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Glasses and Brick Walls (& woods and trees).

Written By: - Date published: 9:41 pm, March 21st, 2016 - 47 comments
Categories: benefits, class, class war, cost of living, discrimination, paula bennett, poverty, quality of life, Social issues, unemployment, welfare - Tags: , , , , ,

The thing about not having great sight is that sometimes you don’t really see things coming. That was partly why, a year late, I took myself away for an eye check up. The glasses I have are over two years old now and one set of frames is decidedly wonky after being sat on. I paid for them by taking a loan from WINZ.

This, when people are on invalids benefit or whatever, is how things that are needed get acquired. WINZ lend the money from future entitlements and then deduct said monies from future payments. In other words, the person on entitlements pays. There is no extra money going into the pot from the public purse. None.

Anyway, last week after dropping into the optometrists, I made an appointment at WINZ. They threw $200 odd dollars on one of those wee green payment cards they issue these days and that, I thought, was that. It did cross my mind that I couldn’t remember agreeing to any pay-back rate, but the guy loading the card was having a bad day, seemed confused, and anyway, I reckoned I could sort out any repayment rate by and by if it was too high.

And so off I went to the same optometrists I’d used two years ago – for a check up and, if need be, new glasses just the same as the ones I’ve had these past two years.

My eyes have degenerated. No surprises there. New frames (same as the old frames) were on the same two for one offer as previously ($169) . There was a bit extra for tinting one pair (same as last time). Another bit extra for an anti-glare reflective layer on the clear lenses. (Same as last time) I went to pay. The person serving kinda froze. Now, I thought they maybe just didn’t know how to process the green swipe card that WINZ issues. But no, that wasn’t the problem.

It would appear that the government made exclusive money saving deals with some optometrists about a year or so back. According to WINZ literature, this cuts down on the amount of money any entitled claimant would have to pay back to the department from their own future income.

And here’s the catch (apart from the fact that there are absolutely no differences in any pricing that I can find having subsequently indulged in a spell of ‘google is my friend’.)

To paraphrase the person serving me, I could use the WINZ payment card for any frame from the Mickey Mouse range. And no, I couldn’t pay the difference in price between any Mickey Mouse frame and the same ones I had on my face. And no, I couldn’t utilise the two for one deal (only one pair allowed). And no, I couldn’t have tints and pay the difference. And no, I couldn’t have an anti-glare coating on the non-tint glasses and pay for that either.

Now just to reiterate and so that things are clear. Any and all money being spent on my glasses is my money. There is not, and there was not, any grant for glasses. All people on entitlements have been able to do, is get a loan off future earnings (IRD views social security payments as earnings and tax accordingly) and have the loan balance deducted from future payments.

So, WINZ had loaded more than enough money onto their wee green payment card to cover my replacements on a ‘like for like’ basis. All of that money would have deducted from future entitlements. Yet, the shop assistant (and yes, it did cross my mind that they might be playing the role of self appointed gate keeper – unfairly as it transpires) simply couldn’t take any monies from the card as full or even part payment…not even for the eye test component which, in line with everything else, was the same cost for everyone regardless of income.

So now I’m reflecting on someone from NIWA saying that air temperature will be quite high in the coming winter months. I hope they’re right because, well, that was a huge chuck of the money I’d saved for my winter wood supply that just got diverted to paying for the glasses that I need.

But there’s something else. This bullshit surrounding access to glasses for the like of me and others on entitlements is indicative of a broader picture…

I just want, by way of comparison and contrast, to skip over a couple of things shared by my sister who has just been over visiting from Scotland. Dentist bills cost…yeah, read and weep. Council rents are for life and if a son or daughter has moved back into the house for a year before their mother or father dies, and the council was aware of that fact, then the lease passes on to them…for life.

