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Written By: - Date published: 7:35 am, August 14th, 2017 - 157 comments
Categories: benefits, class war, disability, welfare - Tags: , ,

When Metiria Turei and the Green Party spoke up about welfare last month, this is what they were talking about. What we’ve seen in the past few weeks is a mirror for what it is like on a benefit. It’s far too often brutal, and NZ by and large simply hasn’t cared enough to do much about it. The degradation of welfare in NZ has been a long, culturally endorsed project and this is where we have come to.

Stuff are reporting on Christchurch man Peter Lawrence who has been on Invalids Benefit (now Support Living Payment) for more than 30 years. He is tetraplegic, which makes him highly dependant. His income is normally $370/wk. WINZ recently cut his benefit down to $170/wk at no notice and left it at that rate for 4 weeks. Of the experience Lawrence said,

I was beside myself; it was very distressing.

There is so much in Peter Lawrence’s story. Some of the things that stand out for me are this:

  • The inanity of removing the benefit of a person who is permanently and seriously disabled. 
  • The lack of compassion or comprehension (hard to know which) of inflicting severe income stress on someone who is already highly vulnerable due to disability, poverty, and the fact of being a WINZ client.
  • That the system has no checks and balances to prevent this from happening.
  • It’s routine for beneficiaries to have no money left at the end of the week, so having a large benefit cut like this over weeks can be catastrophic.

WINZ say that Lawrence was one of 373 long term beneficiaries having their Disability Allowance reviewed. That would require beneficiaries to prove that they spend their benefit on already approved disability costs. The number of beneficiaries in NZ receiving Disability Allowance is much higher, so this looks like a random review. WINZ have the ability to allow long term beneficiaries to simply say on the review form that their costs haven’t changed, so there really was no need for this to happen other than some boxes needed to be ticked in MSD bureaucracy.

Local Labour MP Poto Williams,

[Pete] had no help to try and get that information but here’s the thing: he is still disabled.

For that four weeks that his benefit was cut he wasn’t un-disabled and not un-entitled – he was entitled to that benefit.

Here’s another thing. This story is common place. Anyone who’s spent a length of time on a benefit will be reading that and going yep. Having one’s benefit cut while still dependent, having it cut with no notice, being expected to provide documentation that one can’t access, being reviewed for no good reason – in a twist of the knife WINZ often frame this as wanting to make sure the beneficiary is getting what they are entitled to. Not getting entitlements in the first place is also common.

The system is broken. Lest people still in denial about this think that it’s a one off, here’s Williams again,

Williams said her staff were dealing with an increasing number of cases involving Work and Income clients who were not receiving payments they were entitled to.

Staff had supported 77 constituents with issues with their benefits this year and Williams said Work and Income’s “delay and obfuscation” needed to stop.

“I think a lot of it is designed to eliminate people out of the system … they just give up.”

What NZ is now facing is the fact that this is intentional. It’s what the government designed, and they’ve done so with the backing of a chunk of NZers who believe that it’s right and fair to treat beneficiaries like shit. And no, you don’t get to separate out beneficiaries into the deserving poor and the undeserving ones, because the backlash against Turei is the exactly the same dynamic that enables WINZ to treat people like this, and is what gives National the mandate to run welfare into the ground and destroy people’s lives.

So what can be done? Changing the government is a no brainer at this point but given Labour’s unwillingness to touch welfare a new government needs a strong Green presence.

Then look seriously at the Green Party policy on welfare. They don’t want to do away with welfare or tinker with it, they want to value social security by mending the safety netIn the case of Peter Lawrence the policy would increase his base benefit by 20%, remove the need to continually prove disability entitlement, create a culture of compassion at WINZ including reintroducing case managers who are trained in the area they work in (e.g. disability) and who get to know the specific situation each client has (i.e. putting fail safes in place). These are all straight forward, easy to implement now solutions that would make immediate improvement in the lives of almost all beneficiaries.

157 comments on “Brutal ”

  1. Adrian Thornton 1

    Thanks Weka, I have witnessed family members being treated like dogs by WINZ.

    I know of one sensitive young man who was so traumatized by his treatment at WINZ while trying to get support during the off season in the local orchard industry, that he just could not face going back, his family (who themselves were struggling financially) had to support him financially and emotionally until the season started up again.

    Yes the reality of WINZ is brutal, is dehumanizing , is humiliating and a national disgrace.

    It is looking a lot like the Greens for me this election.

    • tc 1.1

      Paula is proud of her work in WINZ, something the opposition need to focus on to get her on the back foot defending the indefensible.

      The sheeple need to see first hand that they simply don’t give a F about the vulnerable and needy.

      Bennett’s not going to get away with being parked out of sight being deputy leader this election which should be used to advantage.

  2. Carolyn_nth 2

    Susan St John spells out some details of how brutal our social security has become in a a post on The Daily Blog:

    eg: money as gifts from family can count as income, and then the beneficiary can be given a tax bill for it at the end of the financial year. Plus:

    Unbelievably, today loans may be treated as income. If you just cant make ends meet and you borrow from a loan shark, your family, or extend your overdraft and credit card balances, the system may count these loans as income and reduce the core benefit and other assistance accordingly. You become ‘”too poor to help”.

    At one point the Judge asked quizzically if there was any loan that would not be counted as income. The Crown lawyer said, through gritted teeth, after a long pause: ‘yes, perhaps if the money was used to buy shares as that would not be a use for income-related purposes’. Really?

  3. Sabine 3

    and then we realize that selling tinnies and prostituting oneself is easier then going to Winz.

  4. North 4

    Thank you very much for that post Weka. The anecdotal material is just too detailed to avoid this conclusion: it is ‘policy’ to mistreat beneficiaries. Inconceivable really but that’s what has happened. Contempt for those who devised it and disgust for those who enable it with vilification of the ‘sub-human’ (their styling) poor. Haters of humans should not be surprised when humans start hating back.

  5. patricia bremner 5

    The attitude is unbelievable. Our NZ version of “Let them eat cake”.

    We need to be questioning their MSD/Winz right to count family help.

    Many of these methods are destroying families, and may be that is an underlying idea.
    Pressure keeps people too busy with surviving to become organised.

    This government forgot or underestimated the need for hope in people’s lives.
    The conduit of Metiria and the popular appeal of Jacinda are forces outside their realm.

    So when Metiria described benefit life and offered hope of change, coupled with a growing mood in the country at large, the shrill media response didn’t feel right.

    There are people afraid their comfortable lives may be threatened, but others realise a few dollars here and there would not matter to them, but could be sanity for others.

    To have gifts counted as income is inhumane nonsense !!

    So the poor also can’t get presents??? Can’t have family help??? Gifts from a garden?

    New Zealand, you are a pale shadow of what you were, and a sadder meaner place.

    But now on the 23rd of Sept we get a chance to change all that.

    For all the people in the stories, we hear you.

    The “Story telling” Metiria began is now being shared on social media and discussed.

    Some media are doing their jobs without fear or favour, and the truth is getting out.

  6. Work and Income had incorrectly suspended Lawrence’s allowance on May 22 without contacting him first, Henderson said.

    And only fixed the mistake (assuming it was one) when the guy’s MP got involved. Makes you wonder how many people out there right now are the subjects of similar “mistakes” but either didn’t think to contact their MP or have an MP who helped create this culture of incorrectly suspending people’s allowances (ie, a National one).

    • AsleepWhileWalking 6.1

      Many are too scared to challenge govt officals…refuguees for example

    • Eco maori 6.2

      Some people would rather get into debt that go to WINZ to get the financial help they need

      • Chris 6.2.1

        People are actively discouraged from applying. It used to be receptionists telling people they’re not entitled. Now they’re filling offices with thug security guards to intimidate anyone who dares to try to get inside. When you do get inside it’s like a warzone. Try asserting your rights in a calm but firm way and a thug is called to stand over you. Keep asserting your rights in a calm but firm way and you’re told to leave. Try to complain about being told to leave and you’re slapped with a trespass notice. And not just for that office, but every Work and Income office in the country. Saying that things are way out of hand is an understatement. The level of anxiety and aggression in those offices is astounding. Those thugs have to go.

  7. Siobhan 7

    This is the very reason I have yet to watch ‘I, Daniel Blake’, even though I very much want too.
    Its all too real.
    And I don’t need a movie to take me to that ‘bad place’.
    While the UK has its own level of brutality, we are not any different..things are just on a smaller, ‘more polite’ scale…but the reality for people like Peter Lawrence is life is a very immediate mad scramble for survival.

    Fighting for beneficiaries may have seemed too ‘complicated’ for some Greens…but I’m hoping that their ‘reboot’ for the election really does still include these issues…and with Jacinda and her Blairite baggage, and her fan club of soft National voters, and boardroom and MSM fans in tow, standing a real chance to bring in a change of Government, it’s even more important for the Greens to be at the table.

    • tc 7.1

      Yup it’s a hard watch because it could’ve been made about nz as a documentary.

      Can’t recall who said you measure a society by how it treats its vulnerable. Nact have created many issues that need sorting if we are to return to godzone.

    • MJH 7.2

      But, Siobhan, please do watch “I Daniel Blake” because of its message of human dignity. And it also will remind you that there still are real human beings with hearts in the world — and even a few still in the cauldrons of bureaucracy (although made largely ineffectual due to the constraints put on them). To me the film still spoke of hope — we are not automatons; we can help each other; we can fight back. But there is a price for allowing yourself to care, as the Tin Man said in the Wizard of Oz “I know I have a heart, because I can feel it breaking.”

