Us and them – what will Labour do about WINZ?

Written By: - Date published: 6:30 am, February 20th, 2018 - 106 comments
Categories: benefits, Carmel Sepuloni, labour, welfare - Tags: , ,

The Standard author Bill has said in the past that you can tell a lot about a political party by how it uses language especially in regards to us and them (when parties talk about themselves as separate from the rest of us). I was thinking about this recently when I saw Minister of Social Development Carmel Sepuloni’s tweet on meeting with senior Work and Income staff,

This tweet is us and them positioning. I think Carmel Sepuloni is trying to do something good but it’s a tweet to the managerial classes without thought for the beneficiaries who might be watching. I can imagine them having a great meeting, and Sepuloni wanting to put some feel good out there given how relentlessly negative everything is about WINZ now. But it’s still a problem that beneficiaries aren’t in the frame.

Sepuloni was given the #We Are Beneficiaries book in the week before Christmas. She said to the organisers last week that they should meet, but it took a tweet from them to prompt that. What would have said a lot to beneficiaries is if Sepuloni in her new role as Minister in charge of Work and Income had prioritised meeting with beneficiaries in the past 6 weeks.

It’s not surprising that Labour need educating on this but it is very disappointing nevertheless. Lots of good critique on twitter of Sepuloni’s tweet,

This last point is important. National had nearly a decade to both rip the welfare safety net apart and use middle management speak to convince parts of NZ that they were really trying to help people, or at least it wasn’t really too bad. For beneficiaries whose lives have been destroyed in that time, or made just plain miserable, that’s a mind fuck. Changing the narrative matters.

To Sepuloni’s credit, she’s not going to keep on quite the same track as Bill English regarding social investment, (and thankfully has rejected his big data, underclass tracking ideas). It’s a good sign that she is taking her time to figure out what needs to be done rather than rushing in ideologically. But it remains to be seen how much she will roll back and then what direction MSD will be taken in.

I’m pleasantly surprised to see that she has since deleted the tweet. This appears to be in response to people calling her out on the language and framing and I’m willing to cautiously see this as another good sign.

God knows we need them. Sepuloni always struck me as a good person and competent MP, and I do expect her to make changes for the better. What’s hard for beneficiaries is the knowledge that so much of what has been done in NZ against them has happened under Labour governments as well as National.

It’s true that Paula Bennett took beneficiary bashing to whole new heights, but it was David Shearer who as leader of the Labour Party gave a speech to Grey Power during National’s second term that promoted bigotry against ill and disabled beneficiaries, and thus sanctioned the Bennett reforms. It was Helen Clark’s Labour that led to beneficiaries I know saying, long before Bennett was the on the scene, that National stabbed benes in the front but Labour stabbed them in the back. If you still don’t understand why that is, you need to start listening to long term beneficiaries. The stories are all out there now.

We also know that Labour have decided to not raise benefits, and in the election campaign were reluctant to even answer questions on what should happen to ill and disabled people people on Supported Living Allowance who aren’t able to earn additional income i.e. who will not be helped by Labour’s job creation approach to welfare. Labour appear to have no plan for them.

It’s possible that Labour will take a pragmatic approach of keeping the underclass in a holding pattern while trying to prevent those above falling down the hole. Sepuloni,

“It’s about proportionate universalism. There are people with high and complex needs and yes they need additional support … but the group of people that I’d be concerned about is that tier of New Zealanders who don’t have high and complex needs, but are really on the brink,” she said.

“It wouldn’t take much for them to fall into that at risk category. Someone loses their job, someone becomes really unwell really quickly and unexpectedly and all of a sudden we’re in the difficult predicament.”

Without a values-based commitment to helping everyone, it’s hard not to start looking at who Labour will sacrifice this time.

Back to WINZ. In the past week there has been another round of bang one’s head on the desk at the stupidity Work and Income stories.

I’m putting these stories in not because they’re the worst (not even close), but because they are the top level, easy to fix stuff. The system didn’t always do this, and it shouldn’t be too hard to make the changes so that stops happening. That’s going to be a very obvious marker of what Labour are doing.

What really needs to happen here is not just bureaucratic tweaks, but a willingness to grapple with the deep seated cultural problems within WINZ.

When I read that article I see an older woman with mental health disability being gaslighted by the government department that is meant to be helping her. Not only did they not help her access her entitlements, she was ridiculed and then had her mental health used against her. That’s institutional abuse, and that’s not even getting to the worst of it. I’m looking forward to seeing what Sepuloni does about these issues, but how we will measure change at this level is trickier.

