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.

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Ports of Auckland decision a win for workers and the environment
    Ports of Auckland’s decision to no longer release the toxic fumigant methyl bromide into the atmosphere is a win for their workers and for the environment, says Labour’s Spokesperson for Biosecurity Damien O’Connor.   “The intention to move to a ...
    58 mins ago
  • Single Child Tax hidden in Budget
    Buried in National’s so-called family Budget is a Single Child Tax that will hit medium to low income families, says Labour Leader Andrew Little. ...
    4 hours ago
  • Commerce Commission investigates Ron Hoy Fong
    The decision by the Commerce Commission to investigate Ron Hoy Fong and his questionable advice to property investors to use fake names and target ‘dummies’ is good news, Labour’s spokesperson on Consumer Affairs Michael Wood says.  “I am pleased that ...
    2 days ago
  • National running out of excuses on Pike
    The latest Pike River revelations further erode National's position of blocking a manned re-entry of the Pike River Mine drift, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. ...
    2 days ago
  • Nats’ Budget locks in housing crisis
    National’s ninth Budget forecasts house prices will rise at three times the rate of wages, locking in the housing crisis for years to come, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. “After nine years, all National can offer is a ...
    3 days ago
  • Small change that is sorely needed
    The big headline of the Government’s Budget yesterday was its Family Incomes Package – a range of measures including changes to income tax thresholds and the Family Tax Credit. Overall the Budget is a huge disappointment and a missed opportunity ...
    GreensBy Marama Davidson
    3 days ago
  • Kids bear the brunt of Budget
    Future generations are the ones bearing the brunt of National’s failure to provide education services the funding they need to make ends meet, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says. “For nine years in a row the Government has told our ...
    3 days ago
  • The real costs of National’s election bribe
    The cost of National’s poorly-targeted election year budget bribe is that there’s nothing to fix the housing crisis, health funding is cut, and funding for schools is cut, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “As the dust begins to settle ...
    3 days ago
  • Health running on empty
    Get ready for more cuts to health at a local level, affecting all New Zealanders, after a Budget that failed to deliver even enough for health services to stand still, says Labour’s Health spokesperson David Clark. “District Health Boards this ...
    3 days ago
  • Nats’ budget a double-crewed ambulance parked at the bottom of the cliff
    National’s election year Budget shows that there’s no coincidence Finance Minister Steven Joyce doubles as National’s campaign manager, says Labour’s Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson. “The 2017 Budget reveals a lack of vision, and is simply an election year budget with ...
    4 days ago
  • After nine years, it’s the One Dollar Bill Budget
    National’s Budget 2017 is an irresponsible election bribe which after nine years exposes a government that’s run out of energy and ideas to tackle the big issues facing New Zealand,” says Labour Leader Andrew Little. “This is simply cynical electioneering ...
    4 days ago
  • Alfred Ngaro might be sorry – but to whom?
    The fact that the number of people classified as homeless on the Social Housing Register has doubled over the past year alone should be the real reason for Alfred Ngaro’s recent apologies, says Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni. “As ...
    5 days ago
  • Government’s data-for-funding backdown embarrassing
    The Government’s U-turn on their shambolic attempt to collect private client data from social services is an embarrassment for a senior Minister, says Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni. “After months of criticism and mismanagement, the Government has finally cut ...
    5 days ago
  • Overloaded hospitals reach crisis point
      The country’s hospitals have reached breaking point with some hospitals discharging patients to free up bed space and patients with serious injuries having to wait hours to be seen by a doctor, says Labour’s Health spokesperson David Clark.   ...
    5 days ago
  • National fails on critical school building needs
    Students are paying the price of the Government’s failure to invest fast enough in school buildings to keep pace with Auckland’s increasing population, says Labour Leader Andrew Little. “Parents should lay the blame for their children having to put up ...
    5 days ago
  • Tipping culture is not welcome in NZ
    Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett’s comments about tipping have been in the news and have sparked off a series of furious discussions about tipping in Aotearoa. From our point of view, tipping every time you’re provided a service is a ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche
    6 days ago
  • Mental Health a huge cost for Police
      The cost of dealing with mental health incidents for our police was a staggering $36.7 million which shows just why we need Labour’s fresh approach on Mental Health, says the Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little.   “Police now ...
    6 days ago
  • Grant Robertson: Speech to Otago-Southland Employers Association
    Thanks to the Otago Southland Employers Association and Virginia for hosting me this evening.  It is always a pleasure to come back to the city and region that shaped who I am as a person. I believe that growing up ...
    7 days ago
  • Renting a home in the Wild West
    It can be tough renting a place to live, and it could be about to get tougher. Radio NZ is reporting that the American Rentberry app wants to start operating in New Zealand. Rentberry allows landlords to play perspective tenants ...
    GreensBy Metiria Turei
    7 days ago
  • Free West Papua leader in Aotearoa
    Last week I hosted Free West Papua leader Benny Wenda at Parliament and travelled with him to a number of important events. Benny is spokesperson for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua and lives in exile in England. 14 ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty
    1 week ago
  • Nats unprepared for record immigration
    National’s under-investment in housing, public services, and infrastructure means New Zealand is literally running out of beds for the record number of new migrants, says Labour’s Immigration spokesperson Iain Lees-Galloway. ...
    1 week ago
  • Labour opposes Ports of Auckland sale
    Labour would strongly oppose the sell-off of the Ports of Auckland to fix a short term cash crisis caused by the Government blocking the city’s requests for new ways to fund infrastructure, says Labour’s Auckland Issues spokesperson Phil Twyford. “National ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Workers pay the price of Silver Fern’s Fairton closure
    The threatened closure of Silver Fern Farms’ Fairton Plant in Ashburton raises serious questions about the Government’s support of the sale of half of the company to a foreign company, when it appears this outcome may have been inevitable, says ...
