Cancer patients and punitive policies

Written By: - Date published: 10:45 am, October 14th, 2015 - 73 comments
Categories: class war, health, national, welfare - Tags: , , ,

As is being well covered in the news this morning:

Jobseeker benefit for cancer patients ‘ludicrous’

Hundreds of cancer patients are being placed on the Jobseeker benefit while they are getting treatment.

The Cancer Society calls the system ludicrous and says it forces people with the disease to jump through hoops to pay their bills.

One woman, who does not want to be identified, applied for a benefit when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was put on Jobseeker Support, which replaced the sickness benefit after the 2013 welfare reforms. She said she had to pay for a medical certificate every month to prove she could not work – even though her surgeon insisted she would be off for much longer.

“The letter from the hospital wasn’t sufficient. I then had to go back and get a doctor’s note to keep them happy, just to prove the fact that I was going in for surgery,” she said.”Then I also had to, on the day of my surgery, get someone from the hospital to fax through that I had been operated on.”

Cancer Society chief executive Claire Austin said the woman’s story was common, and the system lacked common sense and sensitivity. She said many cancer patients had never been on a benefit before, and deserved help while they were going through an extremely tough time. “The situation really is ludicrous. We’ve got people who are already in work, who are unable to work because they are either sick and have to go through treatment, or have surgery. “They have to then apply for a benefit, which is a benefit that requires them… to be available to work.” …

Crazy. So what does the Minister have to say?

Minister of Social Development Anne Tolley admitted that having to provide monthly medical certificates in the early stages of cancer was difficult, but said the government had to draw a line somewhere.

She said cancer patients could not expect special treatment, because then everyone would want it.

Compassionate conservatism in action.

Anyone my age has seen the impact of cancer on people they know (some have been unfortunate enough to experience it themselves). It is ludicrous to put people dealing with a major illness through punitive hoops and pretend that they are fit for work. We need a welfare system that acknowledges the realities of cancer and other major medical conditions. That isn’t “special treatment”, it is basic human decency.


73 comments on “Cancer patients and punitive policies”

  1. mary_a 1

    “Minister of Social Development Anne Tolley admitted that having to provide monthly medical certificates in the early stages of cancer was difficult, but said the government had to draw a line somewhere.”

    How about drawing the line on politicians perks etc? That’s a good place to begin drawing lines!

    Leave cancer patients alone. They already have enough to cope with to get by each day.

    This whole issue is disgraceful!

    Shame on the minister!

    Shame on this very poor excuse for a government!

  2. Aaron 2

    I know of a women who’s husband died when she was aged 64 years and 11 months. He was their only source of income and she had to go on the Jobseekers benefit for one month.

    During this time she was forced to go to pointless seminars about how to look for work or write a CV and then, at the end of the month she then went onto the pension.

    They’ve set the system up so that the staff are not allowed to use their judgement but just have to follow pre determined rules. Presumably this is because they kept feeling compassion toward some of the people they were dealing with and may even been trying to make their circumstances a bit more bearable – which obviously is not part of this government’s plan.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.1

      +1

      Yep, understanding and compassion costs and thus prevents National from cutting taxes for the rich.

      It’s interesting. National and the RWNJs are always telling us that one size doesn’t fit all and then, once in power, they turn round and force everybody into the same straitjacket.

      • Grindlebottom 2.1.1

        Agree. It’s not just cancer patients. From my knowledge of three unfortunates who’ve been on Jobseeker Support for periods of up to 12 months they’ve all been subjected to pointless interviews, petty inhumanities & psychological as well as financial insecurity & stresses that could only make sense to someone who’s never needed Jobseeker Support.

        While I believe there are Work & Income staff who hate implementing these punitive policies, they have no choice, and the potential is there for more individuals to be stressed to breaking point. No wonder security measures are needed in W&I offices.

    • seeker 2.2

      @Aaron@11.25am

      And yet Anne Tolley said in the Herald article “Prove you have cancer” :

      “We’re not going to start pulling apart what was redesigned as a pretty simple system, NOT FOR US but for people accessing it.” !!!!???

      Unbelievable……… paula rebstock worth every cent to the national ‘no idea what worthy government actually is’ government.