What jumped out at me from Carmel Sepuloni’s tweet was this. If those twenty top case managers from around the country are already on board with building trustworthy relationships, giving quick access to entitlements, and using good practice to create a supportive culture*, then why hasn’t that been happening already?

I don’t expect Labour to have sorted this out yet. I’m glad Sepuloni is taking time to get it right, and I would guess we will see changes over the rest of the year, with some initial signs over the next few months. What’s at issue here is whether Labour are willing to change themselves. If they want to know the language to use when talking about beneficiaries, they need to start talking with beneficiaries. Not just the ones they feel comfortable with, but the ones who’ve been living at the coal face all these years and can help set things right.

What we need is a government that shares power with beneficiaries. That apologises for its historical part in what the welfare state has become, and provides resources so that NZ can go through a kind of truth and reconciliation process about what has been done to the underclasses. Then works with beneficiaries to make it right. I don’t think Labour are that government, but I am open to Sepuloni proving me wrong.

*yes, I rewrote that.

106 comments on “Us and them – what will Labour do about WINZ?”

  1. tc 1

    Well said weka. National kicked the crap out of the receipients of welfare, labour has much work to do or it risks having votes taken off it by paying lip service to the abhorrent state WINZ is in.

    I have a family member who we’ve had to do similar to russel brown with in order to keep the benefits from being cut.

    It’s been an ugly and rising battle under national that I often thought how impossible it would be if we weren’t treating it like the health system. Keep everything, diarise events, get names and never give up an original.

    People have little idea what an ugly battle that’s been. The biggest task is gutting MSD of the National drop ins. It’s gutting the public service in general of them actually.

    • greywarshark 1.1

      tc
      tc agree with everything in general.

      But I don’t believe this is the first thing: ” The biggest task is gutting MSD of the National drop ins. ” And Ms Sepuloni suggesting that “high expectations of clients” is something to focus on is a bit weird for a Labour woman who would know something about the conditions for people on welfare.

      I think the focus must be to ‘Understand your clients’ difficulties and help them to surmount them’, and that would lead to ‘setting achievable goals that the clients feel themselves that they can aspire to.’

      That in concrete reality not fluffy hopeful words, encapsulates the good and even great things that MSD and WINZ can aspire to themselves. And they should be bloody well aspiring to them. So get going you Ministry and assist the workers and managers to do their job in a human and effective way, not as a bunch of computer-led target bullet-points bullies!

      Now I wonder what changes have already been noticed by those in the know in the welfare area?

      Could we have regular reports on what Ministry of Social Development and WINZ are doing throughout these next few years? Please. It really is the most important thing to do as better functioning people will cost the hospital and welfare support system less. More money going into local shops would create shop assistant jobs, and there would be a small boost to NZrs who are close to the white breadline (the stomach-filler stuff that’s 99c a loaf).

      weka says it right –
      NZ can go through a kind of truth and reconciliation process about what has been done to the underclasses. Then works with beneficiaries to make it right. I don’t think Labour are that government, but I am open to Sepuloni proving me wrong.

      I want to see voluntary community work and unpaid work caring for others or carrying out community tasks regarded as real work, and counted as such. Back to Marilyn Waring’s good idea that money-mad males couldn’t embrace. I want to see all beneficiaries including old age pensioners (the snootily-called superannuiants) have to do up to 5 hours a week voluntary work. It will be called Making a Contribution to your Country along the lines of, ‘What can I do for my country and not just What can my country do for me’ which is the present attitude.

      People would be asked what they felt they could do, if uncertain they could choose from a list of what was needed at the present. Those who are disabled in wheel chairs would be enabled and get a bit more people interaction with a trip into town in the mobility van and could tutor someone with reading disabilities for instance, that would be their contribution even if once a week for one hour. (If they liked it they could do more.) The person with reading disabilities being helped might be a beneficiary and be helping at the food bank etc. An accountant could mentor some micro business start-up people, or do the books for some organisation. Some lawyers help already as a pro bono through the CAB (Citizens advice bureau) or through the local legal help office.

      This would lead to a universal acceptance of voluntary work as being as good as paid work because the person is ‘giving back’.

      • Chris 1.1.1

        “I want to see all beneficiaries including old age pensioners (the snootily-called superannuiants) have to do up to 5 hours a week voluntary work. It will be called Making a Contribution to your Country along the lines of, ‘What can I do for my country and not just What can my country do for me’ which is the present attitude.”

        What do you propose should happen to those who fail or refuse?

