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#IamMetiria

Written By: - Date published: 7:00 am, July 20th, 2017 - 35 comments
Categories: class, class war, culture, discrimination, election 2017, elections, greens, human rights, Metiria Turei, political parties, politicans, poverty, Propaganda, Social issues, welfare - Tags: , ,

If you know that feeling of dread when you find a letter from WINZ in your letter box, or if you’ve experienced the roiling anxiety that comes from being  ‘called in’ for an interview by WINZ, or if you’ve sighed that sigh of relief when the letter from WINZ turns out to be a replacement community services card, then you might want to follow #IamMetiria.

And if you just don’t recognise that emotional merry-go-round that comes with NZ’s Social Security system, then you might want to follow #IamMetiria – just to get a taste for what thousands and thousands of people in New Zealand experience on a recurring and ongoing basis.

Let’s be clear about this. From the perspective of those having to navigate the NZ’s Social Security system, it’s sorely lacking both in terms of having positive social impacts and in engendering a personal sense of security. Essentially it’s a dog that needs to be put down.

I could rattle out a ream of stories about people I know where WINZ, instead of offering a hand up have administered a kick in ‘the tenders’ – with stupidly bad and sometimes downright dangerous consequences. But obviously these are not my stories to tell.

And such is the oft vindictive nature of WINZ culture, that I’m not willing to share any of my own experiences either.

Putting aside that “social security” in this country means “grinding poverty” and all the obvious enough flow on effects of that, I’ll just settle for pointing out the following. Generally speaking, if some institution or agency in society acts unfairly towards someone, then an advocate can be found and forms of redress sought. This isn’t the case with WINZ. Depending on where a person lives, they just have to take the bureaucracy on all by themselves. Given we can be talking about situations where a person is plucked from society’s safety net and dangled by a slender institutional thread, where one mis-step or one bureaucratic glitch can occasion a drop into free fall, many people just suck up whatever has happened and walk away – angry and bitter yes, yet often perversely grateful that things aren’t even worse.

Until now, the snarling culture of WINZ has been rendered invisible by a broader culture within NZ that’s contemptuous and disdainful towards those claiming social security payments. But it’s time to roll that broader culture back – to call time on it and roll out something containing a modicum of decency and compassion that might imbue the institutions that are meant to help people out. I know there are people who work for WINZ who would welcome such a cultural shift for the better. (Kanoa Lloyd’s somewhat emotional ‘statement’ on TV3’s “The Project” might indicate some positive signs on that broader cultural front)

Look. For a whole host of reasons, many unemployed people don’t follow twitter. If you do, then how’s about you do a little thing? How’s about you make a gesture and add your voice to the others that are speaking for the silent and follow #IamMetiria on twitter or bang on that fb share button at the foot of this post?

It’s not as if you have to follow that up by voting for the Green Party on September 23rd, though like  I say, the culture permeating NZ’s Social Security system is a dog that sorely needs put down. And it seems to me that September 23rd would be as good a day as any to call in the vet.

 

 

35 comments on “#IamMetiria ”

  1. Carolyn_nth 1

    Bill: Until now, the snarling culture of WINZ has been rendered invisible by a broader culture within NZ that’s contemptuous and disdainful towards those claiming social security payments. But it’s time to roll that broader culture back – to call time on it and roll out something containing a modicum of decency and compassion that might imbue the institutions that are meant to help people out.

    Excellent. Yes.

    On the lack of social security advocates in NZ: I think it’s true about most places in NZ – though you also point out that it depends on where a person lives.

    Auckland Action Against Poverty has a strong system for providing advocates.

    We offer a free advocacy service.

    Our team of volunteer advocates assists people to get what they’re entitled to from Work & Income. We don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Nor should you!

    AAAP can work with you to:

    Offer advice and information
    Ensure you’re receiving your full entitlements
    Gain access to food grants and other essential items
    Resolve Work and Income disputes

    If you need help, give us a call or come in to our office in Onehunga, 120 Church St. We’re open Monday to Friday from 10am to 3pm.

