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Government cuts emergency dental loans for beneficiaries

Written By: - Date published: 11:00 am, May 5th, 2015 - 38 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, benefits, class war, national, Politics, same old national, welfare - Tags:

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.

From Radio New Zealand:

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

38 comments on “Government cuts emergency dental loans for beneficiaries”

  1. Clemgeopin 1

    In actual reality the biggest beneficiaries in the country are the wealthy, the corporates and the big business.

    This government is working hard for the wealthy, the privileged and their friends, while making life harder for the poor, the workers and the needy families.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.1

      +1

      All governments for the last 30 years have been working for the rich and against the people of NZ.

  2. shorts 2

    FFS and who will hold the govt to account over this?

    This man perhaps?

    “Mr Robertson makes it clear there are several ways he will be different from his predecessor, David Parker.

    He wants to cut down on the number of policies and focus on a few and he wants to humanise Labour’s economic policy. That will mean less talk about poverty….”

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11442658

  3. freedom 3

    (repeat post from OM)
    Yup, to put it into perspective, last year the country spent more on global jaunts for Jim Bolger and his wife than what was spent on the emergency dental health of some of its most vulnerable citizens.

    Yeah but why worry eh? It’s not like decisions to ignore critical dental emergencies ever lead to other health and well being issues whose social costs will most likely dwarf the costs of the emergency dental treatment being denied, all because of pressure to scrape the runway for the spruce goose surplus.

    That dental services are not part of the country’s core health service has always been something I have a fundamental difficulty with. But as many have commented over the years, logic and government are not exactly bedfellows. Let’s face it, they’re barely living in the same house anymore.

    • weka 3.1

      Important points. Given the connections between oral health and general health, one can only assume that the philopsophy here is that the long term health of all NZers is no longer the responsibility of the government, and so expect cuts to the health system in the future. Either that or they are so incompetent that they can’t connect up welfare policy with health policy. Or they’re concerned with lining their pockets now and later be damned. Take your pick.

      • Bill 3.1.1

        Abscesses kill. But I guess it makes more sense, on some far away planet, to have an advanced, life threatening abscess treated in a hospital for a far higher cost than would be the case if dentists were accessible on the basis of need.

        • weka 3.1.1.1

          yep, and there is probably a degree of sending the problem to another dept to worry about and pay for, so the budget balances this year. It’s also an issue for bigger picture health care eg there is a correlation between poor oral health and heart disease, so the flow on costs are big and long term as well as acute.

          • miravox 3.1.1.1.1

            Alternative headline “Government increases hospital admissions”

            • freedom 3.1.1.1.1.1

              Not to mention added pressure on the quality of life of the person/s with the dental issues and the people they might live with. Pain and discomfort are not generally conducive to happy home environments. Especially homes which might already be under financial stress and the extended life issues that can bring.

              Forcing people without means to get deep in debt or live in pain says a lot about the people who have encouraged the decision to restrict funds.

              One important aspect to keep in the forefront of this discussion is the money denied to people needing urgent dental treatment falls under a recoverable payment criteria, so would have been repaid. These were not extra funds, they were not handouts, they were advances against a person’s existing benefit.

              • Draco T Bastard

                Not to mention added pressure on the quality of life of the person/s with the dental issues and the people they might live with. Pain and discomfort are not generally conducive to happy home environments. Especially homes which might already be under financial stress and the extended life issues that can bring.

                And the one that even this government should recognise is the lowered productivity that such added stress causes.

                Of course, this government does seem to be trying to increase productivity by lowering wages.

    • Grace Miller 3.2

      I received a $300 emergency dental benefit for work late last year. The problem is getting beneficiaries to challenge each and every decision made by their case officers. I had to push.

      I am lucky to be assertive, (read gobby tart when ire is raised by government depts) and to challenge my case officer (whichever one I get when I make an appointment) every time they try to weasel out of supplying what they are bound to by law.

      Challenge every decision. Every time. It’s the only way to hold MSD to account. Also, I ask to see the relevant piece of legislation that enables them to make that particular decision. I spend a bit of time talking to their legal team. 😉 If it isn’t in the legislation, and is merely the ‘policy’ of that branch, challenge it. Their ‘interpretation’ has been found to be wrong so many times, it’s hard to challenge them when you’re starving and under immense pressure. Yet this is the only solution I’ve found that works. I’ve had hapless case officers recant, back down, and sign off my requests for assistance because I asked if it was the law or policy. Policy? Challenge it.

      • freedom 3.2.1

        Any welfare advocacy group in the country will attest to dealing with an increasing number of situations exactly like the one Grace describes. A client asking to be shown some form of authorization which over-rides the legislation, or a directive which stipulates exactly why they are refusing to supply the money the legislation allocates, usually gets WINZ to do the right thing. Which only proves it’s a ‘preferred policy’ decision, dictated from the Ministry and not a legally supported decision relating to the legislation.

        One piece of advice for clients is to openly record every meeting they have with a WINZ officer. Most modern phones have a voice recorder which makes this very simple. It certainly alters the environment’s power imbalance. Also ask for photocopies of every piece of paper involved, be it something they show you or something you sign and get the case worker to sign and date those photocopies.

