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Bludgin’ ain’t so easy

Written By: - Date published: 2:30 pm, December 18th, 2008 - 47 comments
Categories: welfare - Tags: ,

So, I’m out of work. I was employed on a contract and when it came up for renewal the boss told me business is too tight, have to let me go. It wasn’t their fault and they were pretty good about it. For the first few weeks I just looked for work but there’s not much going so I thought I better get on the dole. That’s what it’s there for.

I’ll tell you what though, anyone who reckons that its easy to get on the dole and there’s heaps of bludgers hasn’t ever tried it. Firstly you have to go along to this seminar about how to get a job. I had to wait 3 weeks before I could get into one of those seminars. Then I had to get a meeting with a case manager, take along all these forms and hopefully get on the benefit. But seems I’m not the only one in this situation. I was going to have to wait until February to get meeting at the nearest WINZ office. I managed to get a meeting at an office in another suburb instead just 3 weeks later. That was last week. All my papers were in order and I was accepted. Got my first dole payment. After tax, it’s $184. Not much left after $150 a week in rent. I’m lucky to have some savings to get by on but you’ve got to worry about others less fortunate.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re lucky to have benefits to keep us going when we fall on tough times. Just don’t go thinking that people like me are bludgers. It isn’t easy to get the dole and it sure isn’t easy to try to live on it. It’s great to have it while you need it but, like most other people on benefits, I’ll be keen to get work as soon as possible.

– Ben the wannabe worker

47 comments on “Bludgin’ ain’t so easy ”

  1. Mr Magoo 1

    Cue the right posters talking about how you are not a typical case or some such?


    Perhaps how there are really jobs out there, you are just not looking hard enough?


    Come on guys! You are very vocal when talking out your bum against someone who is not experiencing it first hand!?

    PS: Thanks for the post. I grew up in a beneficiary family and know what this is like. (invalid’s benefit) I hear it has got WORSE since then…

  2. George 2

    probably written by steve or eddie or IB or one of their mates as a puff piece. no real substance here.

    [the cup of human kindness runneth over with thee, eh George. We get an email, we run it and this is how you react. Grow up. SP]

  3. Rex Widerstrom 3

    $184?! That’s not much more than I was getting over a decade ago!! And that’s in real terms… take inflation into account and you’re probably getting about the same.

    Nine years of Labour and that’s the best they could do for some of our most vulnerable citizens?!

    It’s not like National are ever going to raise benefits (cf the slash-and-burn of the 90s) so surely one of the main things on the agenda of any Labour government should be ensuring beneficiaries are given an income which sustains the basics. And $34 a week does not cover food, medical, clothing and utilities.

    In fact Labour surely ought to aim to raise the level a little higher than that which sustains the basics, thus giving National room to play to some of its base by cutting the amount, thus still leaving a liveable level.

    At least in my days on the benefit you were granted money backdated to the day you rang and informed DSW you were unemployed. You just had to wait for the interview till you got paid it.

    Best of luck, Ben.

  4. Stephen 4

    At least in my days on the benefit you were granted money backdated to the day you rang and informed DSW you were unemployed. You just had to wait for the interview till you got paid it.

    I was on it a year and a half ago – that’s exactly what happened with me – was quite a nice and unexpected surprise…hmm.

    Cue the right posters talking about how you are not a typical case or some such?

    I somehow doubt anyone outside of the Libertarian party says all those on the unemployment benefit are bludgers – ssoooo a ‘straw man’ anybody?!

    The long term unemployed (say on it for 1 year +) are people that should be focused on. Not necessarily having their benefit cut off, but surely warrant special attention of some sort…

  5. Janet 5

    Is there still the unemployed workers’ union? I know so many beneficiaries in similar circumstances. A 50 cent rise in bus fares can be the last straw. But hard to organise when you can’t afford a phone or computer or even a text.

  6. Bill 6

    Anyone who is not reasonably literate is going to really struggle with the forms and be generally ‘defeated’ by the onerous nature of the whole signing on procedure. And all for not a lot of anything worth while.

    Sure, you wont starve. But suffer stress? Exhibit signs of malnutrition? Drown in unavoidable debt? Yup. And more. ANYONE who claims that WINZ does any more than allow you to keep hanging on by the slimmest of threads simply doesn’t know their arse from their elbow.