    Or if you’re out West you can find us every Wednesday from 12.30 till 3:00pm at the Waitemata Community Law Centre, 1 Trading Place, Henderson.

    We are also outside of the Clendon Work and Income on Friday’s from 9am to 1pm.

    • Leonhart Hunt 1.1

      Great for those in Auckland, what about the rest of NZ? It shouldn’t be needed, it should not be a battle to get entitlements, it should not be hard, it shouldn’t be a place of shame or fear.

      Someone coming into a MSD office is an opportunity to help, a privilege to assist another person (or family) We are New Zealanders, all of us not have and have nots.

      I am ashamed.

      • AsleepWhileWalking 1.1.1

        Benefit Rights (Wellington) can cover areas of the country without other advocacy services.

        • AsleepWhileWalking 1.1.1.1

          And when you lodge a review of decision Work and Income will respond with a confirmation letter. At the back of this they usually include a list of advocacy services in your area.

          Even so, without basic knowledge of the system most people are too afraid to lodge a review in case their situation gets even worse. #iammetiria

  2. Korero Pono 2

    Excellent article Bill. #IAmMetiria tweets are a reminder of two things. How absolutely broken the supposed safety net is and how absolutely debase and uncaring some New Zealanders have become under a right thinking (this includes centre right and centre left) regime that punishes the disadvantaged whilst rewarding the greedy and heartless.

    For the first time in my voting life I was excited to see real progressive policy come out of the Green’s announcement on Welfare and I hope it gains a ground swell of support from the missing voters who stopped voting (probably because they saw no end to their misery with either Labour or the Natz).

    The Green’s Welfare policy is the first time I have witnessed any real attempt to reverse the punitive and disastrous welfare policy of successive Labour and National governments. All I have to say on this is “Go Greens” and #IAmMeteria.

  3. One Anonymous Bloke 3

    Belatedly wondering how many boarders Turei had…

    Income from boarders
    If you have other people sharing your home and paying you to live there you need to tell us about it as it could affect your benefit.
    How it works
    You can have 2 boarders and it won’t affect your benefit…

    WINZ.

    • JanM 3.1

      As I recall it from my days in the grip of WINZ (or whatever it was called then) there is a difference between boarders, as you’ve described above, which is what you have when you own your own home, and flatmates which is what you have when you are renting. Metiria has called them ‘flatmates, hasn’t she which tends to suggest they were renting

      • greywarshark 3.1.1

        I think that the amount you can get from the board payment is limited, and at one time it seemed that it would only just cover food and a bit towards utilities.
        In other words it might not provide much extra to help with the rental cost, and at the same time you lose space, have to share utilities, adapt to personalities and habits, watch that you don’t have people with different standards than yourself – drinking binges, foul mouthed, inclined to ‘borrow’ out of the coin jar for bus fare and not pay back, take the sheets when they leave, have unsatisfactory friends, stay up late studying with a friend and talking into the night keeping the kids awake, inclined to complain and nitpick though pretending they are not etc.

        Millions of ways that boarders can be a disadvantage. It’s completely misunderstood by those well off who wouldn’t want even their own relations staying with them. And one of those female frights in Gnashional was disgusted to hear of State house tenants letting out rooms. Major fraud to her. Actually providing a wee bit more from the underfunded SW, cut arbitrarily since 1991. And providing a home base for somebody who needs a place. But no, the idea of beneficiaries breaking the prejudice barrier built from disdain was too shocking to consider. What if people are actually trying to take initiatives where they can and not the slugs they are said to be so frequently that it becomes received wisdom?

        What is eternally true is that these carefully made up women in politics on the Gnashional side have no core, they are built up wafer on wafer of titanium and small amounts of hardened enamel that is refurbished every day. Rather like robots really. We won’t even notice when the government replaces themselves with robot proxies in the House, while they are doing and going to other things more interesting. Technology is being embraced by Gnashional who don’t want to touch real human beings who haven’t been able to pass the wealth test for suitability, and Labour is unsure and waffles on afraid to be accused of being antediluvian while the last century’s progress is gradually wound back. And the two common meanings of wound apply.