And so my question. Given that NZ modelled itself on ‘the mother country’ and is about as rich as in per capita terms, when and why did it become afflicted by this present day malaise that happily marginalises, bashes and discards? And I don’t want to hear any ‘Fourth Labour government of 1984’ cop outs, because you know, the UK got Thatchered too…

47 comments on “Glasses and Brick Walls (& woods and trees). ”

  1. One Anonymous Bloke 1

    The only answer to the question that’s ever made sense to me is “greed and stupidity masquerading as self-interest”.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.1

      Throw in the self-interest of cutting taxes for the rich and the delusional belief that National has that people on benefits can’t budget.

    • aerobubble 1.2

      Bank fees plans, fancy ads to sell a commodity into a value product which the cinsumer pays more for without any addition benefit besides having now to manage their banking much closer to avoid pit falls.

      So stop whinning it happens to everyone, in every capitalist endeavour today, phine plans, internet plans, even movie plans. Karl Marx said it would happen, that wealth would pull up all the ladders behind them and leave themselves hanging unsupported.

      Just as you lost the lottery of being born when everyone else is, during a one off species population locust like plague, you also happen to pick the dumb ape too smart to be play nice and not shit in its own nest.

      Take the ratio of O2 and CO2, it wasn’t always the same, in fact dinosaurs lived when there was a lot of CO2, maybe need to be larger for larger lungs. So pouring co2 into our atmosphere selects for differing traits, similarly corporations and now welfare rigging, select for the new morelocks. Its planned economies that will survive longer as they have the infrastructure of control and haven’t breed morelocks to accept bureaucracy, the ladders are longer maintained bt reams of paper debt magically twisting onbook debt into supposed viable business models. y

  2. sabine 2

    It is the pettiness that gets me. It is just so petty. Loans should not come with humiliation.

    • Bill 2.1

      Erm. There was no loan. Nada, zip, zilch.

      Sure, there was humiliation but…no loan. The money’s still on the card. It will automatically default back to WINZ next week. I can’t use it. No optometrist can use it. It’s dead money.

      And like I say. Winter had better be fucking mild.

      • Olwyn 2.1.1

        It seems both silly and creepy. After all, they place a limit on what you can borrow anyway, and people are well able to balance out their own priorities within that range. It looks designed to humiliate.

      • weka 2.1.2

        I don’t get it. Why couldn’t your optometrist use the card payment?

        • Lanthanide 2.1.2.1

          Because WINZ, for some bizarre reason, has entered into a special agreement with optometrists, that limits the products that can be bought with the money. Evidently someone in WINZ believes (and was made to believe) by the optometrists that this would result in less money being spent by WINZ.

          But as Bill makes clear, the money being spent is in all ways his own money. So it doesn’t make any sense for WINZ to put in *limitations* to how it can be spent.

          Sure, perhaps they could come up with a special deal with the optometrists, but this should be an optional deal that actually does save the beneficiary money, rather than the only option available to them.

          • weka 2.1.2.1.1

            So Bill could get the kind of frames and base service that Winz and the designated optometrists agreed to?

            • Lanthanide 2.1.2.1.1.1

              Yes.

              Reading the linked pages, there is a small modicum of sense in the system.

              It’s designed to prevent people from spending more money on glasses than they perhaps should. Nanny state at it’s finest though – you aren’t capable of managing your own money (and sure, there would be some who aren’t), so we’re going to put strict rules in place to help you whether you need it or not.

              And secondly by reducing the total amount of money that is leant out in these ‘grants’ at any given time, they reduce the interest cost borne by the taxpayer.

              But I think the model is flat-out wrong – people should be able to top-up the given amount with their own private funds if necessary.

              • weka

                “And secondly by reducing the total amount of money that is leant out in these ‘grants’ at any given time, they reduce the interest cost borne by the taxpayer.”

                It’s a false economy. In addition to the things that Bill points out, if a beneficiary now can’t afford firewood for the winter and gets sick as a result and the State ends up paying for medical care, what’s being saved? So much of what the MSD does in trying to save money is these kinds of stupidity.

