake of KickStart – measured in terms of the average number of breakfasts served per student, per week across three school years – were significantly less likely than their peers to have hospital outpatient visits for dental
surgery.

Etc.

But there is a lot of uncertainty. Mitchell points out some ifs and maybes.

“We see no evidence of a significant association between KickStart intensity and the two administrative indicators of fracture. One possible explanation is that KickStart intensity had no association with bone health. Another is that students who received more KickStart were more active as a result of increased energy intake. Falls may have increased at the same time as the likelihood of fracture upon falling was reduced as a result of improvements in bone health.”.

-KickStart may have improved the nutritional quality of the breakfasts consumed by students. This mechanism is suggested by a study by Bhattacharya et al. (2006) which examined the United States School Breakfast Program.

-The effect of the breakfasts may have been to displace consumption of unhealthy snack foods, including sugary food and drinks, as suggested by the cross-sectional study conducted by Utter and colleagues (2007).

– Reduced pressure on home budgets as a result of KickStart may have allowed families and whānau to purchase higher quality foods to eat at other times of the day and week. Such spillover effects are suggested by the Bhattacharya et al. (2006) study, which found that both adults and preschool children had healthier diets and lower percentages of calories from fat when the School Breakfast Program was available to school-aged children in the household.

If Kickstart caused improvements in diet and caused sugary food and drinks to be displaced, this would suggest that benefits might also include reduced obesity and improvements in learning, health and development (Thornley et al., 2017a), including reductions in rheumatic fever (Thornley et al., 2017b).

There are more uncertainties:

We are unable to draw conclusions about the degree to which reduced outpatient visits for dental surgery were caused by KickStart alone.

…there are plausible mechanisms that could link KickStart and reduced hospital outpatient visits for dental surgery

The limited information available through existing linked de-identified administrative data meant that we were unable to examine some of these wider potential benefits.

No clear association was found between increased exposure to KickStart and administratively sourced measures indicative of bone fractures in students aged under 13.

And that’s before getting to the Introduction. Jumping to…

Conclusion

Schools and kura are overwhelmingly positive about the KickStart programme and report positive effects on students’ health and wellbeing and engagement with school. Our analysis of linked administrative data shows that after controlling for a range of confounders, students enrolled in schools and kura with higher uptake of KickStart – measured in terms of the average number of breakfasts served per student per week across three school years – are significantly less likely than their peers to have hospital outpatient visits for dental surgery.

While plausible causal mechanisms exist, we are unable to draw conclusions about the degree to which this association reflects the causal impact of KickStart.

A report that is unable to draw conclusions seems of limited use.

More confusion between Treasury and Inland Revenue

In his Breach of Privilege complaint to be laid against PM Grant Robertson has claimed Key has misled Parliament, saying “Inland Revenue told John Key” and “Inland Revenue actually said” – but there’s no evidence of what Inland Revenue told Key despite confusion connections being made by Robertson and The Standard.

Robertson’s press release linked to a Treasury report:

RobertsonBreachofPrivilege

As I show in Breach of privilege complaint against Key this doesn’t show any specific Inland Revenue statement, it just says that Treasury consulted with IRD for their report.

However Greg Presland at The Standard quotes in Another #Keyfib about Kiwisaver:

Yesterday’s Treasury dump of papers included the advice from the IRD to the Government about Kiwisaver.  The IRD paper included this advice on the likely effects to Kiwisaver providers:

Lower numbers of KiwiSaver members (particularly among the self-employed and children) and therefore lower revenues from fees and/or a greater number of dormant accounts (if affected individuals stop contributing)”.

Can anyone reconcile these statements?  I have tried to but I cannot stretch the language sufficiently.

That’s word for word the same as from the Treasury statement, but Presland links to an Inland Revenue publication. That’s a virtual replication of the Treasury Impact Statement but can give the impression it’s a statement from IRD.

I say “virtual replication” but it’s not identical. I haven’t checked right through but the first paragraphs differ:

Treasury version:

1. This regulatory impact statement has been prepared by the Treasury in close consultation with Inland Revenue.

IRD version:

1. This regulatory impact statement has been prepared by the Treasury in consultation with Inland Revenue.

But regardless of how close the consultation was there is no clear statement directly from Inland Revenue.

