Thursday, January 12, 2017
Senator attacks credentialism -- to gasps of disbelief
The constant march towards more and more schooling for just about everything is mostly pointless. The jobs concerned are not being performed noticeably better but uncritical people don't ask about that. Teaching, for instance, was once just an on-the-job apprenticeship. Now it requires a 4-year college course. So have educational standards improved? Quite the contrary. Education standards were MUCH higher in the past.
The one certain thing from it is higher costs to get anything done. The Lion's Helm is one of the few who are blowing the whistle on the stupidity and gullibility of it all.
The Project viewers were left stunned when Senator David Leyonhjelm described childcare workers’ roles as “wiping noses and stopping the kids from killing each other” in an interview on Tuesday night.
The Liberal Democrat Senator made several comments that outraged and offended childcare workers in an interview on the Channel Ten show about the Federal Government’s new $3 billion childcare reform package.
Senator Leyonhjelm said he would not support the package without amendments, criticising the bill for not reducing subsidies to higher income families.
He then suggested a way to reduce the cost of childcare would be to cut back the required credentials of workers, adding that women didn’t need training to take care of children.
“Apart from the fact you want to make sure there aren’t any paedophiles involved, you have to have credentials these days to be a childcare worker,” Senator Leyonhjelm said.
“A lot of women, mostly women, used to look after kids in childcare centres.”
“And then they brought in this national quality framework and they had to go and get a ‘certificate three’ in childcare in order to continue the job they were doing – you know, wiping noses and stopping the kids from killing each other.”
Senator Leyonhjelm said “a lot of women just quit” because of the introduction of minimum qualifications.
"The ones who got certificate threes said, ‘OK, I want more pay now that I’m more qualified’. All we did was drive up the cost because of this credentialism."
The panel appeared stunned by his flippant description of childcare worker's role.
Seeking to clarify, co-host Peter Helliar told the senator he thought a lot of people in childcare might be offended by his remarks.
"This is a very tough job that they do," Hellier said.
Senator Leyonhjelm maintained that workers did not need the credentials, saying there were no improvements in standards when the minimum standard of training was introduced.
"Yes it is, but there are an awful lot of people who are very good at it, but they didn't need a sheet of paper to say they were very good at it," he said.
"I don't think we corrected any errors, any errors, any problems, any deficiencies adversely affecting the kids when we brought in that national quality framework."
Panellist Scott Dooley joked with the senator, asking if his vision for the future of childcare was a "bunch of 30 kids on a leash drinking out of a saucer while a grandpa watches?"
Senator Leyonhjelm said that any dropping of qualification wouldn't see "a reduction in childcare standards".
Following the interview, co-host Gorgi Coghlan commented that the senator's benchmark seemed to be, "'Make sure they’re not a paedophile and then everything from there is OK'."
Coghlan also pointed out that mums feel confident leaving their kids in care when they know they are in qualified hands and more workers wouldn't be attracted to the industry if they weren't valued.
A clip of the interview was viewed on Facebook more than 183,000 times, garnering 1300 responses, mostly of anger and disbelief.
"Disgraceful to say this man is an elected member of the state? What an attitude," wrote one Facebook user.
"This is really quite unbelievable, how can you possibly believe that studying a subject of childcare won't and can't improve the care given to children?" commented another.
One user pointed out how "critical" the first five years of a child life were to their development.
"It takes education - knowledge and skill to learn and understand key child developmental needs to ensure a child grows to their fullest potential. Sure we can have anyone wiping a nose or stopping children from killing each other but is this all that children deserve?" she wrote.
Meanwhile, others agreed with the senator.
"It's childcare. It's not school, it's not college. It's literally group babysitting, and that's all I want it to be. I agree with the Senator's position," one user wrote.
Australia's huge and incompetent welfare bureaucracy
It just gets worse. It should be split up into State-based organizations. It is just too big
“CENTRELINK is letting me die,” reads graffiti scrawled on the wall of the disabled toilet at a branch in Sydney’s inner west.
That’s the perception of some Australians trying to negotiate a benefits system that appears seriously flawed, where letters slamming people with bogus debts of thousands of dollars were widely distributed over the Christmas period.
Long queues snake around the room, while others sit looking bored on grey seats, staring at the grey walls, yet several help desks are empty.