    Labour as overseers were no great shakes in humanising the benefit system. Apart from the fact they introduced the biggest benefit cuts since the early 90s when they removed Special Benefit and introduced Temporary Additional Support in it’s place they allowed the ghost of Christine Rankin to stalk the department’s corridors.

    Now that the Nats are the overseers it will get even worse. Rankins ghostly legacy will gleefully be given substance again and maintained via the department sucking any remaining vestiges of hope and self worth from it’s ‘client base’.

  7. Bill 7

    “The long term unemployed (say on it for 1 year +) are people that should be focused on. Not necessarily having their benefit cut off, but surely warrant special attention of some sort ”

    Special attention sounds nice to me. Can I have some of that? Maybe enough money to pay my bills? Or treat myself to something special like?

  8. Stephen 8

    Special attention sounds nice to me. Can I have some of that? Maybe enough money to pay my bills? Or treat myself to something special like?

    Compulsory re-training?

  9. Stephen 9

    After tax, it’s $184. Not much left after $150 a week in rent.

    Why the hell is that taxed? What’s the point?! Same with super I think..

  10. Pat 10

    While you’re waiting for a new fulltime job, working on a hay gang over the summer will pay more than the dole.

  11. Stephen 11

    Might i also suggest seasonal work (for the able-bodied). *Great* pay, though not everyone can just up sticks and move to nelson to pick apples…

  12. Bill 12

    That like a re-education centre? You know, like what they do in countries with dodgy totalitarian regimes?

    Or do you mean like a dog needs to be trained (re-trained?) not to piss on the upholstery?

    What do you mean by re-training? You assume I didn’t get something quite right the first time around?

    Maybe I need reprogrammed? EST or something perhaps?

    You know, I’d rather just have something special as suggested in your first comment. Doesn’t have to cost FA.

    Like they say, it’s the thought that counts. How much would it cost, really, to allow beneficiaries their dignity and dismantle the institutional ‘dogging’ of them?

    Actually, sod it. I want a big fucking medal from the Employers Federation for doing my bit in contributing to labour flexibility!

  13. Stephen 13

    Think you’re going a bit over the top Bill, but – I know this a bit of a hoary old chestnut but what the hey – what to do with the long term unemployed? Nothing? Offer them re-training opportunities? What if they don’t want them?

  14. ak 14

    Bill: Labour….allowed the ghost of Christine Rankin to stalk the department’s corridors.
    Have to disagree there Bill – still patchy but not a smidge on the Rankin years in my experience, especially from the upper echelons (which is where to go when you have trouble)

    ….when they removed Special Benefit… Totally agree there – but to be fair I saw some excesses, and prior to Labour Special Benefit was almost impossible to get, one office I went to in about 98 had never ever paid it! In my experience the attitudinal change which enabled better access to all benefits more than compensated for this. Still no excuse from a Labour govt, but.

    Ben, three weeks is ridiculous and you should be paid from your first phone call. Ring your nearest beneficiary advocacy group and/or put in a Review of Decision. Go to DWI on the interweb and look at Manuals and Procedures, and good luck in the job hunt.

  15. Bill 15

    On the apple picking front. No, Stephen, it’s not ‘great pay’. But I wonder. Has anyone bothered to go around the orchards and enforce the law with respects to the min wage?

    How many orchardists illegally underpay by paying by volume picked which translates to less than min wage when calculated in hourly terms and not making up the discrepancy in the pay packet?

    I suppose WINZ would point that out to any poor sod they send off to be an itinerant worker during the summer?

  16. cocamc 16

    Every year in the vineyards they need 2-3,000 seasonal workers for the harvest and i know that some people as part of the RSE scheme take home around $52k for six months work in the vineyards. So there is work out there. It may be manual but sure beats the level of the unemployment benefit?

  17. Bill 17


    By ‘upper echelons’, I guess you mean within the MSD in Wellington? Fair enough. I was referring to WINZ offices. Big hangover of Rankin-ism in a lot of them.


    Yeah ok. A bit OTT. But at the end of the day, why should it be seen as okay to denigrate unemployed people? ( I’m not saying you were…but it’s a widespread and almost universally condoned part of MS NZ culture)

    Where the hell does the idea that worth and usefulness stems from job activity and what does that say to us about our concept of ourselves? And why is that idea accepted so unquestionably these days?

    Both those latter questions are rhetorical by the way. And as you might gather I’ don’t adhere to the majority position with regards either.