      • patricia bremner 1.1.2

        The first thing is divisive language needs removing. Recognising spin is also important. ” Them and us.” … No… “Culture of Kindness” please.
        If this was used as the sieve, unkind labels and language would be removed.

        The previous two Governments divided poor as working= deserving,
        and
        non-working poor as not so deserving.

        Names which identified groups were removed by Paula Bennett, all became
        “Job Seekers.”

        The inherent assumption is ..become” work ready”… so … the hoops to hop through began. ( A missing leg?) ” Has your situation changed?” is a trite predictable scene.

        Guarding against “Spin”. ” Lazy bludgers “(they should work) Lumping people together so individual problems may be viewed as problems for the system not the person.
        Snooty “superannuitants” .(paid too much) Dividing and conquering groups by having them fight each other. (Bring them all to the lower level.

        Further, we need to be aware of “framing.” Carmel says “High expectations of clients” Hopefully that should be reframed as “High expectations FOR clients”

        Running the Kindness Ruler over Winz Frameworks and Language would be a beginning.

  2. Sabine 2

    how many people have been sanctioned by these ‘top’ ‘client managers’, for what reasons and for how long.
    this is the very first thing that should be asked of ‘this group’ of ‘client managers’.

    The first thing i would like to see is the disappearance of ‘ client managers’, i know of no business that has ‘client managers’, thy have customer services, sales managers, human resources etc etc etc.

    then i would like to see these guys loose their jobs. Every single one of them. Why?

    ‘for having high ‘expectations’ from their clients’.

    Firstly, single mothers are not clients they are single mothers. Unemployed people are not clients, they are unemployed people, disabled people are not clients , they are disabled, elderly are not clients they are elderly. You don’t have expectations, you ask what the need is, you check eligibility and then you give what the applicant is entitled too, and you keep your high expectations to your self.

    Client denotes a business relation ship in which both parties are equal, the client who is looking and happy to pay for a service provided and rendered, the ‘manager’ how is happy to take the money and provide said service.

    At Winz there is no equal relationship, there is only an abusive system, designed to kick people of the needed welfare (which btw, is a prepaid service i might add via our taxes – not ‘charity’) and to make it as hard as possible to reach this welfare.

    So if labor wants a tick from me, kick these ‘client managers’ of the government tit and let them fend for themselves in the private world. If they can’t find a job, well they can file for unemployment. At the very least they can then prove if they can fill the high expectations they have of others, and of course take any job that someone shoves under their nose.

    • UncookedSelachimorpha 2.1

      100% agree. Both the “expectations” and the “client” terminology is disgraceful and she should know better.

      Do they have high expectations for landlords who increase rents by 30% per annum, employers who pay less than the living wage or whose business is subsidised by Working for Families, rich people who pay far less tax proportionally than their low-wage workers…etc etc??????

      NO. Only high expectations of the poorest members of society.

  3. AB 3

    Totally agree Weka and Sabine. Language matters and Stephanie Rodgers nails it with her typical precision. WINZ needs to be talking about “meeting our obligations to our fellow citizens”, not using bogus business cliches.

    • Leonhart Hunt 3.1

      but that’s what MSD has becomes, its all about KPI & targets, not assistance, did you know the Only course MSD has now is CV writing?

      No help finding work at all, only advice is to CV drop (which is one of the worst ways to find a job) no Re-training, no funding for retraining (Bennet removed the support that allowed this previously, even after she herself used it to get her social work degree)

      Massive offices, on site security, good average pay ($95K), but the “clients” don’t get any help, and not quite enough to live on, charities are support systems and endless paperwork.

  4. Carolyn_Nth 4

    great post, weka.

    yes to all that. I mean, all that needs to change and in what ways.

    We need that “client” “customer” shit banished from all public services. They are not businesses. They serve the people.

    I had expected better of Sepuloni.

    I suspect the problem of discourse and direction goes right to the top of the Labour cabinet. While the likes of Robertson and David Parker have a hand on the steering wheel, I don’t expect much change.

  5. You_Fool 5

    When discussing what term to use instead of clients, how about we use the word “people”.

    • Antoine 5.1

      Not very helpful as it does not distinguish between staff, beneficiaries, other members of the community, etc etc

      • You_Fool 5.1.1

        But why do we need to separate? We are all people and we all have needs, and we should do our best to ensure everyone has those needs met. If it means not making people prove that limbs don’t regrow, that is an easy win. If we start thinking of everyone as different types or classes of people then we allow for this clients and managers and the rest of us who don’t need those handouts (but will have our WFF or super or tax-cuts or tax-writeoffs or…)

  6. Chris 6

    Without making it a big deal, as I think some of your points are valid

    I do question your jump to calling case managers, “managerial classes” and “middle management”

    They aren’t either of these.