      I shudder to think what ‘simple system’ our poor children are going to get when $2000 a day paula r., darling of the unworthy, gets going on CYFS

  3. shorts 3

    why does the govt have to draw a line?

    Would it be too much for a reporter to ask that question – the answer would I feel show the heartlessness of (this) govt towards its charges

  4. Olwyn 4

    The willingness to actually address this kind of brutality presents a test as to whether we actually have a meaningful left in this country, or even a robust conception of human rights. Moreover, Paula Rebstock, currently being paid $2,000 a day to come up with further cuts and ways of framing them, was one of the authors of this treatment.

    It looks very much as if the sick, the poor and the landless are being forced to pay the price for the middle class to stay middle class and the rich to stay rich in this country – it is targeted austerity by stealth. Tolley’s feeling free to say that cancer patients cannot expect special treatment or everyone will want it says a lot about attitudes that are now seen as publicly acceptable. And Paula Rebstock continues to collect a fortune for sorting out more austerity targets. Where is our outrage? And how much worse must things get before we find it?

    • Draco T Bastard 4.1

      +1

      Yes, NZ has become cheap and nasty over the last thirty years.

      • savenz 4.1.1

        Actually it is more our government and media being cheap and nasty. If you look at Campbell Live how many Kiwis donated for good causes. The right want everyone to believe that the public are not decent and generous but that is not true.

  5. mickysavage 5

    It is not that complex. If you are being treated for certain types of cancer you should be exempt from the requirement to seek work.

    If individuals want to seek early return to work through consultation with their doctor and family good on them. It should not be compulsory though.

    • dukeofurl 5.1

      Exactly, Im sure some patients are sick of seeing doctors for their condition and now they have see them some more.

      Can you imagine having an interview about a possible job, and saying Im being treated for cancer and will need days off ! An existing job may be ok, but small chance an employer will take on someone new

    • weka 5.2

      “It is not that complex. If you are being treated for certain types of cancer you should be exempt from the requirement to seek work.”

      I’m not sure if that’s the way to do it micky. Probably easier and better for ill people is for WINZ to work off the recommendation of the doctor. Let the doctor say this person has x condition (be it cancer or something else), and they need x months exemption from job seeking. That way the individual’s needs and circumstances are taken into account.

      Someone who knows more about various cancers can comment on whether you can exempt by category easily (as oppose to individual situation).

      • Craig H 5.2.1

        Agreed – doctors and surgeons know more than public servants do (me included), and should be trusted.

  6. One Anonymous Bloke 6

    The nasty party.

  7. McFlock 7

    No, it’s not a “complex” situation.

    It’s pretty fucking simple. We’re not talking about cancer “survivirs” yet – they’re receiving treatment and still don’t know whether they’ll survive or not. And you know what? An “early gradual return to work” might be the best thing <after treatment. But not during or before treatment. But I’m sure the cancer society thanks you for your concern.

  8. McFlock 8

    She said cancer patients could not expect special treatment, because then everyone would want it.

    Seems to be their attitude to the health sector in general…

    • Draco T Bastard 8.1

      The only people who are entitled to special treatment under National are the rich and multi-national corporations who get tax cuts and huge subsidies while the rest of us get shafted.

  9. Rosemary McDonald 9

    “… it is basic human decency.”

    That’s MIA, IMHO.

    Projected scenario.

    MSD will”acknowledge there’s a problem here.” and fund the (now) vocal Cancer Society to act as facilitators for cancer patients needing to access WINZ.

    Nothing will change….

    …other than the Voluntary Euthanasia Bill will be passed like shit through a goose.

    It’s waay cheaper to give people the choice to end their lives than to create an environment that makes people want to live.

  10. Rosemary McDonald 10

    Great that this is the subject of a post in its own right, but, this is nothing new….some of us have been here for years.

    At best, this is indifference.

    At worst….malice.

    First they came for the disabled….

    And those with long term debilitating medical conditions….

    And those with crippling mental illness.

    Cancer though….has a universal appeal…pushes the right buttons…Givealittle and all that.

    What is REALLY interesting is why this has floated to the top right now.

