Herald on targeting

July 16th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial:

Sometimes the Government must think it simply cannot win. Take the action plan outlined in the Green Paper for Vulnerable Children. If Social Development Minister Paula Bennett failed to pay particular attention to this group, she would be accused of being negligent and uncaring. But her formulation of proposals to overcome shortcomings in the identification and tackling of has led only to criticism on another count. According to a joint statement issued by 72 non-government agencies, the funding of services for better-off children must be sacrosanct in this drive to help the neediest.

I bet you all 72 of those agencies get most of their funding from the taxpayer.

The agencies’ statement is, in effect, a plea for the retention of universal social spending, no matter the fact that many parents could afford to pay more if they had to. …

In an ideal world, such universal benefits would be retained. But the present situation is far from that.

Actually in an ideal world, there would be no universal benefits outside schools and hospitals. There are significant economic deadweight costs in taking money off people in taxation and giving it back to them in subsidies. We should provide subsidised services to those who can not afford them for themselves – not to everyone.

It is imperative that any fiscally responsible Government adjusts both its spending and its priorities. Those most in need of temporary help should be targeted.

In the context of children, that means concentrating funding where it is most needed and most cost-effective. It makes no sense to provide welfare for the comfortably off as well as the most vulnerable if the burden on the budget cripples the economy on which all New Zealanders depend.

Agreed.

The United Nations children’s fund Unicef, which drafted the agencies’ statement, also said that Ms Bennett’s proposals risk “stigmatising” the 15 per cent of children defined as vulnerable. That, again, is a skew-whiff view of the Government’s intent.

Oh, get out of here. This is like the PPTA saying it is racism to try and improve educational outcomes in South Auckland and Porirua. Helpng vulnerable families is not stigmatising them.

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19 Responses to “Herald on targeting”

  1. PaulL (6,013 comments) says:

    There are a large constituency who prefer universal programs. Reasons are:
    1. Those who don’t notice how inefficient being taxed then having service provision in return is. So the middle classes like “free” stuff
    2. Those who believe it’s important to keep dragging the middle classes into govt service provision – witness the opposition to school vouchers – because this group continue to demand high minimum standards. If only the poor received these services the service would likely become much less good
    3. Those who believe that profit is evil, and that govt can always deliver services as effciently as the private sector, but without the profit – so in effect they think that govt provision is more efficient, not less
    4. Those who believe it is too hard to target – i.e. the deadweight costs of the targeting are higher than the deadweight costs of the churn
    5. Those who have an objection to high effective marginal tax rates – i.e. abatement rates are a real problem for those in the lower middle class

    At least some of these arguments are relatively sound, so this isn’t really an area that is amenable to an ideological thought bubble – it’s harder than it looks.

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  2. Harriet (4,732 comments) says:

    If someone wishes to be helped, then first they must admit that they have a problem. Ask AA.

    No income simply means no job. They should be asking about jobs – not about aid.

    If their job does not pay to well, then they should have asked about education, again not aid.

    It’s all about opportunity to move forward -and if you arn’t helping yourself all along the way- then you can’t really be helped – but just given aid.

    All help, support and aid is easy to deliver to their targets by government – to the people who first admit that they have a problem.

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  3. Pete George (23,417 comments) says:

    The United Nations children’s fund Unicef, which drafted the agencies’ statement, also said that Ms Bennett’s proposals risk “stigmatising” the 15 per cent of children defined as vulnerable.

    Maybe there’s some sense in this. To avoid any stigmatising state assistance should be given without any identification of target groups. If that means applying the same rules to everyone then so be it.

    How would this affect tax?

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  4. mikenmild (11,246 comments) says:

    Any chance of recognising that those 72 agencies might just have between them some insights into improving the lives of vulnerable children?

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  5. bhudson (4,736 comments) says:

    Indeed mikey. And it would seem the insights into improving the lives of vulnerable children they are sharing is “if you want to help the neediest, then give to those who are not.”

    Certainly looks like insight into something alright…

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  6. Nichlemn (63 comments) says:

    There are significant economic deadweight costs in taking money off people in taxation and giving it back to them in subsidies.

    There are also significant deadweight losses associated with abating benefits. It’s not clear which effect dominates.

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  7. Harriet (4,732 comments) says:

    MM#

    Oh come on…..the best way to assist people is to assist the ones who ADMIT they have a problem.

    That is ‘targeted’ spending at it’s practical best. :cool:

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  8. PaulL (6,013 comments) says:

    mikenmild: it is certainly possible that those 72 organisations know what they’re talking about. And equally possible that they are trendy lefties who fundamentally believe in universal benefits, and are making that statement out of ideological bias. Kind of hard to tell from the article which it is, but my general feeling is probably more of the latter.

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  9. KevinH (1,191 comments) says:

    DPF is correct in saying that these 72 NGO’s receive public funding, and in consideration of that it is well overdue that an inventory of their activities is conducted with the view to consolidating the funding and achieving improved outcomes for the target group they all advocate on behalf of.

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  10. adamsmith1922 (890 comments) says:

    Did UNICEF draft this, or did the NZ branch of Unicef – big difference I suspect

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  11. bka (135 comments) says:

    ” Aside from some universal services, this might mean, for example, a cut in funding for some programmes for vulnerable teenagers. These would lose out because they do not fit with the focus on stopping abuse when children are young and their problems are just starting to surface.

    Such cuts will undoubtedly be strongly criticised. But some sacrifice must be made… ”

    This is about as specific as the editorial gets about what services could be cut. I am guessing that vulnerable teenagers are defined as things like suicidal, truant, criminal, have been on the receiving end of physical or sexual abuse?
    The way the editorial slides over that point makes me wonder what services for better off children we are actually talking about, and what better off is defined as.