    “Managerial classes” and “middle management” are categorised as management as they manage staff.

    Case managers manage cases.

    And I severely doubt they

    a) Get paid enough or have the responsibilities to warrant your description

    b) Can do much more than what they are directed to do by “middle management” when different situations come up.

    And while I’m at it, It does make me slightly annoyed sometimes when people try to make out that all WINZ and ACC case managers are some evil entity, when like any other job, they are just over worked kiwis loaded with too many “cases to manage” trying to do the best they can, getting the flack for the rules they are given by their bosses.

    And yes I know there are arseholes and it is part of their job, but there are in every organisation

    Sorry about the rant. Feel free to slag them off.

    • weka 6.1

      Fair points Chris. I did wonder about where that particular group fitted in to the scheme of things, and how they ended up on the photo. It’s tricky though. I’ve known some bloody good people working at WINZ, and I hope that there are still enough in there to sort the place out.

      But that level of staff you are saying aren’t managerial class are still the ones with the power to make better decisions and have far more power than the beneficiaries. I don’t agree with people who say they should all be sacked, but I’m also not inclined to see them as only victims in this situation either, although I agree with you that in staff terms they’re at the bottom of the ladder. Some of the stuff about attitude is on them, not on their immediate boss. No-one makes a staffer say demeaning shit to a beneficiary when it’s just the case manager and the beneficiary in the room. Yes, the culture pushes that, but so do individuals.

      I think the managerial class thing was about who the tweet was aimed at. I suppose I thought Sepuloni was sending out a message.

      The middle management speak stuff is sound though. That’s straight out of the neoliberal reforms that saw beneficiaries become ‘clients’, and all the other bollocks that went with that. And that did come from actual management (although if you want to make the case that it came from the Ministers, CE etc, that would be fair too).

      Re there being arseholes in every job, I guess what remains to be seen is just how much National has stacked WINZ with people who are ideologically on board with the Bennett reforms. If it’s a large percentage, Sepuloni’s job will be much harder.

      • Carolyn_Nth 6.1.1

        i think one of the changes brought about by the neoliberal shift was a growth in jobs labelled “manager”. I came across this a while back while looking at some surveys where people identified their jobs. I did some research on it.

        Basically, “manager” has come to be the labelled for diverse jobs, with many of them not really having much influence on the ACTUAL institution managers.

        I suppose “manager” in a job title gives a worker a sense of power and importance, even when they really aren’t middle-management.

        • Chris T 6.1.1.1

          I’ve seen that a lot to.

          Not in this situation, but In other organisations I think it is a way of pushing individual people into a higher pay band when they hit the top of the one they are in and you don’t want them to leave.

          They just chuck “manager” on the end.

      • Chris T 6.1.2

        Fair points

        BTW

        Sorry, just noticed that, that post had reverted back to “Chris” and not “Chris T”

        I’ll clear me internet cache!!

      • Antoine 6.1.3

        > Re there being arseholes in every job, I guess what remains to be seen is just how much National has stacked WINZ with people who are ideologically on board with the Bennett reforms.

        That’s an unnecessarily partisan comment. I’ll bet there were some bad case managers were in WINZ before the Key Govt was even thought of. And others managed to get in during the Key years, with no stacking involved.

        > If it’s a large percentage, Sepuloni’s job will be much harder.

        Or easier, depending on what it is…

        A.

        • weka 6.1.3.1

          Given I just wrote a whole post about Labour’s culpability in this mess I don’t see how I can be accused of being partisan. I made it pretty clear that Labour’s history is also a problem here.

          We do know that Labour govts try to be kinder, and ime there is a noticeable difference between the Clark and Key years and what happened at WINZ at this level. National in the 90s hired Christine Rankin to run WINZ, Labour got rid of her. So I think it’s safe to say that various governments put people in charge that are going to support their agenda. And it follows from that that those people will then hire in senior managers likewise, who will in turn affect the culture of the staff below them. National had tens years at this, and Bennett did radical reform. Seeing intention in that seems reasonable.

          • Antoine 6.1.3.1.1

            Sure,

            But I think you’ll get on better if you don’t conceptualise it in terms of a political purge.

            A.