              • Olwyn

                But the grant for glasses is capped anyway, so they cannot borrow more than they should for glasses. And the designated styles will not necessarily be cheaper than some of the general styles. You could not, for example, take advantage of frames that are cheaper than the designated frames through being on special. Bill’s supermarket analogy is a good one. A food grant is set amount of money, so you can not overspend on it. If they followed the same practice with food grants, insisting they could only be used for budget brand items, you might end up paying $2.00 for a can of budget baked beans while Watties baked beans, on special that week at $1.50, were ruled out. And you would not be allowed to buy a few extras using your own money.

            • Bill 2.1.2.1.1.2

              Yes.

              One pair of glasses. Only choice from the very cheapest range of frames. No tinting (ie, sun-glasses) or anti- glare/reflection coatings.

              Not even if I paid for those things from any money i may have been able to put aside for, well…wood, say.

              And, as far as I can ascertain, the kind of frames and the base service costs exactly the same for people on entitlements as it does for anyone else. There is no ‘deal’.

              edit – in essence it’s kind of as though you got food money on the card but could only buy in store budget brand tins/packets of food…and your entire trolley had to comprise of nothing else – not even if you were willing to pay for some items separately.

              • Colonial Viper

                OMG Bill this is so shit I can’t even begin to attempt to express how shit this set up is.

                • Bill

                  45 minutes on a 40 seater bus with 39 people squeezed on to the one seat furthest away from me. Yup, I was definitely exuding a ‘vibe’ this afternoon.

                  (There weren’t actually 39 people cowering in some deeper recess of a bus…but, y’know 🙂 )

          • Bill 2.1.2.1.2

            Worth noting that there is a list of ‘approved’ optometrists. By the way. The person who was serving me was as embarrassed as me, albeit for different reasons, and actually thanked me for not nutting off as is, apparently, and understandably in my view, not uncommon.

            I don’t think optometrists pushed this particular barrow. It came about at the same time as ‘deals’ being set up with fisher and paykel for whiteware. There is now no avenue via WINZ for help with any second hand white-ware or any white-ware not made by fisher and paykel.

            • weka 2.1.2.1.2.1

              “There is now no avenue via WINZ for help with any second hand white-ware or any white-ware not made by fisher and paykel.”

              Wow, that’s really bad. Someone needs to OIA the cost savings details.

              I reckon it will technically to be discretionary. There will be circumstances where it doesn’t work eg someone lives in a town without a designated optometrist. Which means that if they can change it for that person, they can theoretically change it for any person. NZ really needs a well funded beneficiary advocacy service.

        • Bill 2.1.2.2

          If you go through to the two MSD links in the piece, the clues are there.

          It looks to me that the optometrist has to satisfy certain criteria, such as…not allowing anyone to pay for any (what the MSD calls) ‘extras’…like tinting etc…or to buy anything other than the very cheapest set of frames. (Mine aren’t exactly expensive, but they ain’t in the ‘allowable’ choice/price range)

          I did ask about x amount being taken from the card (eg – the cost of the cheapest range of frames) with me making up the difference. It was a no-go.

          I’m guessing (only guessing) that WINZ or MSD can ask the optometrist for any receipts associated with a purchase to ensure their criteria are being adhered to.

          As for what would happen if any optometrist flaunted those criteria and allowed common sense to enter into proceedings…Who knows?

          • Lanthanide 2.1.2.2.1

            I would think an optometrist could get around it by selling you the crap glasses using the card.

            Then in an entirely separate transaction that the government never need know about, return the glasses back to the store for full credit in cash, and use that cash towards the glasses you actually wanted.

            The government scheme seems to include some sort of 2 year warranty system though, and such a switcheroo as I’m suggesting would put you on the same level as any other private purchaser, so you’d lose any special benefit that might have been provided by the government scheme. But since you’re getting 2 pairs for the price of 1 anyway, and there’s always the CGA, it seems very unlikely that this would make you worse off.