    Eh?

    Distraction from what?

  11. Michael 11

    The current law does provide for exemption from jobseeker requirements for people with a range of circumstances, including sickness. However, the policies that are supposed to “guide” decision-makers (in practice, “dictate”) exercising their discretionary powers to exempt people are highly prescriptive and directed towards non-exemption, compliance and sanction. The underlying premise is eugenic: “work for those who can, (slow) death for those who cannot”. That way, the stock is maintained at optimum value as a capital input.

    • Rosemary McDonald 11.1

      “The underlying premise is eugenic: “work for those who can, (slow) death for those who cannot”. That way, the stock is maintained at optimum value as a capital input.”

      ….and I thought I was terminally cynical.

      • Michael 11.1.1

        Even if you are terminally cynically, you won’t be excused from running the full bureaucratic gauntlet, over and over again, until you finally trip and fall. That’s the whole point of the exercise.

  12. D'Esterre 12

    “She said cancer patients could not expect special treatment, because then everyone would want it.”

    Stupid, stupid stupid… What was she thinking, saying this? Surely one of her officials would have given her a line to spout that was just a little less callous. Obviously she hasn’t herself had cancer, although given her age, one’d think that she knew at least one other person who’s gone through it.

    What next for government welfare reforms: the return of the workhouse?

    • Michael 12.1

      Their proposed medicolegal assessment regime for permanently and severely disabled people is truly terrifying. The government is currently tweaking the details but it is just a cut and paste job from the UK’s notorious Work Capability Assessment Process (WCAP). of which 80 people a week die soon after being assessed “fit to work” and have their benefits cut accordingly.

  13. Ilicit 13

    Tomorrow, I will be seeking help from Winz. My lung cancer has spread from there to my liver as I was told today.

    I don’t hold much hope that my expenses, outside the hospital, will be met. In fact, my last treatment process cost me $200 in medicines alone, not supplied by the Health system.

    I’m doing my best, on the side, to help educate fellow NZer’s on the failings of Winz.

    The fact is, every time I hear Tolley, she can only talk about job numbers (most of which are bullshit anyway), , those people apparently make up 68,000 or thereabouts (false figures again, depends on who her audience is), but forgets the other (guessing again) 200,000 beneficiaries, of which maybe 80,000 are really really sick.

    She’s totally forgotten them, and me !!

    Sorry, I don’t have the will today to do proper figures, I just know the welfare system has left me down badly and I’m really angry about it, really angry.

    It could well be my “last post”, but the government will never know, nor will they care !!

    • Chooky 13.1

      where are the New Zealand doctors organisations speaking out about this!?

      where are the lawyers?…where is the Human Rights Commission?

      ….this should be going to the United Nations…this government should be being sued!

      …it is one thing for someone with cancer with an existing good job who wants/chooses to continue working

      ….and it is quite another forcing a seriously ill person to go through the stress and worry of going out and hunting for and trying to find a new job!…especially when their living expenses depend upon it

      …does this jonkey nactional government now expect New Zealanders to die in the streets?

      • Michael 13.1.1

        Nearly all lawyers and doctors vote National, while the Human Rights Commission was instructed not to advocate for the victims of ill-treatment by government. The United Nations Human Rights Committee issued a report last year that found 35 instances of government breaches of its obligations under international human rights law. Our government cannot be sued, while the judiciary acts as a backstop for whatever policies benefit the rich and powerful. Middle New Zealand keeps on voting for the government, indicating that it approves brutal treatment of vulnerable people. Finally, Labour offers no alternative to the status quo, judging from its actions when it was in government.

        • Draco T Bastard 13.1.1.1

          Finally, Labour offers no alternative to the status quo, judging from its actions when it was in government.

          And now while it’s out of government.

      • Mike the Savage One 13.1.2

        Read this, it tells you all you need to know and understand, about what goes on, among those “well connected” networks:
        https://nzsocialjusticeblog2013.wordpress.com/2015/10/04/how-the-n-z-health-and-disability-commissioner-let-off-a-biased-designated-doctor/

    • northshoredoc 13.2

      I’m concerned that you say that your last treatment cost you $200 in medicines, this shouldn’t be the case.

