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Speaker: My People

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  • Bart Janssen,

    But what I would like to see are more support services. More drop in centres, with social workers and school homework helpers; more free budget services around low income areas; more green spaces (maybe even with community vege gardens) and better communal playground areas and sports fields; district nurses doing the rounds again; supported community centres with cheap/free exercise groups and 'healthy cooking on a budget' lessons; safe and healthy evening/weekend entertainment ('blue light discos' and the like) - more uplifting, genuinely helpful stuff

    THIS

    and more people like Jackie, articulate, dedicated, talented.

    and we need to suck it up and pay for it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3444 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    Yeah but first we got to realize....as solomon sez

    And then what may be of use....

    I have one big quibble with this but I'll let it ride for the mo'

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1237 posts Report Reply

  • sally jones,

    Apologies (to Jackie especially) for indulgently long post.

    Bart: Please feel free to use my name when you are addressing my argument.

    What do people think about married couples who are both unemployed most of the time but continue to add to their family despite the fact they are already in state housing (3 bedrooms for 8 of them - by choice as it's cheaper) and can't afford to replace the broken windows in their vehicle or put child seats in it?
    I'm referring to my neighbours who have six kids under the age of nine and are about to add a seventh. They do a good job of looking after and caring for them in a basic sense but there comes a point in time when the hole gets dug too deep.

    Yamis: I think your concern is at the heart of the matter.

    Bart, you are right to mention that the free market won't pay for childcare and that all public funds come from a limited pool and the various causes must compete for these funds.

    Political philosophers often test their theories through hypotheticals or extreme, glaring, examples. So for example they ask: Should the state pay for kidney dialysis for people suffering type 2 diabetes, a disease typically brought on by poor eating and exercise habits? Given that this treatment is ongoing, even lifelong (if they don't get better) and very expensive, it seems a reasonable question to ask. In an obesity epidemic with rising stats on T2 diabetes it is perhaps particularly reasonable. The funds used here will be taken from some other worthy cause like child care services, for example.
    On the other hand, people will die without it, whereas people denied state funded child care services will probably not die.
    Still, these services potentially benefit everybody and provide for the next generation of workers, care givers, etc, and can be defended on the grounds of right. In the 21st century children have rights too, and good thing too.

    In my opinion there are certain basic needs or demands for public funds that are constitutionally required given that without them people cannot function as democratic citizens. These include police and courts (and parliament), universal basic health care and hospital services, education up to a certain age (16-18), welfare for the unemployed and invalid, superannuation and the pension, and I think you could include early child care services given that in most families now and certainly into the future will need both parents to be employed in the paid workforce for much of their parenting years, though perhaps not full-time.

    However...I do think Yamis that your neighbours are (probably) providing an unjustifiable drain on public resources by having a seventh child whilst living in state housing and both parents unemployed. I mean, without knowing them, their ethnicity or anything, I think you could fairly safely make this judgment.

    And for this reason, and at risk of pandering to the political right which I', generally disinclined to do, I believe we can make a case for a diminishing family benefit with each child with no additional funding after three (or four) children. Three is not an entirely arbitrary number because it is the generous side of the average number of children that most people in NZ currently choose to have. Unlimited child or family benefits taken out of the society's limited pool of funds is unfair to taxpayers and perhaps especially to those who cannot have children.
    Of course there would be nothing to stop people having larger families only the expectation that the state would pay for them in the form of increases to the Unemployment Benefit, the DPB, or Working for Families tax breaks, etc. Basic school and hospital services, etc., would have to remain equally accessible and free to all, the ethics and logistics of restricting access to these public services are too complex.
    However the family benefit could be restricted. The benefit would be paid through the mother and would stop when she'd had three or four children, to one or more men (men are bound to cry foul here but I think this would be the fairest possible way to distribute the funds).
    The money paid for the first child would include a substantial sum to cover the 'family set up' costs and could be paid to a larger segment of the community with a fairly high income cap. It would be money to encourage as many people as possible to start a family so to ensure maximum diversity of the gene pool (sorry for bringing in genes). We wouldn't even have to consider it 'welfare' in the traditional pejorative sense.
    After that, subsequent children will in most cases actually cost relatively less to raise, with clothes and toys and school uniforms, etc., being passed on, so that a partially diminished benefit for the second and third child could also be defended.
    You say your neighbours cannot afford to fix broken windows on the existing benefit. But, as tricky as this is to assume, they probably could afford to if they cut something else out for a few weeks, depending on outstanding debts, etc. But we all have those and in an equal and fair society we ought to be equally responsible for avoiding/managing them.
    That said, under the present welfare regime those families who have at least one adult member working are advantaged over the unemployed by Labour's WFF tax credit. I would think by placing weight on the family set up subsidy given to the majority of families in the country upon the birth of their first child and through his/her upbringing, the unemployed (mostly a temporary predicament for any particular individual) would be relatively better off than they are now, unless they have a particularly large family. Of course this would not affect existing families as it would be aimed at reducing the incentives around having more children in order to qualify for more welfare - so future based.

