Out of her depth II

Written By: - Date published: 12:45 pm, April 15th, 2009 - 29 comments
Categories: benefits, national/act government - Tags: , , ,

As if any more evidence was needed that National’s Paula Bennett is completely out of her depth as Minister of Social Development, it appears Work and Income is turning away the hungry while Paula can’t even get her lines straight:

Despite a high court ruling in 2002 instructing WINZ to tell beneficiaries what their entitlements are (Ruka v WINZ), they’ve decided to return to the bad old days of the 1990s when they would tell hungry Kiwis to bugger off and find a food bank to avoid paying them out their lawful entitlements and generally do whatever it took to stop people getting the help they were legally entitled to. Including creating and running on policy that was in breach of the law.

The reason Paula Bennett doesn’t appear to have a clue is because she was never meant to. She’s just that nice centrist-looking lady who smiles on the TV while National’s out the back ripping the guts out of our welfare system.

This is an area Labour failed miserably in during their last time in government. Let’s hope they can get their act together now.

Update: Surprise, surprise, it appears National’s election promise to lift the allowable income for beneficiaries won’t be funded in this year’s Budget and there’s no commitment as to when it will be.

29 comments on “Out of her depth II”

  1. Brett Dale 1

    Just out of interest, out of all the kiwis who are on the benefit have gone to Winz, how many were told to ‘BUGGER OFF”, do you have a number?????? Do you have names of these people, or the names of the winz officers?

    Or are you lying again?

    • John 1.1

      Agreed. It appears that this was simply a case of a WINZ staffer not fully understanding the avenues that these people could take. I assume that this problem has been identified, and that no more stories like this will arise. Simple mistake, which is now being used to score political points.

  2. Bill 2

    To be fair Tane, beneficiaries seeking food grants were being pawned off to food banks under the last government too.

    There is also an annual cash limit on food grants. ( Says WINZ) What they don’t tell you, and what staff seem to be unaware of is that the limit doesn’t apply if the need is desperate enough. Lack of food is desperate. No limit applies. Got to argue the case though, and that’s something many on the benefit are not good at doing.

    edit. Worth adding that the financial situation of beneficiaries got much, much worse when Labour abolished Special Ben and replaced it with TAS. TAS is wholly inadequate and results in more applications for food grants due to financial shortcomings.

    • George Darroch 2.1

      It’s fuckin disgusting that any person has to beg to survive.

      Labour members should be ashamed that for 9 years Labour deliberately chose not to do anything about it – and even fought (and lost) in the courts to keep the Richardson system as unadulterated as it was in 1991.

      I know someone on the unemployment benefit, getting $148 per week, and they have to eat out of skip bins to survive.

      Decent society? Labour didn’t care, still doesn’t care, and I won’t believe they care til they actually legislate. Phil Goff can mouth all the platitudes in the world, but it won’t make a difference until they’re actually determined to do something.

  3. vinsin 3

    Yes it’s nothing new that Winz prides itself on fobbing off its clients to keep their budgets down. I believe the cash limit on a food grant is $200 per year for anyone without children and around $400 for those with children; however getting a food grant has become harder and harder to get as normally the caseworker will look for any way to reject your application – it’s kind of their job.

  4. BeShakey 4

    “…it’s kind of their job”

    Only if it’d their job to break the law. As the post noted, the high court has ruled that WINZ should facilitate access to peoples entitlements. Labour directed WINZ to comply with the court ruling, and as far as I’m aware they did an OK job of this (noting there will always be isolated failings). Labours problem was that they then changed the entitlements, but that doesn’t let the Nats off the hook for screwing over beneficiaries the way Labour did and their own way.

    Pity the house is in recess, it would have been interesting to see King take Bennett on over this one.

    • vinsin 4.1

      It may be Winz’s job to “facilitate access to peoples entitlements” but it’s the case worker’s job to toe the line with whatever management says. If management says to keep costs down by giving clients the run around then that’s what they do.

      • George Darroch 4.1.1

        They do this, because Labour didn’t care, and the 1990s culture of denial remained entrenched.

  5. big bruv 5

    Great news, I want WINZ fobbing off dole bludgers, if they cannot budget then that is their own tough luck.