    • The reboot does include those issues. One of the three new campaign leaders, (who are essentially picking up Metiria’s duties between them, probably being the three natural candidates for the new co-leader position later on) Marama Davidson, is exclusively responsible for issues surrounding poverty, and they couldn’t have picked better. Marama really gets this issue and has endless stamina to work on it.

  8. AsleepWhileWalking 8

    The dollar amount of Disability Allowance is increasing because Work and Income have discretion to pay for costs not covered by other agencies. When DHBs etc cut costs this is creates a flow on effect to Disability Allowance. Obviously.

    • weka 8.1

      true, but the increase isn’t for the individual but for WINZ’s budget. Disability is capped at $62/wk. After that they can apply for TAS, if they have the ability to go through that process and maintain it (reviewed every 3 months, with WINZ intent on removing it because it’s considered temporary). TAS is restricted to 30% of costs, so then beneficiary has to be able to make up the rest out of their base benefit or they won’t get the assistance.

      There’s going to be another flow on effect from the increase in care worker pay rates and how that impacts on the MoH budget.

      • Chris 8.1.1

        And asking for the previous 12 months of receipts is also wrong. The disability allowance is a reimbursement of actual costs, but is paid prospectively. What’s important is to have the medical professional state that the item or service is essential and how often it’s needed, together with the actual cost, not the costs a person has had in the past. Often what a person has paid doesn’t reflect need because they haven’t had the money to pay in the first place.

        This is just one of a ton of problems with a system that relies on the add-on benefits for people to try to get by. Targeted welfare like this can never work properly because of all these ridiculous bureaucratic made-up rules that together just make it impossible for people to get what they need, and that’s on top of the fact that benefits aren’t enough to live on.

        • weka

          Yes, I’ve seen it done both ways. Quotes or receipts. Receipts often after the first year.

          What do you think could replace targeted welfare?

          • weka

            Also adding, that nearly all the stories I see being told by beneficiaries show inaccurate administration of policy by WINZ. Once you start talking to a range of beneficiaries the huge discrepancy in how decisions get made is blatant. Big problem there is that most beneficiaries don’t have the resources or support to challenge WINZ on individual decisions.

          • Chris

            Apart from introducing a proper and meaningful UBI, first thing is to set main benefit rates to reflect the cost of living, and reintroduce a comprehensive add-on/extra assistance system. This way people aren’t relying on the supplementary system (together with its bureaucratic wrangling and constant errors) just to get by.

            • weka

              Problem with a UBI is that it doesn’t take individual circumstances into account. Or would you see it being set as high as a living wage?

              • Ross

                A UBI would be no more than $200 a week. That is Gareth Morgan’s plan anyway. That sort of sum wouldnt even cover rent. Futhermore a UBI would be paid to millionaires. So, no, a UBI is most definitely not the answer.

                • weka

                  Depends on how it’s done. If you have a higher tax rate for rich ppl then net effect is that they get the entitlement but not the cash.

                  Morgan’s model sucks IMO (it’s an economic tool, better to design a UBI around social security).

                • Chris

                  I said a proper and meaningful UBI. There are lots of different UBI models proposed from across the political spectrum. So what I mean is one that people can properly get by on. As far as complaining about how millionaires would get it as a reason to say the concept is flawed, well, New Zealand Superannuation is paid to millionaires, too, but it’s the universality which is necessary to fix the problems with the current system. If cost is the barrier, then I’d say you need to get sort your priorities out. We could start with the defence budget.

                  • Ross

                    New Zealand Superannuation is paid to millionaires, too

                    Well, yes, and in the not too distant future one expects the age of eligibility to rise to 67 or 68 years. Universality is one thing but affordability is another. It appears that in its current form, Super is going to have to change.

                    • Chris

                      Again, it’s about priorities and what we value. Despite repetitive messages to the contrary, the age of NZS doesn’t have to increase. I choose ensuring everyone has a comfortable life over an unnecessary military any day.

                  • Andrea

                    Unless there is ‘action’ on the other side of the ledger there will be no real movement out of poverty.

                    The Key government raised some benefits by an alleged $25 a week (?) Petrol prices waver up and down without connection to any market. Rents rise because the tax payer is underpinning the greed. Power prices help the ROI and dividend payment to the government coffers in some weird version of corporate management. Rates heave themselves along, backed by the aspirations of people earning much more than $20 000 a year or less. That $25 or less went to feed the insatiable demands from beyond the home. Too little for improvement or even for building a doily-sized safety net.

                    If there is no intention to lift people out of poverty as quickly and effectively as possible, then governments will continue to fiddle about with the ‘welfare’ band-aid – which is covering decades of inability to reshape the economy and the working culture of this country. ‘Working for families’ instead of a work environment that produces better pay, is rewarding, gives people the solid grounding to also seek experience overseas.

                    Before any UBI is spread before the opportunists for a quick buck from a captive market – fix the iniquities embedded in the present set up otherwise – the rich will assuredly get richer and the Get Out of Poverty indicator will stay glued to the bottom of the scale.

          • Rosemary McDonald

            “What do you think could replace targeted welfare?”

            When it come to disability, its obvious isn’t it?

            Copy ACC.

            Much of the stuff we finance (in part) from my partner’s Disability Allowance would be routinely and fully funded had he had the foresight to wait 4 years before breaking his neck and paralyzing himself.

            if anyone is interested there are a couple of documents floating in the ether that compare supports that ACC routinely funds for those with Spinal Cord Impairment with those grudgingly funded by the Miserly of Health.

            There’s also a list of ‘goodies’ that ACC funds…but we have to buy ourselves.

            The DA doesn’t even come close to covering these costs….but…much of the stuff prevents other serious issues and complications associated with SCI and keeps himself out of the spinal unit or public hospital.

            This is why ACC funds this shit…they have actually grasped the ‘ounce of prevention worth a ton of cure’ message.

            How about a referendum? “Would you support an increase in tax that would be ringfenced solely for restoring our Public Health System to its former world class status?”


            • weka

              How is that not targeted welfare?

              ACC income replacement is based on the earnings of the injured person in the previous 12 months, so if you are a student, or unemployed, or been on holiday for too long (e.g. travelling) etc, then that’s what you get paid out at. ACC are also pretty brutal when they go after people they don’t want to fund, and do really stupid shit just like WINZ.

              I don’t think ACC will pay for things like extra heating costs or phone costs. It’s really important to understand that WINZ provides income not services. I think there are definitely things to be learned from ACC and Health, but I’m very resistant to the idea that disabled people will be better off losing income entitlement and having it replaced by state-controlled services (hence my reservations about Gareth Morgan’s UBI which is based on that idea if it looks at disabled people at all). Better to fix WINZ.

              WINZ technically has a lot of discretion, more than ACC from what I can tell. Maybe there is a hybrid model to be developed there. What I’m hearing you say is that for some types of injuries, there is more access to assistance than via Health or WINZ. But I think the opposite is true for others (thinking sexual abuse claims, or people with physical injuries who ACC thinks should be working, or where there is an overlap with physical injury and illness, or stuff they just hate like RSI). In other words, ACC looks like its got its own set of fucked up cultural practices and structural inequities.

              So when I was asking about what to replace targeted welfare with, I was mending what new system could be devised.

              • Rosemary McDonald

                So very often, the Ministry for Social Development is funding that which in a fair and reasonable world would be funded through the Ministry of Health.

                The unworthy, (as opposed to the ‘worthy’ ACC clients) are thrown on the scrap heap of welfare.)

                Let’s ignore for a moment those folk who have been rejected by ACC.

                Concentrate on those whose claim for permanent injury has been fully accepted by ACC.

                Now, compare the supports/treatments/equipment (as opposed to lump sum compo, earning related income etc) that ACC client is entitled to with what someone with an identical impairment who is not covered by ACC.

                The supports that the Ministry of Health fails to fund at the rate that is funded by ACC, but are vital for the welfare of the disabled person have to be funded from income….and if that income is from a MSD benefit, or through paid employment and the person’s income is below the threshold then this is the point that the Disability Allowance comes into play.

                Again…MSD is funding disability supports (through the Disability Allowance) that should be being funded through the Ministry of Health…if the Ministry of Health had a similar agenda to ACC.

                I said what new system could be devised….extend ACC to cover non traumatic disabilities, or align the ACC and MOH;DSS systems across all areas.

                Increase the tax take by ,say, 2% for all and ringfence the funds to restore our Public Health and Disability system to what it was and maybe even extend it to what it should be.

                Then…those poor sods who were told to get lost by ACC would have least have their treatment and supports properly funded while they fight ACC for the earnings related income entitlements and lump sum payments.

                Or ditch ‘ACC’ altogether…and have a system that makes no fish or flesh…and restore the right to sue.

                • Carolyn_nth

                  Sounds like a good way to go.

                  The ACC vs disability provisions suggest a deserving vs undeserving classification system,

                  • weka

                    Yes, but I’ll just keep saying it, ACC and MoH have their own punitive cultures that do badly by disabled people. Income should not be handed to MoH, and if were to be handed to ACC you’d lose welfare and have to either shoehorn in something that was ACC was never designed for, or you’d have to massively reform ACC.