    Although the public paranoia around large welfare-dependant families is seriously exaggerated - research suggests there are relatively few families expanded for this reason - with the rising cost of EVERYTHING, and demands for both parents to work, it makes less and less sense (not just economic) to have large families. Some people make it look easy, even ideal, but many more make it look like the opposite of that.
    My close friend, who is the tenth child of a classic 'white trash' American family - as she puts it, tends to agree, even though she did well for herself and went on to get a PhD (in NZ) and has the student loan to prove it (not to suggest for a minute that a PhD is the measure of doing well).
    All...IMHO :)

    Auckland • Since Sep 2010 • 179 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    Ian D- well, otters were part of the story-hoard but werent actually worsuipped as far as I know, or even used for sacrifices, again AFAIK, whereas animals like horses, bulls, and some birds were.

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    Hiya Sally, I did have your name in there but then it felt to me that I was attacking your idea rather than just playing with it and I really don't want to attack the idea, or you. So I took the name out and tried instead to discuss the idea.

    You make good points and always there is the issue of saving the life of the diabetic (hip replacement) versus giving a child better schooling.

    My point is we should be doing both and the only way to do that is to put more money in the pool and I really don't think we should be afraid of doing that.

    As for how you give money to families to make sure children get the best ... everything. The complaint is always about the 6/8/10/14 child family with unemployed parents. An example that really is hard to demonstrate. The vast majority of the benefit goes where it is meant to without supporting "bludgers". It is the point I make any time I'm arguing this with folks "show me the bludgers" and most times they can't because they are mythical.

    The problem with grading the benefit down for each subsequent child is that you harm the child by doing that, sorry I just think that cost is too great in the long term. Instead why not make sure the things the child should be getting are really free. Free healthcare, free education free pre-school care (yes that means Jackie gets paid a good salary by the government aka us taxpayers). If those things are really free and I mean really free, not with hidden administration fees and school uniform charges then the child directly benefits and you don't need to give the family as much cash.

    Note by doing that I tend to think you aren't valuing parents over non-parents. Instead you are valuing children. If you did make those things genuinely free you might find that families really could afford to choose (their own choice) to have one full time parent.

    But whatever way you look at it, it will cost more money, more of our money, more of my money ... and I really think it's worth it. Because this current system ain't working as well as we'd hoped and I really really don't want to go to the American user pays model, I would much rather emulate the Northern European models, including the higher tax rate.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3444 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    +1 Bart Janssen - especially your last 2 paragraphs.

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    we have been funding early childhood education and care quite well in this country until recently with the subsidies cut by the present government.

    Funnily enough, Sally, we haven't been at all well funded until this recent Labour Govt. International studies suggest that spending on early childhood education should be 1% of GDP. Ours is .6 (yes, that's a decimal point). It is my personal belief that ECE is something that, unless you work in it, most people are not aware of, nor of the issues involved. We pay lip service to it. But as is witnessed by the Govt slashing funding, we really don't give a shit about it. (I exclude all the lovelies of PAS of course). Most people have no idea why it is important to have 100% qualified staff in all ECE centres (all AKA kindergartens are staffed by fully qualified, registered teachers), and I can go into length about that if people wanted. But I siuspect I would be preaching to the converted. Most people think of kindy teachers as kind, lovely people who care greatly for their children. Well, that's true. But I have a degree and am specifically trained to teach 3-5 year olds (and can actually teach in Primary and Secondary if I so chose, which I don't. And to give context, people who are primary trained are paid as untrained if they work in Kindergartens.). I am au courant with the latest theories on teaching and learning, and I am able to rattle those off too, if you like. The point is, that ECE in this country is ludicrously underfunded. Because as a society, we have let that happen. Anyway, I could go on, and I won't. Suffice to say, we're in a hostile environment at the moment for all educatiors, but because early childhood is not compulsory, Tolley wants rid of us from the State Sector - eventually, if she had her way, I suspect - and if people really want to send their kids to a place where quality education and care by trained teachers is happening and you don't want to pay exorbitant fees? Good luck.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3123 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    Oh goody! Political theory on a Friday afternoon...