            • weka 6.1.3.1.1.1

              A political purge would be getting rid of staff for political reason (e.g. staff that hate Labour). I’m talking about the difficulties in resolving a deeply entrenched beneficiary-hating culture within a government department if a large number of staff are ideologically on board with that hating. How would that work?

              Edit, I also stated *clearly that I don’t support calls for mass sackings. So really have no idea what you are trying to say here.

            • McFlock 6.1.3.1.1.2

              If the organisation needs a top-down culture shift (which it does), and the toxic culture has existed for decades (which it has), then the culture itself has meant that the only employees who can exist and thrive within that culture are, by definition, people who thrive in a toxic environment.

              Many of those people will be unable to adapt to the required culture change.

              As for the star “case managers” Sepuloni met, they’re low enough in the ladder that maybe they haven’t yet become toxic, and they haven’t realised the constraints within which the organisation limits their ability to actually help.

              But in general, people who can’t adapt to the required culture change need to go.

              • weka

                +1. And that’s normal practice, not a political purge.

              • Antoine

                > I’m talking about the difficulties in resolving a deeply entrenched beneficiary-hating culture within a government department if a large number of staff are ideologically on board with that hating

                > people who can’t adapt to the required culture change need to go

                Now those are some better ways of putting it.

                A.

                • weka

                  As opposed to what?

                  FFS Antoine, if you have a point get to it. Otherwise you just look like you’re criticising some random framing but not saying why.

                  • Antoine

                    I thought it was clear. My point was: don’t think of the problem as being ‘National’s people’, think of it as being ‘people who are not on board with changing the culture’. I’m pretty sure that is how you are thinking.

                    • weka

                      I’m not thinking about WINZ staff as ‘National’s people’ (although you appear to be). I’m thinking of the WINZ staff who are naturally inclined to support Paula Bennett’s punitive welfare reform, and how those people are going to function in the change of culture that Labour should be doing. Clear now?

                      There’s nothing wrong with understanding that National did specific things in the past decade that need to be redressed. Nor that there are people at WINZ who have supported that.

  7. One Anonymous Bloke 7

    What should politicians call citizens? What’s wrong with “citizens”?

    What should WINZ staff call citizens? How about “Sir”, or “Ma’am”, or “Mr./Ms. [Surname]”? Nothing wrong with first name terms, if citizens use them when speaking with their servants.

  8. shorts 8

    there are so many desperate people in our country, a large majority reliant on benefits… I have high hopes for this govt, – how they treat those on benefits and those who service them is an area they have to get right

    I have no idea how you can change the nature of an organisation like WINZ where the culture seems entirely toxic toward those in their care, yet if it isn’t not only will lives be ruined and spirits crushed but every single social goal of this coalition will amount to nothing

    • Leonhart Hunt 8.1

      I do Split it up into divisions.

      Take the “payment” aspect run it from a call center in wellington/auckland.. well anywhere really, have forms at local post shop or digital, nothing is required to be in-person anyway for payments.

      Take the “work aspect” run it from the offices, they don’t handle anything to do with payment’s so remove security guards, add programmes/courses to re-train based on industry needs, add a drop in center (so employer could pop in and grab some day labour) and a childcare facility for beneficiaries with kids.

      Take the “emergency support” away from MSD, have it run as a separate assistance from police stations and council offices.

      Take the “sickness/disability support” make entirely digital with forms from GP’s that do not need to go anywhere else, you talk to your doctor and they do the necessary paperwork, no one else should or is qualified to an opinion on medical needs and support.

      Add in a smattering of volunteer work, maybe even a few incentives programmes that could adapt over time (like training unemployed in basic civil disaster response, or large scale fire fighting (as a resource to augment in times of need)

      Done.

      • patricia bremner 8.1.1

        LH some very good ideas.

      • weka 8.1.2

        sickness/disability should be run from offices too, but with easy access via phone and email (I don’t trust the government with online services). Needs vary hugely depending on situation, and I can’t see that being done effectively with digital only. Also, while doctors play a critical role in that process, they shouldn’t be the centre of it. Beneficiaries should be. We’re talking about income, not health services. e.g. firewood payments shouldn’t require a GP visit.

        Emergency support likewise, and definitely not handed to police or councils. It’s not the police’s job, and councils vary too much in terms of service, plus they don’t have the skills.

        I’m old enough to remember the Ministry of Social Welfare. There’s no good reason why we can’t have a government department whose focus is welfare. I agree about splitting off support for getting into employment though, that has the potential to change the whole thing. Welfare becomes the core service, and then those that need help accessing work can do so through a different department that isn’t in charge of the welfare budget.