        The WINZ offices go-to response these days, (according to staff who bravely admit direct pressure from higher up ) is to simply refuse to allocate the legislation’s budgeted allowances. They don’t say no straight away of course. First they grill you, on every detail of your life and proving that detail is getting very important. It is not unheard of for WINZ offices to demand copies of the last two month’s supermarket receipts before approving a legislated for Allowance.

        This form of questioning is to be expected if you are asking for extra help such as a recoverable Special Needs Grant for instance, which will of course be paid back as it is recovered directly from your benefit payments at the source. But that’s the thing you see, these dental stories, and the food grants etc, are meant to be non-recoverable allowances, funds that each beneficiary is legally entitled to request. Funds the budget figures allow for. It is a terrible word, loaded and unhelpful, but the funds being requested are in fact legally allocated “entitlements”.

        Monty Python made jokes about never expecting the Spanish Inquisition,
        they’ve obviously never needed WINZ.

  4. Disabled Liberation Aotearoa NZ DLANZ 4

    Disgusting….Pretty Rich National led Coalitions…cutting beneficiaries access to dental treatment, while Ministers go on big taxi trips, or pocket Xmas bonuses? Top Down greed has been the cause of much misery among the population of Aotearoa.

    Regards
    Doug Hay
    Cotdinator DLANZ

  5. Kay 5

    Annette King was providing the usual Opposition criticism in this story. But given Labour’s own track record towards beneficiaries, would this situation be reversed should they become government? Sadly, I doubt it.

    • Chris 5.1

      Sickening to hear King’s and Labour’s total hypocrisy yet again towards social security and beneficiaries. Labour destroyed a ton of welfare provision when the government last, and even in opposition supported the last government anti-beneficiary anti-social welfare Bill. Labour cannot be trusted when it comes to social security. Just a pity current Labour die-hards refuse to acknowledge it. Co-offenders.

      • Michael 5.1.1

        The NZ Labour Party, like its UK equivalent, realises there are no votes to be obtained by adopting humane welfare policies. So it no longer bothers. It is no coincidence that potential voters, notably those in Scotland but also in NZ in recent elections, have deserted the Labour brand in droves. In tactical terms, this may not matter to the NZLP, as it could attain office by restricting its message to a few fickle middle-class voters when they grow weary of Brand Key. This target market is either indifferent to the plight of beneficiaries, especially those suffering from sickness or disability, or is actively hostile toward them. Taking account of these, rather unsavoury, background matters and amplifying them is almost certainly part of the NZLP’s political strategy in 2015.

        • linda 5.1.1.1

          that’s right a million people wont vote so people who do are voting in there interests democracy requires participation not apathy or indifference to work. Scotland 85 percent vote and there going to vote in there interests

  6. Bill 6

    So, hang on.

    The grant is $300 in a twelve month period. That’s still there, right? So…a filling – basically.

    Now, how the fuck are they justifying not giving the loan to make up the extra costs? And why are they doing it? It’s not as though it’s a cost to the public purse as it’s all claimed back out of future payments.

    Maybe dentists have got cheaper?

    • NZSage 6.1

      My partner has recently been quoted $8,500 for two root canals and two crowns. We have to take out a second mortgage to pay for it.

      We are fortunate enough to be in position to make a choice on our priorities, I suspect the vast majority of NZ’rs would have no choice other than pain, suffering and rotting teeth. We live in a very uncaring society thanks to these tories.

      See Paula Bennetts’ image above? http://d3lgc28rsiigal.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Paula%2BBennett%2Bsay-cheese-e1323480172174.jpg?62e881

      Nice smile you have there Paula , bet those set of gnashers didn’t come cheap eh?

      • les 6.1.1

        go to Thailand and get the work done,way cheaper including airfare.

        • NZSage 6.1.1.1

          Les,

          Yes it’s something we’re seriously considering.

          • weka 6.1.1.1.1

            Might pay to get a few quotes as well. One of the consumer watch dogs did an undercover test on dentists and found a large range of recommendations and prices quoted for the same person.

            • Molly 6.1.1.1.1.1

              True.

              Decided against a root canal that was quoted at $2,500, and asked for an extraction after researching the problems that root canals can cause.

              The receptionist then rang and asked why I was not going ahead with the root canal. Not wanting to get into a discussion about root canals and general health, I cited only the cost of the procedure.

              The next day, she rang back with a “discounted” cost of $900.

              Still looking for a regular trustworthy and competent dentist.

              • weka

                Even knowing too many dentists do this shit, your story is shocking.

                The price of a basic 15 min check, no clean, no X-ray, is so high that the whole thing looks like a rort

  7. coaster 7

    they probably have better access to dental care than children down here in greymouth, we have free dental care for our kids because there isnt any dental care.

  8. ropata 8

    Health and education for 250 000 underprivileged kids are a cost to be minimised.
    Tax breaks for 250 wealthy business titans are an investment to be maximised

  9. hoom 9

    As a person who has had to make use of these emergency dental loans (& paid back ASAP once I could), I am utterly appalled.