  6. Ag 6

    I went to school with her.

    Thick as two short planks, she is.

  7. Rex Widerstrom 7

    Meh, DSW (as was then) were doing this when I was a social worker back in the early 80s and based on what I’ve heard from every beneficiary I’ve known since they’ve kept it up under every government. Sure some governments (like National with Shipley as Welfare Minister) cheered them on while others (like the Labour government which followed them) made more disapproving noises.

    But DSW/WINZ staff know that no matter who’s in power the prevailing sentiment is that these people are a bunch of leeches and if it was palatable electorally they’d be cut adrift. But since it’s not, they’re to be given barely subsistence.

    Sure individual case officers have broken the mould but then (as mine was) they’re “transferred to other duties” faster than you can say “we’re not here to help”.

    And of course there are (as big bruv so aptly demonstrates above) no deserving cases. None that are trying their damnedest to get off the benefit and thus deserve a bit of a nudge forward while the able-bodied smelly layabout in the corner needs a kick in the pants. No, they’re all the same, and thus deserving of an equal helping of contempt and frustration when they crawl in to ask for something.

    But it’s the second part of the post that really captured my attention… it’s going to cost $17 million? Assuming a dollar-for-dollar abatement regime over $80 that means 17 million divided by $20 divided by (as an arbitrary figure) 40 weeks gives a figure of just over 20,000 beneficiaries affected. In reality of course there’ll be people going onto and coming off work and those on variable incomes being abated some months and not others.

    [It would have been helpful if the Herald journo had stuck up their hand and asked “How many people does this affect?” but, well…]

    So I wonder if anyone has modelled the likely numbers of people who’d find work if the regime were altered. Using the figures above and assuming an average total burden per beneficiary (benefit, accommodation supplement etc) of $400 then if they all got jobs that’s an $8.5 million saving in WINZ’s budget alone, not taking into account addition al taxes etc. And not to mention the secondary savings in better health etc.

    Surely they’re not just making decisions based on gross cost? Or does the $17 million take these factors into account?

    Okay I’ve now come to realise the Herald’s story tells us nothing of any use. As you were.

    • Draco T Bastard 7.1

      Okay I’ve now come to realise the Herald’s story tells us nothing of any use.

      You’re surprised by this?

  8. I would have thought the government would be keen as to get people to work as much as possible. Obviously you don’t want to still be dishing out benefits to people with full-time jobs, but one would have thought that the government ends up better off (with more tax paid) the more someone works.

    Same reason why I always thought it was stupid that students could only earn $130 a week without it affecting their student allowance.

  9. BeShakey 9

    “It may be Winz’s job to “facilitate access to peoples entitlements’ but it’s the case worker’s job to toe the line with whatever management says. If management says to keep costs down by giving clients the run around then that’s what they do.”

    So you support case workers breaking the law if someone in management tells them to? No problems with a case working knowingly giving their bosses mate a benefit they aren’t entitled to, on the bosses orders? Or is it only when beneficiaries are being deprived of their entitlements that ‘only following orders’ is acceptable.

    • vinsin 9.1

      “So you support case workers breaking the law if someone in management tells them to? No problems with a case working knowingly giving their bosses mate a benefit they aren’t entitled to, on the bosses orders? Or is it only when beneficiaries are being deprived of their entitlements that ‘only following orders’ is acceptable.”

      No, all i was saying was that it’s tough to be on a benefit and get all the money or assistance that you’re entitled to, this is because case workers have superiors they’re accountable to. Should everyone get everything they’re are entitled to? Yes. Does it happen? No. Why don’t they? Because of the reasons I’ve mentioned before.

      To be honest I think Winz has been fucked for many years and all that really happens is a new government repackages and re-brands things with the overall system of Winz still being a sick, psychotic, almost schizophrenic beast that no one really wants to tame.

  10. Tigger 10

    Wow, I’m out of touch – when did CAB start becoming a foodbank?

