Polity by Rob Salmond

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Polity: Decrypting “social investment”

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  • Che Tibby,

    if you're looking for an example of social investment thinking, there is this app published off the back of some predictive risk modelling treasury did.

    the general model is that the aggregate average projected costs can be offset by sensible spending, as you say. or at least that's the way it was explained to me when we developed the prototype for the treasury tool.

    so if you have a couple of million in projected costs and you can make an argument to spend $200k to prevent those costs, you've got a better chance at securing your funding. a better chance than a policy analyst with their finger in the air, for example.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2042 posts Report

  • Marc C,

    This “social investment” and also social impact bond business is supposed to all be based on “facts” and “scientific findings” and so forth, justifying new approaches by MSD and others. But few bother examining the government’s “evidence” and bold claims, and how it works out. We do for instance get stuff all in “evaluation”, I am sure at MSD and other Ministries they know the meaning of the word, but they seem to simply ignore much. Now at least one leading researcher at the University of Otago in Wellington has revealed how hollow and unproven it all is.

    Rob Salmond, I wish your friends within Labour, the party I sometimes wonder about, do spend some time researching this stuff to read from the New Zealand Medical Association website:

    “Is the statement that if a person is off work for 70 days the chance of ever getting back to work is 35% justified?”

    Extract: “The incorrect statements about the chance of ever getting back to work are being presented to general practitioners (GPs) continuing medical education conferences in the context certifying people as unfit for work, together with statements like the ‘benefit’ is “an addictive debilitating drug with significant adverse effects to both the patient and their family (whānau)”.13 They are being presented to GPs in the context of assisting patients to safely stay at work or return to work early.4 These appear to be encouraging GPs to assess injured and unwell patients as having capacity for work and not issuing medical certificates for work incapacity. This could result in the cessation of welfare benefits or injury compensation. When these patients lack the capacity to work, they could experience increased financial hardship. For example, people might move from injury compensation to an unemployment benefit, and those without benefit entitlements to no income.”

    Read the whole lot, it proves that we are served endless nonsense and lies with the “science” they use to justify assessing many seriously sick and disabled as “fit for work”, even when they have no realistic chance of getting a job.

    Dr Bratt, Principal Health Advisor at MSD and for WINZ and his “expert” source of advice, Mansel Aylward, have been exposed for sure now. This is NOT science and evidence based, it is simply mostly made up stuff!

    You can bet the same applies to other “findings” they present us.

    More on the supposed “evidence base” for welfare reforms is found here:

    Here is an easy to read PDF version of the post, but without some addendum at the end of it, that is only found on the online version:

    Also check how MSD’s Principal Health Advisor has used incorrect, misleading information in his presentations such as this, trying to influence doctors to not sign people off as sick and unable to work (see slides 22 and 23):

    In my view, Dr Bratt, who got his senior, powerful job under Labour in 2007, deserves the SACK!

    Auckland • Since Oct 2012 • 437 posts Report

  • Marc C,

    I also wonder whether Labour agrees with this kind of stuff:

    Dear Labour, if you want MY vote, and if you do not want nearly 290,000 on benefits to be left by the wayside as potential voters, perhaps you need a thorough RETHINK of your social security policy?

    Any consideration that this "investment approach" is the way to go, the purely actuarial approach we get from this government, will be a solid vote loser with your traditional voters, I may guess. Eying up the property owning middle class new millionaires here in Auckland will come with a price, and that means Labour may become obsolete, as it tries to cater for the same and offer similar policies to the Nats.

    Phil Twyford gave us a warning signal, I conclude, not a good one, for Auckland.

    Auckland • Since Oct 2012 • 437 posts Report

  • Sacha,

    I think trying new things is a reasonable idea, so long as you’re doing it properly. And, in this case, there’s evidence emerging that lots of the trials didn’t work.

    Do you have any good links to share about that, or is it internal party OIAs, etc?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report

  • Marc C, in reply to Sacha,

    There is some, but I may have to dig it out, I am not the one in control of them, but can get some access. There have been a fair few links offered before, and some of the info received from MSD has been highly questionable or at least ambiguous, not giving up front info. So all I can offer at this very moment is this kind of info:




    It has gone to the Ombudsman, but with Ron Paterson, former HDC a man in charge, we have the impression they leave things lying around and are not keen on addressing issues. He looks after the MSD complaints to the Ombudsman, and I wonder how much he knows and is “friends with” David Bratt.