        • Leonhart Hunt 8.1.2.1

          the amount of mistrust that MSd has created requires a complete division, people dont goto MSD for help anymore, because they know the answer is usually no and the barrier placed on getting help are too high, even if MSD changed overnight and became this warm loving govt entity, people would still mistrust them, they have ruined too many lives.

          The reason why I suggested policy/council is because they deal with a lot of this already (mostly the fallout) Why not have the help there, ready to go as a tool that staff can use? (we would have to rethink what support is provided for this to work and have actual support facilities and plans) instead of waiting endlessly for MSD to “do something” Support should ne be linked to one agency, and the community should have more involvement (eg, the council office)

          I was on sickness, my case manager kept telling me “she didn’t think I was sick” with no medical training any cause to think so, many have found that MSD staff are making judgment calls on peoples health over doctor’s (even a few cases of them refusing support) – Your point about firewood is a good one, but less paperworks and agencies involved would streamline the process. (maybe the firewood issue could be one of an annual support, instead of having to wait for the person to ask for help, preempt support, if your sick, your year to year needs don’t change much)

          Digital is the future, there are no “needs” that cannot be done over the phone, internet even Video calling is available, no payment officer needs to see you in person for anything (this would also help with some of the racial/gender/ethnicity bias we have seen) and if your worried about fraud dont be its minascual and always has been, face to face will always be availiable

          • weka 8.1.2.1.1

            The problem is that there are neoliberals everywhere, including in the councils. This is why I’ve argued against disability income being shifted to the MoH in the event of a UBI. People hate WINZ, but it’s not like they’re the only government department that is a problem (ACC, IRD, Health).

            I don’t trust my council to run welfare. They’d have to learn how to do that and I actually think it’s the government’s job to provide welfare and make sure that their service is applied across the country reasonably consistently.

            The firewood issue is an example, one of many. Sure there are ways to solve the firewood issue on its own, but my point wasn’t about firewood, it was about the diversity of need and that GPs should be along side disabled people, not their gate keepers. GPs also vary in professionalism, attitude, politics, and there are neoliberal, judgemental fuck GPs out there too.

            “instead of waiting endlessly for MSD to “do something””

            Right, but that’s because the MSD is being run very badly. There’s no reason it can’t be run well.

            I agree about having localised services, and can see scope for that happening more. But there are some pretty conservative places in NZ, I’d hate to see beneficiaries dependent upon their local people alone. The state has an obligation to make sure everyone is ok.

            • Leonhart Hunt 8.1.2.1.1.1

              There are neoliberals in Winz/MSD too, right now people are not getting them help they need, while I understand your point, MSD/Winz is toxic and power needs to be take away from them and given to other people, decentralizing “support” needs to happen and making the support at a community based govt entity would be the best place for this, it could be police it could be libraries, it could be council offices, it could be the IRD, but it needs to happen.

              Social support is a complex issue, and we need urgent changes, welfare in NZ is in crisis. But we see little to nothing changing, everyone has bought into the idea of Unemployed are unemployed because they choose to be, people know its a lie but they pretend its not.

  9. justice 9

    Labour won’t do anything. They are in power now so what’s the rush. It is sad because although one of two of them are happy to say neoliberalism and capitalism has failed many, they don’t have the balls to actually make the changes necessary to start fixing things. All lip service, no action.

  10. Paul 10

    Why are WINZ top case managers almost exclusively woman?

    • Antoine 10.1

      I imagine it is not a career that has traditionally appealed to men

      Also women may be better at it

      A.

    • Carolyn_Nth 10.2

      Good question. I suspect, like all relatively low paid public service work, the majority of WINZ staff are female.

      I see that Sepuloni’s press release on the meeting adds a bit more explanation. I wanted to know what the measure was for selecting these 20 people as “top” case managers.

      The priority for Sepuloni seems to be that these managers are good at getting those in need into work – as well as meeting their needs.

      20 high performing case managers from across the country were brought together for a series of workshops after being identified for their success supporting people from all backgrounds through difficult situations and into sustainable employment.

      t is their heart and genuine care for people mixed with a significant knowledge of what’s available to help a person from both MSD and the local community that is key to their success in helping to change people’s lives.

      “They also expressed the importance of supporting people into training and educational opportunities as a pathway into meaningful employment – an area of key focus for this government.

      “Given my vision for a culture at Work and Income that is more inclusive, respects all people’s right to dignity, ensures everyone has access to their full entitlements and focuses on people’s potential.