                • weka

                  “MSD is funding disability supports (through the Disability Allowance) that should be being funded through the Ministry of Health”

                  Can you please give me 5 examples as I’m not sure what you are meaning, and we can also list things that shouldn’t be funded via MoH.

                  Mostly you’re talking about treatment though right? I’m talking about income and disabled people having the freedom to choose how they manage their lives and what they spend their money on.

                  MoH aren’t income providers. ACC provide income as part of their remit. Income and health provision or treatment are not the same thing.

                  As I said, ACC will give a % of income based on the previous year’s earning of the person. So if you had little or no income then you’re fucked. This is why welfare is important. It’s not *compensation, it’s a safety net for people that can’t provide for themselves. Raise benefit levels to liveable, put add ons in place that aren’t via punitive access,

                  In terms of treatment, I think that ACC, Health and WINZ all have significant problems, but I hear what you are saying about certain kinds of injuries doing much better under ACC than Health or WINZ. However the last thing I want is the MoH or ACC telling me what I should be doing in terms of managing my health and life. So what to do, when those 3 systems are treating varying people quite differently?

                  • Rosemary McDonald

                    “Can you please give me 5 examples as I’m not sure what you are meaning, and we can also list things that shouldn’t be funded via MoH.”

                    Even better…here’s the actual form to apply for the Disability Allowance.


                    Its ALL about the person’s medical condition, injury, impairment, mental illness etc etc.

                    I.e. shit that should be funded through Health, not Social Development.

                    I am NOT suggesting ‘income’ should be handed to the Miserly of Health, I am saying that the Ministry of Social Development should NOT be assessing and administering funding for a person’s health and disability needs.

                    Neither should necessary health and disability supports be means and asset tested…as they are under MSD.

                    But NOT under ACC.

                    • weka

                      I’ve been on a benefit for medical reasons for a long time. I know what DA is.

                      I’m asking you what *you think should be funded by the MoH rather than WINZ, because personally I won’t want my DA handed over to Health. Because it’s income that I get to choose how to spend. I sure as shit don’t want the MoH dictating how I should be managing my health and life any more than they already do.

                      “the Ministry of Social Development should NOT be assessing and administering funding for a person’s health and disability needs.”

                      I agree re assessment but there is no reason why the system can’t leave that to the GP and the beneficiary other than atm the system is being run punitively. Technically WINZ aren’t assessors. The needs assessment processes that the MoH use are often really bad, so simply saying that assessment should be with them is not useful.

                      As for administering funding, it’s not funding it’s *income. Again, why should the MoH be deciding who I buy my electricity or firewood from? Or what health providers I get to use? Or what food I get to buy? And if they’re not involved in those decisions, if they’re simply income distributors, then why not just leave it with WINZ?

                      MoH are working from patronising medical models that are not about allowing disabled people to make the best choices about their lives.

                      “Neither should necessary health and disability supports be means and asset tested…as they are under MSD.”

                      Sure, so let’s change those bits about welfare. MoH has budget caps, WINZ doesn’t. So the MoH has to fit 100 people into x dollars and the govt can reduce that x amount, whereas technically no such limit exists for MSD.

                      It’s all by the by. All 3 systems have major problems structurally and culturally. Chris suggested doing away with targeted benefits, I’m saying handing welfare to other fucked up systems isn’t a solution, but by all means let’s pull out the good bits and see what is useful.

                    • weka

                      btw, that DA form doesn’t give a list of what is available on DA. There is technically a lot of discretion in what can be paid under DA. The reason people aren’t getting that is the punitive culture at WINZ. That culture needs changing. I would expect if responsibility was handed to the MoH the possible items covered would get less.

                      The other obvious problem with DA is that it’s capped, and people are blocked from accessing TAS, which itself is also capped. Both those things can be mended.

                • JC

                  Appreciate some of the sentiments. But just one correction that I believe is important., ACC Lump Sum payments went out with the ark, c 2002

                  They’re no longer a cash cow nirvana that some may believe!

                  Long since replaced with a one off “Impairment Lump Sum payment ” whereby if your 80% impaired, i.e. Quadruple tetraplegic! i.e. DEAD!.

                  Equates to a Total one off payment of c $80K.. to see you out!

                  • Rosemary McDonald

                    “ACC Lump Sum payments went out with the ark, c 2002

                    They’re no longer a cash cow nirvana that some may believe!

                    Long since replaced with a one off “Impairment Lump Sum payment ” whereby if your 80% impaired, i.e. Quadruple tetraplegic! i.e. DEAD!.

                    Equates to a Total one off payment of c $80K.. to see you out!”



                    • JC


                      Correction RM apologies. Yes a one off Lump sum payment still exists under ACC. However to be eligible for an Independence allowance their accident has to have occurred prior to 2002.

                      “ACC clients who have a ‘whole-person impairment’ as a result of their injuries may be entitled to compensation in the form of an independence allowance or lump sum compensation. The independence allowance is available to those injured on or before 31 March 2002, and lump sum compensation to those injured on or after 1 April 2002.”


                      To achieve an 80% Whole person impairment assessment however would essentially require the person to be dead!. Hence they’re no longer the cash cow nirvana that some may believe!

                      And yes perhaps being able to pursue a civil case in court could indeed lead to a better financial outcome for some..

                      I appreciate you sound to have considerable personal experience in this area and would be great to hear more, perhaps in another thread, and/or Post.

              • AsleepWhileWalking

                I would like to see
                1. Transparency (lay people friendly). Produce a free app that will both allow people to set income goals and know exactly how their benefit is affected.
                2. No cash asset limits for any benefit. This would mean people can invest money in income producing assets without depletion of an income source. It would also permit ACC payouts, redundancy, exgratia etc as leverage off welfare. The legislation would still require that you don’t worsen your position.
                3. Goal of social security should be independence from state support.
                4. Stop paying Super to people who don’t need Super. Proper stewardship begins with responsible spending decisions.
                5. Remove the secondary tax (encourages income by removing penalty).
                6. Disability costs no longer need to be incured before paid.
                7. Should you be entitled to arrears WI required to pay the amont they would have paid a t the time the original decision made (ie if they stuff you around they can no longer just refund what you can prove you spent during that time period, therefore they are financially penalused for making a bad decision). Interest should be included as it is with ACC. It is outrageous that this is not currently available for people as of right.

                Just those things would constitute a major shake up.

                • weka

                  “Goal of social security should be independence from state support.”

                  What about people that are permanently disabled and will never be able to work?

                  • KJT

                    New Zealand’s original social welfare designers decided it should be “enough to be part of society”.
                    In the 80’s it became. “The minimum required to survive”.

                    In the 90’s it was changed to, “if you don’t work you are not entitled to eat”.

              • AsleepWhileWalking

                Cash asset limits encourage spending/consumer goods over income producing assets.

                Kiwisaver is favoured over assets that produce income right now which makes no sense.

                And maths is not my strength but the current welfare system appears to trap people into trading time for money which guarantees a life of dependency.

                They have even moved the goals for defining success to being off a core benefit, not off welfare altogether.

  9. Horrible system that treats peeople like shit. 1. Change the government, it is the first important step. Too many people are being delibrately traumatised, driven to hellish circumstances treated inhumanely – they could be you, me – they already are, they are us. I’m voting party vote Green.

    • Carolyn_nth 9.1

      Yep. Vote for the only party standing with beneficiaries and others ont he lowest incomes – the only party working to change such a damaging and punitive system.

      This article by Kyle McDonald on why punishment is an ineffective tool, whether for people generally or used on beneficiaries.

      And it’s no surprise people find it hard to engage with WINZ. Missing appointments may very well be subject to sanctions, but actually attending appointments at any WINZ office is so inherently punishing we’re literally training people out of engaging in the system.

      Perhaps that’s the real point.

      And this is why despite yesterdays events, I still stand with Metiria: Because if punishing those who are struggling to care for their families is the Kiwi way, then it’s time to change the Kiwi way.

      Strange this article is in the “lifestyle” section of NZ Herald, though.

      • greywarshark 9.1.1

        I recently spoke to some 40 year old single women who profess to be part of the community, involved and outgoing. And I kept getting surprised at how little they thought or cared about other people’s difficulties.

        They had no interest in understanding the unemployment problem, the structural background to it ie the wiping of tarriffs that gave NZ business the chance to compete with goods made more cheaply overseas. They liked the supply of goods from overseas on the basis it was more efficient, they were cheaper. It made sense to have people unemployed here if the businesses couldn’t compete on price. That’s how it is and why would we want to change it.

        In other words completely blind to the trauma felt around the country, in their own little bubble with like-minded people who moderate their own compassion and concern to lip service by being PC about everything. They must represent a large number of NZs who have fairly cheerfully adjusted to the trashing of our local enterprise, training for jobs, and loss of culture of work and reasonable standards of living from our own decently paid work weeks.

        • garibaldi

          There you go greywarshark, National’s policy of dumbing down the people is working. Uneducated, ill informed… easy to train them to hate others eg low paid workers despising beneficiaries. Yes ,it’s all going to plan for the Neolibs.
          What’s Jacinda/Davis going to do about it?…. nothing, because they are neolibs!

