‘Solo mum sanction’ solution?

The Government are trying to solve a tricky problem, the ‘solo mum sanction’. The current way of trying to force solo mothers to name the father to avoid financial penalty is far from ideal, but the proposed solution may have problems too.

RNZ: Ending solo mum sanction could cost govt $25m a year

Scrapping a sanction against some solo mums will cost more than $100 million over four years and could result in fewer parents paying child support, ministry officials say.

Single parents who refuse to identify the other parent have $22 deducted from their benefit every week per child. After 13 weeks, another $6 per family is docked.

The policy was introduced in 1990 to ensure fathers paid child support.

The Labour-led government last year confirmed it would repeal the penalty, saying there was no evidence it worked.

A Ministry of Social Development report – obtained under the Official Information Act – said the government would pay out at least $25 million more a year as a result of ditching the sanction.

Officials said they could not predict how people might respond, but warned the cost could balloon, “potentially considerably”, if people were then incentivised to rip off the system.

For example, mothers might choose not to name the father so he could avoid paying child support to the Crown and could instead pay her privately under the table.

Acting Minister of Social Development Peeni Henare said there was no evidence to suggest that might happen.

Has anyone tried to find out if there is any evidence? Has the Ministry of Social Development got any evidence that there won’t be negative consequences or that costs won’t balloon?

Absence of evidence is not a good basis for policy change.

Fathers who don’t take financial or other responsibility for their children is possibly a significant social issue in New Zealand – I say ‘possibly’ because I don’t have evidence that it is.

Henare:

“This was a punitive measure… one that has actually proven to have no merit.”

Where is the proof it had no merit? Did it not encourage any fathers at all to be more involved in the support of their children?

He said the current penalty unfairly punished thousands of children in low-income families.

Is it unfair on children to allow their fathers to have nothing to do with their support? Is it unfair on tax payers to allow solo mothers to exclude fathers from the lives of their children?

It is certainly tough on a mother who wants to keep an arsehole father away from her family, but should the State just pick up the tab, no questions asked?

The current sanction system is far from ideal, but is there any evidence the proposed alternative will be better for children?

MSD, DIA say no Super leak from them

Following an Inland Revenue investigation that found no evidence of a leak of Winston Peter’s super over payment – see  Inland Revenue “could not have been the source” of Super leak – both the Ministry of Social Development and the Department of Internal Affairs also found no evidence of a leak from their departments.

Ministry of Social Development releases investigation finding:

MSD on Winston Peters super leak investigation

Following information regarding Mr Winston Peter’s Superannuation payments entering the public arena, the Ministry launched an investigation to assess whether there was any indication that a Ministry employee may have been the source of the information.

That process is now complete, and we can confirm that all staff that had access to the relevant information had a reasonable business purpose for accessing it, and there is no evidence that this information was passed to a third party.

The Ministry holds a great deal of very personal information about people and their families that New Zealanders trust us to safeguard.

Both data searches and staff interviews were employed in this investigation.
If further information relating to this matter comes to light, MSD will make further investigations as necessary.

 

DIA statement: Privacy investigation complete

Department of Internal Affairs investigation into Peters leak

We investigated whether any Ministerial Services staff received or passed on information regarding the Rt. Hon. Winston Peters’ superannuation matter.

The investigation process included a search of digital records and a series of interviews with Ministerial Services staff. It found that five Ministerial Services employees had received the information before it was reported by media.

There was no evidence that the information was provided to media or third parties by these staff members.

The Department takes privacy seriously, and upholding the confidentiality of information forms part of the Code of Conduct all employees sign.

If further information comes to light, the Department will undertake further inquiries as necessary.

Peters claims he was alerted to the leak before it happened by a ‘very senior National Party person’ but no details or names have been given.

Details and timeline at RNZ: Third probe fails to find leaker of Peters’ super info

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.

Benefit dependency high but reducing

A Stuff article Future welfare bill ‘cut by $7.5b focusses on reductions in spending but it includes some sobering statistics on inter-generational welfare dependency.

Among some of the most startling statistics, are figures which show the effect of inter-generational welfare dependence.

New methods of data collection have allowed the ministry to track trends of young beneficiary recipients whose parents have also collected welfare.