  11. marco 11

    It is Work and Income policy to inform clients of all their entitlements. The phrase they use is “Full and Correct Entitlement”.
    This is drummed into every case manager during training. Case Managers should also assess Temporary Additional Support at each Emergency Grant (Special Needs Grant and Advance) application.
    The limit for food for a single person is $200 per six months (the allowance increased just before the election). To qualify for an emergency grant the client has to prove that it is just that….an emergency.
    If a client goes over their allowance before the end of the six month period then they are refferred to a food bank, unless the Service Centre Manager approves an over allowance (which comes out of their next six month allotment).
    If a client is unhappy with the decision they can apply in writing for a Review of Decision. Every Review of Decision form recieved must be investigated and responeded to via the regional office. This means if you genuinely believe that you have been hard done by the case manager and the service centre manager must explain to regional office how they reached their decision.

    It is not and hopefully never will be Work and Income policy to not explain entitlements and keep budgets down. To say otherwise is a lie.

    • Felix 11.1

      Not official policy of course but I’ve talked to former staff who say they were directed to do exactly that, regularly.

      • Fraggle 11.1.1

        Not sure why the staff would be directed not to pay an emergency Special Needs Grant in recent times, it is not a limited bucket of money it comes from. The Nat Govt of the 90s set the bar very high on food SNG.

        Marco is bang on in explaining the system.

        There is quite a bit of verification that is required to access a SNG to establish if a situation is an emergency. If an emergency situation can not be established then a manager has discretion to approve. A case worker is administering legislation and they can not make decisions or approve assistance that is outside the scope of the Social Security Act.

        • Felix 11.1.1.1

          The staff I former staff I referred to were working there in the late 90s.

        • vinsin 11.1.1.2

          Yes this is one of the reasons why people don’t get their full entitlement. The interpretation of “emergency” and “discretion.” The fact is that a case worker can mistake an emergency situation as something that was entirely foreseeable, ie large phone bills, power bills, etc.

          If the client was left broke because of paying for bills that they considered to be essential and were asking for a SNG, a case worker could (and I have actually experienced this myself as a student) use their discretion to decline the request because a) telecommunications are a “luxury” and not considered essential costs and, b) the client did not make enough effort to budget for a large bill. It doesn’t matter that the client may be entitled to a grant, and in their mind were in an emergency situation, what matters is the interpretation of emergency and the discretionary attitude of the case worker.

          Of course, one can appeal any ruling; however, most appeals take at least two weeks to be dealt with – they must be dealt with by six weeks – and so by the time one gets to have their say, the emergency situation is no longer an emergency, and the appeal is moot.

        • Bill 11.1.1.3

          “Marco is bang on in explaining the system.”

          Not quite. If you read my previous comment in relation to the supposed limit on SNG for food you’ll see that Macro missed a crucial detail in his explanation. By Macro’s explanation, WINZ can be justified in sending a client to a food bank. But the very fact that they would consider such a move is proof that the situation is serious and immediate….which means that a SNG for food should be issued.

          It’s that simple.

          As for appeals and reviews, (Macro’s comment below) it’s true that such processes take a long time in most instances. But a review of a declined SNG for food must be undertaken on the same day as the application was made.

          Here’s the thing. You have to know these things and (crucially) be reasonably articulate in arguing the point. Why? Because there is a pervasive culture of obstructionism in an institution designed as a safety net.

          An accepted but unacceptable state of affairs?

          BTW. All this talk of ‘breaking the law’….there is the legislation and then there is the policy that WINZ operates from which is an interpretation of the legislation. Obviously, different interpretations are possible. Policy can be and has been wrong.

      • marco 11.1.2

        If they were directed to do that then it would be perfectly within their rights to contact their PSA rep and make a complaint. If they were not PSA members then there are other channels to take complaints within the public service. No public servant should be directed by a superior to essentially break the law.

        • Fraggle 11.1.2.1

          “No public servant should be directed by a superior to essentially break the law.”

          Totally agree. However, very few civil servants actually read the Act they operate under and rely on superiors directing them.

          As an aside the legislation on welfare should have been rewritten ages ago. It is a total mess and quite confusing for case workers and WINZ clients.

  12. Maynard J 12

    I suspect that in some cases, people don’t qualify under whatever constitutes an ’emergency’ – so they get sent to food banks. Bennett could have said that, if she wanted something smart to say. “people fall through the cracks” “Well they don’t fall through the cracks” poor.