        • JanM 3.1.1.1

          I know several people in State houses who have had to take in homeless rellies both in Whangarei and Auckland. Illegal as it is, the alternatives are for said rellies to be homeless. It’s overcrowded and stressful, especially with children involved, but better than the back seat of a car or a park bench of course

      • One Anonymous Bloke 3.1.2

        It’s a bit of a red herring anyway – this issue isn’t about Metiria Turei it’s about WINZ and the hate speech promoted by the right, and the chance to do something about it.

    • AsleepWhileWalking 3.2

      The boarders thing has only been publicized in recent years.

      Likely Metiria could have called them boarders and declared them without penalty, but when you risk losing money for basics you aren’t going to do that.

  4. weka 4

    You got a tweet from Hooton 😆 Not linking, cos it was a boring tweet, but funny him helping with TS’s social media strategy.

  5. McGrath 5

    I cannot see how her confession of benefit fraud and lack of contrition can help the cause? The Left is trying to attract back the hard-working blue collar vote yet saying it’s morally ok to cheat WINZ?

    • Sabine 5.1

      yes dear.

    • Stuart Munro 5.2

      The fact is that, like ACC, Winz has gone feral. It has been used to oppress the unemployed so as to silence them politically – because they, more than any others, have reason to criticize our moribund governments’ failures.

      Where is the promised prosperity that underwrote the neo-liberal platform? It’s not reaching ordinary New Zealanders.

      • Sabine 5.2.1

        WINZ has not gone feral.

        The minister and the government who run WINZ are feral.

        • Stuart Munro 5.2.1.1

          Unfortunately the oppressive Winz culture is not unique to this government – they’ve made it worse, but it was bad before.

          As for ACC, it has been captured by a management that no longer provide the services for which it was created. Friend of mine was finally vindicated after a fifteen year struggle with them that basically ended her working life – instead of providing the support that would have allowed her to cope. This is part of the turning away, and, tragically, is also not unique to the incumbent pack of thieves and no-hopers.

    • McFlock 5.3

      if that’s their take-away message, they won’t vote labgrn anyway. No loss.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 5.4

      Really? Have you actually listened to or read what Metiria Turei said? Or what Bill wrote in the OP?

      If so, where did you come by these funny notions of what this is “about”?

      English comprehension issues? Blinded by hatred and bias?

      We will not be a government that uses poverty as a weapon against its own people.

      MT

  6. Sabine 6

    the issue i see with WINZ is that no one – including the people working there – seem to have any clue as to what people are actually entitled to. So its being made up on the go, depending on the good will of a person working there rather then sound policy and levels.

    sort of like this

    https://www3.arbeitsagentur.de/web/content/EN/Benefits/UnemploymentBenefitII/Detail/index.htm?dfContentId=L6019022DSTBAI485759

    my search was Unemployment benefit Germany.

    this is the second paragraph

    Quote: Normal requirement – Benefit 2 (people who have been out of work for longer then 12 month) –

    The normal requirement globally covers the costs of food, clothing, household energy (without heating and warm water generation), personal hygiene, household effects, needs of everyday life, as well as to a reasonable extent also relations to the environment and participation in cultural life.

    Singles, single parents, as well as adults with a minor partner are entitled to the full amount of normal requirement. Since 1 January 2016, this is EUR 404 for all of Germany. The normal requirement for adult partners is EUR 364. Children younger than 6 years receive EUR 237. Between 6 and including 13 years of age this is EUR 270. Children and young persons between 14 and 17 years receive EUR 306. For young adults from 15 years on and below 25 years who live with their parents or who moved without the positive assertion of the municipal authority, this is EUR 324.

    Young adults who are 25 years and older must file their own application for (Alg II), regardless of the fact whether they live in their own flat or with their parents. Persons living in their own household form a separate benefit community (BG) if they are at least 15 years old.” Quote end.

