Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Bill's Troubles

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  • Joe Wylie,

    Thanks Sacha, though it ain't me that's requiring the respite - well, not yet. As it's largely been about respite from the rigours of winter the crisis is past for the moment.

    There are things I could and should do, such as contact Age Concern and see if they're prepared to talk about this specific case. In that context, Hilary's info appears to be very useful.

    If this isn't a deliberate cutting back of welfare resources to the elderly then I'll have to stand corrected. From Hilary's info it appears to be ultimately the Minister's responsibility, regardless.

    IMHE those currently in their 80s - and increasingly 90s - tend to have a low-key sense of entitlement, based on a tradition of welfare according to need, along with their memories of war and depression. When their privileges are curtailed they tend to take it perhaps a little too philosophically.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3381 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Joe, I realise it's not for you directly, but I want to make sure you and the recipient are not disadvantaged by speaking up. Age Concern seems a sensible place to start. And yes, the current generation of seniors tends to meekly take what they are given even when it is manifestly disrespectful of all they have contributed over their lifetimes. Watch for that to change as the boomers get older.

    Rationing is common in most of the disability and aged-care system. The buck certainly stops with the Minister whose budget it is - probably Tony Ryall with Health. Disability Issues Minister Tariana Turia has a principled interest in a functioning disability services system (but no budget to do anything about it). Starting with the Minister means it will make its way down to the right level to answer the question. Not necessarily quickly or willingly, mind, but at least you do not have to figure out exactly who to approach.

    A decent advocate should be able to help with all that - which is why stronger advocacy services were a key recommendation of last year's select committee into improving disability services. The Health and Disability Commission also operates a nationwide advocacy service, but they can only address the quality of services actually provided, not refusal or failure to provide them. Another recommended change waiting for Ministers to pull finger..

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16493 posts Report Reply

  • Tim Hannah,

    Bunkle was a Green MP.

    Alliance, she stayed with them when the Greens split.

    Tim: Wouldn't it be nice if that was the case?

    What part wasn't the case, Craig? They were Ministers, they got in trouble, they 'offered' their resignations, which were accepted. Bill English was a senior opposition MP at the time who must - or really should - have taken some interest in it.

    I'd expect a man in his position at that time to think pretty carefully about that position. I assume he did, and came to the conclusion that it wasn't against the weak rules and the political risk wasn't that high.

    If he's so unreflective that the thought that moving his family to Wellington while claiming his home was in Dipton and accidentally collecting several hundred thousand off the deal might look bad never crossed his mind, well that's his lookout.

    And on the undesirability of distractions, judging by the last few days, it might be more sensible to drop the Deputy PM lark first, that caper has seriously impacted his wonkery over the last few days, I'm sure.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 224 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    What part wasn't the case, Craig? They were Ministers, they got in trouble, they 'offered' their resignations, which were accepted. Bill English was a senior opposition MP at the time who must - or really should - have taken some interest in it.

    My position for a long time is that if you're going to set up up a system riddled with loopholes and (IMO deliberately) ambiguous language you could drive the Death Star through, you shouldn't be too surprised when people take advantage. I don't think anyone has particularly clean hands on that score, and its interesting to compare and contrast how politicians manage their own perks and how beneficiaries and taxpayers get treated.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11867 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Sacha and Joe

    Green MP Catherine Delahunty has a Disability Commissioner Bill in the private members' ballot, and hopefully it will be drawn in the near future. If we had one now would be just the sort of agency to deal with these issues and hopefully ensure they don't happen in the first place.

    Otherwise, Joe, write a letter to Tony Ryall and see if you get any enlightenment. Disability support in the form of respite ultimately comes from Vote: Health however delivered (or not).

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 2030 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    Thank you Hilary, I'll be doing so this weekend.

    By its nature respite care is a temporary measure, and it just happens that the person in question has elected to go into full-time care by next winter. While the availability of respite care is no longer the issue of the moment, thanks to Sacha and Hilary for providing clarity and direction, and the impetus to do something constructive about it. Your blood, as they say, is worth bottling.

    It's encouraging to see disability treated as a universal human issue, rather than the fragmented approach of focusing on the problems of a particular group.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3381 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    you shouldn't be too surprised when people take advantage.

