Thank you Metiria.

Written By: - Date published: 11:14 am, April 25th, 2018 - 94 comments
Categories: benefits, class, class war, cost of living, culture, discrimination, Economy, Metiria Turei, poverty, Social issues, unemployment, welfare - Tags: , , ,

When Metiria Turei laid bare the jagged hell of New Zealand’s social insecurity system, many of those who have been subjected to its downright aggressive culture of denial and  persecution were hopeful that a newly elected government would make huge compassionate strides in the area. But then the media got started, and by and by, Metiria was “taken out”.

It seems her passion, understanding and honesty, though incredibly detrimental to herself, have not been in vain.

Newshub is reporting that “big changes are coming“.

Removing “excessive sanctions” (as reported) is….well, let’s think about this for a second. When you have less money than what you need to get through from week to week, surely any financial sanction is excessive? Unfortunately, it seems that that the agreement between the Green Party and NZ Labour doesn’t quite acknowledge that. If it did, then all financial sanctions would be scrapped forthwith. Still. It’s a start.

So against a backdrop of a 50% increase over two years in the numbers of people successfully securing  a food grant from WINZ (143 900 in just the last 3 months), some sanctions will be dropped. To spell it out, that figure of 143 900 obviously doesn’t account for those applications that are rejected (and yes, people are turned away) and it doesn’t take into account those bypassing WINZ altogether and accessing food banks (itself a problematic endeavour).

Apparently, the government is also going to take another look at “Working for Families”. Currently, people with children who do not satisfy a paid employment threshold (ie – who spend below a given number of hours in paid employment) are ineligible for  “Working for Families” payments.

Again, from Newshub, it’s being suggested that some announcements will be made in the upcoming budget.

In the meantime, what has caught my eye is the initial framing of these possible improvements to the lives of thousands upon thousands of people in New Zealand.

Instead of looking at what is likely or possibly on the table and comparing that to what people like Metiria, welfare advocates and recipients of entitlements are saying is necessary, media seems to to be setting off down a track that would set possible improvements to peoples’ circumstances against the recalcitrant and cruel attitudes of former National Party ministers.

In other words, the expectation being generated in the general populace is that (worthy?) WINZ clients will be dutifully grateful for whatever level of security is finally offered. And that’s bullshit.  To me, that’s just yet another iteration of the tired old “you don’t know how lucky you are, you could be in Somalia” argument that would have us always looking to the lowest bar of expectation as a thing to be avoided, rather than to the highest bar as a thing to be attained. And with that mind set, rides all the condemnation and dismissal of those who might seek higher, more humane social outcomes.

New Zealand, in line with a fair few other countries, has sailed upon a shameful recent history in terms of providing social security to all people in New Zealand. It’s a long row back.

94 comments on “Thank you Metiria.”

  1. Anne 1

    New Zealand, in line with a fair few other countries, has sailed upon a shameful recent history in terms of providing social security to all people in New Zealand. It’s a long row back.

    Micheal Joseph Savage must be giddy after years of spinning in his grave. What is so disgusting, is that the most vociferous opposition to decent social security measures come from people who owe their successes in life to the very system they now oppose.

    http://i.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/7482635/Bennett-won-t-rule-out-releasing-beneficiary-details

    • Matthew Whitehead 1.1

      The myth of the “deserving poor” is toxic. All poor are deserving. Everyone deserves dignity and survival.

      • roy cartland 1.1.1

        The myth of the deserving rich is just as toxic, imo.

        • soddenleaf 1.1.1.1

          The economy creates spares, replacements, substitutes, (until green limits are hit) so it should be completely obvious that those at the top, gates, jobs, etc had they tripped someone else would have lead the charge. The Rand myth of the super human capitalist has a lot to answer for. Yet I can’t agree. Its the planet that is deserving, not the poor, or the private car owner, and not for some airy liberal value of equality, just plain old self interest. All our innovator’s achievements, are collective efforts, based in selfish and collective values. It’s the cluelessness of our current elites and media who distract us, that’s its one or other, it’s always been all of the above.

  2. SARAH 2

    If you give people enough so they’re able to start “thinking” instead of ”surviving” they will be able to plan a way for a future. I really hope the TIA will be brought back in and not just for sole parents but for all. It’s how I managed to return to the workforce, after a few very traumatic years, and earned a decent salary to support my children.

    • Tracey 2.1

      Sarah, the cynic in me suspects this is what isn’t wanted. The poor, the disabled, the maori and pasifika are the collateral damage for a growing economy, sometimes called a rock star economy.

      Until the economy is seen as serving the people and environment and not the other way round, our vulnerable will continue to struggle.

      I note that Johnathon Coleman was not harried everyday by reporters with microphones in his face despite the revelations that under his oversight our major hospital is now seeping sewerage from some of its walls, that EQC repairs are now unreliable and Fletchers got legal immunity from the last government for all repairs it carried out, but Brownlee, Key, Joyce and English have not been hounded with microphones in their faces with a please explain, the former Attorney general was found to have deliberately obstructed the release of OIA information to assist someone with their legal defence, he has not ONCE been shown in print or video responding to this. But the poor? Or a 22 year old who took more than she was entitled to when on the DPB? That was so heinous she had to be chased out of Parliament.

      It is far more than our hospitals which ails us.

      • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1

        Sarah, the cynic in me suspects this is what isn’t wanted.

        Highly educated people with nothing to do or even just bored at work tend to look at things as they are and think fixing things. If you’re one of the people who are doing fine the way things are then you want to stop people from trying to fix things and the best way to do that is to prevent them being well educated while also ensuring that they don’t enough to live on.

        It is far more than our hospitals which ails us.

        We have a sick culture propagated by an even sicker MSM and governments that think that rich people are the worlds saviours.

