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Access: Just think of the children

24 Responses

  • Euan Mason,

    Hilary, this is a great post, and the questions you pose are very difficult to answer in today's New Zealand. I would prefer we paid higher rates of taxation and provided better government services. I do not believe this would be bad for our economy, in fact the opposite is likely; more equitable distribution of wealth and services would lead to a happier, more productive nation. Scandinavia offers several examples of high tax/high government service economies that remain prosperous. I have lived in Sweden, and their focus on children is wonderful to behold.

    Canterbury • Since Jul 2008 • 259 posts Report

  • Sacha,

    the IHC, now the main advocacy NGO for intellectual disability

    For clarity, IHC is also a large owner and provider of services, housing, etc. People First is the recognised Disabled People's Organisation (DPO) for people with impaired learning, thinking, etc.

    A decade of policy work went into developing the comprehensive New Zealand Autism Spectrum Disorder best practice guideline published in 2008

    Thank you for your part in that, Hilary.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report

  • Peter Malcolm,

    Good statement Hilary. We must push for a sognificant increase in taxation for those who can afford to pay so that Govt can afford to provide the services necessay so that we can return to the caring society that used to exist in NZ
    Peter Malcolm

    Tauranga • Since Mar 2015 • 6 posts Report

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to Sacha,

    Thanks Sacha. Oops, I meant main provider NGO for ID.

    By the way I only had a minor part in the ASD Guideline development. I have always been an outsider in these government processes, with only the occasional glimpse in. The role of 'critic and conscience' feels more comfortable.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3229 posts Report

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to Euan Mason,

    Euan, good to hear that Scandinavia lives up to the ideals that some of us on this part of the world ascribe to that part of the world.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3229 posts Report

  • Kiwiiano,

    "Unfortunately, in the 1980s another Labour Government began to dismantle the welfare state...."
    Unfair!! It was an admittedly effete Labour Party hijacked by the Act Party, who, once they had committed their dirty deeds, reverted to their true colours.

    ChCh • Since Nov 2006 • 46 posts Report

  • chris,

    I would prefer we paid higher rates of taxation and provided better government services.

    I’d reverse the sequence of those two suggestions. Apparently things are not going so well in Scandanavia (note: selective cherry picking throughout). If you’re convinced that the Government are capable of spending their current intake responsibly then it makes sense, if not then it’s good money after bad. When the priorities are skewed, more money will not equal better services, money is after all unaccountable.

    In 2012 I went for an overnight stay in Hong Kong to renew a Chinese visa only to find that with less than 6 months left on my five year passport that could not be done. I went to the New Zealand consulate to pay cash, the online visa service only accepted cheque, credit card, and transfer. At the New Zealand consulate I admired their beautiful collection of New Zealand paintings. The staff told me that they would not accept cash and that I must send a money order, so I went out and made inquiries late on a Friday afternoon only to find that I wouldn’t be able to transfer funds without a local bank account and that I wouldn’t be able to apply for one of those because I wasn’t local. On Monday I went back and explained this to the staff at the consulate, again admiring their exquisite art collection, eventually they capitulated and deigned to accept my cash. 12 days after arriving for an overnight stay I was able to leave HongKong. Do I think that system could be streamlined without throwing extra money at it? Yes, and if they need extra money they could sell some paintings.

    Closer to home and more closely related to health and education, I’m sure most of us have seen the advertisements for drug driving, some of them are quite amusing, storekeepers recount anecdotes of dazy shoppers, we have a laugh and then the omniscient camera tells us that not only might they be stoned on the fumes of the infamous cannabis plant but they also arrived in a motor vehicle and they are the driver. All the ads have the same focus. There are no coked up shoppers, no meth heads, no trippers, no junkies, no one’s boogying to the stoor ghetto blaster on e, it’s all about the weed, that may or may not have been smoked by the slow people who may or may not be driving. That’s some poorly spent money.

