Comparison of Cost of Children Studies

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The Enalysis Study

ENALYSIS (derived from ENergy-anALYSIS) is the business name of the author's engineering consultancy (which devotes most of its time to trying to convince the family law industry that it needs to go Hi-tech in order to properly service its customers).

The Enalysis study was performed in late 1992 but was only collated, summarised and published in January 1995 following the author's reading of the JSC94 report and some particular issues raised/hinted in the report.

The author wrote to the DSS and submitted a tender/proposal in line with recommendation 116 of the JSC but was told the UNSW had already won the "tender". At this stage the UNSW have only been permitted to release the "food" results of their studies.

The Enalysis study Section 1 is published on the Internet without alteration from that published in hard copy in 1995. Section 2 was the response to the author's original discovery of the soft fraud (bupra). As this issue may well go to the high court, the "submissions" of Section 2 may need to be reserved and are therefore not part of this site. However the "cost of children" aspects of the report are not compromised.

Also the detailed database of some 600 items which was published in hard copy is not provided at this site (but could be for other researchers interested).

The automatic (Le Mans) shopping list, inventory, use by, stocktake, budgeting, menu etc system described in the paper has been found on an old archive disk but as yet the macro which drives it is missing. If any social scientists would be interested in using the system to assist in further research the author would be pleased to work along with the project using an enhanced version of the tool.

Since 1992 high speed low cost computers have found their way into all but the most disadvantaged households. In fact the state of the art PC used by the author in 1992 was suitable (but a little slow) for this very large spreadsheet and as such a PC can be purchased second hand for about $200, a PC could be said to be universally affordable. The author maintains (as expressed in his tender to DSS) that software such as this, provided to a selection of families in different socio economic situations would not only assist/entertain the familes (as reported for the 1992 family) but enable far more representative "cost of family" information.

In contrast the author can only express his total dismay at the performance of the AIFS at their deplorable level of competence and inactivity. If the author could have devised such a system in a week while working full time and looking after 3 children, how does the AIFS put in its time besides commissioning fellow boffins to do studies (10 years ago and not even updated) on married rather than separated families.

Comparisons

The author has already expressed the deepest suspicions as to the motives of the AIFS and it would seem that the JSC share such conclusions by bypassing the AIFS in rec 116.

This situation virtually confirms the concern of the family court to authenticity of the Lovering and Lee studies, especially with the 3:1 disparity in the results.

In the submission of the author (and it would seem the JSC), the AIFS has failed dismally, along with the Family Law Council, to perform the duties required by the FLA. Therefore, rather than expend valuable cyberspace even giving credence to these studies, the author takes the same attitude as to the disregarded income farce and simply disregards these studies as being totally inappropriate to family law situations. The seemingly proven "brown nose" attitudes of both Faulks/McDonald destroys any confidence a professionally minded person could possibly have in their present/past positions producing credible research data.

Or to put a finer point on the issue, IF the duty of the AIFS as per the FLA was to assist the court in research matters AND their chosen consultants produced grossly conflicting results, WHY did the AIFS not sort out the problem (as a specification problem) rather than leaving it to the court to ponder and dismiss the research as badly specified.

What remains is the hope that the UNSW full data will be released ASAP. In the meantime, the "leaked?" cost of food results provides interesting comment. The total of the (almost) equivalent age groups for the 3 children in the Enalysis study would be $105.26 pw according to the UNSW low cost study (in 1997).

The Enalysis study in 1992 indicated $117.61 pw but included supermarket items designated as household and personal amounting to $13 pw, reducing the total to $104. Considering the self cancelling time difference vs standard of living (if that in fact matters), the concurrence of $104 to $105 is good news and suggests the UNSW report (as long as it does not get laundered) will provide accurate results which can be used for DSS, ATO and family law matters, both via legislation and litigation.