    Here's another thought to add to the discussion regarding large families: paying family benefit for each extra child is just a cost of the system, and we should grin and bear it, cheerfully.

    I'm not a fan of Working for Families, because it excludes the children of parents who are on benefits, and because the administration cost is huge. I would far rather see a universal child benefit, paid for each child, because each child is a citizen (setting aside quibbles about permanent residents / residents). It's the child's entitlement, not the parents', though as a matter of practicality, we would pay it to the primary caregiver.

    The big disadvantage of a universal benefit is that it gets paid in respect of the children of the rich too, so comparatively wealthy people get assistance they really don't need. On the other hand, that might just be a cost of having a simple, effective system. If it's really that much of a worry, the benefit could be taxed at the rate applying to the highest income earner in the family, which would at least be a nod in the direction of vertical equity (those who earn more pay higher rates of tax).

    That means that Jackie's parents (as in, parents of the children at her pre-school) who are unemployed would get the family benefit too, avoiding the biggest problem with Working for Families.

    Sally, I'm a bit reluctant to go down the route you suggest because it's a bit too close to children as possessions rather than children as citizens. I do see the importance of notions of desert (as in, what you deserve, not rocky barren places, nor dessert), but I don't think they should be applied to children, because as Bart says, they are the ones who suffer.

    Rightyoh... I'll get back to my marking now. Political theory essays, as it turns out, 'though nothing as interesting as this discussion.

    Manawatu City • Since Nov 2006 • 1328 posts Report Reply

  • sally jones,

    What a coincidence Deborah. I've marked a few of those in my time.
    Not in a hurry to mark any more.

    I Have people coming for Guy Fawkes in 38 minutes. I have just posted a long piece on another thread. I msut go check my 15 year old is making the pizzas. But...
    So I must be quick
    Bart: The reduced funding per child does not have to affect the individual child. I mean the initial funding would be considerable. having more children would just become less about the money than it presently is. People who had more than three children would have them because they wanted to. if anything this would enhance their value relative to the other children. All three children could get the same funding and then it stops from there. You could do it that way instead of more gradually.
    Jackie: Yes I was referring to the increased funding for your sector under the previous Labour Government. having had my kids in university crèche for many years I know something about the never enoughness of it. In those days we could only afford 15 hours per week for two children. There was very little subsidy. I wouldn't dream of suggesting you get sufficient funding.
    Deborah: Yes universal benefits are granted to the rich, just as GST is a flat tax that advantages the rich relative to the poor. There's no perfect equality.
    I didn't say all families should qualify for a family set up provision when they have their first child. There should always be an income cap. But I think it could be lifted somewhat to include more families.

    But these funds are not to be tied to the child. They would be 'family' funds'. You'd get them by virtue of becoming a family. Subsequent children would not be disadvantaged relative to the first. Additional funds would be made available by the state for the second and third child, the same that the first is granted less the set up funds.
    Gotta get to Guy

    Auckland • Since Sep 2010 • 179 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    People who had more than three children would have them because they wanted to. if anything this would enhance their value relative to the other children. All three children could get the same funding and then it stops from there. You could do it that way instead of more gradually.

    Sally, I know you write in haste, but how does this idea not impoverish all children of larger families? It's not their fault which family they're born into. And how many children are the result of planned pregnancies, anyhow? I think we start to get into murky territory if you're suggesting either aborting or leaving children without adequate support. Is that what you're suggesting?

    I'd also note that the vast majority of people receiving the unemployment benefit are on it for a short time...so I think your 'unemployed parents having lots of children while on the benefit' would only ever be a small number of families.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3470 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    Good points, Lilith. One of my cousins and her husband planned to have just 3 kids...they had twin boys first time around. OK, room for a second go- they had triplets (two girls & a boy)3 years later-

    when they really checked whakapapa, there was this huge history of twins...

    human breeding is not yet an exact science - nor is the control of human circumstances & emotions - which is why I'd definitely but respectfully, totally disagree with sally jones.

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    how does this idea not impoverish all children of larger families? It's not their fault which family they're born into. And how many children are the result of planned pregnancies, anyhow?

    This is why I much prefer thinking in terms of the child's entitlement. The benefit is not paid for the parents. It's paid for the CHILD. As a matter of convenience, we pay it to the parent(s)/primary caregiver(s), and ask them to spend it on behalf of the child, but it is not their entitlement. It's the child's.

    I think it's so important to think in terms of the child as the rights holder. We don't assist parents to educate their children: we educate the children, direct, because they are the people who are entitled to the education. We don't get ourselves tangled up in Working for Families (the overtones of the 'deserving poor' in W4F give me the holy horrors): we ensure that children have enough resources, whether their parents are in paid employment or not.