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  12. gravedodger (1,542 comments) says:

    How many of the 72 NGOs are conflicted here, seriously conflicted?
    Don’t know about the funding, is the trough large enough

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  13. Harriet (4,732 comments) says:

    PaulL#

    Gravedodger#

    You are right.

    It is common knowledge that ministers listen to the most well resourced who have all the ‘facts’ and the resources at their ‘disposal’ to ‘respond’ – the government departments and ‘agencies’.

    As has been said ‘They are then listening to the current orthodox practice that suits the continuation of the department and agencies.’

    Key last month said that ‘those who have a history of neglecting their children may well have their newborns adopted out’.

    This is in response to the fact that the ‘massed ranks of the welfare state stood and hesitated at the front doors of family homes, not knowing what to do.’

    Those who neglected children did not just have one single problem but ‘complex multiple problems’ – alcoholism, drugs, violence, undereducated, unemployed, domestic problems, gang associations etc where they could ‘never create an enviroment where children would thrive’.

    Government agencies simply took infants and toddlers away to foster parents untill the parents showed ‘some improvement’ then returned them, only to take them away again at a later date.It had been noted that some of those kids could at a later date sue the government for neglect if their prior situation had been ‘dangerous’ and harm had in the future eventuated when they were returned.

    That’s what the massed ranks were doing – hesitating. The public who pay them wouldn’t.

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  14. Paulus (2,588 comments) says:

    I would love to see the operating ratio to income of these NGOs.
    How much of their income is admin costs and wages.
    72 would seem to be only a small number of NGOs, as I thought I read that there are something over 250 in New Zealand.
    Are these the only taxpayer funded ones ?

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  15. mpledger (429 comments) says:

    1)
    It’s a bit hypocritical to outsource governement services onto NGOs using income as a carrot and then criticize them for taking government money.

    2)
    The problem with the “vulnerable” children aspect is that noone has defined “vulnerable”. Is an autistic child of wealthy parents “vulnerable”? Is a child with a speech impediment “vulnerable” and once the speech impediment is fixed are they still “vulnerable”?

    Is a child in poverty no longer vulnerable if his father gets a job? What about his brother, uncle, nephew? Does it matter what the job is or how much it pays?

    This lack of definition just means that the govt can squeeze it when times are tough and noone can tell. Just like ACC was pressured to get people off benefits by dubious means.

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  16. Sonny Blount (1,848 comments) says:

    Actually in an ideal world, there would be no universal benefits outside schools and hospitals.

    You’re communist David, why do people that can afford school and healthcare need to be controlled by politicians?

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  17. Manolo (13,517 comments) says:

    What credibility does UNICEF have? Nil, zilch, zero.

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  18. mikenmild (11,246 comments) says:

    Here are the signatory individuals and organisations:
    155 Community House Whangarei
    ACYA
    Allied Health Professionals Association
    Analytica
    Andrea Jamison
    Prof. Anne Smith
    Aotearoa NZ Association of Social Workers
    Ara Taiohi
    Barnardos
    Beth Wood
    Bishops’ Action Foundation (BAF)
    Brainwave Trust Aotearoa
    Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand
    Changemakers Refugee Forum
    Charlotte Robertson
    Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG)
    Christchurch Methodist Mission
    COMET (City of Manukau Education Trust)
    Coalition for the Safety of Women and Children
    Community Waitakere
    Council of Social Services in Christchurch
    Council of Trade Unions (CTU)
    Early Childhood Council
    Ecpat Child Alert
    Ephesus Society
    Every Child Counts
    Great Fathers Trust
    Great Start Taita
    IHC New Zealand
    Inspiring Communities
    John Pearce
    JR McKenzie Trust
    Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower Trust
    Manaia PHO
    Manukau Child Advocacy Group
    Mental Health Foundation
    National Council of Women
    NZ Audiology Society
    NZ Association of Occupational Therapists
    NZ Council of Social Services
    NZ College of Clinical Psychologists
    NZ Council of Christian Social Services
    New Zealand Educational Institute: NZEI Te Riu Roa
    NZ Nurses Organisation
    NZ Playcentre Federation
    NZ Psychological Society
    NZ Speech-Language Therapists Association
    North Shore Community and Social Services
    OMEP: World Organisation for Early Childhood Education
    Physiotherapy NZ
    Platform Trust
    Presbyterian Support NZ
    Public Service Association (PSA)
    Relationships Aotearoa
    Rethinking Crime and Punishment
    RNZ Plunket Society
    Salvation Army
    Save the Children New Zealand
    Service and Foodworkers Union
    Shine
    Sisters of Mercy Wiri
    Social Development Partners
    Southland Interagency Forum
    Space NZ Trust
    Te Tari Puna Ora o Aotearoa/NZ Childcare Association
    TOAH-NEST Tauiwi Caucus
    University of Otago Children and Young
    People as Social Actors Research Cluster
    UNICEF NZ
    Victory Community Health Centre
    Waves Trust
    Youth Law

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  19. orewa1 (428 comments) says:

    I am not usually a huge fan of government-initiated advertising campaigns but I think many of society’s problems could be solved with just one really heavyweight adverising campaign advising guys the questions they should answer before they leap into bed:

    1 If this encounter results in a pregnancy is it worth the cost to you of around $200k over a twenty year period?
    2 If she says she is on the pill, do you believe her?
    3 Are you emotionally and physically ready to undertake the responsibilities of fatherhood?
    4 Does she really love you, or is she just using you as a donor to provide 5 minutes insemination and 20 years sustenance?
    5 Do you really believe the relationship will survive the upbringing of a child to adulthood?

    Contraception has never been easier nor cheaper. So why this explosion in the number of unwanted or unplanned children whose parents are woefully, hopelessly unequipped to support them?

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