Roberston has claimed:

“Budget documents released yesterday show the Inland Revenue told John Key the exact opposite of what he told Parliament.“Inland Revenue actually said the impact of scrapping the kickstart on KiwiSaver providers would be a ‘lower numbers of KiwiSaver members (particularly among the self-employed and children)’.

The Treasury statement does not show what Inland Revenue told Key, nor does it show that they actually said anything at all to him.

Breach of privilege complaint against Key

Grant Robertson has made a formal breach of privilege complaint against John Key for allegedly misleading the house a week after the budget in May.

It appears that both Robertson and Key may have made mistakes.

Breach of Privilege complaint to be laid against PM

The Labour Party will today lodge a breach of privilege complaint against the Prime Minister for misleading Parliament over advice he received about scrapping the KiwiSaver kickstart.

Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson says John Key misled the House on May 26 during the following  exchange:

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Mr Speaker took the Chair at 2 p.m.

Prayers.

Questions to Ministers

Prime Minister—Statements

1. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by all his statements?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.

Metiria Turei : Does he stand by his reported statement that no one had been disadvantaged by the move to scrap the $1,000 KiwiSaver kick-start payment?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The member might want to table the source for that because I cannot recall it.

Metiria Turei : Has the Prime Minister seen that New Zealand ranks 22nd out of 24 countries in the OECD for savings, and will his removal of the $1,000 KiwiSaver kick-start contribution make this poor savings record better or worse?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Firstly, savings records have improved under this Government. Secondly, there are multiple ways of measuring those things. And, thirdly, the removal of the $1,000 kick-start contribution will not make a blind bit of difference to the number of people who join KiwiSaver.

Metiria Turei : What evidence does the Prime Minister have that the sign-up rates for KiwiSaver will not be affected?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : That is the formal advice from the Inland Revenue Department, and it is supported by the view that the people who are joining KiwiSaver are essentially doing so because it is now well organised within the workplace. Some of the big scheme providers are extremely well organised. We have got about 15,000 to 20,000 people joining in a month. I would be very, very surprised if it changes at all as a result of this.

“Budget documents released yesterday show the Inland Revenue told John Key the exact opposite of what he told Parliament.“Inland Revenue actually said the impact of scrapping the kickstart on KiwiSaver providers would be a ‘lower numbers of KiwiSaver members (particularly among the self-employed and children)’.

“Instead of reflecting this advice, the Prime Minister simply made a blanket statement claiming the IRD backed his position.

“The Prime Minister has a fundamental requirement to tell the truth to Parliament. Blatantly misrepresenting advice he receives brings the integrity of Parliament into question.

“John Key must lead by example by having the highest standards of integrity. If he can’t be trusted to be truthful in Parliament, how can the public have confidence in any of his statements or those of his ministers?”

The Regulatory Impact Statement was “prepared by the Treasury in close consultation with Inland Revenue”.

KiwisaverRegulatoryImpactStatement

The section on impacts:

KiwisaverRegulatoryImpacts

(44. a.) is what Robertson is referring to. He claims: “Inland Revenue actually said the impact of scrapping the kickstart on KiwiSaver providers would be a ‘lower numbers of KiwiSaver members (particularly among the self-employed and children)’.

I can’t see anything that shows what “Inland Revenue actually said”, just that the statement was prepared “in close consultation” with Inland Revenue.

The Regulatory Impact Statement was signed by James Beard (Manager, Financial markets) from The Treasury.

It looks to me that Key could legitimately respond that this doesn’t prove Robertson’s claim against him.

Key claimed “That is the formal advice from the Inland Revenue Department” – Robertson doesn’t appear to have proved that wrong.

I would be surprised if Inland Revenue formally advised Key that “the sign-up rates for KiwiSaver will not be affected”.

I think both Robertson (now) and Key (in Parliament) have made loose claims.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Key ‘clarify’ by saying that he meant that the sign up rate of the ‘target population’ wouldn’t be affected – that’s employees who are automatically enrolled and who have to de-enrol if they don’t want to be in KiwiSaver.

The self employed and children seen as ‘leakage’ enrolments outside the ‘target population’.

Overall Treasury

They recommended removing the Kickstart to achieve “significant fiscal savings” from a “costly and poorly targeted savings scheme”…

KiwisaverRegulatoryExecSummary

…but also said it would “marginally (at best)” improve the target effectiveness:

KiwisaverRegulatoryTargeteffectiveness

See the related post More confusion between Treasury and Inland Revenue.