    Have a scratch around and see if we can find some new crown limousines, MP pay rises, rebrandings of state services, forests of pamphlets destined to burn, flag referenda, sailing competitions, casino conference centres, flights, transport and hotels where Skype would suffice, art on walls, $11 million dollar apartments, $11 million dollar payments, cricket competitions, rugby competitions, rugby team announcements, $56,000,000 in annual rugby related injury ACC payouts, Police 10 7, Seven Sharp, golden handshakes, lifetime MP perks, international art exchanges, Six60, private prisons, charter schools, I see plenty of money.

    Education, it’s an easy word to flip around the place, people talk about National Standards, about more science, about literacy and numeracy rates, but if we can’t instill worldly and humane values in our children, (primarily via social studies or its modern equivalent) before they reach their teens, then it’s unlikely that they’ll ever find a perspective that isn’t by and large centred around “me first”.

    As per the idiom, I was disappointed that after 12 or so years of New Zealand’s free education system to find I had graduated still unable to fish, but in the bigger picture fishing is small potatoes. We emerge from school here largely ignorant. Until I went to China I had no idea what a true user pays health care system actually entails, sure we did a number of social studies projects on various countries; Japan, Holland as I recall. But we were never made to examine the stark contrasts between welfare states and those without. We drew a bunch of flags and tasted some food and cut out some pictures from travel brochures and it was a small world after all. How is that many of us can reach our teens in New Zealand without fully grasping what MJS achieved, without fully appreciating this legacy?

    In China there is no state pension, welfare, health care is subsidised but if you don’t have cash on admission to hospital, you’re not getting treated, too often I saw groups gathered around bodies on the road, no one’s taking them to the hospital for fear of being lumped with the costs, there were a couple of reported cases of drivers reversing back over hit and run victims in order to avoid the need to pay hospital costs. My friend’s family, too poor to afford a stomach tumour were asked to provide a sheep corpse in lieu of payment, so they took the 48 hour drive from the far west of China to Beijing with the sheep corpse only to be informed that the tumour was inoperable midway through the surgery.

    Some may say that these kinds of realities are too harsh to expose primary aged children to, and I’d totally agree if we hadn’t been fed a steady stream of brutal stories for an hour every Friday afternoon, from the horrors of WW1 to the failed Scott expedition we were inundated with gore, 100 year old gore. white peoples’ gore. Our children need to be presented with contrast and comparison, with history, with contemporary global realities in order to find perspective.

    Some of us are fortunate enough to luck out with a hard left teacher who’s absolutely going to let the truth get in the way of a good story, I had one such teacher (not unlike andin actually, both in tone and perspective), but we can’t rely on our kids hitting gold indefinitely. We can’t gamble on the hope that a few teachers will instill a tangible sense of social justice and ignite the courage to confront it.

    Education, when well administered, focuses on outcomes, not scaled results or scores or percentages. Outcomes which could justifiably focus on enhanced attitudes, confidence, empathy. Empowerment. Reading, writing, literacy and science are just the tip of the iceberg, I can read better than I can empathise, I can calculate better than I can recognise political spin. There are too many “well educated” arseholes in this world, and the saddest thing of all is that so many who gravitate to positions of power like bees to flowers* are of this ilk, and that people in positions of power are mutually inclined to give them that access and perpetuate this tradition of ignorance and waste.

    Sheesh, long post, sorry about that.

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report

  • Marc C,

    This is all good and important stuff to think about, but the challenge for social security in New Zealand, same as in other developed countries, is largely how to deal with the consequences of globalisation. When the SSA was introduced the world was a radically different place. States were more “nation states” of various forms, where outside influences, and changes due to trade and flows of migration were not having such significant and the same effects as we experience today.

    New Zealand has over recent times had high levels of inward and outward migration, and people do in ever increasing numbers not necessarily commit to live in one country for their whole lives. This means that more people like to have “flexible” arrangements, and like to look after their own affairs, like for instance take benefits and savings with them, should they choose to move on and out of New Zealand.