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    . . This blogpost is different to my usual format of reporting on issues… Since July 1011, I have blogged on a variety of political issues; near always political and/or environmental; mostly highly critical of the previous National Government. Other issues included Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and repression of ...
    Frankly SpeakingBy Frank Macskasy
    1 week ago
  • Police will have to wear silly Buckingham Palace hats from now on, says Police Minister
    Those close to the Police Minister believe the initiative may be the result of Nash “seeing a great deal” on AliExpress. In a move that comes seemingly out of nowhere, Police Minister Stuart Nash announced this afternoon that he expects all frontline staff to don bearskin hats, famously worn by ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • A sensible crackdown
    The government has released its Arms Legislation Bill, containing the second tranche of changes to gun laws following the March 15 massacre. And it all looks quite sensible: a national gun register, higher penalties for illegal possession and dealing, tighter restrictions on arms dealers and shooting clubs, and a shorter ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • California bans private prisons
    Private prisons are a stain on humanity. Prison operators explicitly profit from human misery, then lobby for longer prisons terms so they can keep on profiting. And in the US, prison companies run not only local and state prisons, but also Donald Trump's immigration concentration camps. Faced with this moral ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Why PPPs are a bad idea
    When National was in power, they were very keen on Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) - basicly, using private companies to finance public infrastructure as a way of hiding debt from the public. They were keen on using them for everything - roads, schools, hospitals. But as the UK shows, that "service" ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • A Movement That No Longer Moves.
    Moving And Shaking: There was a time when people spoke matter-of-factly about the “labour movement” – a political phenomenon understood to embrace much more than the Labour Party. Included within the term’s definition was the whole trade union movement – many of whose members looked upon the Labour Party as ...
    1 week ago
  • NZ ‘left’ politically embracing extreme postmodernism
    by Philip Ferguson Much of the left, even people who formally identify as marxists, have collapsed politically in the face of postmodern gender theory of the sort pioneered by American philosopher Judith Butler. For Butler even biological sex is socially constructed. “If the immutable character of sex is contested, perhaps ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    2 weeks ago
  • The obvious question
    The media is reporting that the (alleged) Labour party sexual assaulter has resigned from their job at Parliament, which means hopefully he won't be turning up there making people feel unsafe in future. Good. But as with everything about this scandal, it just raises other questions. Most significantly: why the ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • The moment I found out that you found out, I acted swiftly
    By Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern I am every bit as angry as you are. I am every bit as disappointed as you must be. The people with power, oversight and the ability to do something about these processes within the Labour Party should be ashamed. Whoever those people are, I ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • This is why people hate property developers
    Property developers think there is an "oversupply" of houses in Auckland:High turnover rates and falling prices may be a sign that there are too many new houses going in to some parts of Auckland, commentators say. [...] Property developer David Whitburn said there was a "bit of an oversupply" in ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Australia to Pacific: “Fuck you, you can all drown”
    World leaders are meeting in New York in two weeks for the 2019 Climate Action Summit, where they are expected to announce new and more ambitious targets to stop the world from burning. But the Australian Prime Minister won't be there, despite being in the USA at the time:Scott Morrison ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Implausible ignorance
    Labour Party president Nigel Haworth resigned yesterday over the party's sexual assault scandal. But while that's good news, its unlikely to take away the stench of a coverup. Because according to Paula Bennett in Parliament yesterday, pretty much everyone in the Prime Minister's office was involved as well:I have been ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour’s Fatal Flaw.
     Two-Faced? Labour insiders' commitment to the neoliberal status quo puts them at odds with their party’s membership; its trade union affiliates; and a majority of Labour voters, but this only serves to strengthen the perception they have of themselves as a special elite. Among the lesser breeds, they’ll talk up a ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Ten reasons the Tories do NOT want an election
    There has been a lot of talk about Boris Johnson wanting an election, and he has blustered with great gusto about 'chicken' Jeremy Corbyn refusing one, but I think there are many reasons why he is secretly glad he has been refused the opportunity:The Tories are an utter rabble,tearing themselves ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Prorogation Illegal, rule Scottish judges