        • left_forward

          Very good greywarshark, I agree that this is the reality for many NZers. It is a challenge to breakthrough to such people and try to open their eyes to what is going on. Television and mainstream media seem to paralyse compassion and objective thinking.

          • greywarshark

            left forward
            There is often a lot of truth contained in old sayings. I think it was the Jesuits who talked about giving them a child to the age of 7 and they would show you the man. That would apply to girls as well. How the twig bends, so will the tree grow etc.

            I think nothing much can be done with most of these people who think as I described. Again, old saying – breakthrough thinking is called ‘the road to Damascus’* (and I am not overly religious, just learned about such things as I grew up in a normally religious background).
            * Acts of Apostles, Chapter 9.

            That means that unless they are struck by a period of intense rethinking, after an accident, trauma, they won’t, can’t change. So I’d give up that hope – the mind will hold onto its historic understandings and impulses and doesn’t give them up easily. And as you say about television and MSM, they feed into the mind and confirm held beliefs. It is uncomfortable and troubling to question, and in NZ that isn’t welcomed. There’s a stop rocking the boat mentality. And who wants to get seasick.

            So hard to do as an individual, and hard to persuade others who don’t want to hear. Better just to listen to the chosen mouthpiece on TV, squawkbox, handscreen or chipwrap, and admire/criticise the cut of his/her hair, clothes, suit, shoes etc which rises to the top of the mind and bombed out cities, bad or no water, distraught mothers with dead children, and refugees with pitiful bundles running away fade, and behind them is further news about the people around your own corner who you don’t want to be bothered with at all.

            There is a minority working to keep standards alive, respect and camaraderie, Building capacity – future hope and planning to cope. (Like that for a slogan! I’ll let you have it for free and you can start using it to describe the classes and workshops you and other concerned thinkers hold.) Teaching resilient ways and encouraging kindliness amongst all but especially those brought up in the individualistic mode, who need to be taught it as it is counter to the main neo lib culture.

      • garibaldi 9.1.2

        Yes, the Greens are still the only sensible way to go if you care about poverty in NZ.

        • greywarshark

          Yeah have to stick to our knitting garibaldi, or Trump will come here for his gap term. Key has started us off with absentee landlord PMs whose body is here, ‘but his heart belongs to daddy’ [Daddy Bigbucks], or caddy or whatever.

      • greywarshark 9.1.3

        “This article by Kyle McDonald on why punishment is an ineffective tool, whether for people generally or used on beneficiaries.”

        Bible – King James translation:
        If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?

        Religion does keep such thoughts at the back of our minds, for all its observable faults. We need more good religion, thoughtful minds and where people have a niche for putting gifts or thoughts into the mind, take out the baubles and put in thoughts of healing action.

  10. Kay 10

    Of course I’m not surprised in the least to read this. And I’m actually very glad this story has a prominent place on Stuff because maybe it will get through to a few of the ignorant what is happening to disabled people in this country, and how when they beat up on beneficiaries they’re also beating up on us, something also lost on the media.

    if I might add an anecdote or two from my more recent experiences of their pettiness over disability allowance.

    A product I require for a permanent disability, signed off by a GP many years ago and never argued about. In the past to provide evidence of cost (it can be purchased at the supermarket) I’ve bought 1 item seperately to get the receipt with the cost and told them how many a week are bought. Always accepted, now, EVERY SINGLE RECEIPT FOR THE ENTIRE YEAR REQUIRED. Aside from the fact I refuse to hand over my supermarket shopping lists to WINZ (that’s a total invasion of privacy) I can’t wait a year to claim a few dollars towards the $20/week this product is costing me NOW. So it comes out my food money.

    More pettiness- when trying to claim for disability related bus fares, used to be able to provide the exact fares and just multiply them. Easy. Last time I went to do this- I was told I literally had to present EVERY SINGLE BUS TICKET for the entire year. No joking, and never mind the fact we use Snapper cards here. So I couldn’t claim. My disability benefit has been cut considerably. Now I don’t even bother with the providing proof with the yearly disability reviews, I just tick “nothing changed” on all the boxes and hand it back in. Not worth the stress.

    In the meantime the cost of my medications have skyrocketed and I’ve had to stop the physiotherapy treatment I need for the frequent injuries my primary disability often causes. While I could probably force a review I’m not going to given the already 5 hospitalisations already directly caused by WINZ and multiple other acute episodes simply by having anything to do with them. So I’m one of the many who they’ve managed to stop getting their full entitlement by making it too hard to fight.

    This isn’t a poor me, it’s just an example of how it is these days. I’ve been having to deal with them for a good 25+ years so am in a very good situation to observe the deterioration in the way we’re treated.

    • Bill 10.1

      And that points straight to the arbitrary nature of the regime (and yes, it’s a regime).

      I had those same receipt issues some time back, but then got another person to deal with who, luckily for me, had a bad habit of exercising degrees of common sense. (Actually managed to see the same person for an extended period too!)

      And yes. I also just tick those “no change” boxes to avoid the consternation and stress. It’s bullshit.

    • AsleepWhileWalking 10.2

      This ^^ is an excellent example of unrealistic demands being made resulting in degradation of health and less ability to become independent of the system.

    • Rosemary McDonald 10.3

      Tautoko that, Kay.

      You come across as a nice, reasoned person Kay, and encounters like this shouldn’t be putting you in hospital. With all respect ,have you tried some good old fashioned Anglo-Saxon venting? Maybe not to their faces….but science has proven…http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160303-the-surprising-benefits-of-swearing

      For the civilians…the Disability Allowance is NOT the Invalids Benefit/Supported Living Payment.

      READ this….https://www.workandincome.govt.nz/products/a-z-benefits/disability-allowance.html#null

      Peter had been on the old Invalids benefit for 5 years and we were starting to drown before some helpful elf at WINZ told us about the Disability Allowance.

      We produced receipts for bleeding Africa to support the application. A couple of years later they did review…and we smugly presented them with a bulging envelope full.

      Be warned, uninitiated!!! Photocopy those receipts…’cause the buggers will lose them.

      • Kay 10.3.1

        HI Rosemary, if only swearing would make any difference!! A bottle of rescue remedy on hand is always useful though 🙂

        To their faces and the call centre I have been known to get their cock-ups fixed with remarkable speed with a well placed suicide threat. That’s how you really scare them into action. Doesn’t get you the money you’re actually legally entitled to but can be useful when they’re messing you about. But it doesn’t always work these days since our lives aren’t that important anymore.

        But having to literally threaten suicide to a government agency just to get them to do their jobs properly????

        Also ditto the receipts- keep your own copies of everything, and demand a receipt for EVERY bit of paperwork you hand into them. Don’t post back paperwork if you can avoid it because there’s no guarantee it’ll get there. Keep files of all correspondence and phone contact. They want to treat us as guilty, we do the same back.

        • Rachel

          I have taken to requesting my case managers email address and scanning my forms to them, that way I have a copy of not just the paperwork, but a record of when it was sent. Even before I had a set case manager, I would email it through to the receptionist.

  11. Ed1 11

    I don’t agree with the comment “Changing the government is a no brainer at this point but given Labour’s unwillingness to touch welfare …” The article admits that Poto Williams is a Labour MP – and I am sure she is not the only Labour MP very concerned about this sort of example of the callous approach by the current government. Ideally we will get a Labour/Green government, and both parties have demonstrated that they can work well together, even when views and priorities can be slightly different. I believe that a Labour/Green NZ First government would be much more stable and responsible than a National/ACT/ NZ First government, at least in part because National has proved they do not work well with others, but also because of examples such as that addressed in the article – where I am sure both Labour and the Green party find the policies and encouraged practices of the National-led government absolutely abhorrent.

    • Bill 11.1

      Then Ed1.

      Go through NZ Labour’s welfare policy and pull out the bits that would impact positively on WINZ culture, the general regime or on individual claimants.

      Aside from a winter fuel allowance paid in installments (so not much use for actual winter fuel payments if your heating is by wood), what else is there?


    • Carolyn_nth 11.2

      There are some excellent Labour MPs. But the right wing of the caucus is dominant right now. I think they’d rather have an alliance with NZ First than the GP, going by the way Ardern kicked Turei under the bus at the first opportunity.

      Great to see Poto Williams making a stand on this. Young Labour candidate for the East Coast, Kiri Allan came across extremely well at Orcon yesterday. IMO she outshone Chloe Swarbrick in the communication of passion and support for the least well off.

      Allan described Turei’s stand down form the House as a big loss – seemed very supportive of Turei, though I’m not sure what she said as a message to Turei as it was mostly in Te Reo.

      An article by Allan in spinoff.

      However, to keep the dominant right wing of NZLP in check, if/when in government, they need the strong social justice, anti-poverty, change the social security system advocates in the GP to support the left of the LP.

      • weka 11.2.1

        Ardern has recently confirmed that the Greens are their preferred coalition partner. The MoU still stands, which is the commitment of both parties to change the government and where possible to do it together.

        I haven’t looked at NZF’s welfare policy closely but the bits on the Spinoff’s policy toy today look bad. Big risk there in a L/NZF govt, although I would guess welfare won’t be high on NZF’s negotiation list.

        • Carolyn_nth

          Hmmmm. Well, they probably would need the GP to form a government, but my reading of the nuances of what’s passed in recent weeks is that Team Ardern would be very happy to have NZ First stronger than the GP in government.