Alberto Bolognini, from Leichhardt, was blunt. “The system sucks,” he told news.com.au. “I pay $700 a week in taxes and when you come for help, they drive you through hell and back.”
The accusations Centrelink’s automated system is failing keep pouring in, with Aussies wrongly targeted thanks to bungled data matching with the Australian Taxation Office. The errors include claims people had two jobs because their employer has slightly different names, that they were working all year when they were unemployed for months and using old addresses for inaccurate debt notices when current ones are held by the ATO.
Those worst affected are the most vulnerable in society — pensioners, people with disabilities and those with mental health issues, some of whom have spoken of suicide after having debt collection agencies put on their case.
And the mistakes are proving hard to fix thanks to clogged phone lines, overstretched staff and difficulties in overriding the online system. That was painfully evident in the frustration expressed by the Aussies news.com.au spoke to at a packed Sydney office.
Mr Bolognini, a 53-year-old construction worker, injured the tendons in his hand three months ago and has been jobless ever since, but he’s been waiting six weeks for unemployment benefits.
“For three months I’ve been surviving on redundancy money and my tax return. Now I’m broke.
“I need money for physiotherapy, but it’s just more paperwork, meantime bills keep coming through. You’ve got to queue for two hours to see the first girl and then another two hours to see the second.”
But Annie Williams* said every business needs to adjust to new challenges and it’s the same for Centrelink, which has to deal with vast numbers of people. “There’s always long queues, I think their website is constantly needing an update, but the Centrelink staff work really hard and they’re generally nice and helpful as can be,” she told news.com.au. “They want to do the best they can for everyone. There’s hiccups but I think the system always needs to be updated, there’s new circumstances around.”
Centrelink’s problems aren’t new, with reports in May that 60 per cent of calls were going unanswered. Labor ministers and independent MPs have called for the system to be suspended.
Michael Bond, from Melbourne, told news.com.au the issues were also affecting Medicare repayments. Staff told him he would have to wait six months for the $500 his small family desperately needs because they were being diverted to help with the Centrelink debacle. “We’ll probably have to get a payday loan,” he said. “They’re going on holiday with their families and we can’t afford to buy food.”
An employee who works in compliance for the agency told news.com.au that “95 per cent of debts are wrong”. He said the Government was “cutting corners, calculating debts fast is their goal, and it’s just wrong, staff morale is so bad everywhere.”
He added: “Centrelink gets a data match from the ATO, the customer is asked to supply pay slips, if they can’t then the income is ‘annualised’ making the debt incorrect.
“Not too long ago, we conducted reviews the right way. We wrote to the employers to get a break down of the income and assessed it in the correct fortnights, but in the Government’s eyes this took too long so they adopted this dodgy incorrect system.
“In the unearned income teams, we may get a match for bank accounts, usually these reviews are for age pensioners, we are told to only address the match data and not look at other assets they may have like shares, real estate, etc, effectively only doing half the job. As you can see, the whole process is wrong.
“The Government should be held accountable.”
Social Services Minister Christian Porter told news.com.au in a statement: “The online compliance system is working as intended. The data matching capability has been developed internally. The software has been used by the department to successfully carry out data matching operations for a number of years. The decision-making rules used to identify non-compliance and identify debt after explanations have been received are well established and have not been altered in the automated system and indeed are the same decision making rules that were applied by Labor when they were in government.”
He said the rate of error “in terms of finally issued debts being raised but overturned” looked set to be less than 1.6 per cent, with the Government predicting it will claw back $4 billion in overpayments.
“If there is a difference between the information reported to Centrelink and the information reported to the ATO the government owes an obligation to the Australian taxpayer to seek clarification of the difference,” Mr Porter said.
“Seeking an explanation [for this difference] is not an error on the part of Centrelink — it is Centrelink doing its job and the person fulfilling the basic responsibility of receiving welfare being that they provide information about their income when requested.
“This is critical to ensuring the integrity of the welfare system — if someone receives benefits to which they are not entitled, the Government is required by law to recover the money.”
The Commonwealth Ombudsman is now investigating the complaints and Shadow Minister for Human Services Linda Burney has written to the Australian National Audit Office requesting an inquiry into the debacle.