      Prioritising getting people into work, no matter what kind of work, how well paid, or how few hours, is part of the problem with Work and Income now. This should not be the main focus, but it should be about catering to people’s needs, and, if work is one of them, then looking at the find of work, etc, that would best suit these people. It’s about quality not just numbers off the books into the workforce.

      • Bill 10.2.1

        Prioritising getting people into work, no matter what kind of work, how well paid, or how few hours, is part of the problem with Work and Income now.

        Hallelujah! That is the core and the heart and the soul of it.

        But. I think I’m right enough in saying that all welfare systems the world over were rolled out to set capitalism’s ” feckless and idle” back to work. And underlying that mentality there’s the obvious denial around the nature of labour markets sitting beside a certain ‘keenness’ to lay the failures of capitalism at the feet of its unemployed victims.

        Oh, that and the sickeningly reductionist insistence that the only reasonable measure of a person’s worth is the paid work that they do. And yes, we ‘all’ buy into that when one of the very first questions we ask of someone we’ve just met or been introduced to is “What do you do?”

        We don’t expect any answer that’s not related to employment. And many people who can’t provide an answer related to employment get to experience a sense of diminishment that’s betrayed by their own (unfortunate and unwarranted in my mind) awkward embarrassment.

        • Carolyn_Nth 10.2.1.1

          Grant Robertson under Little’s leadership, did the whole “Future of Work” thing, which doesn’t seem to have changed with the change in leader. Here the shift of the Labour Party from a party for workers, is to one that is for (paid) WORK.

          There is lip service to an economy and business environment that works for all. But there is also that notion of work for work’s sake: and of education being primarily for work. This is no different from the neoliberal model, except it aims to bring “unemployment”* below 4%.

          * depends a lot on how unemployment is measured.

          Here’s the text of a Robertson speech on it back in July 2017.

          a government led by Andrew Little with a fresh approach to give every New Zealander a fair share in prosperity.

          Already this year I have outlined two critical underpinnings of our approach. First, our Budget Responsibility Rules.

          Just to refresh. The Labour Party believes in full employment- anyone who can work should be able to work. As Minister of Finance I will re-assert Labour’s historic mission of full employment. In the first term of government we will lower unemployment to 4%.

          One of the recommendations in the Future of Work Report is for a culture change at Work and Income to be more like this kind of organisation. We want it to be a much more active organisation than it is currently, which connects not only with those who are currently unemployed but also those who may risk losing their jobs in the near future. There is a wealth of evidence that shows that Sweden’s version reduces unemployment and decreases average time unemployed, all for relatively little cost. Labour will make moves to capture similar success in New Zealand’s labour market.

          • greywarshark 10.2.1.1.1

            carolyn-nth
            +100

          • Chris 10.2.1.1.2

            In 1996 the Court of Appeal said that the long title of the Social Security Act 1938 applied to the current 1964 Act because it was amending legislation. Here’s that long title here:

            “AN ACT to provide for the Payment of Superannuation Benefits and of other Benefits designed to safeguard the People of New Zealand from Disabilities arising from Age, Sickness, Widowhood, Orphanhood, Unemployment, or other Exceptional Conditions; to provide a System whereby Medical and Hospital Treatment will be made available to Persons requiring such Treatment; and, further, to provide such other Benefits as may be necessary to maintain and promote the Health and General Welfare of the Community.”

            Here’s what Labour replaced it with in 2007, just one of the many nasty underhand manoeuvres Labour managed to sneak past us between 1999 and 2008. The nats loved it. Spot the difference:

            Section 1A Purpose
            The purpose of this Act is—
            (a) to enable the provision of financial and other support as appropriate—
            (i) to help people to support themselves and their dependants while not in paid employment; and
            (ii) to help people to find or retain paid employment; and
            (iii) to help people for whom work may not currently be appropriate because of sickness, injury, disability, or caring responsibilities, to support themselves and their dependants:
            (b) to enable in certain circumstances the provision of financial support to people to help alleviate hardship:
            (c) to ensure that the financial support referred to in paragraphs (a) and (b) is provided to people taking into account—
            (i) that where appropriate they should use the resources available to them before seeking financial support under this Act; and
            (ii) any financial support that they are eligible for or already receive, otherwise than under this Act, from publicly funded sources:
            (ca) to provide services to encourage and help young persons to move into or remain in education, training, and employment rather than to receiving financial support under this Act:
            (d) to impose, on the following specified people or young persons, the following specified requirements or obligations:
            (i) on people seeking or receiving financial support under this Act, administrative and, where appropriate, work-related requirements; and
            (ii) on young persons who are seeking or receiving financial support under this Act, educational, budget management, and (where appropriate) parenting requirements; and
            (iii) on people receiving certain financial support under this Act, social obligations relating to the education and primary health care of their dependent children.