        • Bill 2.1.1.1

          I think that’s far too conspiratorial Draco

          There’s no need to introduce individual or collective intent to the picture.

          People for who the system works, tend to be happy enough with the system and (often enough) just can’t understand what all the bother’s about.

          People for who the system doesn’t work, are (as was said) too busy surviving and incredibly disempowered to boot.

          People sitting betwixt and between are (usually) too busy trying to get ahead and believe the system can or will work off the back of a pile of “if onlys”.

          And permeating all of it is a plethora of systemic drivers that many (most?) people are kind of unaware of, that feeds into sentiments like “capitalism is natural”/ “people are lazy” / “anyone can ‘make it’ if they want to” etc.

          • Incognito 2.1.1.1.1

            Nowadays, in our society, sadly, we very much have this attitude of me/us versus them.

            This denies that we are all in the same boat and highly connected with very very few degrees of separation.

            It doesn’t take much at all, an accident or an illness, a natural disaster, for example, and we find ourselves with them battling ACC or W&I(NZ) or being hospitalised in Middlemore.

            This is why compassion is the key missing ingredient to induce a change in attitude first and in behaviour second IMHO. I disagree with Kay @ 7 that this cannot happen in a hurry but whether it will is not determined (in some kind of fatalistic way) by the past 30 or so years but on our “individual or collective intent” right here & now.

          • Pat 2.1.1.1.2

            +1

          • OnceWasTim 2.1.1.1.3

            and my suspicions are that those “if onlys” betwixt and between are sometimes medicated away with various anti-depressants that keep them chugging along.

            Then there’s another reality which is that, if many-perhaps most people in our rockstar economy had to cash up tomorrow, there’d be many in the ‘class’ where the system is working, and most in the betwixt and between ‘class’ who would be in for a rude shock.

          • greywarshark 2.1.1.1.4

            Bill at 211..
            Absolutely right, just how it is.

            DTB
            We have a sick culture propagated by an even sicker MSM and governments that think that rich people are the worlds saviours.
            Unfortunately the MSM mirror what the people are thinking and saying, which in turn mirrors the similar news from yesterday, which in turn is mirrored – (in a long line like those trick photgraphs of infinite mirrors repeating) – until the repeated news, opinions, judgments reaches deep into a person’s brain cells.

  3. Tracey 3

    Single or unchildrened couples also deserve support. The constant focus on those with children, while understandable, ought not reduce single or married w/o kids people with disabilities, for example, from being entitled to more than subsistence support.

    There are people amongst us who will never be able to hold a full time job, maybe a part time job, and yet we refuse to accord them the same living standard as a retired person.

    • SPC 3.1

      Yes there is no reason that support for a person who is unable to work for a long period (disability outside of ACC or sickness) should be below the super payment rate.

      Especially bad is where someone is with a terminal illness and we refuse to pay them the super rate of payment.

      • tracey 3.1.1

        Especially bad is someone born with a disability (thereby not entitled to ACC) with little chance of getting employment. At least most with a terminal illness had a period of life before illness where they could earn and live a little.

        I know several people with Cerebral Palsy ( of varying impacts). 2 of the 4 have worked full time. One reduced to part-time and is now unable to work. The one who is fulltime is beginning to fail physically and is likely to be unable to work even parttime 15 years before he is 65. What he earns is insufficient to provide a decent life for himself if he is on a benefit.

    • greywarshark 3.2

      People could have their status changed immediately if all beneficiaries who had some mental or physical ability or could acquire some, even if under supported employment, were expected to put something into society of say at least 2 hours a week. They would be supporting citizens and be treasured and entitled to a decent home and pension and accessible services transport etc.

      Those who couldn’t help in the community would be classified as being needy and disabled and their care might be at home with a family paid carer if wished or might have special accommodation in a care facility grouping where they might share, having their own purpose built bedsit. There would be a live-in paid social worker with qualifications and experience!

      There are infinite numbers of ways to be of help and show solidarity with other human beings and the society. A society that cares about other people would be one where that care was passed around so that nearly all society would be involved.

      At present old age pensioners sit like Jacky with a firm commitment to ensure they don’t starve or be homeless, if they can look after themselves. They may be poor but they have security of income, maybe housing. However parents struggling with inadequate everything get pushed to the end of the queue and then are blamed for being in the way.

      Poor single people are not really welcome. They bear the cost of household expenses on their single shoulders. They are often left out of social life. If they are disabled and limited or unable to do much they are limited to having tiny pleasures every now and then as in the song “I’ve got the sun in the morning and the moon at night’ . And if it’s raining then neither of those, or a flood.

  4. patricia bremner 4

    The best system “lifts people and gives hope for a better future”. Let us strive for that.

  5. Incognito 5

    Trying to see it from the ‘other side’, sanctions and penalties are necessary to prevent some (!) people taking advantage of the system and abusing it at the expense of the poor taxpayer. Thus, the thinking goes, these abusers have to be punished (and possibly prosecuted).

    It is clear though that those sanctions don’t prevent nor deter the behaviour they are meant to ‘target’ (see below). And some people have their backs against the wall …

    Of course, there are many issues with this kind of uncompassionate thinking. One is that the system is impossible to navigate and many are therefore set up (!) to make mistakes for which they are likely to be sanctioned.

    Another issue is that a few rotten apples may spoil it for the rest because, as far I can see, the system is not adequately set up to distinguish will-full abuse from genuine mistakes. So, the sanction dragnet captures a lot of ‘bycatch’; there is no proper targeting.

    In lieu of a complete overhaul of the welfare system the attitudes of all people need to change to a more supportive one with much (most) of the hard-edged sanctioning removed as this clearly is not producing any of the intended outcomes and is simply spiteful and demeaning in order to appease a hard-edged minority in our society.