            This also assumes there’s no nanny-state checkup where you have to show a WINZ case workers the glasses that you bought, so they can check that you got what you were supposed to get. But then again it’s not like the average WINZ case worker would know which frames were covered and which not.

            • Lanthanide 2.1.2.2.1.1

              I guess that eventually, news of any optometrist doing this as a routine matter would get back to WINZ, and they’d get in big trouble. Only takes one person to gab to their case officer (or whatever) about how they got a good deal on glasses the other week, and for that case officer to raise the alarm at WINZ.

              Stupid.

              • Colonial Viper

                clearly as a beneficiary you are a second class citizen and can’t have nice things.

                • Bill

                  No, no, no. It’s not that you can’t have nice things. It’s that you can only have crap.

                  • adam

                    Crap that needs to be replaced, which you have to get a loan for. So cycle begins again.

                    This is the one of worst uses of the state I’ve ever seen. Trust the national party to use the state to keep people in poverty.

                    Idiots and fools brought into Bill English and his caring for the poor, what a sick joke that turned out to be.

                    Also is this not just forcing the poor to enrich the already rich, by perpetually having to buy substandard products?

              • weka

                I’d love to see the agreement between WINZ and the optomestrists. Assuming that it’s different businessed, that’s lots of agreements. I’d guess the worst that could happen to the optometrist is that they get taken off he designated list.

          • weka 2.1.2.2.2

            Thanks for clarifying. This is fucked on so many levels I don’t know where to begin. I’m jumping from don’t people have a right to the health care provider of their choice (except, not beneficiaries, remember), to the mindfuckery of preventing beneficiaries of having choice about something actually quite personal, to the sheer stupidity and inefficiency. National, experts in taking money from poor people and making them eat shit at the same time and wasting money.

  3. Outdoor 3

    While you are on google look for prescription glasses, Hong Kong & USA (39dollar glasses) are 2 options then you can tell WINZ where to go.

  4. gez the rev 4

    after spending close to 14 years overseas and returning to nz a couple of years ago, I noticed the greed and self righteousness of the “ordinary” kiwi. what a disgusting bunch they have become. as long as ” im alright Jack” FUCK YOU.
    the person serving you is typical of this fact. “how can you have nice glasses when your on a benefit, that’s only “MY” entitlement”. they just don’t care for other people anymore. they don’t seem to realise that
    ITS NOT THEIR MONEY
    ITS NOT GOING INTO THEIR POCKET
    they think they are enforcers, it makes them feel important, like part of the gestapo govt
    what dumb thinking, they will go home(or probably while their still at work(for crap wages)) jump on their faceless book or twitter or whatever stupid fucking internet “friend” site they are on with their “friends” and gloat about it. they don’t even realise that they have actually cost you MORE money because the crap glasses that they sold you will fuck out soon and you will have to get more.
    when they are replaced by a lower wage foreign worker, their house starts fucking out because of all the crap materials used(just like the glasses they sell) and they have to go cap in hand to WINZ, this is when their Karma will arrive. it is a shame that they have to get that sort of karma in the first place but this is what our govt is bringing on us.

    [The person serving me was a typical example of a person being hog-tied by an ill-considered (from a social perspective) and cruel piece of legislation. As I said in the post, it did cross my mind that they might be playing at being gate-keeper. They weren’t. That was an unfair conclusion I reached and one I rejected after doing a bit of homework on the MSD glasses policy. I believe that there was absolutely nothing the employee at the optometrists could have done.] – Bill

    • miravox 4.1

      Yup. You go away for awhile, and when you get back that streak of meanness really shines through.

      It’s a good thing to prepare yourself with the comments on ‘stuff’ before getting back into the country, I find.

      Really sorry for you have to put up with that rubbish Bill. NZ has lost its way as a caring society. Christ, a politician just using those two words would give a political strategist heart palpitations, it’s that difficult to advocate for human decency these days.