Why do we have to wait 6 months if the research has been completed, paid for by the taxpayer? It would seem from letters from the SS Minister to the author that the "family law" instigated cost of children report by UNSW via rec 116 of the JSC has been combined with a "nice to know" checkout of all DSS parameters. Such is totally commendable in the submission of the author, however the family law issues suggest up to 40 million per week is being lost to the public purse but for the publication of these UNSW figures.

Can we afford to wait 6 months? Could we not at least have the raw figures to supplement the October 1996 study (ISBN 1327-4708) of Colette Murray into food budgets? If they are all as good as this why do we need to waste 40 million a week waiting for DSS "scrutiny", assumedly only for DSS purposes and nothing to do with the 40 million.

To move down an octave, it is instructive to look at the seemingly "prohibitive" cost of school uniforms for private schools. In this survey the supplier of the uniforms was invited to provide her own assessment of the cost and frequency of replacement of the multitude of items. There were no "hand me downs" or repaired clothes considered (as actually happened in this case), this was the absolute upper limit of what a really well heeled family would pay to keep their children "top of the class", as recommended by the uniform suppliers, even down to the correct socks.

For 3 kids the total was $10.37 pw and this was from the mouth of a retailer keen to replace each item at the greatest possible frequency. Lee claims $21.71 pw for the ordinary knock about clothes for one kid. As stated bupra such studies (on Mars?) totally lack any credibility. Maybe a pampered Double Bay teen idol appearing on Home and Away would have $1,000 pa wardrobe lavished on him/her but surely Mr McDonald told Mr Lee the completely wrong story about what he was required to study and report upon?

All the more reason why we need the UNSW figures now.

Other items for astute unemployed people to observe from the Enalysis sample shopping list of 1992, No Frills products in 1997 are still cheaper than their 1992 counterparts. No Frills paracetamol hovers around 90c while H has paid $2.39 in 1992 for Panadol. No Frills detergent at $2.37 (from memory) is less than half the price of OMO and works and smells great (and is low sudsing for front loading machines!). Acceptable coffee ie a dollar cheaper than 1992 choice and instant coffee much cheaper again, though in this study the coffee was not included in the children's costs.

But it would seem from comments made that the coffee issue is the reason why the Lee study was so high as it seemingly took an equal share of goods services between parents and pampered child, without conceding that even without the child the family still had a car/house etc. The UNSW study overcomes this problem via the opportunity to subtract for example H1 (single female) from H4 (single female with child) to find the incremental cost of the child. Surely this is what AIFS was supposed to do 10 years ago.

These comments are made to fortify the contention that $70 per week per child via the Enalysis survey (which is the figure used in the computer modelling) is not a pie in the sky figure but a level at which no particular budget constraints were envisaged and No Frills type products were seen as being socially unacceptable. And if therefore $70 pw (perhaps $80 in 1998) is indeed the high water mark, then the CSA formulae are completely wrong and even DSS/ATO benefits would seem high, depending of course on what proportion of the costs the government is aiming to provide.

As to this last question, it is not seen by the author as necessarily wrong that, as it seems, the government pays in excess of 100% of the actual cost of children in appropriate situations when the origins of Family Payment are considered. Some 30 years ago there was married man tax and single man tax as it was called, the married concession (or was it a rebate?) being an incentive for couples to populate Australia from within. It became a social security payment (direct to mum) once it was realised that dad might spend it at the pub on the way home at the 6 o'clock swill. So the present day format could well still have an incentive element. The concern is that caring for kids in the single status is far more profitable than in the (surely) preferred married status. But as far as child maintenance is concerned the issue is crystal clear, the amount is never to be greater than 100% of the cost, and in most cases around about 50%.

But perhaps the main point about the UNSW figures is they do include housing cost. The JSC was not able to confirm if the CSA was meant to or not and this was one of the main reasons for rec 116. So now the issue of double dipping will be out in the open and maybe it will finally be put to bed - no more Dench adjustments, or if there are they will need to be fully justified and the old heart pumper of the registrars in conciliation of "putting a roof over your children's heads" will be negated.

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