    I don’t think it’s so much a question of ‘doing something’ with the unemployed as allowing the unemployed to be so with dignity. I think it’s really sad that many would see that proposition as ‘off the wall’ or some such.

    Change perceptions of what worth is. Encourage and enable people to explore and develop their potential minus the shackles of the ideological imperitive to be in a job.

  18. Mr Magoo 18

    i know that some people as part of the RSE scheme take home around $52k for six months work in the vineyards.

    To be fair, some of the vineyard “picking” (and pruning) is actually a highly skilled job and not something a peson off the street with little training could do. I doubt they would be making 52k even if they were doing it for the first time….

  19. Janet 19

    Can someone explain to me why Christine Rankin is such a media and National Party darling?

  20. rainman 20

    “I don’t think it’s so much a question of ‘doing something’ with the unemployed as allowing the unemployed to be so with dignity.”

    I hear ya, but what you’re asking is hugely idealistic. Sure, there are better ways to conceive of a societal value system that isn’t rooted in money (and therefore employment) but it ain’t the one we have, or are likely to get, ever. Unemployment is therefore sensibly seen as a problem to be fixed – unless of course you have made/obtained sufficient money up front to retire early. So, you can be as dignified in unemployment as you want, as long as you don’t need state financial support.

    If someone is unemployed and happy that way, but still needs/wants state support, then there will be conflict between them and those what don’t think like that. Quite reasonable, really.

  21. rainman 21

    Meant to add, to Ben the wannabe worker: Best of luck mate, hope you find something soon.

  22. Bill 22


    The state has ‘closed off the commons’ so to speak…of permissible or possible ways to do things. But with the power comes responsibility.

    I’ll put it this way. I might not be able to prevent you caging me. But having caged me, it is your responsibility to see I am fed.

    Oh. And I’m not going to be grateful either.

  23. Akldnut 23

    Hey I’ve been on the invalid benefit for over eight years (organ failure) and when I first applied was told ” Theres nothing wrong with you, you look fine and shouldn’t be on benefit. Thankfully I took it further with a complaint to the local Winz manager and managed to get on a sickness benefit for six months before I was classed as having qualified for the Invalids benefit.
    At the time Uneployment and sickness were the same at $150 per week and Invalids $180 plus prescription costs. (wohoo was I was living it up!)
    Its icreased a bit more now but not that much

    Finally getting some return on my “Tax” dollars

    Unfortunately wer’e still forced to live on the good will of others

    Might even

  24. Akldnut 24

    wheres the edit function gone?

  25. anonymouse 25

    You should also be eligible for an accommodation supplement
    (unless your “some savings” are more that $8,000)

  26. Jimbo 26


    What does this mean and how much should the Goverment spend doing it? – “Change perceptions of what worth is. Encourage and enable people to explore and develop their potential minus the shackles of the ideological imperitive to be in a job.”

    Is it more important than, say, increasing retirement benefits or improving the health system? Should we do it before or after raising teacher salaries.

    It sounds pretty good, but in my view our Government should only get into this “encouraging and enabling people to explore and develop their potential” malarkey one they’ve dealt with the basics, which are (in no particular order):

    1. Education
    2. Law and Order
    3. Defence
    4. Health
    5. Ensuring there is state support for the disadvantaged such as invalids, the aged and people who cannot (or are unable to find) work.
    6. Creating an environment that facilitates business growth.

    If you reckon we’ve got all of the above sorted, then it’s probably time to start on this “potential developing” without the “idealogical imperative” of being in work. In the meantime, I’d prefer Government to keep away from new-age claptrap and stick to things that will undoubtedly benefit NZ as a whole.

    You need to DO SOMETHING to survive. If you don’t DO SOMETHING, you need to rely on public or private benefactors. It’s not denigrating beneficiaries to state that obvious fact. I don’t want any government to put in place policies that encourage inactivity.

  27. Jimbo 27

    Basically what Rainman said, but far better than me.

  28. Jim Dandy 28

    “I’ll tell you what though, anyone who reckons that its easy to get on the dole and there’s heaps of bludgers hasn’t ever tried it. Firstly you have to go along to this seminar about how to get a job. I had to wait 3 weeks before I could get into one of those seminars. Then I had to get a meeting with a case manager, take along all these forms and hopefully get on the benefit.”