The CPSU (Community and Public Sector Union) says service standards have already dropped to unacceptable levels following thousands of job cuts in the Department of Human Services, with the latest scandal piling on more pressure.
“There’s a perfect storm of work coming, with this debt recovery scheme likely to be just part of the problem,” assistant national secretary Michael Tull said on Tuesday.
Alana Wesley, a 25-year-old fine arts graduate from Petersham, said Centrelink appeared to have worked on their service in the wake of the news of the inaccurate debt letters.
“I’ve also noticed staff cuts but strangely, I don’t know if it’s connected [to the complaints], for the past two weeks there’s been better service,” she said. “It’s improved.
“I’ve been trying to get my youth allowance payment but they put down the wrong university, despite the fact I had put in the documents. Six months ago my payments got cut off so I’m still trying to get back pay for the course I finished in November. It’s been very delayed. “I know a lot of people in the same boat.”
Jeff and Lisa Thomas*, a couple in their sixties who spoke to news.com.au at the Sydney Centrelink office, said they had been battling the system all year. “We didn’t get any money for three months,” said Jeff, 60, who was made redundant from his job in property in February and hasn’t been able to find another job since. “There’s not enough staff. They should have twice as many people. “People are passing work on to others. They put me on the phone to someone in Canberra, I was on the phone for an hour and they said, it’s [the branch] that has to deal with that. I looked around and security said, you can’t do that. Eventually someone helped.”
The couple decided to sell their house and downsize, and began receiving rent allowance of $123 a fortnight to help fund their $600-a-week apartment while they looked for somewhere to buy.
Then one member of staff told them shouldn’t be receiving the allowance and would have to pay it back. “We’re not sure that’s right, because two other members of staff said we were,” said Jeff. “The staff don’t know the policy. We’ve been bled dry, they should be encouraging people to downsize.”
Jeff also receives $28 a week from Newstart if he applies for 10 jobs — most of which he says he hasn’t a hope of getting — but recently discovered he only needed to apply for five.
Lisa, 67, said staff had gradually been replaced by “friendly, efficient, helpful self-service — in other words, nothing.”
She believes the office needs dozens more people, and advises others to ask for copies of anything they sign at Centrelink and keep their own file. Hers is 120 pages long. “Practices are sloppy, they’re stressed and understaffed,” she said. “I don’t think they’re properly trained.
“I feel sorry for the people who work there. They are stressed. The Government is trying to screw money out of the poorest of the poor. “Now all they do is accuse people of bludging, not wanting jobs.”
Even doctors are getting screwed by Centrelink
DOCTORS from top Australian universities say they too were hit with erroneous Centrelink debt notices — and even they can’t seem to fix the mistakes.
Darren O’Connell, who has a PhD in economics and lectured at Curtin University, told news.com.au he has tried eight times since November to get his inaccurate debt removed from the system, but the letters keep coming.
His case has not been reviewed as is his entitlement, but instead referred to debt collection agency Dun & Bradstreet, who are chasing him for $321.53 from FY10-11, plus 10 per cent in recovery fees.
“The process and logic used by Centrelink is both flawed, dangerous and opaque,” he told news.com.au. “This process assumes people are guilty and it is up to us to prove our innocence.”
Like the thousands of Australians slugged with inaccurate debt notices, Dr O’Connell has been the victim of Centrelink’s bungled automated data matching with the Australian Taxation Office.
“Centrelink makes a number of flawed assumptions,” he said. “The first is to assume that each taxpayer was employed as a PAYG employee for the period of time listed on the group certificate. The second assumption is that the person was earning an equal amount of income each week, or other sub-period. Centrelink further assumes that the person should have reporting this income, whether it was real or not, during the period of time they were receiving an eligible benefit.”
The 41-year-old, from Katoomba in NSW, has now spent hours trying to obtain payslips from his former employer, for whom he stopped working in October 2011.
“The staff at Centrelink have been unable to grasp the concept of contracting and that just because a group certificate has dates of employment, it does not follow that income was derived equally over this period,” he said. “This indicates a dangerous level of incompetence.”
