Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Auckland: A city divided by income

By Simon Collins

A man sleeps outs the shops on Queen Street. Photo / Brett Phibbs

A man sleeps outs the shops on Queen Street. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Auckland has changed from an equal city to an unequal one in less than a generation with the income gap between rich and poor widening dramatically over the past 25 years.

Whereas most people's incomes were bunched tightly around the average in 1986, the spread has become increasingly vast, according to data prepared for the Herald by Statistics New Zealand.

Not only is the gap steadily increasing, but so too is the number of people who do not have enough money to eat.

The super-rich - such as the Chrisco hamper company owners who
rented their $30 million Coatesville mansion to Kim Dotcom - have built sprawling homes on a scale the city had never dreamed of in the 1980s.

At the other extreme, food charity was unheard of in New Zealand, outside a tiny minority served by inner-city soup kitchens, until welfare benefits were cut in 1991.

But hunger in a land of plenty has become a blot on our national day along with the associated family violence that former Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright once labelled "our dark secret".

Nationally, Work and Income gave out 144,000 food grants in the first full year they were recorded, 1992-93, but last year this had increased to 554,000, including 150,000 in Auckland.

Just over 20,000 Auckland families and individuals queued for food parcels from the Auckland City Mission and the Salvation Army.

Even for families who are not considered poor, parents are having to do without to make sure their children are fed and clothed.

Auckland couple Craig and Carla Bradley often have only $150 a week left for food. "We have gone two days without food just so the kids can eat. That's when I was pregnant, too," says Mrs Bradley, 29.

The couple buy meat and fresh vegetables sparingly. "We use noodles for the kids or eggs on toast. We might have rice risotto or macaroni cheese, things like that," Mrs Bradley says.

A graph prepared for the Herald by Statistics New Zealand shows how the gap between rich and poor has stretched out.

A generation ago, in 1986, median incomes in the vast majority of the region's 300-odd census area units - specific geographical suburbs and areas - were bunched tightly around the average.

Just over half (52 per cent) of the area units had median incomes within 10 per cent of the regional median of $23,100 (after adjusting for inflation to 2006 dollars), and 93 per cent had median incomes within 30 per cent of that figure.

By the last Census in 2006, that bunching had completely disappeared. By then, only 26 per cent of area units had median incomes within 10 per cent of the regional median of $26,800, and only 78 per cent were within 30 per cent.

In 1986, the richest area unit, the then newly developed Lucken Point at the western end of the Waitemata Harbour, had a median income of $33,570, or less than one and a half times the overall median.

By 2006, the number of area units with median incomes over 30 per cent above the regional median had trebled from 16 to 46, and the $48,800 median in the richest area, now St Marys Bay, was almost double the regional median.

These figures are based on the personal incomes of all adults aged 15 and over, so they understate the total gap between a family with two fulltime earners in St Marys Bay and a family where there may be no fulltime earners in Otara West - where the median personal income in 2006 was just $14,700.

Income gaps on this scale have both human and economic consequences.

In human terms, the Herald will reveal - in a six-part series starting today - that childhood skin infections and other infectious diseases associated with poverty and overcrowding more than doubled in the decade after the benefit cuts in the 1990s. They levelled off in the first decade of this century, and are now rising again.

And economically, many economists now see reducing inequality as a prime economic goal - both to harness our full human potential and to dampen boom/bust cycles caused by excessive lending by people who have more than they need to people who need the loans but can't afford them.

A survey for last month's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, rated "severe income disparity" as the biggest risk facing the world in the next decade.

In Auckland, the formation of a single "Super City" council 15 months ago has mandated the city's leaders for the first time to adopt a unified "spatial plan" covering social as well as economic development.

The first draft Auckland Plan, due to be finalised by the council next month, proposes a vision of "a strong and equitable society". Mayor Len Brown says the plan will aim for "equality of opportunity".

"I'm setting a platform in place so that everyone feels included in the city. That in this city, no matter where they are living, they have the very best opportunities for getting an excellent education, then opportunities for jobs, and then opportunities for raising their families and living a great life."