    • tracey 5.1

      I hear ya but note we do not punish ALL Directors of companies cos some are ratbags, funny that.

      Our black economy is still large and anyone taking part in it has committed fraud, as Turei did, BUT no public outrage.

      All who want to discuss welfare abuses ought to have to read, and digest these first

      http://werewolf.co.nz/2011/02/ten-myths-about-welfare/

      https://www.nbr.co.nz/opinion/four-mistakes-prove-key-clueless-about-poverty

      • Incognito 5.1.1

        The big difference is, of course, that Directors and people taking part in the black economy make a useful contribution to society the economy. They take risks, they work hard, they pay taxes, they produce and/or employ, they are the good guys. We should be kind(er) to them.

        • greywarshark 5.1.1.1

          Incognito
          Is that /sarc

          You are rather fulsome and wide ranging with sweeties being served to businesspeople and positives about how hard they work.

          I think of how hard those in social welfare work, small pay, increasing work load, compassion creep, low grants arbitrarily withdrawn by directors etc. who ‘know’ how everything should be. They regard the concerned in welfare as a well to dip into – often for irrigation of their own favourite concerns – and little replenishment into the pool.

          • Incognito 5.1.1.1.1

            I was semi-sarc; the comment @ 5.1.1 was a continuation of my comment @ 5.

            I don’t see much point in polarisation and polarised debates because we know what the outcome is.

            If we want to tackle complex issues it is necessary to consider all options and understand all viewpoints. A huge component of many of those issues is individual and collective (group) attitudes towards others who are not considered members of the same tribe (e.g. class). In my opinion, it encourages division, stereotypes and discrimination (and violence).

            Assuming that non-partisan cooperative approaches are key to arriving at (politically) sustainable solutions it makes no sense to treat the ‘other side’ as the enemy or worse and try to vilify each and all of them.

            When we treat a group as the enemy they will respond in kind. Even when they don’t retaliate our prejudice towards them will interpret their response (or lack thereof) to confirm our (negative) bias. The downward spiral is inevitable.

            We love to rip into MSM, for example, but there are notable exceptions of very good people who earn their living working for MSM. Yet in our haste to take down the enemy we generalise and cause a lot of collateral damage in the process.

            The worst part is that we only make enemies, lose the few friends, and fight a war that we can never win as such. This is not smart, is it?

            • greywarshark 5.1.1.1.1.1

              Incognito
              Caught up with your opinion as usual, reasoned. I must agree with giving praise and reliance to journalists who list every day useful info, and try, try to do their job. Appreciate them not slag off at all in general is good point.

              I once was involved in trying to get a help group going that would suit a target group. It needed work and understanding both by us workers in approach and systems, and in getting to the public with what we were trying to do and the opportunities we hoped to create.

              Some dopey cove managed to piss off a keen friendly journalist. The bloke was a deadhead and was dispensable, the journalist not, and the avenue for our news was not as accessible again.

        • greywarshark 5.1.1.2

          And a big difference further, is that Metiria Turei was working hard to get into the economy with saleable skills to make her own way. This is what we are told is desired by gummint but the truth is they put up barriers, can’t wait to give suitable education and training and just want people in retail and mass catering.

          They don’t give a hoot, and just like to vent and bat people about the ears for supposedly being lazy or they express sorrow at their poor mental and physical capacity, with schadenfreude.
          Metiria took the opportunities that were there and made sure she got a chance, gaining extra money as needed so that she could keep herself and child going.

          Good on her for bravely fronting up with ambition, and working hard through all her problems, only to have the cheese-paring government and her own simple-minded family who probably haven’t been through the marathon of pregnancy, birth, single-motherness, doing the homework, doing the reviews, writing the assignments, doing the study and research and still keeping the show on the road. It reminds me of the quote about the way that women often manage to summon up extra compared to men so that they can succeed:
          Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, except backwards and in high heels.

    • Craig H 5.2

      Exactly right. Basically, making it harder to apply doesn’t prevent fraudsters from committing more fraud, it just means they have to work harder at it. Meanwhile, mistakes are punished as abuse or fraud when they shouldn’t be, and it has become increasingly difficult to apply or qualify for anything in an impossible bid to prevent fraud.

      • Bill 5.2.1

        Defrauding WINZ and sanctions – ie, being financially penalised for petty garbage such as turning up late for an appointment, are two entirely separate issues. Let’s not conflate them, aye?

        • Craig H 5.2.1.1

          Fraud and sanctions are separate, but the difficulty in applying for and obtaining entitlements is partly due to fruitless attempts to prevent fraud.

          • Bill 5.2.1.1.1

            There’s bugger all fraud Craig H – unless you look at the rules closely enough, and then you’ll realise that fraud is endemic (and often enough, accidental or just plain necessary.

            The problem with WINZ fraud is that the entire claim is taken to be fraudulent and there is no effort made to ascertain exactly what proportion of monies was obtained fraudulently.

            So there are cases where we’re told that WINZ claimants defrauded the system for (not untypically) north of a hundred thousand dollars, when in reality they had only secured an extra $20 per week over six or seven years.

            So the person goes to jail and comes out of jail still owing over a hundred thousand dollars, most of which they were actually entitled to in the first place.

            Because that’s the wonder of WINZ. Unlike IRD, jail time isn’t an alternative to repaying monies, but in addition to repaying monies.

            But this is all off-topic. I await this budget announcement.

            • Craig H 5.2.1.1.1.1

              I was agreeing with you – make entitlements sufficient and straightforward, make applications easy, stop the sanctions, stop worrying about fraud for precisely the reasons you’ve given here.