    Employment has changed, so few stay in jobs for years, or even most their lives, again flexibility is common, some only ever work in marginal employment. Some earn well others not so, and while there is some movement between social status and income ranges, there can be abrupt changes in an increasingly unstable working environment, where job loss is nothing that unusual for a significant part of the population.

    Trade is international more so than ever before, and fluctuations in for instance commodity prices, see dairy produce, can have huge impacts on the economy of New Zealand. High immigration movements create pressures on availability and affordability of housing, and many other aspects are representing us a present reality totally different to the 1930s.

    So many people have also a rather different view when it comes to social security, to health care and what else ties in. The increasing instability and uncertainties that people face make them on one hand more dependent on social welfare and health care support, but for those that have “assets” like savings, some wealth, and above all skills and qualifications that can offer them better opportunities in many other places, they want less dependence on rigid systems, so their loyalties to tax payer funded systems is vanishing. Hence governments look at social security and so a bit more differently, and see justification to bring in more “flexibility” and more “efficiencies”, topics that have been frequently discussed here.

    What it means is, that social security policy and delivery is changing, likely to be changed more, and the systems that were once in place are being replaced by others, that may not be what some expect and wish for. When loyalties to systems break up, e.g. by people opting out, wanting more “self dependence” and less tax burden, as their personal circumstances may allow them, this has a major consequence for the system as a whole, and particularly for those most in need of them.

    So I fear, we are facing immense and serious challenges for the future, solidarity is something less found and less evident in today’s society, and with that, the state is in between a rock and a hard place, when it comes to delivering services. Hence as one end consequence increasing attempts to outsource and somehow privatise social and health services, to save costs and deliver more stream lined services.

    The above also considers that many new migrants may come from places with little in the way of social security systems as the ones that still exist in New Zealand, and thus have less ability or even willingness to “identify” with such. I fear we are at risk of losing the social focus, based on a collective focus, due to all these developments and trends. Everything is becoming a commodity, that will be tested for the value and worth to people needing it.

    Auckland • Since Oct 2012 • 437 posts Report

  • Euan Mason, in reply to chris,

    Apparently things are not going so well in Scandanavia (note: selective cherry picking throughout).

    I agree about the cherry picking. Sweden has a very high proportion of GDP delivered by government agencies, and salaries tend to be more equitable than we see in NZ. There is a small, privileged aristocracy that has inherited vast wealth, but for the most part those at the bottom have considerably more buying power than our poor do in NZ, along with more respect and vastly better government services. Sweden offers fully tax-funded education right through university, as well as health services, counseling, unemployment benefits and pensions. Sweden has one of the highest effective prices on GHG emissions in the world and can now claim to generate more than 50% of total energy from renewables, versus NZ’s 35%. The economic performance of Sweden suggests that those who claim that increasing taxation and state services will necessarily bankrupt our economy are purely propagandists.

    There are strong pressures within Sweden to turn neoliberal, and nobody would claim that Sweden is a perfect society. There are also issues with integrating immigrants, as the article says, but those I spoke with in Sweden took a very caring attitude to the problem, and although that statement is excessively anecdotal, I didn’t encounter the venemous xenophobia that pervades our social media here. The problems perhaps arise from a deep social conservatism in Sweden that is a strength when it comes to working in state services and a weakness when immigrants arrive with radically different world views. BTW, the word “state” is rarely used in Sweden, conferring a Stalinist overtone which Swedes instinctively dislike. It’s OK to talk about “government” services.

    Canterbury • Since Jul 2008 • 259 posts Report

  • Sacha, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    The role of 'critic and conscience'

    and writer of history - all very important.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Euan Mason,

    The problems perhaps arise from a deep social conservatism in Sweden that is a strength when it comes to working in state services and a weakness when immigrants arrive with radically different world views.

    And in legislating around sex work and drugs, where their policies are extremely conservative and quite counterproductive. It's like communitarianism in a country.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report

  • Hilary Stace,

    I hear Sweden has taken thousands of refugees recently and have created a whole town for them. Not sure if that is the best way but at least it is a better response than ours.