Laurton McGurk also worked for Curtin Unversity on a casual basis while completing a biology PhD, and said wages sometimes came through months late because of a “messy” payroll system. But Dr McGurk, who now works at the University of Western Australia, says she always reported her income as it was earned to Centrelink.
“In late October of 2016, I got an email saying there was a letter in MyGov for me from Centrelink,” she told news.com.au. “When I opened the email, the PDF was blank. As I wasn’t a Centrelink client any more, I didn’t think much of it.
“In late November, I got an SMS late on a Sunday evening announcing my income assessment was complete and I owed over $2000 due to an overpayment arising from the PAYG statement for 2010-11, which includes income arising from work done in 2009-10.
“I have supplied payslips, made over six phone calls, taken screenshots of broken links and even supplied an excel spreadsheet detailing what I was paid in 2010-11 and when I did actual work for each payslip.
“The program they are using is crude but the system they have built around it is also designed to funnel people into debt recovery not into review. I was and am extremely grateful for the assistance I received from Centrelink but I am not going to pay back a debt I did not incur and I’m not going to let this badly designed computer bully badger others who may be in the same predicament.”
Social Services Minister Christian Porter this week insisted the online compliance system was “working as intended” and that the initial letters, sent out at a rate of 20,000 a week, are not debt letters but requests for extra information about data discrepancies.
“If a debt is raised at a later point, as it is in 80 per cent of cases, this is because the individual acknowledges a mistake in their original income reporting, or provides no explanation at all, or provides an unsatisfactory explanation,” he said. “The rate of error is measured in terms of finally issued debts being raised but overturned and present indications are that this will be less than 1.6 per cent.
“Seeking an explanation as to why there is a difference in the information reported to Centrelink and the information reported to the ATO from the person concerned and receiving a satisfactory explanation is not an error on the part of Centrelink — it is Centrelink doing its job and the person fulfilling the basic responsibility of receiving welfare being that they provide information about their income when requested. This is critical to ensuring the integrity of the welfare system.”
But Dr O’Connell says Mr Porter “is not being truthful when he says that the Centrelink online platform is operating correctly” and that IT problems when he tried to upload documentary evidence have compounded his problems.
“Centrelink representatives have to raise IT requests to get the system issues resolved ... but cannot or will not commence an authorised review or suspend debt collection. Here is another example of Centrelink ludicrous logic: it is telling people that they should enter into voluntary repayment plans with D&B while it sorts out its IT issues. Should the debt be successfully appealed customer should then applies to D&B for a refund. How this advice can be given credibly and with a straight face underlines just how flawed, dangerous and opaque Centrelink’s process is. Centrelink and the government needs to be held more accountable for this process.”
Shadow Minister for Human Services Linda Burney has demanded the system be suspended and this afternoon demanded her counterpart, the responsible minister Alan Tudge, should address the issue.
“Centrelink is at breaking point,” she told a press conference. “I do not hold the people who work in Centrelink responsible. They are caring, compassionate people, who are working under enormous stress. This is nothing but a money-grab by this Government.
“They are using the most vulnerable people in our community, falsely accusing them, terrifying them that they have bills with Centrelink to fill their budget black hole. I have no problem and people that have been overpaid, people who have gained the system, should pay that money back, and should feel the full consequences of that, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about thousands and thousands of Australians, right across this country, who have been falsely accused of fraud by Centrelink.”
She has written to the Australian National Audit Office requesting an inquiry into the debacle.
The Commonwealth Ombudsman is investigating the system, which the government says will claw back $4 billion in overpayments to welfare recipients.
WA improves basic school maths and English
Western Australia has improved its low levels of high school literacy and numeracy with online testing and educational reforms.
Only about 28 per cent of Year Nine students in the state were hitting the minimum requirements in maths and English in 2013.
When the same group of pupils, eligible to take the certificate of education, was tested in 2016 the level had reached almost 94 per cent.
Education Minister Peter Collier said the improvement was thanks to the WA's Online Literacy and Numeracy Assessment and a reform in the WA certificate of education.
The test was introduced as part of wider reforms to senior secondary education, he said.
"Through the assessment, students who are struggling with reading and writing are identified early and receive tailored help to ensure they are prepared for life beyond secondary schooling," he added.
WA is the first state to introduce this sort of program, with other states expected to follow, Mr Collier said.
Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.). For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me here