              • Chris

                Moving to individual entitlement needs to be regarded as central to any new system, whether that’s an overhaul of welfare or a UBI. The practice of regarding two people as living in a relationship in the nature of marriage is so fraught with difficulties it’s impossible to get right and the consequences are that lives are wrecked. When it comes to fixing social security this government must not underestimate the importance of this issue.

                • Bill

                  True.

                  There’s actually a whole pile of stuff that could be done without an overt dedication of extra money that could have a positive impact on people.

                  But the fact is, that no matter what jiggling of obviously ridiculous nonsense there may be, it will all add up to being woefully inadequate in the larger scheme of things.

                  “They” say problems can’t be solved just by throwing money at them. But then, since lack of money is the fundamental problem for unemployed/unwell people seeking social security….

                  • Chris

                    Yes, I agree. I guess my point is that individual entitlement needs to be accepted as a cornerstone of everything else that needs to be done, and not just seen as one thing amongst others. I don’t think any government has ever viewed individual entitlement as fundamental, but they need to.

  6. SPC 6

    For mine the income supplement during higher power cost periods is the sort of smart intervention that we need more of.

    The inability to meet a power bill results in loss of discount and worse – some spend off a credit card or use loan sharks to cope and get into difficulty, others spend the rent money (all could lead to homelessness), others put the health of children at risk with a cold home.

    I am a fan of start-up support when someone goes from employment to a benefit. This can be a tough adjustment period but a lot of problems can be avoided with good support at this point.

    1. Re-finance their debt (credit card/car loans/personal loans/hire purchase) to reduce their interest bill.
    2. Provide them with an interest free credit facility card (has to be repaid when they get work) to help them manage the adjustment to a lower income – possibly with/after a “budgeting on a benefit income” course.

    • Kay 6.1

      “possibly with/after a “budgeting on a benefit income” course.”

      The core issue is it’s impossible to budget when you don’t have enough to pay the basic bills in the first place.

      • SPC 6.1.1

        Those running the course would soon note those whose circumstances would result in significant budget difficulty (those with existing debts/high housing costs).

        The information gathered from such a course would better inform government of circumstances of those on benefits – and thus better designed support (including reference to easier access to food bank support and other agency notification).

        • Kay 6.1.1.1

          SPC, are you suggesting this budgeting course for people who were maybe on fairly decent income who suddenly found themselves with a significant drop in income and a hefty mortgage/rent to continue with?
          Or existing beneficiaries in private rentals as well- because most of us are already better budgeters than the professionals out of necessity, and the Government is already well aware of our circumstances, especially around rents. They know full well they’re deliberately freezing benefit rates and have been since the 90s.

          The power supplement, while much needed (but for many will end up being used for other necessities) is a great way politically to seasonally give us a little bit more money without RAISING the benefit level, which is the only thing that will stop the need for food banks and this vicious cycle of debt, even for people who suddenly find themselves out of work.

          • SPC 6.1.1.1.1

            The former.

            As for existing beneficiaries, this is only an issue when they get into difficulty while on the benefit (and is sometimes resolved via a spending card).

            Debt refinancing should also be available to existing beneficiaries (one-time) and also a capped annual (interest free) credit facility (in lieu of benefit increase) – this separate from borrowing to buy household items. Debt costs (and the cost of necessary borrowing to cope) really hurt those on low incomes. The loaned amounts are assets on the governments books (paid back when the person is employed) and thus the government can do more here (benefit increases impact on debt to GDP).

            It would be silly not to pay the power bill on-time and get the discount, if this is at all possible.

            The benefit cuts of the 1990’s were offset by the AS (but which is now negated by really high rent levels), but sure the CPI is not a valid way to increase benefit levels as it is unrelated to identifying the movement of necessity spending costs from year to year. Which is why better rental standards are so important (to reduce the cost of heating a home etc).

            • Kay 6.1.1.1.1.1

              “It would be silly not to pay the power bill on-time and get the discount, if this is at all possible.”

              As a beneficiary in the 90s when the massive cuts first happened, and now, I can categorically state that it was still possible to budget for, and pay the power bill on time and in full and get the discount for the simple reason the full impact of Bradford’s “reforms” were yet to kick in and power wasn’t considered a luxury item. Dairy products and food in general weren’t luxury items either, and we didn’t have added computer/internet expenses either. My power bill is now 2.2-3x more and benefit rate has hardly shifted. Personally I’m ok with paying the essential bills at the moment but I’ve gone without something else to pay the power bill in the past, the same way many others forgo power to pay for another necessity. Is the cost of power even in the CPI?

              Benefit levels have to be raised to reflect reality and until they are then nothing will change.

              • SPC

                Yes, power is in the CPI, most things are. Not included is the inflation of home values (included, the cost of newly built homes only) and the cost of a mortgage (other financial costs are included). This is how inflation remains so low while home values rocket up relative to wage levels.

                This means lack of inflation in the cost of imported goods lowers the average for the total CPI, and means the CPI increase does not reflect the cost of local necessities (rent, power and food etc). The power supplement is basically a form of delayed cover for the large power price increases that have already occured and which were not passed on to those on low fixed incomes via the CPI adjustment.

                And as you note, broadband has become a necessity but the cost of this was never passed on to those on fixed incomes.

                Unfortunately the government is not in a posiiton to increase benefits across the board because of its committment to a 20% debt to GDP target (unwise for mine), it might be able to afford debt re-financing and credit arrangments because it can account for them as assets (as they are debts to be repaid) as government would only have to meet the borrowing costs required for this.

            • Gabby 6.1.1.1.1.2

              ‘it is unrelated to identifying the movement of necessity spending costs from year to year’
              How so?