    This stuff I have some access to is compiled by hard working, desperate and poor people, they do not have the means to run a flash website or blog like this here. So one needs to go through what they make available, which means going through this post, there are many links with detailed info:



    All the links in those post are totally safe and simply link to loaded PDFs with the evidence needed.

    I must check if more can be made available, some stuff on the useless Ombudsmen is supposed to be made public soon, they are part of the problem!

    Some woeful Ombudsmen responses, am not sure if this ties up, but worth a read:




    Auckland • Since Oct 2012 • 437 posts Report

  • andin,

    I get a sense of weary resignation reading this post, is that me?
    Why does this govt abuse written communication like this?
    “The most at risk” are always going to be the poor.
    “social investment”?
    Could we get a living wage FFS…Annual wages rises in line with inflation?
    What happened to them?
    Why has everything that took decades to work out gradually disappeared. For those not interested in being an “entrepeneur”
    And the “global economy” is not an answer, its an excuse…
    All words out of some peoples mouths are spin, and thats lying to suit one's own end's.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1891 posts Report

  • Marc C, in reply to Sacha,

    Remember this also:

    I am not sure whether more digging was done by Labour or Greens or NZ First, it should have been done, so we need to check with them all.

    Auckland • Since Oct 2012 • 437 posts Report

  • Tinakori,

    "And, in this case, there’s evidence emerging that lots of the trials didn’t work."

    I think something was announced in the social welfare area recently in which four or five teams or projects were extended and three or four were discontinued because they weren't working or showing value for money.

    I'd be careful of criticising working/not working too much. Without the ability to try new things you can develop nothing innovative and without the freedom to fail you become far too cautious. Governments of any stripe - whether led by John Key or or Winston Peters (just kidding, Rob) - need that ability to try new things and learn from them or we don't make any progress.

    "“social investment,” partly as a way of cloaking some poor policy choices with the label of some good policy choices."

    This is no more Orwellian than renaming the Ministry of Social Welfare the Ministry of Social Development.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2013 • 118 posts Report

  • Marc C, in reply to Sacha,

    Sorry, I just realised you addressed your question to Rob, so let us wait what he has to offer.

    Auckland • Since Oct 2012 • 437 posts Report

  • Sacha, in reply to Tinakori,

    I'd be careful of criticising working/not working too much. Without the ability to try new things you can develop nothing innovative and without the freedom to fail you become far too cautious.

    Agreed. Traditionally risk-averse organisations like central and local government need a way to ring-fence higher-risk trials, evaluate and govern them differently, and stop them cleanly when required.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report

  • Sacha, in reply to Marc C,

    Ta for yours again. Rob may have seen some Labour-only material as well.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report

  • Marc C,

    I can tell Rob and others, you will simply NOT deal with and address the social and economic and other problems this country has had for years, by trying yet more experimenting and stuff like we know.

    What this country is lacking is true communities, it may exist in pockets here and there, but here in Auckland there is NO real community in most places, it is a patchwork of a society, where individualism and otherwise separation of sorts are the rule. Our politicians only tell us different things to try and appeal to a positive sounding neighbourhood, which mostly does not exist.

    We have had this neoliberalism and what came with it, it has destroyed the social fabric, and turned class against class, suburb against suburb, generation against generation, professionals against ordinary workers and vice versa. The ones on benefits do not even count, are not existing to most, but they are there, an evident failure of a useless and truly failed society.

    So there are the challenges, and nobody really likes or dares address it, so we come up with parties and their petty policies, some catering only for their privileged or not so privileged clientele.

    You cannot live in and have a divided country, it is nothing else but the biblical BABEL, to be honest, unless you make efforts to bring people together and enlighten and spirit them to work together.

    That is where this government has failed abysmally. We have a divided opposition, and unless that opposition gets combined enough to form a joint alternative front and potential government, we will have a continuation of disaster.

    That is where action is needed, I say this, because it must be spoken out honestly here. So Labour, Greens, NZ First get your shit together, we here at the bottom had the gutsful of what goes on. You people in Labour don't even seem to care about us, unless we are politically useful ammunition to fire at the government, at times.