    An outrageous state of affairs for a human. in our distant past we all shared the work (fishing, hunting, gathering) we lived in small groups with people who knew each other for generations. When times were lean things got shared (more or less)

  29. Bill 29

    Where did I mention government? Why the assumption that government is the agency to effect an attitudinal shift? Can’t people form opinions and develop ways of seeing situations and each other without governmental input?

  30. Ianmac 30

    Yes to the bit about giving particular attention/help to those unemployed for more than a year. (I believe the number has been surprisingly small.) And use the same principle by giving particular attention/help for the tail end of learners who are failing in school and thus reduce the probability at the older end, rather than a blanket money hungry testing regime for everyone.
    Good luck Ben.

  31. George Darroch 31

    Ben, I hear there is a job going with the police, which might suit someone in your position. $600pw, plus expenses. No previous experience required, the ability to work with groups is a must, however. Special skills with radio communications, and the ability to pretend you’re a former SAS soldier would be looked upon highly.

    Applications care of – Judith Collins, Parliament Buildings, Wellington. (cause she’s the new boss, and thinks it’s ok – surely that means hiring a new one?)

  32. George Darroch 32

    On a more serious note, I’ve said in previous threads how angry I was that Labour deliberately continued with National’s benefit levels. Can someone even tell me when Labour actually raised them? Because I don’t believe they ever did. I don’t think they even raised them for inflation in their 9 years…

    We could have tried to implement a social democracy. Labour Party people told me – eventually – but the pace of change in this area was glacial.

    Ben, have you applied for the accommodation supplement? As I understand it, you’d probably be eligible for $50 pw in supplements (one third of your rent). You’d have $84 to live on. Still not more than canned food, bills and a couple of bus fares, but at least it’s survivable. While Labour failed to increase benefits past survival levels, they did do a reasonable amount to encourage case managers to actually help their “clients”, instead of impede them. As a result, obtaining a little meagre assistance is actually possible.

    Those seminars are a bloody joke though. And if you’ve been unemployed more than once, you’ll go to exactly the same seminar every time.

    I’ve said it in another post, bt we need to get an unemployment benefit system that takes lessons from the Danish. High unemployment benefits, low unemployment figures, high productivity, high satisfaction from both workers and employers, flexible labour laws, and high taxes. Of course, if Labour did put such a scheme in place, the screaming and whinging from the right would be endless, and they’d try and pull away the good bits as soon as they had the chance.

  33. QoT 33

    Good post, Ben. Of course the righties are fantastically quick to jump on the old, “Oh not YOU, YOU have good reasons” bandwagon, beloved of all conservatives confronted with an actual human being going through hard times.

  34. TimeWarp 34

    Not everyone has small enough hands for that seasonal work, apparently…

    Bill, best of luck with the hunt – been there before buddy and I know it’s not easy.

  35. Taane (maxx being an idiot) 35

    Can you get the dole if youve been fired?

    [lprent: Are you looking to get banned permanently]

  36. TBA 36

    Things may have changed but when I was working for Work and Income (about 4 years ago) and this “course” was introduced while we were all made to say it was compulsory it is not and we were also told if anybody made a fuss then to just process the application.

    Print off the Unemployment form (http://www.workandincome.govt.nz/individuals/forms-and-brochures.html), make sure you’ve got all the required support documentation (its on the form but in particular any pay slips, bank account details (need a statement/proof), fill it out and then go and submit it. Make sure you watch them date stamp it and your support documentation and then ask for a copy an appointment.

    If they give you crap ask for them advise what part of the Social Welfare legislation that the seminar is a requirement and indicate where on the form it says you must attend one. It they still give you crap ask for a review of decision form and fill it in then and there and submit it. In addition I would suggest contact citizens advice (or the local Green Party if CA can’t help and ask for the local benificary advocate and they will help you through the process.

    BTW the review of decision form was one that just made everybodys life hard so if nothing else will get peoples attention like wise with the advocate.

    Hope this helps, and all the best.

    By the way Taane (maxx being an idiot) whether a persons quits or is fired doesn’t effect their elligability for UB, eg if you quit you got the maximum (12 weeks) unless there were just reasons and were actioning them eg taking a personal grievance and could prove it though this was at the branch managers discretion.

  37. Stephen 37

    Thanks Bill – I don’t reaaally think it’s universally seen as acceptable to denigrate the unemployed. I myself will happily denigrate actual ‘bludgers’, but it’s so rare because it’s very difficult to know someone’s individual situation. I certainly had a lower sense of self-worth when I was unemployed because I was receiving money from people who were working – of course I knew I was working hard to find a job, so it was moderately easy to think ‘fuck’em’ to anyone I imagined was looking down on me for doing so.