        • Patricia 6.1.1.2

          As a long term budgeter I can advise that nobody in government ever asks me for my thoughts on benefit levels / ability of the newly poor to manage financially.
          If they did ask I would tell them that those on single benefits really struggle. Especially in boarding houses paying rent for 1 room at a minimum $260 + weekly.
          Clients who have lost jobs and exist now on Job Seeker benefit are managing in a deficit situation. They often lose assets and become so depressed that they become incapable of working even if lucky enough to find employment.

      • patricia bremner 6.1.2

        Enough money is key. The super is about right mostly. That level would be be great, but I’m sure they will “tinker” sadly.

      • AB 6.1.3

        People shouldn’t have to go on ‘courses’. They should be able to live without financial fear.

    • Chris 6.2

      Them this, their that. You sound like Paula fucking Bennett.

      • greywarshark 6.2.1

        What are you talking about Chris? How does your little outburst help the discussion? State which commenter you are replying to for a start. And what is it you are reacting to:

        Same with Gabby
        You aren’t discussing you are venting. Gas mainly it seems.

        • Chris 6.2.1.1

          Well, go back to see which comment I was replying to, then read the comment. You might then know what I’m talking about. At the very least you’ll give yourself a fighting chance.

          • greywarshark 6.2.1.1.1

            So to find out what you are on about other commenters have to fight? Not worth the battle I think if you don’t care to be clear Chris. Perhaps you come here to make pronouncements rather than discuss and learn.

            • Chris 6.2.1.1.1.1

              You said you didn’t know what I was talking about, and that you didn’t know which comment I was responding to. I then suggested that if you go back to see which comment my repsonse is linked to, and then read that comment, that by doing so a chance is created that you will know what I am talking about. The term “fighting chance” means “a small but real possibility that something can be done”. It doesn’t mean that anyone has to literally fight:

              https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/fighting-chance

              You described my comment as a little outburst, and that I was venting, mainly gas. What’s ironic is that you said this without knowing which comment I was responding to.

              To find out which comment I was responding to you look at the number next to my comment, which is 6.2. This means that the comment I’m repsonding to has the number 6 next to it.

              Now, if you go to comment number 6 in this thread, read it, and after you do I believe there will be created a small but real possibility that you will know what I’m talking about in comment 6.2. You will have a fighting chance.

    • koreropono 6.3

      Budgeting courses are not going to make lives better, they’re not going to miraculously make it easier for anyone on a benefit to live when people don’t get enough money (canterbury law research shows this). The benefits were designed to be at least 20% below what is needed to live at a substandard level (there’s also research that shows this). All compulsory budgeting does is create another layer of bullshit and hoops that people on benefits must jump through to get the help they need. Other research shows that people on benefits are generally good at budgeting, it’s the lack of funds that is the problem.

      I am unsure how this new power thing works, but presumably this will be paid weekly to those on benefits, I just wonder how many of those families will use this little top up to buy extra food? Sometimes when choosing between essential items, food is deemed the most needed when you’re living in the moment. And if that occurs and then people present to WINZ for loans to pay the power, they’re going to be grilled about where that money went and it simply isn’t good enough they’d buy food with it kind of scenario…I can see it being played out already!

      • SPC 6.3.1

        People who choose not to spend money on power, when payment on time comes with a discount, are not good at budgeting.

        Any good budget plan would have automatic deductions for rent and power payments. Mainintaining housing and power is vital to prevent real poverty.

        The real issue then is WINZ assisting with sufficient access to food banks.

        • Chris 6.3.1.1

          Work and Income already “assists” people’s access to food banks, so much so they send people off to them before assessing entitlement under the legislation.
          The practice is part of its sustained policy of gatekeeping, and is the thin end of the wedge of the neo-liberal agenda of the state pushing repsonsibility for the poor out to the community sector. So you’re a proponent of accepting private charity as a legitimate alternative to adequate rights-based welfare provision?

          • SPC 6.3.1.1.1

            In the real world foodbanks undertake/require budgeting help with repeat customers – which you call gatekeeping. And often the issue of WINZ ID/community services card will come up.

            Which of course connects to access to food grants, which are based around evidence that received support money has already been spent and how (paid the rent and power and … ). Which can lead to people being asked to use a foodbank until the process of access to a food grant is completed.

            But whichever it is, repeat use of a foodbank or food grant a budget assessment will be done.

            https://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/276368/special-needs-food-grants-drop-$20m

            • Chris 6.3.1.1.1.1

              Un-fucking-believable. You have absolutely no idea.

              • SPC

                Preaching to the choir is going to make no difference in the wider world.

                A government that commits itself to a 20% debt to GDP figure is in no position to increase benefits across the board while the public expects increased spending in health and education and pay for nurses and teachers.

                It then has to do a lot with little, and even then it has to convince voters that what it is doing is the responsible course – because this will take three terms under the self-imposed restraint it has committed itself to.

                Access to debt re-financing and annual credit would make a lot of difference without much budget cost or impact on debt to GDP (as debt to be re-paid upon employment is an asset in the government’s books).

                That and improving the measure for annual benefit adjustment are the financial actions government can afford, debate about the annual benefit adjustment mechanism can also better inform the public about the relative decline of benefits to necessity costs over past decades and create acceptance of the need for better support.

                But for mine lowering the debt costs of those in benefits and providing access to no interest credit would provide of a lot of immediate help.

        • koreropono 6.3.1.2

          I disagree, people choosing to feed their kids today because they’re hungry is far more important than having to worry about the power account that’s due next week. Your suggestion that WINZ assist with sufficient access to food banks as a remedy is stupid for a host of reasons that I could go into some depth about if you really wanted. The bottom line is that people on benefits (or anyone not on a benefit for that matter) should not have to rely on the substandard food dished out at food banks to feed their children, nor should anyone have to subject themselves to the humiliating experience and all the shame and stigma that goes with it. Relying on food banks is like asking people to compromise their long term physical and mental health and in some cases that I am aware of, their immediate health may be compromised too. There’s a plethora of research showing why food banks should never be considered a replacement for sufficient income.