    They also have a pretty terrible history of eugenics which they really only started to confront about two decades ago.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3229 posts Report

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    They also have a pretty terrible history of eugenics which they really only started to confront about two decades ago.

    I assume you're referring to this kind of thing. As you say, the retreat from that ghastly orthodoxy has been under way for some time, but the scale and diversity of the material gathered in its name is staggering. While it would be comforting to assume that it's all been relegated to the past, the winding down appears to be still under way.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report

  • andin,

    When the SSA was introduced the world was a radically different place.

    The world? there are people, poverty need and greed.
    All thats radically different is the those who, by accident, find themselves at the top of a societal pyramid are indulging themselves at the expense of everyone else.
    As for globalization its a convenient phantom

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1891 posts Report

  • Martin,

    Thanks for the post Hilary; remembering where we come from is so important in deciding where we want to go.

    I agree with andin that we have always lived in a globalized world except that the one we live in today is quite different in terms of its digital context and immediateness in which time and space shrinks.

    And, as Marc notes, this has had huge consequences for the nation state and what it can do given the trade agreements, international treaties, conventions and covenants it is tied into; we have become a neoliberal, billionaire's state in which freedom is valued above all else, inequality rampant, social services underfunded, ran down and sold or contracted to the private & 3rd sectors.

    People are beginning to question the neoliberal agenda; Jeremy Corbyn in the UK & Bernie Sanders in US are offering us social democracy as the solution while Jane Kelsey argues were in an interregnum between paradigms in which we don’t really know where we are going but we sure as hell know that the contradiction between the current politics and their social consequences has to be resolved.

    Wonderful post Hilary – just look where its taken us!

    Palmerston North • Since Mar 2015 • 25 posts Report

  • Marc C, in reply to andin,

    I was only drawing conclusions on the drama I see unfolding, so I was not at all supporting the drive to undermine or even abolish social security or the Act. I am informed the SSA is being "rewritten" at present, by this government, and you may guess what that may mean.

    The state of affairs on this planet gives me NO pleasure, rest assured.

    I would rather have a robust social security system, protected from the kind of attacks and dismantling I face under this crap government, but sadly, the opposition does not give me much reason to be cheerful either, as they commit to nothing substantial, really.

    Auckland • Since Oct 2012 • 437 posts Report

  • Calvin Lee,

    The 1938 social security act is a good idea, i didn't know it existed till this post was shown. I believe the cradle to the grave has its controversy such as free use faculty. In this world today people are struggling with health everyday it is hard to maintain a certain level of control especially with the population increasing from 1938 to 2015. I don't mind my taxes going towards helping the community, I'm not against that. Sometimes people are able to get away of using the free health use and there has to be better security with that, people lie and fake certain personal stories for the government to believe they need it. For example governments should create agents where they can personally come to your home, talk about the situation and proof of the things happening, no offence but people that lie to make things "easier" for their lives don't deserve the "cradle to the grave" treatment. This kind of ties in with the social benefits and student allowance, there has to be a better system where the government can employment the idea 1938 "cradle to the grave" because I'm all for it. Other than that its a good act where we can become one as a community, i know this act has been challenged by the three medical conditions but there are other ways of helping them.

    New Zealand • Since Sep 2015 • 1 posts Report

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Winz some, lose some…
    I was aghast at Minister Tolley’s nonchalantly dismissing beneficiaries right to be paid properly…

    Minister of Social Development Anne Tolley admitted that for the best part of the last two decades it had been standard practice to start benefits the day after a stand-down.
    She said the amendment just lined the law up with what was happening on the ground; she also played down the financial impact.
    "We’re talking a day, so it’s not a huge amount,” she said.
    “It’s just unfortunate that it was the normal practice for a long period of time… so now we’re making it very clear in law what was Cabinet’s intention, which was the practice.”
    Ms Tolley could not say how much the payment botch-up could cost the government in unpaid benefits.