By Simon Collins


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Mothers with Babies Forced to Work? This Must Stop!

The NACT are planning extremely draconian changes to our welfare provisions. We must fight them now to stop them becoming law! If this law is passed, everyone except the extremely sick and disabled (defined by WINZ staff NOT doctors!) will be " job seekers" having to be available for work.

A mother with a one year old child can be forced into FULL TIME WORK!!!!

From the Government's "Fact Sheet"

"For example, a beneficiary with a seven year old, who has another child, will return to a part-time work expectation when their newborn turns one.

A sole parent of a fourteen year old who has another child will return to a full-time work expectation after one year." (ie with a one year old BABY!!!)

Why does a second baby need less attention than a first born? This is discrimination against innocent children! Of course every baby needs the same attention! At the same time the Government hypocritically puts forward a Green Paper which is says is to help stop domestic violence, when really it is about increasing surveillance and punishment of the poor. What is more violent than forcing a single mother of two or more children, including a baby of only twelve months old, into full time work?
Our children are our taonga. But the Government doesn't care! Who is going to be work and pay taxes for our care when we are old? The Government should put all the resources at its disposal into ensuring optimum care for our young. Research has shown over and over again that attachment or bonding between mother and child is essential for its future mental and physical health, social adjustment, and work prospects. But this government is hell bent on destroying this bond. So it can create desperate unhappy kids who end up furnishing our privately run prisons with slave labour!

If the Government was truly investing in our future-as it claims- it would ensure that all parents and their children are housed, fed and clothed, with full access to health and education; and with the human right for each family to determine how long a parent needs to stay at home with her children. It would provide full living benefits now, and equal pay for women and youth in the workplace. It would recognise that mothering is work , children are our taonga; and that no mother of a one year old should be forced apart from a baby who needs her. To support working mothers, it would provide on site free 24 hour quality childcare with professional staff and appropriate adult to child ratios , breast feeding breaks with on site breast feeding rooms, quality community housing; and cheap nutritious canteens where good quality food is easily available.

Here's what they are saying-with our comments in italics

Welfare Reform Factsheet and Q & A

Three new benefit types will replace the current range of benefit types.
1.Job Seeker Support; 2. Sole Parent Support; 3. Supported Living Payment.

1. Jobseeker Support
This benefit has a clear work expectation for all beneficiaries of it, though some will have
temporary exemptions based on individual circumstances. The majority of Jobseekers
will be capable of taking work as it becomes available.
Jobseeker Support also includes those who are temporarily sick or injured and those parents with children aged 14 or over.
(Nice work NACTS! Forcing mothers, the sick and disabled into non -existent work!)
People too ill to work will be exempt from work
expectations until they are well enough to work in some capacity.

2.Sole Parent Support
This includes all those on the DPB and Widow’s Benefits with children under 14.
Those receiving Sole Parent Support will be expected to look for part-time work when
their child is five years old and full-time when their child reaches the age of 14.
Those who have an additional child while on benefit will be exempted from work
expectations for 12 months, in line with parental leave provisions. Work obligations will
then revert to the age of the youngest child when the parent went on benefit.
For example, a beneficiary with a seven year old, who has another child, will return to a
part-time work expectation when their newborn turns one. A sole parent of a fourteen
year old who has another child will return to a full-time work expectation after one year.

3. Supported Living Payment
The Supported Living Payment will include people currently on Invalid’s Benefit who are
permanently and severely disabled, severely mentally ill, or terminally ill.
The new payment will also include carers of people needing hospital-level care, who are
currently receiving DPB – care of sick and infirm.
An expert Health and Disability panel will advise the government on ways to improve
assessments and services for people with ill health or who are disabled.

