- 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: bene bashing, Bennet, dignity, discrimination, poverty, WINZ
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…