    I’m sure she could skip a day’s pay with impunity, but Jeez, the woman has no idea about what life might be like for some on the benefit she controls – that is appalling…

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7953 posts Report

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    but Jeez, the woman has no idea about what life might be like for some on the benefit she controls – that is appalling…

    One gets to the stage Ian, where the contempt one encounters from WINZ bureaucrats of all levels ceases to appall.

    Having been a recipient of the Invalids Benefit (SLP in these PC times, but don't take the "Supported" bit too literally!) Peter is looking forward to graduating in a few weeks to the far more acceptable National Super.

    He could facilitate this transition from beneficiary scum to worthy senior pensioner on line...but of course the added complication of Disability means we have to front up to our local office....Oh Joy!!!

    A friend recently was sent the invitation to sign up for the Super...and chose to do the on line thing...because...she didn't want to have to go into the WINZ office and encounter "those sorts of people".

    "Like us, you mean?" was Peter's quick riposte (he gets the odd one away now and again).

    "Yes!" was the quite unashamed reply.

    She was completely and utterly impervious to our discomfiture.

    Most folk seem to live in their own wee insular worlds....they have to actually experience something before they can sympathise.

    Another lifelong friend of Peter's not long ago quipped that "every day was a holiday" for me. The fact that his mate needs 24/7 support (and would get this funded were he an ACC client) seemed to escape him. This guys wife had been telling me a few months earlier how much having to care for her very elderly mother at home had negatively impacted on her ability to go to fact, she had to give up work for a while. Terrible imposition!

    Yet, that has been the reality for me for nearly two decades.

    We are (theoretically) close to these people....but they just don't seem to get it.

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1346 posts Report

  • Marc C, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    WINZ have enough to sort out in their own backyard, or say, the head office and the Ministry I suggest. You may find this of interest:

    As had already been suspected long ago, the "trials" for Mental Health Employment Services", and apparently even for "Sole Parent Employment Services" appear to have been an abysmal failure, according to Carmel Sepuloni, who got an OIA response on 04 September, which she used to ask some hard questions to the Associate Minister for Social Security yesterday.

    All this was already becoming somewhat evident, when an earlier OIA request was responded to by MSD earlier this year. See details here:

    So given other recent OIA responses, and also the fact, that NO real EVIDENCE was presented by MSD on supposed "medical scientific research" that is claimed to prove the "health benefits" of paid work in open employment, and also the harm to health of "worklessness", we can assume that the whole welfare reform agenda is falling to pieces:

    The MSM is stubbornly ignoring such news, as the flag debate, the Rugby World Cup and other stuff seem much more important, while they also offer your grand leader John Key a great opportunity to present himself in that so loved spotlight again. I am sure he will be off to London soon.

    Auckland • Since Oct 2012 • 437 posts Report

  •, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    So...why not line up what's happening on the ground with the law? I mean, isn't that what we usually have to do?

    I guess self-serving selfishness is the default for someone like her though.

    Hamilton • Since Nov 2006 • 73 posts Report

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Marc C,

    Oh! My,my, my!

    Score, Carmel!

    Surely to god there is a limit to the amount of bullshittery allowed in any one session of the house?

    Perhaps it will reach the point when the buggers will drown in it.

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1346 posts Report

  • Hilary Stace,

    Apparently Corbyn’s Labour victory ‘offers hope to disabled people’ according to disability activists. He and his deputy John McDonnell both have records of supporting disabled people and disability issues. So we shall see if they can fight back against the disablist policies of the UK government on such things as work testing and removal of disability supports.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3229 posts Report

  • linger, in reply to Calvin Lee,

    The incidence of "benefit fraud" is, in fact, extremely low compared to the number of people who legitimately need assistance. Setting up complicated checks and conditions to be met -- in the name of "cutting fraud" -- in practice mostly has the effect of placing entitlements out of reach of those who most need them. (Though you'd never guess that from media coverage, which focusses only on the rare criminal cases, and not on the wider impact of such policy settings.)

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1944 posts Report

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