          • Chris 6.3.1.2.1

            Thanks koreropono. Reading SPC’s comment drained me of every ounce of energy needed to respond. But someone needed to, so thank you.

          • SPC 6.3.1.2.2

            I’ll not change my opinion that automatic payment of rent and power is good budgeting practice. Real poverty is not having power or a home, not getting less desirable food at a food bank (and work to get the right food available here is therefore important)

            It might be preferable that there be food grant money provided (and better access to the office or an on-line application process would assist in getting in time help), to reduce reliance on foodbanks. But the same issues occur in using those payment cards.

            Sufficient income is best, yeah sure … however the government has committed to limiting government (arrangement with Greens) spending to 30% of GDP … and is also talking of making any tax changes from 2020 tax revenue nuetral … .

        • Bill 6.3.1.3

          The real issue then is WINZ assisting with sufficient access to food banks.

          No. The real issue is that food banks exist in the first place, and that they are becoming normalised.

          • SPC 6.3.1.3.1

            I suppose it should have been worded as assisting with sufficient access to “food grants” (my point being rent and power first because support for food was easier to access).

            The normalisation (of food banks) is partly (also explosion of rent impacting on the working poor) because food grants were hidden behind a veil, one had to know about them and then get access to an office (appointment system etc) in time to use them – thus the emergence/dependence on food banks.

            On the positive side there has been a 50% increase in food grants in the first three months this year because WINZ have now made this easier (on-line application apparently – I could not find information about the grant or how this works on-line off their site, so it could be made a lot easier still).

            This is paid off a payment card and does not have to be paid back (so for mine all the more reason to prioritise the rent and the power payment).

            • Bill 6.3.1.3.1.1

              Food Grant. Turn up to the office. They cannot refuse to see you if a food grant is being sought. Yes, you may have to hang around a while.

              Can’t see how an on-line application would work. You need to be physically present in order to receive the card that’s credited with some number of dollars at the time of the emergency meeting.

              There is nothing positive in a 50% increase in issued food grants.

              My financial priorities are mine to determine, not a government dept that’s diminishing what little I have to juggle. (It needn’t be food that gazumps a bill. It could be the doctor or a vet bill or a car repair/appliance repair etc etc etc)

              I wonder if you actually grasp the reality of having no money and no prospect of money? There is no “wee bit put aside” for unexpected bullshit, because there simply isn’t enough money to get through a week. And that goes on for week after month after year.

            • Chris 6.3.1.3.1.2

              “The normalisation (of food banks) is partly (also explosion of rent impacting on the working poor) because food grants were hidden behind a veil, one had to know about them and then get access to an office (appointment system etc) in time to use them – thus the emergence/dependence on food banks.”

              That’s just wrong. The emergence of food banks goes back to policies of the Bolger government following the mother of all budgets in 1990. Benefit cuts, market rents, Employment Contracts Act and so on. The community sector, often churches, rightly or wrongly, responded to need as they saw it. Government’s response back then was that private charity isn’t necessary because “we have an adequate welfare system already”, and that food banks were “generating their own demand”. The national government in the early 1990s even added an extra criterion to be eligible for a special needs grant for food which was something like the applicant “being otherwise reliant on a food bank to meet the need”. It’s still there if you care to look it up. As time’s gone on governments as well as the community sector have given up and accepted food banks as a legitimate way for citizens to feed their families. That’s pretty bloody horrific if you ask me. It’s inadequate r

              citizens to ac

              As time’s gone on governments have

            • Chris 6.3.1.3.1.3

              “The normalisation (of food banks) is partly (also explosion of rent impacting on the working poor) because food grants were hidden behind a veil, one had to know about them and then get access to an office (appointment system etc) in time to use them – thus the emergence/dependence on food banks.”

              That’s just wrong. The emergence of food banks goes back to policies of the Bolger government following the mother of all budgets in 1990. Benefit cuts, market rents, Employment Contracts Act and so on. The community sector, often churches, rightly or wrongly, responded to need as they saw it. I clearly remember the government’s response back then was that private charity isn’t necessary because “we have an adequate welfare system already”, and that food banks were “generating their own demand”. The national government in the early 1990s even added an extra criterion to be eligible for a special needs grant for food which was something like the applicant being “otherwise reliant on a food bank to meet the need”. It’s still there if you care to look it up. As time’s gone on governments as well as the community sector have given up and accepted food banks as a legitimate way for citizens to feed their families. That’s pretty bloody horrific if you ask me but is what we have right now.

              You also say: “On the positive side there has been a 50% increase in food grants in the first three months this year because WINZ have now made this easier (on-line application apparently – I could not find information about the grant or how this works on-line off their site, so it could be made a lot easier still).”

              It’s inadequate main benefit rates and a lack of income generally that drive demand for the extra benefits like food grants etc. You shouldn’t be so quick to celebrate the increase in food grants because it’s more a sign of a broken system, when people have to spend so much time working out how many grants they’ve had and when the right time is for applying for the next one, and that’s on top of wondering whether it’ll even be paid. Life shouldn’t be about having to spend your time doing that all bloody day.

              [Just saw I posted above by mistake while writing. If anybody who can wants to delete the incomplete comment feel free.]

              • SPC

                Historic National policy of people being dependent on food banks before getting the grant or more recernt National policy of keeping people ignorant about the grant and or limiting access to 2 times a year …

                Whatever the past, today with high rents to incomes, the working “poor” are going to foodbanks and beneficiaries are getting the food grant.

                The government families package boost to AS may help, but with food grants the issue is going to be how often they can be obtained, or if they become regular for those whose budget cannot be made to cope any other way.