    On the apple picking front. No, Stephen, it’s not ‘great pay’. But I wonder. Has anyone bothered to go around the orchards and enforce the law with respects to the min wage?

    How many orchardists illegally underpay by paying by volume picked which translates to less than min wage when calculated in hourly terms and not making up the discrepancy in the pay packet?

    I did it early last year and I was taking home (after tax) a low of $520 to a high (for 3 weeks) of $800-odd. I’m not sure what the average was, but about $600. I think that’s pretty great.

    Do they have to make up a discrepancy if the picker is just slack? I had the option of switching to hourly if I couldn’t handle being paid by volume too…

  38. Doug 38

    Bludgin’ ain’t so easy.

    Just ask Aidan Smith.

  39. maxq 39

    bludgin, alcohol free

  40. Bill 40


    Universality of denigrating the unemployed. Think DPB and the media fuelled right wing b/s about pregnancy for housing etc, etc as just one example. (Notice how single parents are now ‘expected’ to seek work..the wff exemption can be seen as a carrot or a stick depending on your perspective).

    Beyond DPB, it is just plain ingrained that when people ask what you do that they expect an answer framed in terms of what job you have. The implication is that if you don’t have a job you ‘do nothing’ and by extension ‘are nothing’. Cue a 1001 implicit and explicit prejudices.

    On the receiving money from people who are working front. That sucks.UB should be fully funded via a tax levied solely on employers. They benefit most from our waged culture and as I see it, should not be allowed to benefit from engineered levels of unemployment. ( I believe 5% is posited as the optimum level to gain ‘labour flexibility’ allowing for a downward pressure on wages without blowing out government social spending on benefits?). Theoretically, government could change the landscape in this respect by introducing such a tax, but won’t because their prime function is to protect and perpetuate an environment favourable to orthodox business activity, ie profit. Unemployed workers are a cost that business doesn’t just externalise but gains extra profit from.

    Moving on, if your sums are typical, then fruit picking is a different kettle of fish from when I did it last.

    Do they have to make up the discrepancy? Yes. Min wage is min wage.

    A slacker? Before April 1, dismiss them using a fair process.

  41. dave 41

    Can you get the dole if youve been fired?

    Yes you can – provided you are not working more than 30 hours a week, have a partner in work and are looking for work yourself..

  42. If your contract has expired and it is not extended, you haven’t been fired.

  43. Joe Blogger 43

    “If your contract has expired and it is not extended, you haven’t been fired.”

    I would ask your case manager if you would be covered by the rules for seasonal workers. I’m not sure if this would/wouldn’t be possible but it may provide the means to avoid messy stand downs etc.

  44. djp 44

    Ben the wannabe worker,

    Case managers know when to pick their battles…. you obviously arent a true dole bludger so they will probably put you through the ringer.

  45. marco 45

    Your not getting a full and correct entitlement if all your getting is $184, go in and apply for the Accomocdation Supplement, TAS and DA and while your at it get an SNG for a food grant.

    You should be getting around $300 per week plus your entitled to emergency assistance, if your case manager didnt inform you of this then complain to the manager and get it back paid.

    If your using $184 to prove a point and have not listed the supplementary assistance then try to be more objective next time.

    Oh and TBA, the seminar is a requirement it is listed in the pre benefit obligations of the Work and Income Manuals and Procedures available online

  46. Greg 46

    A few questions…..

    Why are you in a place that charges $150 a week rent? Get a cheaper place, living on the doll isn’t meant to be a luxuary

    Have you looked for jobs? I tell ya, they’re out there, especially at this time of year. You spend a few hours walking into bars on courtney place, you’ll have multiple job offers. Other places that have a high staff turnover like fast food places and supermarkets are always looking for staff. Times have to be really really bad for that to stop.

    Thats what I did anyway.

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  • Speech to Building Nations 2050 conference
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  • Speech to Constitutional Kōrero conference
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  • Further sanctions on the political and economic elites of Russia and Belarus
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  • Speech to Aotearoa Refugee Hui
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  • Defence Minister visits Ukraine and Poland
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  • Stuart Nash to attend OECD meetings
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  • Speech to the Asia New Zealand Foundation
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