    2 weeks ago
  • National’s answer to the housing crisis: One new affordable house per 100 new Aucklanders
    National’s fudge of a housing plan will make Auckland even more of a speculators’ paradise, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Government can’t be trusted with private data
    The independent review of the Ministry of Social Development’s data breach in April has shown, once again, that the Ministry cannot be trusted with private client information, says Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni. “The investigation by former Deloitte chairman ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Another crisis, another half-baked National plan
    The National Party may have finally woken up to the teacher supply crisis facing our schools but their latest half-baked, rushed announcement falls well short of the mark in terms of what’s required, says Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Nats: Don’t bite the hand that feeds you
    Alfred Ngaro’s recent comments have exposed the Government’s ‘don’t bite the hand that feeds you’ approach, says Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Breaking news – National admits there’s a housing crisis
    National finally admits there’s a housing crisis, but today’s belated announcement is simply not a credible response to the problem it’s been in denial about for so long, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. “National can’t now credibly claim ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Nats lay the ground for housing bust
    Goldman Sachs’ warning that New Zealand has the developed world’s most over-priced housing market, with a 40 per cent chance of a bust within two years, shows the consequences of National’s nine years of housing neglect, says Labour Housing spokesperson ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Well they would say that, wouldn’t they?
    Property investors’ lobby groups have been up in arms this week about Labour and Green parties’ plans to close tax loopholes and fix the housing market. That’s probably a good thing. Like an investor in any other sector, they expect ...
    GreensBy James Shaw
    2 weeks ago
  • Alfred Ngaro reflects National’s culture of silencing debate
    Image from Getty Images Community groups must be free to advocate for the people they serve. It’s these people who see first-hand if ideas dreamt up in Wellington actually work on the ground. It’s essential that they can speak freely ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie
    2 weeks ago
  • Bill English must reassure community organisations
    The Prime Minister must do more to reassure community organisations after Cabinet Minister Alfred Ngaro's apparent threats to their funding if they criticise government policy which has left a born-to-rule perception amongst many, says Labour Leader Andrew Little. “Alfred Ngaro ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Extremism and its discontents
    Another scar on global democracy appeared recently, this time in Germany.It seems that the number of soldiers on duty with extremist political leanings has become a concern to the military leadership in that country. Soldiers were found openly possessing ...
    GreensBy Kennedy Graham
    2 weeks ago
  • Government’s suicide approach disappoints
    Mike King’s sudden departure from the Government’s suicide prevention panel, amid claims the Government’s approach is ‘deeply flawed’, is further evidence National is failing on mental health, says Labour’s Deputy Leader Jacinda Ardern. “Mental health is reaching crisis point in ...
    2 weeks ago
  • National backs speculators, fails first home buyers
    National is showing its true colours and backing speculators who are driving first home buyers out of the market, says Labour Leader Andrew Little. “By defending a $150m a year hand-out to property speculators, Bill English is turning his back ...
    2 weeks ago
  • More oversight by Children’s Commissioner needed
    More funding and more independence is required for the Children’s Commissioner to function more effectively in the best interests of Kiwi kids in State care, says Labour’s spokesperson for children Jacinda Ardern. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour to end tax breaks for speculators; invest in warm, healthy homes
    Labour will shut down tax breaks for speculators and use the savings to help make 600,000 homes warmer and healthier over the next ten years, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. “It’s time for fresh thinking to tackle the ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Health of young people a priority for Labour
    Labour will ensure all young people have access to a range of health care services on-site at their local secondary school, says Labour’s deputy leader Jacinda Ardern. “Our policy will see School Based Health Services extended to all public secondary ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Ratifying the TPPA makes no sense
    The recent high-fiving between the government and agricultural exporters over ratification of the TPPA (Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement) is empty gesture politics in an election year. Ratification by New Zealand means nothing. New Zealand law changes are not implemented unless the ...
    GreensBy Barry Coates
    2 weeks ago
  • NIWA report proves National’s trickery re swimmable rivers
    National have a slacker standard for swimmable rivers than was the case prior to their recent so-called Clean Water amendment to the National Policy Statement (NPS), says Labour’s Water spokesperson David Parker. “The table 11 on page 25 of the ...
    2 weeks ago
  • MPS shows new approach needed on housing
    The Reserve Bank’s latest Monetary Policy Statement provides further evidence that only a change in government will start to fix the housing crisis, says Labour Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “It is more evident than ever that only a Labour-led government ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Fresh approach on mental health
    Labour will introduce a pilot scheme of specialist mental health teams across the country in government to ensure swifter and more effective treatment for those who need urgent help, says Labour’s Leader Andrew Little. “Mental health is in crisis. It ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Sallies back Labour’s plan for affordable homes
    The country’s most respected social agency has endorsed Labour’s KiwiBuild plan to build homes that families can afford to buy, and delivered a withering assessment of the National Government’s housing record, says Labour’s housing spokesperson Phil Twyford. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Education is for everyone, not just the elite
    Proposals by the National Party to ration access to higher education will once again make it a privilege only available to the elite, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says. “Speaking at the Education Select Committee, Maurice Williamson let the National ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Cancer support changes far too little, certainly late
    Anne Tolley’s belated backtrack to finally allow Jobseeker clients suffering from cancer to submit only one medical certificate to prove their illness fails to adequately provide temporary support for people too sick to work, says Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Kids must come first in enrolment debate
    The best interests of children should be the major driver of any change to policies around initial school enrolments, not cost cutting or administrative simplicity, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says.   “The introduction of school cohort entry is ...
    3 weeks ago