(ie our own doctors will no longer decide whether we are fit for work, the WINZ "advisers" (mostly nurses or unqualified people) will do this. Following this advice, , WINZ has already drastically reduced those on invalids benefits, and beneficiaries have lost $50 per week. )

Q and A
How does the new and old system of benefits compare?
Current benefit categories
New benefit categories
What will this cost, what will it save and what will it reduce welfare by?
These changes are expected to result in up to 46,000 fewer people on benefits and an
extra 7,000 to11,000 beneficiaries working part-time. On top of that the Pre-Election
Economic and Fiscal Update also forecasts around 20,000 fewer beneficiaries by June
2016 as the economy grows. We also expect to see fewer people coming onto benefits
as the incentives and obligations change. The reforms will cost $130 million a year, with
an expected saving of $1 billion over four years. (This is the real aim-to save the government money during an emergency, at our expenese, with no long term plan in sight.)
When will these changes come into effect?
Legislation will be introduced in early 2012; changes will be phased in from July 2012
and all changes will be implemented by 2013.
Are benefit rates being cut?
No, main benefit rates will not be reduced, and will continue to increase each year with
inflation. (In fact, people forced off the invalids benefit have lost $50 per week. People sanctioned will live on nothing. Many people will give up all together, saving the government money.)
In fact we are putting more resources into overcoming barriers to work. (Not to support Real Needs.) Support will be invested early to reduce the financial and social costs (to the government and the rich ) of welfare dependence.

Will people lose their benefits if they can’t get a job?
No. People are expected to be trying to get work and they will need to show what efforts
they are making. They will only face sanctions if they make no effort.
What sanctions apply to people who don’t meet their work obligations?
The same graduated sanctions will apply under the new system as they do now.
Jobseekers are expected to be available for and looking for work unless they have a
temporary exemption. Those who do not make genuine efforts will face sanctions.
(Extremely harsh sanctions already exist causing extreme distress to vulnerable families and those with physical and mental illnesses, making their conditions worse.)
How will exemptions work?
Individuals on Jobseeker Support will be expected to be looking for and available for
work, except where there is a temporary exemption. Every individual has a different set
of circumstance and exemptions will vary to recognise a range of situations for example;
a person leaving a domestic violence situation, bereavement or someone temporarily
unable to work because of illness.
What extra help will people get?
Depending on their needs, individuals will get different types and levels of support. For
example teen parents may benefit from parenting and budgeting courses and assistance
to complete education, with childcare support to allow them to do that.
Are there any extra incentives to work?
Yes, sole parents with young children and those receiving the Supported Living Payment
will be eligible for a financial incentive if they decide to take up work earlier than
expectations require them to. On top of their new earnings, they will receive the
equivalent of the benefit rate, which will reduce by $100 a week until extinguished
(Should last for less than two weeks then)
Where are the jobs?
The number of people in work increased by 43,000 in the year to June 2011. Jobs
advertised online increased by 25 per cent over the last year. A global recession
impacted on jobs, but the economy has now grown in eight of the past nine quarters. The
Government’s focus on building sustainable growth will result in more jobs. The economy
is expected to grow at an average of three per cent a year over the next four years, with
170,000 more jobs than at the time of the Budget. (Job recovery is a myth as we stand on the brink of International Capitalist Crisis Mark 2. The truth is, the less jobs there are, the more the government cuts benefits when they are most needed.)
Why are you doing this now before the economy fully recovers?
We have an opportunity to overhaul the welfare system, which has been ignored far too
long. If we start now, we’ll have a more active system that is fair to beneficiaries and
taxpayers. As the economy gets into a full recovery and more jobs become available,
people need to be work ready to take up those jobs. (We are on the brink of Global economic collapse . Governments everywhere are cutting services and benefits to make us pay for the bosses' and bankers' crisis! Jobs? What jobs? The NACTS are busy decimating public sector jobs as we speak!)
Why has little changed for those on the previous Invalid’s Benefit?
There are a group of individuals who need our unqualified support: those who are
permanently or severely disabled, severely mentally ill or terminally ill and who may
never be able to work at all. The welfare system is there to ensure those people are
supported. They will remain on the new Supported Living Payment. (The Government has drastically cut the numbers on Invalids Benefits, causing these people to lose $50 per week !)
What provision is there for childcare? ( Good Question! The Government has CUT funding for early childhood education, especially for qualified teachers.)
These extra requirements will generate a greater demand for childcare for pre-schoolers
and school children and we have a plan to provide that. Details are currently being
worked on by officials.
The Government recently increased funding for Out of School Care and Recreation
provision (OSCAR) as a first step to increase capacity and changes underway will make
it easier for organisations to become OSCAR providers.
Officials are working on a proposal to ensure Early Childhood Education and childcare
keeps pace with the expected increase in demand.
How will people be assessed if they are sick or disabled?
There will be a stronger focus on what people can do, not what they can’t do. Health
professionals will provide medical information to allow Work and Income to ascertain
what kind of work an individual can do and how long they may be exempted from being
available for work. Those who are permanently or severely disabled, severely mentally ill
or terminally ill, will be fast-tracked into the Supported Living Payment.
In addition, we are going to introduce much more comprehensive work capacity
assessments to get a better picture of what people can do and to determine what the
right obligation is for each person.
An expert Health and Disability Panel will give specialist advice on new assessment
processes. (up till now these are mainly nurses and unqualified people. This is no substitute for the person's own doctor or health professional. )
What medical evidence have you based the policy of putting work obligations on
sickness beneficiaries on?
Society’s expectations about work have changed. Not only can many sick and disabled
people contribute through employment, there is evidence that points to improvements in
health and wellbeing through taking up appropriate work.
What else is new for parents on benefit?
All parents on benefit, regardless of which benefit they are on, can also be expected to
participate in work preparation, training, parenting or budgeting programmes. This will be
backed by sanctions for non-compliance.
For parents of children aged three to four, the focus will be on getting people ready for
part-time work when their youngest child is five (e.g. up-skilling programmes).
For expectant parents and parents of children under 3, participation in budgeting,
antenatal care or parenting programmes will improve the wellbeing of their children.
What about employment support services?
With more beneficiaries having work or activity obligations, there will be new approaches
to employment services, including job training, search and placement support, increased money management and budgeting services, and more childcare. These services will
build up over time.
There will also be better access to health services and drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
(These are likely to be run by private companies making profits out of peoples' misery.)
People able to find work themselves, and those for whom work is not an option, will have
less support while support is targeted earlier to those who need greater help.
How does an investment approach work in the welfare setting?
Support will be targeted to those who are capable of working, but need help to achieve
that goal. An investment approach will focus on those who are likely to remain on benefit
for a prolonged period.
Early intervention will reduce long-term social and financial costs to the country. There
will be greater transparency of the future costs of the benefit system and new
accountability arrangements to foster this long-term perspective.