    Auckland • Since Oct 2012 • 437 posts Report

  • Rob Stowell,

    “Social investment”?!
    Why is it a good idea to use the language of business and banking to talk about people’s welfare?
    Words are how we understand and think about the world. Words take their meaning from their relationships with other words in the same domain. When we use words from one domain to describe another, we transfer a web of concepts – and values and relationships – along with the words.
    This can lead to insights, to the transformative thinking of metaphor. But we have been using the language of markets to talk about more and more of what matters – from commerce to art to education, health, welfare.
    When we talk about welfare as an investment, we’re directed to think of it as something that makes a return. We are likely to evaluate it in terms of loss and gain.
    If we think about something – say the look in a hungry child’s eye – in the language of business, we’re more likely to think in terms of a “market solution” – and less likely to talk about it in terms of morality or empathy.
    And once we give in to this – it happened in NZ in the 1980s and it’s still happening – we’ve lost. There is just money. We might as well give up on electing politicians. All we need is a king to rubber-stamp treasury decisions.
    I know there are those in Labour who say we need to be hard-headed and business-like to get anywhere. But we’ve had that approach for decades. Now people are living in cars while the viaduct basin is full of super-yachts.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2120 posts Report

  • Rob Stowell,

    "Decrypting" - nah. Back in the crypt. Bury it!
    As a mate said on facebook - Andrew Little - try it this way

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2120 posts Report

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Marc C,

    you will simply NOT deal with and address the social and economic and other problems this country has had for years, by trying yet more experimenting and stuff like we know.

    Hmmm....I was speaking to a thin air breather from the Ministry Which Shall Remain Nameless the other day. (Well, the direct dial number was right there, in the happy clappy 'aren't- we -doing- oh- so -well -for -these- people' newsletter. ;-))

    Anyways, I got a long and very sincere promise that 'we' are right now working on a program to address the problem of the 20% of disabled people whose needs are so high that regular services fail, (and families inevitably have to take up most or all of the slack.)

    Breathless anticipatory pause... while I was supposed to collapse in gratitude that finally, finally a bureaucrat had seen the light and stuff will now get sorted.

    Ingrate me, just had to pop bubble and ask, while you are all beavering away on this new Workstream, this new Strategy, new Action Plan...how do you think those disabled people are surviving from day to day? Now? In the Real World"

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

  • Marc C, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    Ghasp, for air and more, the "real world" is something I have been told about endless times, it makes me wonder, oh so wonder, what does it mean or are they living in another world?" I have NO faith no more in BS.

    Auckland • Since Oct 2012 • 437 posts Report

  • Marc C, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    FFS is this real, that is what most think, ahem. this cannot be, that is the reality, most cannot and will not understand this can be done, that is the problem we have. MSM criminals need to be decapitated I fear, to get people learn the truth and their true potential.

    Auckland • Since Oct 2012 • 437 posts Report

  • Rosemary McDonald,

    @Rob Salmond

    Oh, boy oh boy oh boy....

    I just downloaded and read the first few pages of the Deloitte / NZIER report ...it reads like that wide-awake wet dream Uncle Bill "the Lizard" had back in 2010. The one I call the 'big hard lump of wasted human potential' manifesto.

    He (Bill) skites how National hired 'hit-men'

    to help inexperienced ministers from being out-manoeuvred by cunning chief executives defending their budgets.

    They helped to cut $2 billion over four years for reallocation,

    What gets him most excited is much bigger picture stuff, something called "the responsibility model".

    As examples he cites work being done at Housing New Zealand and specifically at the Ministry of Social Development by the welfare working advisory group looking at the big driver of future costs: long-term invalids and sickness beneficiaries, a group he describes as "this big hard lump of long-term waste of human potential".

    English says the MSD is not set up to deal with them.

    Rather, it is set up to deal with "the easy stuff" - the unemployment and the domestic purposes benefits.

    "They do the easy stuff and they do it very well, but they don't worry about these guys. If they were ACC customers, we would be spending a lot of money on trying to move them. They cost a bit less on sickness and invalids [benefits], not a hell of a lot less, but we do nothing and we are actually doing nothing to reduce this very large long-term liability."

    He then gets down to the nitty gritty...