                Usually that would justify a universal increase in payment level … if the money was there for this (or sufficient support for this priority) … there is the issue of the 30% government spending to GDP agreement of Labour and Greens (and the debt of 20% to GDP by 2022).

                • greywarshark

                  You have done well to keep to the economic aspects SPC balanced with the direct and prioritised needs of beneficiaries right now. Then looking at the handcuffs that Labour has locked on itself with its refusal to consider budget rises from more evenly spread taxes.

                  I fear a lack of easing, even to the egregious secondary taxes and loss of grants as soon as beneficiaries manage to earn a bit more. Such rises may be temporary and the welfare budget is managed so tightly that every $ rise above the line in the sand, means a cut in the grant $ for $, before tax comes off the earnings and so there can be a drop in income because of extra work which can be fast, but slow to be replaced when the income goes down again.

                  It is kafka-like. You put your figure on the lack of extra funds at the level required to the welfare department. A tourniquet on the supply with an accompanying increase in numbers, and we are past breaking point for some.

                  The budget to come – I hope it isn’t like an inflated balloon which someone pricks, the noise of the out of control collapse would be heard from Northland to Southlans.

  7. Kay 7

    WINZ culture and Govt. policy can never be changed until the public’s attitude towards us changes and non-beneficiaries start demanding it and voting accordingly. And since the divide and rule campaign of the last 30 years has been so successful I don’t see that happening in a hurry.

    • tracey 7.1

      It wont happen as long as we have politicians willing to perpetuate the lies and myths for their political gain. Didn’t Shearer throw a guy fixing his roof to the wolves too so he could appeal to the whatever voter?

      Remember Key and English told us all that drugs were stopping beneficiaries getting jobs? Turns out only 22 tested positive. Oh well, next vilification…

      https://www.nbr.co.nz/opinion/four-mistakes-prove-key-clueless-about-poverty

      What did the soldiers die for again?

    • mike s 7.2

      It would be great if it was compulsory for everybody to experience even just a month trying to live on say the unemployment benefit. Maybe that would provide the required injection of empathy for a large proportion of the population who still have the idea that ‘it’s a lifestyle choice’ or it’s a ‘life of leisure’ on the unemployment benefit.

      Obviously that’s not going to happen anytime soon but I just can’t see how to change people’s mindset without them having first hand experience. This is an area where a UBI would be beneficial in that nobody could harp on about beneficiaries if they are one themselves. But in my opinion a UBI would ply work if it was the full, real deal, rather than some sort of watered down version. Part of what would make it work is that everybody receives it, regardless of circumstance, so everybody is invested in it.

      I also read about what I think is a very clever way of doing things. I think it’s in one of the Scandinavian countries where if the unemployment level and associated welfare costs rise, then income taxes also rise in tandem and vice versa. Again this means everyone is invested in the welfare system rather than some (sanctimonious arseholes) people looking down upon welfare recipients as a blight on their perfect little world.

      One change I would like to see immediately is that you shouldn’t have to jump through hoops and more to receive the unemployment benefit. I have many horror stories from past dealings with WINZ (including physical altercations with security guards) and they definitely, deliberately made it very difficult and frustrating (in my experience and others I know) to even get unemployment assistance. Luckily for me I’m more than happy to assert myself but for others who may have kids to worry about or who might not be as comfortable with confrontation it must be a truly traumatic (I’m not joking) experience, just to get some help when they most need it.

      My mate didn’t believe the stories I used to tell him of my dealings with WINZ until he found himself in need of help after a redundancy. He was refused the unemployment benefit because he didn’t have all of the correct paperwork with him and couldn’t just go and fill out the correct form and hand it to reception but would have to wait more than two weeks for another appointment just to hand over a form. He was pretty upset and asked the case manager person (whatever they call themselves) what he was supposed to do to pay his rent and buy food in the meantime. Her reply was (and these are her exact words) “Get a job..”

      That brought on his first physical altercation with security. He should have been able to simply go to the WINZ office, show his ID, and been granted assistance immediately as he was now unemployed and thus eligible for the unemployment benefit. Fuck, it would be nice if someone offered you a cup of tea and a kind word as well.

      The amount of stress, worry and anger I had to deal with just to get a lousy $170 per week (my rent at the time was $150) after having paid my full and honest amount of income tax owed throughout my life was unbelievable. I would never wish ill on anybody but the people I had to deal with at the Highland Park WINZ office in East Auckland come real close to that.

      The whole WINZ thing needs a complete and total reboot, getting rid of the name WINZ for starters as that will always have negative connotations. Someone needs to come up with a system which has social welfare as it’s number one priority for a change.

      (sigh)

      Sorry for ranting but fuck I really really almost hate those WINZ people!

      • patricia bremner 7.2.1

        Mike S You have nothing to apologise for. Bennett made the amount punitive and the system a punishment. Unfortunately, there is a part in our psyche which always believes we should do better. Also those given power become separated from the pain they cause. I do hope we make some great changes.

  8. Treetop 8

    Time to introduce a benefit for people age 60-65 who are unable to increase their income. As well a supplement for those with a permanent life long condition who are aged below 60 and are unable to increase their income.

    The Supported Living payment is not sufficient for complex health needs. Even with a disability allowance and the accommodation supplement and the temporary additional supplement.

  9. mike s 9

    I feel like shit now.

    Here I am moaning about WINZ on a day we honour and remember many thousands of young Kiwis who would no doubt have been over the moon if the worst thing they had to worry in their lives was dealing with WINZ staff.

    Nothing I have had to contend with in my life thus far comes anywhere even remotely close to what they had to go through. And they sacrificed themselves for us, (At the time, they believed what they were told and that they were fighting for their country)

    This is another reason why we must never forget.