    Scottish appeal court judges have declared that Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament in the run-up to the October Brexit deadline is unlawful. The three judges, chaired by Lord Carloway, Scotland’s most senior judge, overturned an earlier ruling that the courts did not have the powers to interfere in the prime ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Let me explain what I meant by Everyday New Zealanders
    By Simon Bridges. The following is a press release from the office of Simon Bridges, leader of The National Party. Key ora, New Zealand. Happy Maori Language Week. Look, I’m writing to you today because I want to clear something up. There’s been a lot of kerfuffle around some things ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Yes, the SIS is subject to the Public Records Act
    I understand there's some stuff going round about how the SIS "was removed from the list of public offices covered by the Public Records Act in 2017". The context of course being their records derived from US torture, which will be disposed of or sealed. The good news is that ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • An evidence-based discussion of the Canadian fluoride/IQ study
    Dr. Christopher Labos and Jonathan Jarry discuss the recent Canadian fluoride/IQ research. They provide an expert analysis of the paper and its problems. Click on image to go to podcast. The critical debate about the recent ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Climate Change: Australia in denial
    Australia is burning down again, and meanwhile its natural disaster minister is denying climate change:Australia’s minister responsible for drought and natural disasters, David Littleproud, has said that he doesn’t “know if climate change is manmade”. Clarifying earlier comments that the question is “irrelevant” when considering the Coalition government’s response to ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Philippines activist speaking on the Duterte tyranny
    Auckland Philippines Solidarity is excited to host Professor Judy Taguiwalo for a speaking tour of NZ in September. She is a well-known activist in the Philippines and was a political prisoner under the Marcos dictatorship. Professor Taguiwalo briefly served as a Cabinet member under President Duterte but was forced from ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    2 weeks ago
  • Disgust
    I have no special insights to offer on the Labour sexual assault coverup. All I have is disgust. Disgust that an organisation could fail its people so badly. Disgust that they punished the victims rather than the perpetrator. Disgust that its party hacks are apparently blaming the victims for demanding ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Speak Up for Women calls out Greens’ censorship
    This open letter to the Green Party was penned after an opinion piece by Jill Abigail, a feminist and founding member of the party, was censored by the Greens’ leadership. (Redline has reprinted her article here).The intolerance of the Green Party leaders and their acceptance of the misogyny of gender ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    2 weeks ago
  • Member’s Day: End of Life Choice, part 3
    Today is a Member's day, and David Seymour's End of Life Choice Bill continues its slow crawl through its committee stage. They're spending the whole day on it today, though the first hour is likely to be spent on voting left over from last time. After that they'll move on ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Flight to Los Angeles turned back after passengers decide they don’t want to go anymore
    An ambitious plan to fly to Los Angeles petered out into a brief sight-seeing trip and a desire to return home and get some sleep before work tomorrow. Air New Zealand has confirmed a flight to Los Angeles last night was turned back about a quarter of the way into ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Indigenous Futures: defuturing and futuring – an analytical framework for policy development?
    There appears to be consensus – by omission – that the concept of indigenous futures should be accepted at face value. So I scavenged the internet to see if I could locate an academic descriptor or a framework around how we think about it as a concept, and whether it ...
    EllipsisterBy Ellipsister
    2 weeks ago
  • Cadbury rumoured to be releasing the Pineapple Trump
    Here’s another novelty chocolate to shove in your gob, New Zealand Cadbury could be seeking to make itself great again with a rumoured new release: Pineapple Trumps, a spin on its classic chocolate-encased pineapple treat and do-it-yourself tooth remover. The global confectionery manufacturer and bumbling “before” character in an infomercial, ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • The coming resource war.
    During my time in the Pentagon I had the privilege of sitting down with military leaders and defence and security officials from a variety of Latin American nations. Sometimes I was present as a subordinate assistant to a senior US defence department official, sometimes as part of a delegation that ...
    KiwipoliticoBy Pablo
    2 weeks ago
  • Māori Language Week with The Civilian
    Kia ora, Aotearoa. It’s that magical time of year. Te Wiki o te Reo Māori. In English, the week that frightens talk radio. As you probably know by now, all your favourite media outlets are participating, some more successfully than others. Stuff has changed its name to Puna for the ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago

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