For what the government would do if it was truly investing in our future -see beginning of this article. This is a short term cost cutting measure that will have disastrous consequences for our society.

The Government is reforming New Zealand’s welfare system with an active, work-based
approach, starting with the belief that most people can and will work.
We are simplifying the benefit system and taking a long term investment approach to
getting people off welfare and into work. This means more intensive support will be
provided to people who are capable of working and who are likely to remain on benefit
long term without that support.
The expectation is for the majority of beneficiaries to be available and looking for work.
Currently 328,000 people or 12 per cent of working age New Zealanders are on benefits
and policy changes are needed to better support more people into work.

1. Jobseeker Support
Current Benefit
Unemployment Benefit 57,000
Sickness Benefit 58,000
DPB parents, children over 14 11,000
Widows, children over 14 5,200
DPB Women Alone 3,900
New Benefit
Jobseeker Support
Feature of New Benefit
• Work focused benefit
• Work expectations according to
• Part-time/full time/temporarily exempt

2. Sole Parent Support
Current Benefit
DPB parents,children 5-13 years 40,200
Widows, children 5-13 years 900
DPB parents, children under 5 52,000
Widows, children under 5 150
New Benefit
Sole Parent
Feature of New Benefit
• Part time work expectation
• Training, parenting, budgeting

3. Supported Living Payment
Current Benefit
Invalid’s Benefit 85,000
DPB care of sick and infirm 7,500
New Benefit
Supported Living
Feature of New Benefit
• No work expectation
• Targeted to genuine need