    Standard unemployment benefit is set at 60% of the last net wage received, and one can loose a job and go to the ‘Arbeitsamt’ (WorkOffice) apply for unemployment money (Arbeitslosengeld) and register as seeking employment . The two are independent from each other. So if i am stuck in a job with an abusive boss as example i can sign up to gain access to services that would allow me to change my job should i need help with that without filing for unemployment benefits..

    We also should talk about an independent benefit to children. Every time a single mother/father gets sanctioned for what ever infraction it is the children that miss out. As in my quote above you can see how the benefit for children is calculated and paid out. So again, should you know that you are going to loose your job, or might not find one, you can check and calculate what one is entitled too.

    Also, yes, on the german payslips you will find the amount of tax paid listed as
    Income tax
    Unemployment benefit Tax
    Health Care tAx
    Accident Compensation Tax
    retirement Tax
    Solidarity tax (installed after the unification to pay for the whole mess)

    so essentially, non of the ‘benefits’ are hand outs or charity, they are essentially insurance payment that will kick in should i loose my job, be ill, retire etc.
    I would assume in NZ it is much the same but it is bundled into Income tax. But the biggest thing for me that i believe must change is the secrecy surrounding how much any individual can receive, and the fact that people are ashamed to claim these benefits. Stop being ashamed, you pay taxes and your tax dollars are being used to help you should you fall on hard times. If i can pay an housing allowance to a poor farmer like Bill English, i can pay a living benefit to a single parent or an unemployed mum/dad.

    edit: housing allowances, heating assistance, clothing aids etc are covered by the Sozialamt (social office).

  7. Sabine 7

    another thing,

    it should be illegal for any public government department that deals with the public as WINZ does to not have accessible bathrooms.
    That is just indecent.

    • AsleepWhileWalking 7.1

      Yes.

      You know they used to have toys in the waiting area but they got stolen or vandalised.

      • Sabine 7.1.1

        toys vs using the bathroom when your bladder is killing you and you have to be where you are?

        what is your point?
        that ‘they’ will steal or vandalize the toilets?

        • AsleepWhileWalking 7.1.1.1

          I was just reminiscing. In the branch I used there was one of those large plastic slide / climbing combos. It was great (and hard to steal) especially when you had to wait for an hour to see your case manager.

          Toilets are a big deal but if you think the client group work and income deal with will be respectful…well, it’s just hard to imagine what their cleaners would have to put up with.

          Most stuff can be handled remotely and this solves both the toilet issue + long wait times. Usually.

      • weka 7.1.2

        Shocking. Kids break toys when they play with them. People that can’t afford to buy their kids toys pilfer a few.

        • greywarshark 7.1.2.1

          The op shops always have far more toys than they can sell. If Winz was caring and community minded it would put out a call for clean toys for the kids.

          And as for the toilets, there is a saying about things you have to put up with,
          ‘It’s the cost of doing business’. People they deal with at Winz can’t afford to be fussy, just getting on with things is enough. One woman might need to use the toilets so she has a place she can miscarry her premature baby. Who knows what? The kids can’t make it to the toilet in time and do it on the floor.
          You may ask – What are their homes like? And the answer could be, which one when? The trick is to offer them kindly human help right from the time they are little kids and then they form good patterns, and their parents manage to be reasonable role models, and they are not reduced to being regarded as defecating animals that no-one wants to have in their clean toilets.

          And this is the uncaring attitude that prevails today. Most stuff can be handled remotely and this solves both the toilet issue + long wait times.

  8. Sabine 8

    another thing

    why does someone who has a partner at home does not get benefits she is entitled to. And yes, She – cause more often then not it is the women.
    So by not getting any personal assistance women are made poor and are made to live in relationships that may or may no be good for them, and when they break apart all hell breaks loose as she then has no independent form of income, no home to call her own, or transport or anything.

    who can that be considered legal?

    • Bill 8.1

      I think the bigger problem is a kind of reversal of that situation.

      The man (yes, could be a woman) forces the woman (or the erstwhile solo parent) to continue claiming the dpb although they are both quite clearly in a relationship that is in the nature of marriage (to paraphrase WINZ jargon)

      Who cops it, if and when they are caught out?