    • Draco T Bastard 4.2

      Realised a while ago that NZ is, basically, cheap and that’s been made worse with the BS rhetoric that we’ve been getting from the RWNJs that things should always cost less. We’ve talked our way into believing that we’re paying too much when the reality is that we’re paying enough.

      And we’re not getting the savings of our scrimping either – those are going to the multi-million dollar CEOs, CFOs, and shareholders.

  5. vto 5

    I was thinking last eve, on watching te news, that we in New Zealand are far from any of the nicest people on the planet. We are not generous, fair or pleasant.

    What led me to this consideration was firstly an item on Taina Pora – the way our system absolutely nails people when the system goes wrong with no heart at all.

    Secondly, the item on Bradley Ambrose and Key’s admission of bullshit and defamation yet all out refusal to apologise – what the fuck is that about? A 10-year old child would be made to apologise, yet the so-called leader of the country refuses. No wonder, I was thinking, people go off on rampages, bashing coppers and ripping people off when the leader does the exact same. Likewise willy-nilly Finlayson q c – what a wanker In not apologising to Muslim women for wrongly labelling them.

    Thirdly, various crime stories, which indicate a complete lack of care for wider community and our brothers and sisters in the street. There is no doubt that bare-faced criminal activities have a different flavour today

    I sheeted this sea-change in our community to the neo-liberal leadership of the last 30 years, in which we have been told that greed is good and that self-interest is the driver for people and our society.

    Political leadership has said this. Political leadership has practised this. John Key is the epitome of this greed and self-interest.

    A post I made several months back referred to this withn our own community where we live, whereby people were acting in this same manner with regard to children’s sports and with regard to neighbourhood / property issues. It is no-holds barred and total and complete self-interest.

    It is this societal sea-change that has led to this Bill imo. That combined with a slightly mean natural disposition that we have (we look at our history with rose-tinted glasses) has led us to this point where it is every man for himself (and other genders of course).

    This sea-change is reflected entirely in the government approach to beneficiaries.

    This sea-change is now embedded in our society.

    John Key is the ultimate expression. His lack of apology for any wrong-doing epitomises it.

    poorly so poorly

    sad so sad

    I’m going bush again .. .. ..

    • gez the rev 5.1

      good idea vto, ive fucked off again, taken my family with me before they end up talking the same. I came here to raise my family, why the fuck would you do that unless you want a lying , thieving narcissistic little prick like our pm

    • Lara 5.2

      I agree.

      A great number of New Zealanders appear to me to be a bunch of racist, mean spirited, nasty small minded idiots.

      And this is my response.

      I’m going to try and spread some joy, love and warmth around me every single day.

      I’ll give of myself to my community (and let go the feelings that so many don’t appear to appreciate it), smile at strangers on the street, open doors for people, speak politely, be kind at every opportunity.

      The more people change to kindness the more kindness we shall see.

      It may be utopian, and that’s what some people say. I don’t care. Sure, it’s utopian. But we’ll never live in a utopia if we don’t believe it is possible. And act accordingly.

      I like to think, what can I do today that is kind? How can I give myself away today?

      Now, I don’t always measure up to this high standard. I’ve lost my cool sometimes and been mean. I’m human. But I’m trying to be better.

      Imagine what New Zealand would be like if we all were kind and polite every single day?

  6. Sirenia 6

    Just imagine the bureaucratic time wasted and cost setting all this up and untangling it? Neatly illustrates why someone high up’s cost saving ideas are both expensive and dehumanising.

  7. adam 7

    I love how national out nanny state the labour party.

    Reading your post Bill was like reading a bad morality play.

    Just more targeting of the disabled these Tory Muppets seem to be good at, attack the weakest in society to feel good about themselves, how shallow these people are.

    Auckland Action Against Poverty are having an Impact event in Pukapuka Community centre on on April 5,6,and 7th. Can I pass this on as a case study Bill?

    • Draco T Bastard 7.1

      Just more targeting of the disabled these Tory Muppets seem to be good at, attack the weakest in society to feel good about themselves, how shallow these people are.