    • Kay 9.1

      Hey Mike, you’ve got nothing to feel shit about.
      This is a thread about welfare reform, and you, like many of your contemporary citizens have, and are being badly affected by the State. Posts like this -and the comments- hopefully get seen by a lot of people so it’s vital for us to keep it out there what’s really going on and how people are suffering in the PRESENT day.

      Yes, it also happens to be April 25 but it’s possible to remember awful things that happened in war AND moan about WINZ on the same day. It’s the latter that’s affecting you in the real world.

    • Treetop 9.2

      The sacrifice both physically and mentally by war veterans is not forgotten by me.

      I did not mean to be offensive or disrespectful to the brave men and women who have experienced combat.

      Your point is valid.

    • Tracey 9.3

      Your point is a good one. Today is the day we honour those who died fighting for oyr freedoms. There are many alive today fighting for our freedoms, without guns, and being systematically silenced.

    • KJT 9.4

      I believe they were also fighting for a country were their, working class, children, could have a better life. As the “Soldiers Parliament, and the voting for welfare, by returning soldiers showed.

    • greywarshark 9.5

      On that basis mike s – in 9 – we must never forget the sacrifice for others that Jesus made when he resigned himself to being nailed to a cross and left to die in agony along with criminals. What the men and women in the forces were doing was carrying on his devotion to others, to caring about the advancement of the good.

      So while thinking about dead and crippled fighting forces trying to stop one lot of countries doing bad things to ours, keep in mind how that ultimate sacrifice set the Christian religion pulsing through our lives to bring better conditions for men and women to the point that people would fight and die for that goal.

      This fight and sacrifice is commemorated every week – go to church on Sundays and support those who carry on the tradition of trying to do good, be good to one another, that stems from the Christian message and sacrifice. This thread of sacrifice carries on to and beyond the war memorials. They reflect remembrance of the dead, but also stand for the good conditions of the descendants of those armed forces, nurses, war workers. We were the ones being saved, and who should be continuing thinking and fighting for others and our rights to live in a good, supportive, fair country.

      It is not a separate matter from meetings and prayers at war memorials, to have concern for the vulnerable and impoverished, the sick, the injured and the decreasing welfare dollar and increasing wealthfare dollar.

  10. AsleepWhileWalking 10

    Well I hope they fix the wait time for Youth Benefit (the old Independent Youth Allowance for young people unable to remain in their home) Currently its about nine weeks from application until receipt.

    Wtf these kids do to survive in the meantime I don’t even want to think about.

    • patricia bremner 10.1

      That is inhumane. There is a belief that an applicant should have 12 weeks of living money in savings!! How stupid it is to assume a youth on youth rates could save that over 90 days work!!

      I hope they put benefits back to what they were before Bennett beggared it all, at least that would be an improvement.

      I hope they encourage training and education and retraining where necessary, and provide it.

      Someone suggested tea/coffee/cocoa and a kind word’ Perhaps that is a small but significant change… instead of security, customer service, including information on services available, places to go for accommodation, laundry, medical/health food parcel emergency money counselling services would be a better use of tax money.

      Customers would have their needs noted and be directed to the part of the service they need. One off assistance, bridging assistance or permanent assistance. Doing away with many of the demeaning repetitive hoops.

      • KJT 10.1.1

        Need to bring them back to where they were before Richardson deliberately set them below living costs, so that people were forced to take starvation wages and zero hours jobs.

        One of the, many, failures of courage, of the last Labour Government, is they never restored welfare to pre 1990 levels.

      • AsleepWhileWalking 10.1.2

        They might not even have work as they don’t qualify if full time.

        Still in school so worse – imagine.

  11. AsleepWhileWalking 11

    And increase the amount of Steps to Freedom (a one time payment granted upon leaving prison meant to help reestablish in the community). From memory $170 as it was in the 90s but might be slightly higher – do we actually expect someone to house + feed + clothe themselves without crime on thay money?

    • Chris 11.1

      It’s $350 but you’re right, it’s for the costs of re-establishing in the community. Costs listed in the programme are “accommodation, bond, or rent in advance; beds and bedding; essential appliances; connecting telephone, electricity, and gas; food; clothing and toiletry items; or other re-establishment costs.” And it’s been $350 since the 1990s.

      • AsleepWhileWalking 11.1.1

        Arch! I knew something was fishy about that number.

        *Someone* took my advocacy manual so hard to search for it – give it back Mel, I know it was you!

  12. JanM 12

    This has been an excellent post to read because hardly anyone has been abusive or put forward ad hominem arguments – mostly respectful and informative – yay!!

  13. spikeyboy 13

    There was an interesting BBC Discovery program playing on Fresh FM as I drove to Motueka this morning. In paticular was an experimetal game where individuals could put all their money towards the group where it would double and be split evenly or keep it for themselves. So the best returns were if everyone else was generous but you were selfish. Seems this has relevance to social welfare where the common good is served by taxes sufficient to keep everyone out of poverty. Also turns out that being cooperative can be learned and become a habit and that the way a society is set up with taxation and other levellling institutions is important in forming peoples attitudes.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3csxfhy

  14. SPC 14

    With the causalisation of work and part-time work proliferating compared to full-time jobs (especially in service/cleaning work) it is becoming more important to increase the exemption for abatement for those on benefits.

    The $80/$100 level was set when the MW was less than half the current rate. And the cost of rent has gone up substantially since as well. It means the regime is now much tougher than it was in the past.

    Which given the changing nature of jobs is ensuring continuing hardship rather than relief from poverty with work (especially amongst those travelling from one part-time cleaning job to another at their own expense).

    This issue relates to access to WFF tax credits amongst those working less than full-time as well.

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