      And who’s got all the leverage in the relationship should it start to fray at the edges? (“Leave me an’ I’ll tell ’em you was claiming the dpb illegally”)

      • Sabine 8.1.1

        Your partner looses her job. What now? You are solely responsible for her upkeep? And if you don’t like it and kick her out? what then.

        Now as posted above, in Germany i will file for unemployment aid and benefits the moment i loose my job – or even in advance (Cadbury staff in Dunedin) if my company closes or redundancy happens.
        I will receive all the help i need to get a new job, being registered will keep my benefits for retirement up (minimum of quotation for fifteen years to be eligible for minimum retirement benefits), and i will receive “My” unemployment benefits as these are calculated on ‘my tax quotation’ i.e. 60 % of my last wages for 6 – 12 month.

        so both now my husband / partner still has his income, and i have my unemployment benefits. the family now has no need to lie to WINZ in order to eat and pay for school uniforms and electricity.

        as for your scenario, this would not be possible in Germany, as the ‘children’ will receive their own benefit if the family is unemployed/or dependent on social welfare. So there is no need to lie in order to make money.

        My point is that I am taxed fully regardless of me being married/partnered or not. Thus, should i be unemployed i should be entitled to a return on ‘my’ contribution.

    • Bill 9.1

      Thanks for the link. Worthwhile read, but (and this is more in reference to the “Break Left” post) Metiria makes not a single mention of Liberalism or Neo-liberalism anywhere in that 900-ish word long article she’s written for the Guardian.

      I find that odd. Or something.

  9. AsleepWhileWalking 10

    What annoys me about our welfare system is the way it oppresses people

    Recently our gov’t confirmed that paid work should be goal of welfare. Oh how I disagree. This is designed by people who themselves benefit heavily from investments that those at the bottom never get the chance to obtain because of the way our system penalises them.

    INCOME should be the goal. Any income, from any source. Yes, even illegal as long as tax is paid.

  10. Good on you , Bill.

    Full support and 100% to you.

    I have never done all that social media sort of stuff , bit after my time dontcha know… but I can lend a small bit of weight at The Standard. And I will say its past time for a good swift figurative kick in the balls of certain senior management of WINZ and those immediately above them.

    AND , ultimately ,- senior MP’s of the National party. In fact they can get two figurative kicks in the nuts – one for each ball because they are the root cause of the situation and we’ve all had a gutsful of their mealy mouthed neo liberal narrative.

    I too , have dealt with WHINGE before… and a few times yes indeed I got my own versions of jumped up little Hitlers to grace my day. I relish those sorts especially . I do tend to be a little loud when confronting an arsehole ,however … and do have a rather unfortunate habit ( for them ) of making loud mocking observations of hypocrisy of officialdom that does tend to add an element of compliance from them to start seeing my point of view… however , many others prefer to keep within the bounds of social norms and acceptance which is exactly where many WHINGE staff would prefer them to be kept at…

    I have observed many young people being spoken to in the most patronizing and abusively condensing way and have quite literally said so ,… loudly.

    And snickered quietly to myself when security starts to train their eyes on me as I am a qualified security supervisor whereas they are just grunts. 🙂

    But the fact is this : NONE of this sort of rank bullying should be going on in a govt organization that is solely there for assisting the public, – let alone one that exists at the interface between potential destitution and relative material and emotional well being.

    Perhaps then both certain politicians and certain senior WHINGE staff deserve three figurative kicks, – two in the balls and one up the backside for being such wankers.

    I dislike bully’s of any description.

    Intensely.

  11. Delia 12

    Had to laugh at Rankin’s disgust at Metiria, I still remember my disgust at her poor handling of the Department of Social Welfare’s money when she was in charge.

  12. arbeitslos 13

    Any letter from WINZ regarding an appointment always contains the threat of ‘if you don’t attend this meeting, we will cut your benefit’. As soon as I received a ‘job search help’ letter from WINZ I got in touch with an advocate. Nevertheless I was completely stressed out and not sleeping for several weeks leading up to appointment. I was lucky to strike a Case Manager who has so far been decent – but I wonder how long that will last

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