    ...and are utterly oblivious to how any reasonable person could possibly take exception. Seriously, I don't think folks like Hobbs and English really get how any could think there's anything tacky-fingered about their financial arrangements, which somehow makes it that much worse when whatever you think about their judgment and politics you can't put either of them down as being stupid. Reminds me of a wonderful line from Gone With The Wind: "You're like a thief who isn't sorry that he stole, but is very sorry indeed that he's going to jail." :)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11867 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    I think it is time someone stood up for Marian and Phillida since there seems to be a move to put them in the same boat as the current situation. I remember that tough time back then when they resigned while their situations were investigated and cleared. Both were people very staunch on acting with honesty and integrity. Attacking Marian for lack of integrity was the cruellest thing anyone could do. Neither MP did anything with malicious intent. There were messy unclear situations for which they took advice which turned out to be wrong. And how can I say it, as I admire them both immensely, that as ideas activists and people people they could both do with a little administrative support at times. Mistakes happened, which were soon rectified.

    But there seems to be no personal or political responsibility taken for this current situation. That's the difference.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 2030 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    It's encouraging to see disability treated as a universal human issue, rather than the fragmented approach of focusing on the problems of a particular group.

    We are social creatures, we depend on one and other, all of us do. Bill English's selfish behavior, makes him look less than dependable.

    Since Nov 2006 • 2597 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Attacking Marian for lack of integrity was the cruellest thing anyone could do.

    Um, plenty of people around here have already strung up English for outright fraud. I think Hobbs and Bunkle and English all deserved to be attacked for serious lack of judgment rather than malice or corruption, and while it might all be legal that doesn't mean they're right. They both did nicely out of a cosy status quo they just weren't inclined to be self-critical about, in my view.

    Meanwhile, you accept a ministerial warrant you take the damn scrutiny (and criticism) for your conduct -- and how you use public money. You know, like civil servants, taxpayers and beneficiaries are expected to.

    Still, its always nice to see senior politicians blaming the officials (who legally and ethically can't respond in kind) when they're caught with mucky snouts. Can't imagine a beneficiary getting a grain of sympathy if they argued for getting a debt wiped due to a bad steer from a case officer.

    I also hope Hobbs and English weren't in the habit of rubber stamping every piece of official advice that crossed their Ministerial desks. Or does judgment and accountability stop at your hip pocket?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11867 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Alliance, she stayed with them when the Greens split.

    Duh me.

    I think it is time someone stood up for Marian and Phillida since there seems to be a move to put them in the same boat as the current situation.

    I think on a scale of dodgy, it wasn't quite Bill English dodgy, but it still rated.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6162 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    I think on a scale of dodgy, it wasn't quite Bill English dodgy, but it still rated.

    So they were dodgy to a lesser degree, but they offered their resignations and had the resignations accepted. Which is entirely proper, especially when one is a Minister.
    What do we get from English? Attempts to rehabilitate his image, obfuscation, and general spin that comes right from the top. What was it people said about the last government being "the most corrupt government in NZ history"? Doesn't sound like it to me.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3898 posts Report Reply

  • Andre,

    We are one of the least corrupt nations on earth http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corruption_Perceptions_Index
    That is why we despise what Bill English has done. If he was a backbencher on the bones with his large family to look after and if his wife wasn't working then we would probably give him some slack.
    He definitely lost me when he announced that he lives in the large family home on English Rd when he's not enjoying the expensive Wellington home owned by his family trust. It's a bit like sponsoring Bob Jones or somethng at that point in relation to how the average Kiwi lives. And from my point of view his behaviour has been corrupt. His obfuscations are not what we expect from our elected representatives - especially the finance minister.

    New Zealand • Since May 2009 • 269 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    That is why we despise what Bill English has done.

    Who "we", dear?

    If he was a backbencher on the bones with his large family to look after and if his wife wasn't working then we would probably give him some slack.

    Play me the world's smallest violin, darling!- I'd love to be on Struggle Street with a backbencher's base salary of $131K a year. Anyone who can't make ends meet on that doesn't deserve slack. They deserve some extreme budgeting advice, or to find a new career where the pay packet fits the desired lifestyle.