          At this point it wouldn’t serve the NZ LP caucus to make a public split with the GP.

          • weka

            Can you please point them out to me when you see them? It’s not my reading but I’m curious how we are reaching different conclusions (we could compare notes).

            • Carolyn_nth

              I read what people say and how they say it, as much as the surface statements.

              When Ardern first became leader, I think in her first press stand up, she was asked if she had a message for Peters. She said, “Mines a double malt”, or some similar reference to having a drink with Peters. that phrase said a lot. it flagged being socially buddy buddy with Peters, albeit in a kind of combative, mutual respect kind of way – but positioning them both within the same social milieu.

              One of her first statements was to discount Turei from being a minister, in a quite condescending way, and to not really show any empathy for, or alignment with, the beneficiaries who felt Turei was giving them a voice.

              So, on becoming leader, Ardern’s first message to Peters was, “Let’s have a drink.”

              Her first message to the Turei was sommat like, “Piss off – I don’t want to be associated with your campaign for undeserving beneficiaries”.

              To me, these attitudes are quite telling.

              All that is reinforced by the policies Ardern’s Labour have gone with first – not ones of employment relations, or ones of fixing the social security system, but ones to do with water, transport, etc: ones that many of the comfortable urban middle classes can get on board with.

              Her pitch is more to businesses and the middle classes than to the least well off.

              • weka

                Yes, that’s my reading too, although I don’t think that necessarily means they prefer NZF. Much of it is positioning to present Labour as moderate and stable. For instance had the Greens not gone with Turei’s personal story I think Ardern would have not felt the need to message the neoliberals in such a way.

                • Carolyn_nth

                  Hmmm. We shall see. But for me it’s a matter of trust. And, at this stage, I do not have a lot of trust in Team Ardern – they are slightly nicer than the Nats, and much nicer than ACT – but that’s not what NZ needs right now.

                  There are probably also other things going on behind the scenes we don’t see – there usually are. I will be interested to see what comes out in a few years about the recent Labour spill, and of the way Turei was targeted: I suspect some degree of “dirty politics” as defined by Hager.

                  Oh. BTW, apparently Micheal Cullen admitted, after some comments by Hooton, that he’d been on the phone to Labour MPs prior to the spill, supporting Ardern for leader. read that somewhere.

                  My understanding is that Cullen was always pretty much on the right of Labour.

                  And then there’s the support of Gower – the way he has made statements pre-figuring team Ardern moves, like the one against Turei – remember, Gower was the one the right wing of Labour leaked stuff to, in order to undermine Cunliffe.

                  • weka

                    I don’t particularly trust Labour either.

                    Did you mean that you think it was dirty politics from the left?

              • Karen

                Please watch the first full press conference again Carolyn. I realise that you don’t trust Ardern and that is fine, but this interpretation of what happened is misleading in the extreme. She was asked about the Greens and Winston Peters and she made it clear that the MOU is still in place.
                I have absolutely no doubt that Jacinda would much rather be in coalition with the Greens. As for policy: the employment relations policy has already been announced. Why would she announce it again?

                I will be party voting Green this election because of their welfare policies, but the only way they can get them through is if Labour gets to be in government. Ardern is the only leader that can make this happen. She may not be as left wing as I’d like (though I don’t agree at all with your assessment of her) but there are far too many people who are suffering under this government to let it continue for another 3 years.

                • Carolyn_nth

                  I agree that there needs to be a Labour-Green government. I think Team Ardern had no choice but to keep the MOU live because they need the GP – but they want a GP noticeably subservient and weak. I don’t think they are really keen on the MOU.

                  The only way to ensure we get a Labour-Green alliance at the heart of government, and not an NZF-Labour one, is to vote accordingly.

    • weka 11.3

      NZF support punitive welfare.

      What Bill said about Labour. Yes Poto Williams is doing great work, it’s just that it’s not reflected in Labour’s actual policies.

      I am glad she is doing what she is doing. I’m not going to support Labour to rely on people who are disabled having to go through a very stressful and lengthy process of relying on their local MP to get their income and basic human rights met by the state.

  12. savenz 12

    I agree 100% that National are trying to push people off benefits they are entitled to. Ironically those who need the benefit the most are the most likely to be pushed off because they are more vulnerable and unable to navigate the bizarre and punitive processes thrown at them to ‘win’ back their benefit or even understand what they should be getting.

    Since National took over we are now getting crimes like murdering WINZ workers or murdering rental agents that have never occurred before. It is due to the desperation and mental illness in some cases that the NZ welfare system (health, education, social and housing) is going down.

    While much has been said about Metiria (and Paula B, but we are not allowed to talk about that) supposedly getting small payments that they may have not be entitled to, it worked in the long run. Both women got out of poverty and made a new life for themselves. You need to have not just a subsistence benefit or work, but also ways out of poverty into high paid work.

    National are going into the punitive (US style) welfare, which as a by product innocent people can be gunned down at any point, because the system is so poisoned and there is so little empathy for anyone then bad things start happening.

    I personally couldn’t care a less about either women getting a few dollars extra – they raised their kids and it’s two more families out of poverty for the next generation too. The system worked for society before the Ruth Richardson reforms!

    • popexplosion 12.1

      Worse. People own assets and should be able to utilize those assets whether or not they are in rdcipit of 210 dollars. Take Meteria, she had family helping her who did not know she was receiving rent. Compare this to a person without family who owns a home, now should they lose because they rent, rent that arguable would be equivalent to family assistance. Now here’s how it’s worse, because it opens the way to a backdoor asset test. One individual has their retirement in a fund they can’t use until they reach old age, another lives in their home. What WINZ are saying is they can arbitiarily decide how to manage a person finance without any recourse to parliament. We know how Nats work, it’s the 28 dollar cabbage means we should do whatever authoritarian thing they suggest to beneficiaries. 210 covers basics, I can’t see how national can argue it means micromanaging. Especially when those in receipt of family tax credits do cash in hand deals, etc, baby sit, etc. it’s bureaucrats make work off the pooreest

  13. red-blooded 13

    We definitely need a more humane, respectful attitude to welfare and to disability support.

    I agree that this should be a focus for a Labour-Green government. I do think it’s worth noting that Poto Williams (Labour) seems to be working hard on Peter’s behalf. It’s not only Greens who care about supporting people through our welfare system.

    • weka 13.1

      Yes, there are lots of MPs doing good things at the coal face. It’s the policy that’s going to make the difference once in govt though.

  14. Kay 14

    Currently in progress through Parliament, the Social Security Legislation Rewrite

    Apologies, I’m not great at the link things but you can download the pdf of the bill. It’s really not pleasant reading. Note a lot of emphasis on sanctions, obligations and work testing.

  15. Kevin 15

    My biggest worry is that to fix WINZ is going to take radical measures.

    I’m never in favour of someone have to reapply for their job, but this is one instance where not only is it necessary, it is vital.

    This department needs to be changed from the top down, with a change of focus back on those that require a benefit, a change in culture and an acceptance of the responsibility they have in the community.

    Will a new government take this on?

    • greywarshark 15.1

      wipe winz and set up the ubi with extras for those wjp meed ot/ WINZ can never be reformed – it has a mental condition that will remain in the memory of the staff and management. Announce it as ‘The Winds of Change’.

  16. Fran 16

    Something being overlooked in the comments about how awful WINZ staff are is that these people are tasked with implementing policies and regulations they know are bad and will hurt people. They hear dreadful stories on a daily basis and often are powerless to help. Many of these people suffer anxiety and depression because of their jobs and most of the people in those offices are there because otherwise they too would be on the other side if they weren’t.

    It is the policies and the regulations that are the problem and that is what needs to be fixed and that can only be fixed by changing the Government.

    • When was the last time WINZ staff were known to have gone on strike on behalf of clients who were being abused under the system ?


    • Rosemary McDonald 16.2

      I’ve heard that argument…and I just can’t accept it.

      If stress and anxiety and depression are common amoung WINZ staff, why are they not collectively going through their union….PSA….to tell the Gummint that these policies and directives are unworkable and inhumane?

      Have branch meetings, take a vote ,and if the majority are finding it morally reprehensible to administer punitive policies then the union informs the gummint and if nothing changes….strike.

      • Bill 16.2.1

        Pretty sure that both those strike scenarios would be unlawful under NZs current employment legislation.

        Which is another to the list of reasons why I wholeheartedly support the Green Party’s support for a comprehensive review of the ERA. 😉

        • Rosemary McDonald

          “Pretty sure that both those strike scenarios would be unlawful…”

          Oooh…and we wouldn’t want to do anything illegal to challenge injustice and cruelty, now would we? 😉

          • Bill

            Yeah. Well while I might not be too bothered about taking part in unlawful industrial action, I’m fucked if I’d pressure a fellow worker to follow suit.

            Generic unlawful activity is an entirely different kettle of fish.

        • WILD KATIPO

          ‘Green Party’s support for a comprehensive review of the ERA ‘ ?…

          Oh these jolly Greens, – the more I learn about them , the better I like em !!!

          • Bill

            (With links to the full policy from the summary that I’m linking and quoting from)

            Industrial Democracy

            Support a complete review of the Employments Relations Act.

            Improve workplace democracy and improve workers’ union representation and participation in the future of their work.

            Implement international standards on the right to strike, worker accident compensation, pay equity and breastfeeding breaks.