    In the situation where you need emergency dental loans you really really really need them.

    I actually only got one of my root canals from then Crowned recently after 10yrs (yay that The Peoples Center dentist!)

  10. McFlock 10

    So, under a national government, tens of thousands of people become more lazy and “make poor life choices” to just sit on the dole, but their teeth magically stop needing expensive treatment.

    Gotta love planet key /sarc

  11. NZJester 11

    I’m glad I got in before they made it harder. I not to long ago while between work had a piece of tooth break off from one of mine in the back, but was lucky it did not expose anything so I was not in pain. I had to pay for the initial visit to the dentist myself leaving me very short of cash so I ate cheap 3 minute noodles for a few days till I cold afford some real food. I got the bad news at that visit that another tooth was very likely to end up the same way at any time and needed work on it as soon as possible, as well as a few others needed some work done on them to. After waiting a week for a booked appointment I luckily got approved by them for a loan plus the $300 you do not have to pay back to complete the rest of the dental work of putting a number of fillings in my teeth over a few visits. Without that loan there is no way I would have been work ready to start a job if I was offered one.

  12. Sable 12

    Disgusting. Look at the fat freaks sitting on their malignant asses in the Beehive. No expense spared for these wastrels….Government in NZ is a bad joke we all have to pay for…..

  13. gsays 13

    grim article.
    all i can say is this is very mean spirited.

    the money gets paid back.

    talking to a e.d. nurse, she notices the amount of chronically ill people with poor dental health.
    they all say the same sort of thing, ive got kids … i cant afford it.

    very mean spirited.

  14. Draco T Bastard 14

    We grit our teeth and pay the bill. But the provision of adequate dental treatment for beneficiaries is problematic in the extreme.

    Not just beneficiaries. The working poor can’t afford dental either.

    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.

    Gotta cut spending on the poor so as to increase spending on the rich in terms of corporate welfare and tax cuts so that they can spend it on booze and ciggies.

  15. adam 15

    So what will tip some of you social democrats towards us who want a revolution? Does this government need to kill people openly? Or are you OK with the silent death sentences they hand out on a regular basis?

    I truly believe we live in a time whereby a non-violent revolution is possible. We won the cultural wars with the minimum of violence. We can win this revolution too. It is simple, just stop paying your debt – or if that truly frightens you – take on no more debt, and make no more credit.

    Don’t repay your loan, mortgage and other debts. Don’t get credit, a loan or a mortgage – Just stop. Because every time you pay debt, or get a loan you just create more wealth for the rich. By playing this game of debt, as wealth creation, you become the backbone to this filthy, rotten, system.

    The choice is yours really – just sit and moan. Sit and watch families and people suffer. Or do what God asks of you, and liberate the poor and downtrodden from their misery.

    • weka 15.1

      Do you have kids adam?

    • Charles 15.2

      “Don’t get credit, a loan or a mortgage – Just stop.”

      This would work for people who are healthy, employed in a fairly secure inflation adjusted career (with children or not), and who have a personal disposition to “bring down the system” i.e. of a particular personality and of a particular upbringing – perhaps 2-3% of the population. Wouldn’t work for generationally “poor” people etc etc. But it’s a good idea, and better than simply moaning. I also believe the system can be weakened without immediately resorting to overt violence.

  16. NickS 16

    Those fuckwits, what the fuck am I meant to do if my teeth play up this year like I’m expecting them to fo? I’ll likely be unable to work until my sleep apnea that’s likely driving the current depressive episode* is sorted. And there’s nothing like chronic pain to make you even more depressed T_T

    Also, it’s not like us beneficiaries get the $300 for free, we have to pay it back and yet somehow it’s seen as “cost-cutting” to get rid of it. When in reality the cost is only the interest a government agency pays, which while a fair amount, is nothing compared to the relief it brings to people suffering from tooth pain. But hey, don’tcha know, people so totes choose to be poor, because shit so totes never goes wrong and we so don’t have any housing and employment issues and associated costs.

    *sigh* Fuck. This. Government.
    _______________________________________________________
    *should have lifted by now, but while most depression symptoms are minimised, missing nortriptyline is not a good idea and motivation remains firmly fuckzored.

  17. esoteric pineapples 17

    You can die when you don’t get immediate dental work for an abscess. One of the primary causes of death in the old days was getting an abscess because the blood poisoning was so close to the brain. Especially when it was in the upper jaw.

    This happened to me recently. I either had to have the tooth pulled out or get a root canal. I put off the root canal for a few weeks till I had the money and was taking antibiotics which saw the abscess go down. Then when I ran out of them it suddenly inflamed so I had a huge balloon on the side of my mouth. I got some more antibiotics just in time and managed to hang in there until my root canal appointment.

    The low paid, like myself, are actually in some ways more vulnerable than beneficiaries because we earn just above what is the limit for getting government assistance.

    People go on about the cost of going to the doctor but that’s doable because usually there is just the consultation fee and maybe a prescription. But when you go to the dentists you are immediately hit with a bill for $150 or more. This is why I think any left leaning government needs to look at greater assistance for dental care for adults, even if it is just a loan that is available to everyone.

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