One aspect of our health system that I think is handled very poorly is the provision of dental assistance. If you break a leg and are under severe pain you can be seen quickly and be assisted with competent medical treatment. If you are suffering from severe tooth ache you are pretty well on your own unless you can afford treatment.
This is not so bad for the middle class. We grit our teeth and pay the bill. But the provision of adequate dental treatment for beneficiaries is problematic in the extreme. And it appears that there is a deliberate policy of the Government to make this situation worse.
Work and Income’s decision to stop loans for emergency dental work could send beneficiaries to loan sharks, an advocate says.
Work and Income gives $300 special needs grants for emergency dental treatment for beneficiaries and those on low incomes. If that was not enough to cover the work, the agency until recently gave small advances on benefits.
An Official Information Act request has revealed Work and Income is no longer providing beneficiaries with an advance.
Beneficiaries advocate Kay Brereton said the need for dental work had not gone away.
“It’s worrying that there’s people out there whose health is getting worse. There’s got to be a lot of people out there who are living with pain and eating on one side of their mouth. That’s the kind of thing that I’ve encountered, before they [WINZ] said that we don’t do this anymore.”
In the 2010/11 financial year, Work and Income loaned $9,398,451 to beneficiaries for emergency dental work. Over the past year that figure was slashed to $45,100, official documents showed.
Get that? In 2010/11 loans to beneficiaries for emergency dental work totalled $9.3 million. Over the past year the figure is 0.5% of that.
This all fits in with the right wing narrative that beneficiaries are bludgers on society and totally unworthy. According to the right they spend hard earned money on such luxuries as beer and cigarettes although why you should stop payments for emergency dental treatment to address such excessive spending is beyond me.
It is not all persons reliant on state support that meet with the right’s opprobrium. The recent birth of a baby girl into a family who are the best paid beneficiaries of any western state was met with acclaim rather than budget cuts. If only the poorest amongst us were treated with the same respect.
Update: Seems to have been an error – OIA chaos in the Ministry of Social Development