      You should talk to your treating clinician about alternative medications to those that are costing you this amount.

    • left for deadshark 13.3

      Ilicit, My kind thoughts go out to you, fellow TS commutator.

    • Mike the Savage One 13.4

      You are a hero, a deserving fighter, for expressing what you wrote, hang in there, for the sake of yourself and for others, despite of all trials, I wish you well, may God look after you, I am not a God freak, but at times things give me respect of sorts.

    • Tracey 13.5

      all power to you and yours at time illicit.

  14. Torija 14

    I’ve incurable progressive lung disease, currently under 20% of normal lung function.
    I can’t walk 40 metres on the flat without pausing to recover and one flight of stairs is all I can manage.

    WINZ have me on Job Seekers and refuse me assisted living. In order to maintain job seeking support they require regular medical certificates. This is not in case I might have deteriorated further so that they can offer further assistance. It’s merely to remain on job seeker benefit.

    They are told four times a year by my doctors (with specialist support) that the disease is incurable and progressive. I’m not quite sure what parts of chronic, incurable and progressive they do not understand.

    Eighteen months ago I supplemented the benefit by teaching 8 kids some guitar for 4 hours a week over 14 months. These 4 hours are now used by WINZ to claim that I am fit to seek work.

    Next step workhouses (privatising social services). Dickensian England, here we come.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 14.1

      I’m not quite sure what parts of chronic, incurable and progressive they do not understand.

      They probably understand them perfectly well as individuals. What they lack experience of is Kafkaesque labyrinths like the one they currently work within.

    • Mike the Savage One 14.2

      I feel for you, I really feel sorry reading what you comment.

      Yes, sadly there have been a fair few other stories that I have heard, and most are so discouraged, they dare not fight anymore, of course many cannot, due to sickness and incapacity.

      Advocates are overworked, under-resourced and struggle to offer the help many desperate need.

      At least what the Cancer Society made public today, via Radio NZ National, that seems to be hitting a nerve with some in government. I followed Question Time, and have hardly heard some of the Ministers answer so angrily and tensely, they know that this is harming them.

      The reforms brought in a couple of years ago are inhumane, there is no doubt about it, but while some still get help and reasonable case managers at WINZ, others do not.

      We are still waiting for the whole truth to come out re an incident in Ashburton well over a year ago, the court case seems to be postponed into the endless future time, I wonder why. What have they to hide, the ones at the top levels of MSD and in government??? Locking a man up endlessly, although he may well be the criminal so far portrayed (we leave that to the courts to decide), is denying justice.

      Justice is being denied to many sick, disabled and also simply poor folk, who are struggling to survive on benefits that hardly cover essentials.

      So scream it out here, at least, scream it out, or write and comment, the more the better, as we must hold this government to account for what is going on!

      Take care, and thanks for sharing your pain. I wish you well!

      • Rosemary McDonald 14.2.1

        “scream it out here, at least, scream it out, or write and comment, the more the better, as we must hold this government to account for what is going on!”

        YES YES YES

    • Richard Christie 14.3

      Because my preceeding comment contained personal medical information I attempted to use a pseudonym, Torija, something that I usually avoid, as it is against my nature. But the use of the gravitar has effectively identified me, as clicking on the avatar links to my name. We live and learn. The comment of course, remains truthful.

      [r0b: I can fix the gravitar and delete this comment if you like?]

      • Richard Christie 14.3.1

        Thanks r0b, but don’t bother, what’s done is done.
        I don’t use aliases as a general rule, it’s part of my worldview, less chance you can be damaged by exposure if all is already all out in the open. Others milage may vary.

    • johnm 14.4

      You’re 100% right Torija. What has this once proud decent country come to?

    • Crashcart 14.5

      I hear you on that. My son was born with Spina Bifida. This is a dissability he will have his entire life. He requires ongoing support and care. He will start school next year. 4 times a year we are forced to go to the Dr and get a certificate to confirm that yes he “STILL” has Spina Bifida so that we can get the help required. This extends from Physio, ocupational therapy, other in home support, and a small benefit ($40 a fortnight I believe).