  17. I would like the WINZ officials who made this decision made known to the NZ public. For them to be interviewed on TV , names , faces, the lot.

    Vicious, gutless individuals like that need to be publicly exposed , and if suitable, charges laid under something like the Bill of Rights.

    That would sort them and their little buddy’s out quick smart.

  18. dv 18

    Is there a collection of these experiences with WINZ in one place?

  19. adam 19

    Any change in government, needs to remove the upper and middle management from work and income.

    This is a government department which is there to help. If the outcome of that so called help is forcing people to either turn away from it and live on the streets , or turn up with a gun. Something is rotten to the core.

    Lets be honest, this brutalisation of disabled is the new normal. The brutalisation of anyone who is dealt a bad hand in life, is the new normal.

    Ask yourself, would you cope if something went wrong, and you had to deal with a government department with this despicable track record over the last 30 years?

  20. Its good that people are feeling this way and getting pissed off with this govt and their govt dept lackeys.


    See, … this is what happens when you continually treat people like shit. It has a limited shelf life. And these idiot National party jerks and their sleazy little hangers on’s just don’t / are incapable of seeing that basic principle.

    Sooner or later your ships going to come in.

    And its not going to be a holiday / cruise ship , either.

    Lets do this.

  21. millsy 21

    If this guy had a brain injury, the shouldn’t he be on ACC, or was he kicked off? That is a bigger story in itself.

    • Rosemary McDonald 21.1

      “If this guy had a brain injury, the shouldn’t he be on ACC, or was he kicked off? That is a bigger story in itself.”

      Good point.

      I suspect he had, for want of a better term, a major brain bleed or stroke. Very widespread damage to cause tetraplegia…(as opposed to the one sided hemiplegia that is more common.) Probably spontaneous and probably not caused by a ‘blow’, that would qualify him for ACC.

      Some easy read info here….https://www.braininjuryhub.co.uk/information-library/non-traumatic

      See my comment here….https://thestandard.org.nz/brutal/#comment-1368391

      So very often, the Ministry for Social Development is funding that which in a fair and reasonable world would be funded through the Ministry of Health.

      The unworthy, (as opposed to the ‘worthy’ ACC clients) are thrown on the scrap heap of welfare.

      More here…http://i.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/comment/93415915/dick-jessup-we-need-to-go-back-to-drawing-board-on-acc

      “Samuel Butler’s explorer who stumbled into the fictional land of Erewhon was surprised to find that those who fell ill were sent to prison whereas those who committed crimes were treated in hospitals.

      He would be equally bemused if he was washed up in New Zealand in 2017 to find that a person who has an accident (even if it occurs while they are doing something foolish, dangerous or even illegal) is looked on as a victim, given priority medical treatment and, if unable to work, paid a benefit related to their income before the event.

      On the other hand, a person struck by an illness, the occurrence of which is almost always beyond their control, takes their chances in the health system and, if unable to work, has to make do with a flat rate sickness benefit.”

      Good read.

  22. greg 22

    the government is rationing money and by extension rationing the claims on goods and services and the basics of life

  23. Janet 23

    Did he finally get reimbursed the deductions over those weeks? He should have if there had been no change to his situation or if they had found his situation had worsened.

  24. Muttonbird 24

    I think we are all unhappy with the way the current government has ‘militarised’ the structure of social welfare which has left a lot of people in very difficult personal circumstances.

    The same government has damaged a lot of low income communities, increasing transience because of housing and job security stress.

    I also get that a lot of people who comment here think Labour are just a slightly different shade of blue on these issues as distinct from Green policy which is very definite, and particular in its support of beneficiaries.

    The result of this open support of beneficiaries led to the loss of their leader and a significant drop in party support.

    My thoughts are that Labour do support beneficiaries and low income families and are committed to stabilising outcomes for the communities in which they live, but they don’t chose to campaign directly on beneficiary matters because let’s face it because of the white, privileged rump of NZ, the ones who vote, to go there would be political suicide.

    Call me naive but I am hopeful that once in government the Labour party will move to restructure the goals and processes of WINZ and return to a compassionate and realistic setting. I also hope they adopt a mixture of the Greens and TOP policy on tenancy reform around default lease lengths and conditions of landlord take-over.

    I just don’t think it’s helpful to be putting the boot into Labour right now because they might not be fronting up with extremely risky if worthy campaign platforms. They already have with the water charge and the RWNJs are going ballistic with that!

    • Carolyn_nth 24.1

      yes, you’re being hopeful.

      I’ve had my hopes dashed too much in the last couple of decades, by Labour parties.

      The turning point for Metiria came when Ardern threw her, and beneficiaries, under the bus. For that reason, I do not trust her team. They colluded with anti-beneficiary narratives. Incrementalism, trying to sneak left wing policies in while colluding with mainstream status quo and/or reactionary policies, has not served the left well in the last 3 decades. That is the 3rd way. There is a mood for a shift from that and Ardern’s Labour has pulled back from it.

      We are now stuck with Team Ardern for a Labour-led government, and for the left to have any future long term, it needs a strong GP, with a strong commitment to change. There was a lot of positive support for Metiria, and momentum was building. Ardern led the shift against that.

      • KJT 24.1.1

        Many of the young Labour people coming through are very strong on social justice.

        Mind you, so was Helen Clark, when she first went in.

        • Carolyn_nth

          I was impressed by Kiri Allan yesterday at Orcon. But she, so far, is not part of parliamentary Labour, and probably won’t be part of the dominant group once she, hopefully, becomes an MP.

          In the next term, I think there needs to be another party (other than Labour) with a strong social justice presence.

          BTW, I am not a Green Party member, nor am I aligned to any particular party long term. I am not a spokesperson for the GP, just for myself.

          I just want to see a truly left wing government

      • Muttonbird 24.1.2

        Couldn’t Ardern be forgiven one over-reaction in her second day on the job? I didn’t have an issue with her privately communicating with the Greens on this but wasn’t particularly happy with her having to repeat it the next day to the baying media pack.

        My theory is that the pressure went on Turei because of Arden’s selection after Little’s resignation, not because of Labour’s position. The Nats and their media suddenly went psycho on Turei after two weeks of nothing because suddenly there was a threat from elsewhere on the left.

        • Anne

          My theory is that the pressure went on Turei because of Arden’s selection after Little’s resignation, not because of Labour’s position. The Nats and their media suddenly went psycho on Turei after two weeks of nothing because suddenly there was a threat from elsewhere on the left.

          Bang on. I made the point last week that the Nat. media attack on Turei was an indirect attack on Labour. Ardern’s selection and explosive rise in the polls meant they couldn’t attack her directly (not at that point anyway), so they went after the MOU partner instead.

          And before anyone tries to blame Turei for that, she had no way of knowing what was going to happen inside Labour… just as she didn’t know what was going to happen inside the Greens.

        • Carolyn_nth

          Gower prefigured Ardern’s dismissal of Turei that very morning. That raises my suspicions. That Robertson-aligned faction also was white-anting to Gower against Cunliffe – basically Gower supported the undermining of Cunliffe by the right wing of Labour caucus.

          And, now looking back, every Lab or GP leader who has threatened to step leftward has been undermined – by the corporate media, and possibly also with some support from the right wing of Labour caucus.

          I have a suspicion that Turei was deliberately taken out. There were rumours, mentioned in the MSM, on some social media (and by a colleague offline as it happens) that the story about Turei’s benefit circumstances were about to become a target in the media, and that is why she owned up and included it in her speech. Turei, however, not only front-footed, but very successfully , in some ways, linked it to her campaign for a reformed social security system.

          It is strange that it was raised 25 odd years after the events, and some 15 years after Turei became an MP, with narry a whisper about it before.

          I have no idea about the behind the scenes machinations. But when you look at how left-stepping leaders have been consistently targeted…. well, it is worrying.

          And, along with Ardern’s behaviour, and the 3rd way tendencies of Labour parties here and abroad over 2-3 decades, that is why I have no trust. I’m a bit despondent at the moment.

      • Karen 24.1.3

        “The turning point for Metiria came when Ardern threw her, and beneficiaries, under the bus.”

        This was not the turning point for Metiria. The dirty politics team and the MSM were baying for her blood as soon as the dirty politics team had fed them the details about her using her ex-partners address in order to enrol electorate and that she she was living with her mother. Once this came out Metiria herself decided to withdraw from cabinet selection before Jacinda said anything. That is what Metiria said and I believe her. Jacinda answered the press question.

        • Carolyn_nth

          I’ve explained my views on this before. I think Turei saying it was her own decision came after the announcement, and came to be an agreed line between Labour and the Greens. Shaw didn’t sound that convincing the first time he was quizzed by a journalist on it.

          But, there’s always more going on behind the scenes these days, than the general public hear about.

          I guess more of the facts will not be available for a few years hence.

          But, there are several reasons why I am lacking in trust.

          • Karen

            So what you are actually saying is that you are willing to believe that Turei was lying because it fits your narrative.

            • Carolyn_nth

              Eh? Seriously? that’s what you take from what I’ve said? and that’s the focus you put on all the complexities?