      QFT

    • Bill 7.2

      You can do whatever you want with the info Adam. I think everything is in the post – no details missed. (You might also want to click through to the dental charges from the post. That’s a fcking shocker. Even the richest person in Scotland only pays 80% of any dental cost and the totalcosts amount to about 10% of NZs costs.

      Eg. Small silver filling ~ $15
      A large one ~ $36
      Extraction ~ $12

      So the most any person will pay is 80% of those costs. Last time I had a filling it was $200 and an extraction was $300…..

      • Molly 7.2.1

        Given that overall health can be negatively impacted by bad teeth, this is a smart move by the NHS.

        (Dentistry costs for our children have been huge, even though none of them have ever had any cavities. Approx $26,000 over last eight years. Even then, one over exuberant “technician” tightened the braces so much they caused the death of one tooth, and another separate incident and place did the same resulting in a cracked tooth that had to be removed.)

  8. adam 8

    Some times we have to laugh at them…

  9. ianmac 9

    As I aged my eyes faded. So for reading I use $3 “hobby” glasses. $12 at the Warehouse. Rating 3.5 nowadays. I guess for Bill his need may be for a prescription glasses so my cheapo answer is no help.

    • Molly 9.1

      After being hit hard by glasses costs for two of us, we started buying through
      clearlycontacts.

      As long as you have your script you can keep an eye on the specials, or use the discount codes and get some really good glasses. Same frames that are available at the opticians, but much cheaper, and the last pair was delivered within a week.

      BTW, appalled but not surprised by Bill’s story. The pettiness and poor thinking exhibited by the Ministry is reflected in the choice of Minister, which seems to been a parade of spiteful, shades of complete people.

      The phrase from Joni Mitchell’s Magdalene Laundries comes to mind:

      … they leach the grass they walk upon…

      • Molly 9.1.1

        Correction:

        … they wilt the grass they walk upon,
        they leach the light out of the room…”

  10. Brigid 10

    When WINZ had failed to include the price of the exam for my daughters glasses, she said to the optometrist, “I’ll just pay cash then”. The reply was “No WINZ wont allow us to accept any additional money from you, we’ll just cover it. This happens frequently”.

  11. McFlock 11

    That fucking bites, bill.

    FWIW, being also in the spectacles market, I went to an opshop and got decent old glasses that suited me reasonably for $2. The optometrist can put the lenses in that pair.

    All the ones in the optometrist’s that were priced in the lower half of the range were either frames for kids, or the type that keifer sutherland wears when he wants to look like a serial killer. Difficult to explain better than that, but not just “average” – they made me look downright creepy.

    • Bill 11.1

      I guess this will be the last time I attempt to source any new glasses/frames in a straight forward way.

      Yes. Old frames from an op-shop (though I can envisage a bit of a scramble for them these days all things considered)…or get frames sent in from over-seas.

      It shouldn’t be like that though.

  12. UncookedSelachimorpha 12

    We treat beneficiaries disgracefully here.

    On a practical note, I wear glasses. If you get your prescription, you can buy cheaply online (e.g. I use zenni optical, basic prescription glasses with good coating for US$26, delivered). I am sure the likes of SpecSavers use exactly the same factories to get their glasses made in Asia, then charge you $150.

    Trick is getting your prescription – you have to ask and I find some NZ optometrists are reluctant to give it to you (they make their money on the glasses!). But stand your ground, get a $40 checkup, get your prescription – then buy the actual glasses online.

    If the government wanted to actually help instead of that WINZ garbage – they could pass a law to follow the USA, where your optometrist is required by law to give you your prescription, even if you don’t ask for it.

  13. Hone 13

    My friend told me last week,his body is stuffed from a life of back breaking work and can hardly walk.
    The doctor told him to get a new bed for his health.
    But winz will only go 200 bucks for a new bed.
    All the mattresses he looked at for 200 are so bad it will make him worst.
    And for 200 bucks the range of choice is very limited.

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