      Of course with him starting school he will need high helth needs support. Can they look through their records to see what his needs are as we have already told them over and over again. No once again it is off to the Dr to get a certificate to certify yes he “STILL” has Spina Bifida and he needs support with the same issues.

  15. r0b 15

    Thank you to those of you who are sharing your personal stories here.

    I have a friend who is fighting with cancer now.

    It could be any of us next.

  16. Tracey 16

    Ruth dyson required people with cerebal palsy to be retested … as though she lnew of a cure that the rest of the world didnt.

    lowest common denominator thinking.

    vulnerable people have less fight in them to go up against bureaucracy

    • Mike the Savage One 16.1

      I guess for her it was “an operational matter”.

      • Tracey 16.1.1

        just sad when politicians can secure their positions by preying on and using the vulnerable.

        some of these folks need to spend a week as a sole carer with no training, just like siblings and parents do.

  17. GregJ 17

    Tolley :

    Pathetic at Police

    Execrable at Education

    Soulless at Social Development.

    National = Compassionless Conservatism. Neo-liberal Nastiness.

  18. Mike the Savage One 18

    NO mention of this topic on the TV news, neither TV3 or TVNZ One, as far as I could see. This is simply stuff that the catered for “middle class” is better not “bothered with”, the program makers must think.

    They have their insurance policies and savings, “hard working” Kiwi partners, they frown on the beneficiary “bludgers”, same as Sean Plunket did on Radio Live this morning (jumping at the opportunity where the odd caller said, I was not treated that badly by WINZ).

    So it continues, those that complain are “riff raff”, not worthy, you are meant to be a “battler”, or “f*** off”.

    More important news are Kiwi cricketers accusing each other of wrongdoings and lying in a UK court, now that really matters, same as the All Blacks getting an audience with The Queen, wow, we are really important.

    • Grindlebottom 18.1

      Yeah. I was wondering if this would get any coverage on either TV news channel seeing it got covered by National Radio and Stuff. Sad it didn’t rate any mention.

      TV news is just a bland blend of a couple of headline items, some overseas and local news snippets, often just trivia, weather, sport and tons of ads. There you go. Nothing to worry about here folks. Eat your dinner. Go back to sleep.

      • Mike the Savage One 18.1.1

        I guess, “television” of the traditional type is now only targeting the over 50 or 55 age range of the population, who are either in semi retirement, or in retirement, and have got their “nest eggs” sorted, so they can relax, lean back and watch the disasters in the world unfold via a big screen, that they bought with their last available “earnings”.

        Fewer and fewer are watching TV, let alone the “news” and most are searching the internet for the quick date for the night, for a one night stand, or for some other “entertainment”, I suppose. There is also Netflix offering something better to watch, and we can also view BBC, Al Jazeera and endless overseas news online, at any time, for those that bother following it.

  19. North 19

    Planet Ponce Key – where the cancer patient is a work-shy bludger !

  20. johnm 20

    This is a direct copy of what’s happening in the U$K, basically if you can move and pick up a box you’re fit to work even with terminal cancer! OK stupid kiwis you voted in this bunch of psychopathic criminals with a personality cult for Shonkey in Chief!

    ” ‘No one should die penniless and alone’: the victims of Britain’s harsh welfare sanctions
    David Clapson was found dead last year after his benefits were stopped on the grounds that he wasn’t taking the search for work seriously. He had an empty stomach, and just £3.44 to his name. Now thousands of other claimants are being left in similarly dire straits by tough new welfare sanctions ”

    http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/aug/03/victims-britains-harsh-welfare-sanctions

    “”Shameful Britain: terminal cancer patient told to attend work interviews or lose benefits ”

    ” “I have terminal cancer, my prognosis is 0-3 years and I was diagnosed in March 2014 with my brain stem glioma. In April 2014 I was placed in the support group* for 3 years and I have gone from being able-bodied to hopelessly disabled. I have many neurological deficits including diploplia, dyspraxia, dysarthria and dysphagia. To save you googling, this means that I have double vision and am going blind, I’m very clumsy and most days I drop everything I pick up, my speech is failing and one day I won’t be able to communicate verbally at all and I have such difficulty swallowing that I now have a feeding tube. I cannot leave the house alone and I’m at risk of choking and need 24 hour care. They speak of me going into residential care, but they hope to keep me in my own home for as long as possible. The trouble is degenerative, nothing will get better, only worse, the cancer can’t be cured. I’m 37.