    Children are people too.

    Manawatu City • Since Nov 2006 • 1328 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    I'm with Lilith, and Islander, Sally. You really can't stop people having kids. You can, however, make sure that they get the support to be the best parents they can be, and their children have a chance at a good life. It's not necessarily state help that people need, either, but for their neighbours and friends to look out for them. For the community to care. I'll give you an example - one of our dad's was gang associated, very loving father but a bit of a drinker and stoner, and someone who worked all the time, so his kids - 4 under the age of 5 - may not have had the best influences in their lives. His partner went to prison for a year, and at first he didn't cope too well. Until his partner's best friend stepped in. She helped him to get the kids into a routine, and generally showed him the ropes of fulltime child rearing. Now, this dad didn't tell us that his partner was in prison, nor did he ask us to help him in any way. That would have been too shaming for him. Instead, his community stepped in to help him, and we - by now knowing but not saying that we knew - put him in touch with a community support worker, who helped him to get the DPB, and to move house so that his kdis weren't around a bad crowd. And do you know what? He is now the best father ever. His partner is out of prison, and they are both doing very well. As are the kids. And all because the community does what it does when it's at it's best. I think that being on a benefit is demoralising enough for alot of people, without adding on the burden of having no money at all. Your idea, Sally, also smacks a wee bit of the Chinese Govt's One Child policy.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3123 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    having more children would just become less about the money than it presently is.

    This is one of the most depressing sentences I have ever read.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3663 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    You really can't stop people having kids.

    I'm no rightie, but how does that mean other people are obliged to pay for them?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    With a tax system that works for the entire society - yes, Sacha.
    Otherwise, how does our kind of human society continue with grace & equality?

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Instead why not make sure the things the child should be getting are really free.

    That appeals

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    "the things the child should be getting" are really free-

    is a whole ball of worms:

    speaking as someone who has TWO highly trained midwife sisters, who have both worked here as domicillary midwives & in OZ, I know that all the wrong things are provided for a new born & Mum (they are fastfood stuff, wrong kind of naps, and no real back-up (unless you are quite wealthy.) The *gifts* are geared to make you fastfood/sugar /fat dependent.

    O, Sacha - if we dont pay for growing kids- who actually is going to help & pay for us?

    In my family, it is my family: for your family, alas - it isnt my family providing for you...

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    And grace includes respecting society's contribution too

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    Which me & mine always do -
    we've never thought we hang out there on some dark branch solus/alone- we give, and we create and we make and we save, and we really enjoy helping and being part of this strange race, H. sap. sap-
    neither the beginning nor the end - or even any kind of summation of *our* species on this, our lovely Earth/Papatuanuku/Gaia-

    no reira, kia ora tatou katoa-

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    "the things the child should be getting" are really free-

    is a whole ball of worms:

    Didn't say it would be easy

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3444 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I can't really buy into declining benefits as family sizes increase. A more sure way to disadvantage the younger children of large families I couldn't think of, because any potential parental income is likely to be in decline as family size increases too.

    I don't think the choice to create a mega-family is something done at a rational cost-conscious level. It's the product of an environment too, perhaps communities where they are common. But the idea to make a whole lot of money by having a lot of kids is fairly obviously ill-conceived. For starters, the work involved is way more than a day job. Just bringing a large number of children to term is a colossal drain on a woman's body, a massive commitment. Let alone the sleepless nights, the constant monitoring, the endless picking up and dropping off, food preparation, feeding, toileting, clothing, entertaining, educating, etc.

    It has to be something that a person has chosen by a whole different way of thinking. It's also a relatively rare way of thinking (in NZ), hardly a huge drain on society. Because it is not an easy path. I don't think you will change that way of thinking by increasing the hardship. All that would be achieved is hurting the youngest children.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8675 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Reducing the amount of money given to a family for each extra child is based on the premise that the full cost of the first child is fully paid in the first place.

    Which clearly isn't going to be the case, it would cost us tens of billions of dollars to fully fund the cost of children.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6221 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    I can't imagine that there are a statistically significant number of families who are procreating on purpose to get their extra $40 a week or whatever it is. Let's say it's, like, four families. Funnily enough, I am finding it hugely difficult to give the merest smidge of a fuck about this heinous breeding-n-rorting problem. (Basically, we're now framing this conversation the way the right wing wants us to, aren't we?)

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3663 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    (Basically, we're now framing this conversation the way the right wing wants us to, aren't we?)

    Yes, and it honestly never ceases to amaze me.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7404 posts Report Reply

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