The limited history of the data means only welfare recipients up to the age of 25 could be tracked.

Notable statistics:

  • 75% of the liability is attributable to clients that first entered benefits under the age of 20.
  • 74% of all beneficiaries up to the age of 25 had a parent on the benefit while they were a child
  • 35% had a parent on benefit throughout their teenage years
  • 88% of Youth Benefit clients came from families where one or more parent was also on a benefit
  • More than half of those had an “intensive beneficiary” as a parent – one who was on a benefit for more than 80 per cent of the time their child was aged 13-18
  • a client whose parent was intensively in the system during ages 13-18 was then 48% more likely to remain on JS-WR (job seeker – work ready) after a year compared to those clients matched to a non-beneficiary parent. Their exits were also less sustainable; on leaving the system, they were 11% more likely to be back on benefits within two years.

However these figures are dropping, with Jobseekers down by 8% overall since new initiatives were implemented in 2012 (and the economy improved).

Reforms have helped slash the forecast cost of New Zealand’s total welfare bill by $7.5 billion within the past year, a report says.

The estimated liability of the welfare system is now $69b, down from $76.5b in 2013, according to the latest valuation of the future costs faced by the Ministry of Social Development.

Based on New Zealand’s current situation – which includes rates of employment, inflation and trends of decreasing welfare dependence – that is forecast to drop a further $5.3b by 2019, according to independent consultants Taylor Fry.

From the Key Findings:

Welfare Reforms and Future Focus Impacts included in the Valuation

  • Impact from Welfare Reform changes that occurred from July 2013 onwards, including:
    – Simplification of the benefit structure in July 2013
  • Continuing Impact from Welfare Reform changes that occurred from July/August 2012 onwards, including:
    – implementation of the Youth Service in August 2012
    – introduction of Job Streams in July 2012
    – Bill 1 changes to work expectations for sole parents, partners of main beneficiaries, widows, and women alone effective October 2012
    – A new service delivery model, with the level of case management tailored to clients’ likelihood of long-term benefit receipt
  • Continuing impact from Future Focus changes from September 2010 onwards:
    – a new requirement for Unemployment Benefit (UB) recipients to reapply for the benefit and complete a comprehensive work assessment interview every 52 weeks;
    – introduction of part-time work obligations for parents with youngest child 6 or older
    – new budgeting obligations for clients who repeatedly apply for hardship assistance
  • Additional Future Focus changes from May 2011 to:
    – require Sickness Benefit (SB) recipients to attend a reassessment interview with a case manager after 52 weeks
    – require new SB recipients to undergo additional medical assessment after 8 weeks

Stuff reports that about 30% of the reduction is due to Government/Ministry initiatives:

Of the $7.5 billion reduction, $2.2 billion was directly attributed to reforms within the ministry – both legislative and policy changes, as well as operational changes.

The rest was down to factors outside the ministry’s control, which included the falling rate of unemployment that accounted for a further $2.2b drop. It was forecast that more people would come off benefits and there would be less people applying for them.

MSD – can it get worse?

Admissions that the MSD data vulnerabilities may have been unaddressed for eighteen months.

MSD boss admits warnings might have been ignored

Ministry of Social Development CEO Brendan Boyle has admitted his agency might have ignored warnings from Dimension Data – the company that tested security on its WINZ kiosks.

“We received a report from Dimension Data in April 2011, which identified flaws in our system,” Mr Boyle said in a statement this morning.

At a press briefing yesterday afternoon, Mr Boyle said KPMG and Dimension Data consulted on security to the MSD. Dimension Data had carried out penetration testing on the kiosks and found no issues.

“Since yesterday afternoon I have received further information that means I am not confident that we took the right actions in response to Dimension Data’s recommendations on security. I will look to the review to provide me with the answers.

“We will be asking Deloitte to determine what we did to follow up this report’s recommendations and whether our response was adequate.”

He added, ““I can confirm that KPMG was not engaged to penetration test our public kiosks. They have, however, been engaged in doing testing on other parts of our system.”

http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/msd-boss-admits-warnings-might-have-been-ignored-ck-130774

This is looking like incompetence followed by ineptness.