    English says the process of examining the big cost-drivers is called the responsibility model because it throws the responsibility back.

    "The traditional view of the public service is when things get tight, Treasury and the Minister of Finance are responsible. We are saying 'no it's you, you're the chief executive, you're responsible'."

    Nothing, and I mean nothing that spews forth from the Beehive should come as a surprise to anyone.

    It has all been said or writ...(as some here have been trying to point out for some time....they have always had a plan and it is now starting to come to fruition.)

    So...what manifesto has Labour got Rob...what's the Plan?

    The heads will start rolling soon...top brass bureaucrats will eventually balk at some of the proposed actions aimed at reducing those 'liabilities'....(I wonder who did leak that MSD housing report??)

    If the Public Service fights back...is there a viable alternative to National?

    Is Labour ready?

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

  • Marc C, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    As you get it, science though is irrefutable, so the above shows, there are ample well paid liars that serve government and insurance agencies, including ACC. We have the high paid liars keep us from claiming, hence our destitution. But I have contacts so we work from there. This is a lying country one of the worst I know we will deal to it Contact m_christian1964@hotmail,com. We have them close to a legal case here in New Zealand anyway, chip in thanks

    Auckland • Since Oct 2012 • 437 posts Report

  • Tom Semmens,

    Even for a country of 4.5 million where the only public voice heard is that of a particularly isolated, provincial and grasping philistinism it must take some doing to be as completely and totally fucking ideologically and intellectually bereft as the current, terminally stupid, NZ Labour party.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2217 posts Report

  • Marc C,

    "But we’ve had that approach for decades. Now people are living in cars while the viaduct basin is full of super-yachts."

    Sorry, I lost who wrote this and who I am responding to. We learn from history now, which is a science most ordinary citizens have no knowledge about or do not care about. Actually, the young ones will hate me for it, we have the dumbest society we ever had despite of the internet. There is ample silly stuff but little info of relevance that is needed to make a democracy function. The dumber the better is what Key and mates believe in, and that is what they have achieved and it keeps them in power. Call it what you want, in my view it is the perfected dictatorship reliant on dumbed down consumers and other idiots.

    No wonder, honestly NO WONDER that some youth in the west turn to jihadism, I full well understand why and the connections, we have a society that for many is void and means nothing, nothing at all any anymore.

    PS: I do not support jihadism, I interpret trends, no more.

    Auckland • Since Oct 2012 • 437 posts Report

  • Ian Dalziel,


    Life is wet, just dry it!
    I can't believe Labour is squandering the possibilities of this, their centenary year.
    Few political parties get to turn 100, especially ones that have a history of doing the best for their nation's most vulnerable with the support of those able to help.
    Labour is turning their back on a proud heritage - sure they may be going to have a wee celebration mid year and have issued a very relevant commemorative tea towel (from the year of my birth no less!), but they need to be pointing to all the times they have been this nation's saving grace and not hiding their light under a bushel.
    To borrow the metaphor du jour from National, it's time for them to 'capitalise' on their past 'social investments' - and step up with solutions that address the causes and not the symptoms of the malaise - if not full blown illness - that grips our country.

    This is a call to arms, not alms....

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7953 posts Report

  • dcnbwz, in reply to Marc C,

    Fantastic post Marc. Staggering that the opposition parties stumble on, where clearly there are so many areas they could focus on, actually strategise and produce real alternatives. Instead they continue to fight against coalition, and squabble over the populist base.

    We are being betrayed by this government and the politics it espouses, compounded by an ever more complicit media.

    uk • Since Sep 2009 • 24 posts Report

  • Rob Stowell, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    the only public voice heard is that of a particularly isolated, provincial and grasping philistinism

    Get a radio. Be careful! With the volume way down, tune to FM101.7 (or thereabouts). You can then safely raise the volume and fine-tune :)

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2120 posts Report

  • James Littlewood*,

    My guess is Bill English will wrap a lot of this up with terms like “social investment"

    My guess is every National MP and paid and unpaid mouthpiece from here to oblivion will crow about it so loudly that semantic analyses of what you call it will wither and die along with the opposition's vote, despite the country being on its beam ends, fiercely ablaze in a sea of gasoline.

    Labour and Greens need to stop reading headlines, and start writing them.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 410 posts Report

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