  25. Michael 25

    Weka’s post, above, is absolutely correct: WINZ bureaucrats brutalise people who need their help because it is government policy that they do so – and they are “incentivised” for it. However – this systemic maltreatment of the non-working poor did not start the day the current government took office; it has been applied for much, much longer than that, under successive governments, including those flying the “Labour” banner. And, many of the worst bullies are PSA members; even though it won’t spoil its credentials as a servant to power, and affiliate to Labour, the PSA still exerts considerable influence over the Party’s deliberations. Bureaucratic abuse of the precariat under “Labour” governments is a big reason why that class no longer votes Labour, if it votes at all (2005 was the last time the class voted, in numbers large enough to influence an electoral outcome). Labour’s studied refusal to reform the welfare system (apart from the usual, cosmetic and palpably insincere, bromdes is a big reason why the precariat won’t vote for Labour again.

    • weka 25.1

      would be interesting to know how many WINZ workers are members of the PSA.

      • Craig H 25.1.1

        I forget off the top of my head, but it’s one of the higher government departments.

    • Anne 25.2

      … the PSA still exerts considerable influence over the Party’s deliberations.

      Crap!!! The PSA is not and never has been affiliated to the Labour Party.

      • Michael 25.2.1

        I never said it was. It still “exerts considerable influence over the Party’s deliberations” though.

  26. Ed 26

    Compulsory viewing for all the folk who sat fit to attack Metiria

    • Ross 26.1

      Yep it’s a terrific film and should be compulsory viewing for every MP and shown to every kid at secondary school.

      • Michael 26.1.1

        IMHO, “I Daniel Blake” should be regarded as a documentary. It is also an indictment on every one of us who voted for governments that treat human beings like this (and much, much worse). I have never voted National and I will never vote Labour again unless and until it cleans up these disgusting public sewers at WINZ and ACC.

  27. Foreign waka 27

    How feasible is it that in 10 years time a person will go to a machine, types his/her information in and get an assessment of social entitlement (for lack of a better word). No use to protest, no security guards needed and no refunds. If you have special circumstances, it is between you and a computer.
    In addition, robotics will accelerate and with that work as we know it today will no longer exist as there will be simply no need for it. Perhaps a quarter of today’s workforce will get employment in IT associated positions but this will not pay for the need of a functioning society.
    I expect a politician to look at the future possibilities and have a plan of social peace because otherwise it will be civil war. Kind of Mad Max country.

  28. Liberal Realist 28

    This is the sort of thing that makes me really fucking angry! (pardon my french)

    One of the worst things about it is that a good portion of our population completely agree with how National (and Labour before it) have systematically turned WINZ into a dehumanising horror story. This is 100% absolutely by design by a party that is ideologically bent to destroying any and every semblance of welfare. I’m starting to wonder if Bill is one of those old testament types? He seems to enjoy inflicting punishment upon those who are the most powerless?

    I’m also of the opinion that WINZ deliberately employee individuals that relish in the fact that they have power over those whom they’re actually meant to support. Culture of any organisation is top down driven, and once a narcissistic culture such as the what we have at WINZ today is bedded in, it’s very hard to unwind.

    My own personal experience of being a WINZ ‘client’ in the 90s showed me that this sort of culture existed back then. My ‘case manager’ was the type of guy who really enjoyed telling me my benefit would be cut because I didn’t do XYZ, where I had always met criteria and had to argue like hell just to retain a meager strip-end. Back then entitlements were such that you could get grants for interview clothing etc. No such luck for me, my ‘case manager’ thought it was perfectly adequate and reasonable to decline the few requests I made before giving up, on the basis ‘I wouldn’t get the job’ anyway. I’m almost certain that the guy did a little fist pump to celebrate his little bit of power when he declined my requests. I can’t imagine what it must be like now?!

    IMO we need a welfare charter that’s embedded into our human rights legislation. WINZ needs to be cleared out… Starting from the top, and finishing up in middle management.

    Finally, how about we pay our MPs at the same rate as the baseline benefit? They can retain their allowances but must remain at the same rate as everyone else receiving welfare. That I believe would be extremely effective in clearing parliament out (bye bye troughers!) and attract honest individuals truly seeking to make a difference.

    • Jeremy 28.1

      I worked for the MOJ, NZ Customs and the Police in my 20s, in the 2000s.

      My opinion is the people working for these departments get used to seeing poverty, violence and pain. In order to cope with what they see, and from dealing with frustrated and therefore angry people, two things develop; first an “us” versus “them” mentality and culture, and secondly a shared morbid sense of humour.

      It happened to me. A poster above mentioned that she sometimes has to threaten suicide to get what she is entitled to. I personally became desensitised to hearing people threaten suicide because it happened so often – how ****ed up is that?

      After my experience I’ve thought a lot about it, and I believe a terms of service should be looked at, and we should develop a culture of period of public service, especially for young people.

  29. Ethica 29

    Part of the problem is that the postal services are now so few and far between that the letter demanding more financial information or else the benefit will be cut often doesn’t come until the cut off time. Or the letter back to WINZ with the details demanded doesn’t get back to WINZ before the cut off date. So we need to improve the post and enable everyone to have computer literacy and access to computers, internet etc so that time does not work against vulnerable beneficiaries.

    • In Vino 29.1

      No, I think that WINZ prefer the failure to reply in time. Sorry to be cynical, but…

  30. patricia bremner 30

    Carolyn Nth,
    Some thoughts about Labour’s role in Metiria’s situation.

    I see today that Labour reconfirmed their view on social justice (Andrew Little) see Scoop.

    We do not know what the Greens and Labour have agreed privately during their MOU, but Jacinda’s Dad was a policeman. She said”You can not be a law maker and a law breaker.” A mantra she’s possibly grown up with.

    A further difficulty was the newness of the leadership change. What happened with Metiria was a curved ball.

    You keep saying Jacinda “threw Metiria under the bus”

    I actually heard many voices in among the stone throwers, and as there was no warning that Metiria would take the stand she did, I thought Jacinda responded when questioned briefly during an unrelated interview with a personal belief, not a criticism of Metiria. On those grounds she could not be a minister under Jacinda.

    Jacinda is not a radical, though she is a change agent.

    Plus Andrew had said he was sorry for Metiria, again a personal view. Neither said it was the Party view.

    It was MSM who decided to go after Metiria, hounding her.

    The constant refrain at Labour gatherings is, “Things have to change. Life is too tough for many. Labour want to improve people’s lives.”

    I think there will be enough rubbish thrown at both these brilliant women by a nasty group of right wing horrors and we shouldn’t give them ammo as the blame game doesn’t help imo.

    It struck me that Metiria knows she will carry the fight forward from another arena,
    and that the Greens and Labour are in the fight of their lives against a well funded nasty foe.

    The Labour leadership change over was cushioned by Metiria’s bravery, and was over before the hounds awoke to the new danger.

    Now the Greens have positioned themselves as “Loving New Zealand”
    Blunting the attack by the news hounds and hangers on again.

    Well, that is how I saw events. I believe a Labour Green Government will be great for New Zealand. Jacinda has confirmed that the Greens are the preferred partner.

    Sometimes we have to believe people can change.

    Jim Bolger did, so why not some of the older Labour members?

    • weka 30.1

      Can you please link to the Scoop article, I can’t find it.

      • weka 30.1.1

        and the only thing I am seeing on google news from the last 24 hours from Little is re boot camps and in his Justice spokesperson role.

        • patricia bremner

          Hi Weka, sorry, had visitors. Yes that is the piece. In it he outlines what he believes will help New Zealanders. “We will tackle poverty” I know, out of context and under his rebuttal of boot camps, but a definite statement of intent.
          As I said I have been taking note of the signals.

          • weka


            With Labour’s history and their dearth of actual policy thus far “we will tackle poverty” doesn’t mean much for beneficiaries. Most of Labour’s focus is on work, so for people that can’t work there is little relief let alone anything that would let those beneficiaries move forward. This positioning of Labour’s has real life implications for beneficiaries. Clark’s Labour didn’t fix welfare and also focussed on work, which is a big part of why we are in the situation we are in now. I believe Little when he says he wants fairness for all NZers, so he is an improvement on Shearer, Goff and co, but they still won’t talk about welfare and that’s a problem.

            If you think I am wrong, please point to the Labour policy that would make a difference to the man in the post today. I can think of the winter power payment.

            • Stuart Munro

              I think too that the presumption of job generating growth didn’t happen much under Clark – it was more of a hiatus than a reversal of the black decade reforms.

              • weka

                Unemployment rate went down though didn’t it?

                • Stuart Munro

                  Yes, I think that was more Cullen. Wasn’t a dramatic thing – and I think a dramatic thing was called for. Is still called for. We have a system that goes to extraordinary lengths to lie about unemployment instead of acting to create better work options.

    • Carolyn_nth 30.2

      Labour people differ in their approach from what I’ve seen, and I support quite a few, but not all of them.

      It seems to me some Labour people on TS have never been supportive of the GP and are sometimes very antagonistic towards them. Some Lab people here seem to be, like the media, blaming Turei for her own downfall, and a small number seem somewhat pleased.

      I am mostly being critical of the Labour caucus right wing’s collusion with the negative narratives about Turei, not Labour people in general. The right wing of Lab caucus have long wanted to do their own thing without being so answerable to Labour membership or grass roots. IMO, they have colluded with the media on demonising Turei.

      From what I see Team Jacinda did seem really prepared to take over from Little – that’s another issue. But I think it is naive to think they weren’t waiting, prepared for an opportunity to install their preferred leader in the 2 month window before elections, when the membership vote is not needed. They may have seen the Metiria confession as an opportunity to greenlight that preparation.