    It's a bit like sponsoring Bob Jones or somethng at that point in relation to how the average Kiwi lives.

    Lots of nice middle class people who use family trusts as a tax avoidance mechanism.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11867 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Attacking Marian for lack of integrity was the cruellest thing anyone could do. Neither MP did anything with malicious intent. There were messy unclear situations for which they took advice which turned out to be wrong.

    I do see the two cases a little differently. Bunkle's declared main residence was only just outside the Wellington boundary. If I recall correctly, Hobbs was in the position she was in in part because her marriage broke up. But neither of them employed arrangements anything like as exotic at English's.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18712 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    Bunkle's declared main residence was only just outside the Wellington boundary.

    I don't think she's the only one, either. There are a few urbanised areas that sit nicely just outside the circle, in various electorates.

    neither of them employed arrangements anything like as exotic at English's.

    I don't think anyone has employed arrangements "as exotic as English's", if for no other reason that shifting one's entire family to Wellington doesn't seem to be terribly common. But yes, the point regarding the lengths to which English appears to have gone - I don't think anyone really buys the argument that he completely detached himself from the trust for reasons entirely unrelated to housing allowances - is well-made. It's a whole new level of "apparently dodgy".

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3898 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Bunkle's declared main residence was only just outside the Wellington boundary. If I recall correctly, Hobbs was in the position she was in in part because her marriage broke up. But neither of them employed arrangements anything like as exotic at English's.

    And the point is? Yes, it sucks when your marriage breaks down but I think its fair comment to point out that there are plenty of people whose tax liabilities or benefit entitlements change when their personal circumstances do. They're expected (and reasonably so) to promptly inform the IRD or WINZ and accept the consequences if they receive money or credit they're not actually entitled to. I don't mean to sound mean-spirited but I'm not really inclined to give Hobbs a lot of slack. At least not more than politicians are willing to extend to the rest of us.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11867 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    Regarding reductions to respite care - as Hlary said, it appears to be due to the local District Health Board having run out of their ring-fenced budget.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3381 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Thanks for the update, Joe. It's not that they have run out, just decided to spend it differently. I'm also hoping it's not another outbreak of the dreaded "restorative home help" model. Did you contact Anderton or another MP?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16493 posts Report Reply

  • Just thinking,

    From 16 March 09
    The public are being kept in the dark about "significant service cuts" to health planned for Canterbury, says an outraged board member.

    Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) member Andrew Dickerson yesterday sent out a media release criticising the health system for sanctioning the debate of the draft annual plan in private...

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/2264225/Critic-slams-secrecy-over-CDHB-cuts

    Putaringamotu • Since Apr 2009 • 1145 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Thanks. I'm still not clear if they have moved funding from lower needs to higher needs people or cut the overall amount.

    I thought District Annual Plans had to be publically consulted on for changes - unless they are somehow defining this as an insignificant difference from previous DAPs.

    Note that none of Ryall's health targets are about support services, so the article is proably correct in suggesting the focus would be on elective ops and suchlike instead.

    I can't see enough to split out non-disability budgets, like some separately funded older people's services. Despite disability support funding this year making up $208m of their $1213m income (about one in every six dollars), the DHB has no disability performance targets at all. Sadly that is far from unique.

    And real people and their families pay the price.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16493 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    Thank you Sacha, I've written to the Minister, for whatever that may be worth. While the person concerned receives home help with housework and showering, none of that's been affected.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3381 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    In the recent line by line review by the Ministry of Health, budgets for all sorts of health services were cut drastically. Some cuts included funding for DHBs (which provide disability support for the over 65s, and mental health services).The DHBs were also given a narrow range of new targets to achieve. Unfortunately, timely and appropriate disability supports were not among them. So before long cuts to front line disability supports would happen as shrinking budgets were redirected.

    So we are now seeing, in different ways, the results of these cuts around the country. I have heard about major reassessments, reduced services, cuts in services, cuts to staffing, reduced eligibility criteria.

    So, Joe, it appears that you are seeing one result in your area. We need to keep hearing these stories so we can monitor and report what is happening throughout our very fragmented system - and protest.

    Not helped, unfortunately, by having a Minister for Disability Services outside cabinet, and a government not that fussed about disability support.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 2030 posts Report Reply

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