    Now. I can deal with all that. I’m alive! And I can still do stuff!! What I cannot deal with is that I am on the work programme! I received this letter today (too late to ring the WP) demanding I attend an appointment with the Work Programme on Tuesday or they’ll stop my benefits. HOW SICK DOES A PERSON HAVE TO BE BEFORE THE HARASSMENT STOPS?” ”
    https://tompride.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/terminal-cancer-patients-now-expected-to-attend-work-interviews-or-lose-welfare-support/

    ” Man With Cancer Told To Give Up Treatment and Join Work Programme To Keep Benefits ”

    ” A Scunthorpe man has received a 40% cut in benefits after he was diagnosed with cancer, leaving him in serious financial distress during his battle with a disease that killed his father and brother. To add insult the injury, the DWP told him that he could return to his previous level of benefits, provided he gave up treatment and complied with the Jobseeker’s programme. ”

    http://www.scriptonitedaily.com/2014/05/02/man-with-cancer-told-to-give-up-treatment-and-join-work-programme-to-keep-benefits/

    • Mike the Savage One 20.1

      The “news” was heavily focused on the “balanced budget” bit, so that is what concerns most, that work, that compete, that run business, and that employ the marginalised slave labour there is. Tax cuts are the next top topic to discuss, by the MSM, which caters only for the “stakeholders” that are baby boomers or comparably well sorted. The rest are “redundant” subjects that deserve no attention. We are back near to medieval times, we are rushing there, that is the truth. Stakeholders rule, the rest are slaves, servants, or “riff raff” “polluting” the streets.

  21. johnm 21

    Ann Tolley: she looks what she is: a cold heartless dried up bitch that gets off on imposing suffering while she rakes in the dough! 🙁 How the hell did NZ ever come to this nightmare? One way was the appeal to individual greed and individualism and aka Thatcher: there’s no such thing as society. Neoliberalism. The new dark age has begun. 🙁 And Labour? Deafening silence!

  22. Tracey 22

    and yet there is money available to double rebstocks pay from great to amazing

  23. North 23

    For me, possessed of core morals without resort to religiosity……this is Grave Sin……premeditatedly abusive, violent, and pointedly destructive……for that way beyond the random, crazed, alcohol/methamphetamine fuelled crime we see on the meanest of streets.

    Meanwhile the ugly soul of Robot Rebstock creams it double purporting to sanitise the pre-ordained purposes of the sociopaths of the National Party. One of and paid by the social rapists, the plunderers. The “Let Them Eat Cake” brigade.

    We’re supposed to respect these bastards and their soldiers ??? No ! Not an ounce of it. They stink beyond contemplation……all the more so for their endlessly vaunted protestations of ‘caring’.

    When karma turns its steely, unforgiving gaze on these criminals my core morals will not be offended. They hubristically court it with exponential departure from common decency.

  24. Ilicit 24

    Thanks folks for your concern but I not one to look for sympathy just because I encounter one of lifes negative challenges, most of us will end up with a different way of dying, I was chosen for cancer.

    An odd philosophy maybe, but we all die eventually, so why argue about how that happens.

    Today I visited Winz for assistance, and yes, I got my immediate needs covered, but the costs of whatever my treatment programme is going to be, I won’t know until Monday.

    Sadly, by the time I get the programme sorted, I will have to fund my travel without money because it may take me a week for a specialist to sign “just another useless form”…..I am so over the process.

    I think the thing that bothered me most about todays visit was that the 4 staff I spoke with had no idea of the story in yesterdays papers about Cancer and Winz, the purpose of this post.

    My career proved that information starts at the top, especially for your own staff.

    Tolley once again shows just how hopeless she truly is !!!

    Worse that Paula Benefit walked away from her policies without a scratch.

    p.s. Thanks Tracey for your passion.

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