      We now have Gower running a poll to sound out the public on an upcoming Labour policy, and basically pimping for it.

      Gower was at the forefront of taking down Cunliffe, with some collusion of Lab caucus right wing. Gower was at the forefront of media attacks on Turei, then in running the Team Jacinda line on why Lab should cut Turei lose, the morning before Jacinda said she would not have Turei as a minister. Jane Patterson at RNZ later opined that was the turning point towards Turei’s demise.

      I have been watching the power plays, and seen some of the evidence for what happens behind the scenes in politics, for too long not to be suspicious when I see a GP leader taken down during an election campaign.

      I am left, and not GP. I like a lot about the GP, especially the social justice part of it. I think the GP focus on consensus building in and out of the party, is great within the party and to some extent with others outside it. However, the GP approach ignores the role of power differences, and power plays. They have no way of countering strong power imbalances, concerted efforts to exert power, or to counter the manipulations of power and the media that other parties get into.

      I do not blame Turei for her demise as GP leader and MP. And I do not support Team Jacinda, and the way they probably will set the left back a couple of decades re- ending inequalities and bennie-bashing. I do support some of the NZ LP policies, and some of their more left wing MPs and members.

      • left_forward 30.2.1

        I find myself agreeing with most of this, and I am prepared to take your word on knowing what is happening behind the scenes. But what I find curious is, if you are not GP, and don’t support Team Jacinda, then where are you putting your vote?
        You say you are left, but you appear to be advocating to not vote for either major party to the left – effectively handing the power back to the right!

        • Carolyn_nth

          I don’t know what is happening behind the scenes. I’m just commenting on the diverse info I read and hear from others, and am concluding a few things about the dominant narratives and explanations on on recent events, don’t ad up.

          I try not to say too often who I am voting for as a public sector worker, I’m not supposed to publicly endorse any particular party. Anyway, you don’t need my statement on who I am voting for to make your own decision for voting.

          I decide each election who I will vote for. And it often isn’t an easy choice.

      • Karen 30.2.2

        I do not blame Metiria either. She has highlighted the plight of beneficiaries in a way that nobody else has been able to do. I think it is an absolute tragedy that she has felt it necessary to stand down as co-leader because of the bullying of her family members by the media. It is a huge loss to NZ.

        To suggest there has been some kind of plot by Labour MPs with Patrick Gower to bring down Metiria is ridiculous IMO. All of the MSM were crawling over each to disprove Metiria’s claims of being driven to benefit fraud by poverty. All of her extended family as well as old friends were being approached by media from the time she announced her story. Audrey Young said that someone from the Herald spent hours at the library trawling through electoral records looking for the names of flatmates.

        The discovery of her using her ex-partner’s address while on benefit meant many people assuming that she wasn’t only getting a higher Accommodation Supplement than she was entitled to, but that she was living with her partner so not entitled to DPB. I believe Metiria’s explanation, but many did not. That is why Metiria and Jacinda both came to the conclusion that it was not going to be viable for her to be a Cabinet Minister.

        The demands by two members of her own caucus that she resign as co-leader shows the level of disquiet amongst some in the Green Party. As I have said before, I have always found the Green Party to be dominated by the middle class. This began to change when Marama Davidson came on board to support what Metiria has been trying to do for some time. Hopefully they will get new, more left-wing supporters to replace those they have lost.

        There is no doubt that there are a few Labour MPs who would prefer NZF to the Greens, but they are a small minority and will become an even smaller minority after the election. All the Labour Party people I know want to be in coalition with the Greens, not NZF. It was two Green MPs who went to the media to push for Metiria to resign. It was the MSM badgering her family that forced Metiria into resigning.

        • Carolyn_nth

          I’m not saying there was a well-orchestrated plot organised by Labour MPs and Gower to bring down Turei. Political collusions tend to be far messier than that – a range of networks, contacts, allies that are called on at particular moments when opportunities arise. Nor am I saying it was only Gower in the media baying for Turei’s blood. But Gower was one of the leaders of the media pack.

          I do think someone was out to bring down Turei from the getgo. I don’t think it was anyone in labour. I have no idea where that came from, but there are rumours someone was dredging up Turei’s past and about to go public.

          I am saying, the right wing of the labour caucus was looking for an opportunity to install their leader in the 2 month window before an election, and that the Turei narrative provided an opportunity that they tried to capitalise on. Team Ardern colluded with, and re-inforced, the media pack narrative after Turei ruled herself out as minister: when Ardern said if Turei hadn’t ruled herself out as minister, Ardern would have. That was a turning point where the media could go “see, Turei has been judged unacceptable by the potential next PM”.

          On Gower’s role: he does seem to have some long standing contact with one or more members of the Labour caucus right wing. It he now does seem to be prefiguring many of their moves.

          And interestingly, this article on Vice media, published yesterday, singles out Gower as a significant figure in the media’s demonising of Turei: a process in keeping with the way Māori tend to be portrayed negatively in the mainstream media – as supported by academic research.

          • Karen

            “I am saying, the right wing of the labour caucus was looking for an opportunity to install their leader in the 2 month window before an election, and that the Turei narrative provided an opportunity that they tried to capitalise on.”

            I think this is absolute tosh and that you are buying into the dirty politics agenda which is to destroy any hope of a Labour/Green government.

            “I have no idea where that came from, but there are rumours someone was dredging up Turei’s past and about to go public.”

            That is what Mathew Hooton was saying. See what I mean about the dirty politics agenda?

            • Carolyn_nth

              I have more concerns than anything Hooton said. Time will tell how right I am, or not. I could continue this debate, but clearly we are not going to agree.

              But, let’s move forward. I am concerned that some on the left, and some in Labour, would like a weak, subservient GP in any Lab-Green -(NZFirst?) government. If that eventuates, I don’t see any point in trusting that an Ardern-led government will improve anything for those suffering from inequalities, resource-deprivation, or a damaging benefit system, in the medium-to-long term.

              My current concerns are those within Labour or the left who are trying to portray the GP as a spent force: this includes those leaking (alleged) Nat and Labour internal polling (see the first comments in yesterday’s open mike), and Trotter’s latest post.

              Polls can be used to lead narratives in the direction the presenters of polls want.

              • Bill

                I agree with previous comments you’ve made about the need for a movement. Sadly, the Green Party were compelled to put the cart before the horse on that front. I’d hoped (and still hope) that the party speaking on it’s own will suffice. But it’s just a hope.

                As for the polls and everything about Adhern and the right/careerists – completely agree. (I’m picking she’ll become the most quickly despised PM NZ has seen) Meanwhile, I’d love to see the web of contact that exists between Gower and Robertson. Anyway. The fact that Gower rushed out a ‘brand new’ poll on the grounds that ‘who-ever’ couldn’t wait for the next polls…

    • nitro 30.3

      Metiria jumped under the bus – and then blamed the road.

      She didnt highlight the plight of beneficiaries, she just reinforced the popular sterotype that all “benes are thieves and liars”

      • left_forward 30.3.1

        I don’t recall her blaming the road or anyone in fact.
        She certainly did highlight the plight of beneficiaries – it just takes a little compassion to figure that out.

    • patricia bremner 30.4

      Today Jacinda and the team put Andrew at 3. Says it all. imo

  31. lloyd 31

    The easy attitude to take if you are getting a reasonable income and you don’t stop to analyse what is happening in the wider community is:
    -taxes are bad, beneficiaries are a direct cost to me and those bloody whingers don’t do anything for me.
    When you realise that the money given to welfare recipients is almost all immediately spent and helps keep the economy turning over, then the money given to those that need it is a benefit to all. Its the rich buggers who dodge taxes that are the real cost to almost all in society.
    Maybe staff at WINZ and the IRD should be doing regular job swaps?

  32. Michael 32

    “Maybe staff at WINZ and the IRD should be doing regular job swaps?” Maybe staff at WINZ (not sure about IRD) should not have jobs at all? In fact, many soon will not, as automation sweeps through the organisation (accompanied by fortification, as government retreats further and further from the people but retains the capacity to pry into every detail of their lives).

  33. patricia bremner 33

    During this exchange of ideas, we have learned about each other’s fears and beliefs and importantly disappointments.

    We need to keep hope and trust in the basic goodness of humans and to support them to place checks and balances on our chosen system of government.

    Dirty politics was a practice honed out of JK’s office and echo chambers.

    You may be right that some in Labour retaliated and have leaked to Gower et al.

    I do have hope. I do believe Andrew Little attracted honest caring new blood, and we will see those people in action in the new parliament.

    Andrew nominated Jacinda after 3 disasterous polls because he wanted the greater good. No-one pushed him.

    I have seen Jacinda with Kiri Allen and Tamati Coffey, just to name two people who bring a wealth of heart and new energy to Labour.

    I think any RW labour member thinking they are moving Jacinda on their chess board may find she is a more skillful and long game player.

    They, Jacinda Andrew Kiri and Tamati are articulate, informed, caring and of their communities. They rock.

    Personally, as a polio victim of 1947, I am now losing my retrieved abilities after being well for the greater part of my life, and face a wheel chair existence, so I have been through many personal hoops and relate to Kay and you Weka, and need improvements in social services.

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