            Section 1B Principles
            Every person exercising or performing a function, duty or power under this Act must have regard to the following general principles:
            (a) work in paid employment offers the best opportunity for people to achieve social and economic well-being:
            (b) the priority for people of working age should be to find and retain work:
            (c) people for whom work may not currently be an appropriate outcome should be assisted to prepare for work in the future and develop employment-focused skills:
            (d) people for whom work is not appropriate should be supported in accordance with this Act.”

        • Descendant Of Sssmith 10.2.1.2

          I posted this some years ago so it’s timely again.

          Some people definitely had the right not to work previously

          (1976 year book).

          “Beneficiaries are given incentives to self-help and to work. From the start, amounts payable from standard benefits have been set below the average wages of low-earner groups; and small incomes, and most property, have been disregarded in assessing an individual’s benefit.

          Conversely the income-tested age benefit for men over 60 years and some women over 55 years, superannuation for people over 65 years, and the benefits for widows with dependent children or over a prescribed age recognise these people’s right to stop working if they want to.”

          This of course also reinforces that some of the unemployed are there because governments decided to lower taxation and raise the super age. That’s a societal and government failing not a labour market one.

          Fuck if it was good enough when we had full employment why is it not now when we don’t?

          Benefits too were at the same rate of NZS.

          What Labour is not taking about:

          1. Increasing benefit rates directly – even in terms of putting the $20-00 per week back – even better lifting them to the NZS rate – little bits for this, little bits for that eg accommodation and winter heating are bureaucratic and stupid
          2. Putting the youth rate back to 18 or even better removing age discriminatory rates all together – equal pay for all beneficiaries
          3. Putting all those sole parents who are inflating the unemployment / job seeker numbers back on sole parent benefits
          4. Lowering the NZS age back to 60 and collecting any revenue back through increasing taxes for those who wish to still work that is over and above say the average wage
          5. Bringing back universality of family benefit so to reduce the divide between rich and working class and beneficiaries

          The whole notion of targeted assistance instead of universality is just another neo-lib construct designed to divide.

          Labour still a bunch of neo-lib tossers.
          2.

          • weka 10.2.1.2.1

            that changed in the mid/late 80s. At that point, the dole was roughly the same as someone starting out in a low paid job. There were no sanctions on beneficiaries for not taking a job, and unemployed people were given empathy. Shortly after that the dole bludger meme came in strong, along with the deliberate widening of the gap between a benefit and a wage. Hard not to see the meme stuff as deliberate social engineering, although I don’t remember if it was that blatant or more a consequence of Labour making all those people redundant. I’m sure the protestant work ethic thing was always there, but how did it become so nasty.

            By the late 80s sanctions were in place for people on the dole. Which is incredibly fucked up. Make a whole lot of people unemployed deliberately, and then punish them for not having a job.

        • Takere 10.2.1.3

          Whaaat??

      • Olwyn 10.2.2

        Neoliberal capitalists have proved deft at making use of subtle shifts within a social democratic framework, that have made a big difference to how things have gone, like a series of small leaks in a boat.

        When full employment was still the broader social aim, the idea of getting unemployed people back to work did not have the punitive flavour that it later acquired. Moreover, the benefit system had the role of ensuring that the standard of living could not descend below a tolerable floor, thus accommodating people who were not in the position to work.

        Full employment is a two-way thing – it is up to A to provide work and it is up to B to do it. Under neoliberalism the weighting alters – it is up to B to work, but it is no longer up to A to provide it, especially if richer pickings can be gained by not providing it. And neoliberals are not keen on guarding against a drop in the general standard of living either.

        Your point about the prioritisation of work is strengthened by the lack of any commitment to full employment, or a minimum standard of living, accompanying it.

        • Bill 10.2.2.1

          I basically agree, but I’ve got this urge to nit-pick on “the picture” you draw.

          Capitalism exists within a liberal framework. Always. For “the west”, and only for “the west”, social democracy dampened down some of the more “free” aspects of liberal capitalism. (ie – social democracy was more interventionist and introduced an overt social focus to ride alongside a financial one.)

          In the 70s (or thereabouts) liberal capitalism became resurgent, and limits to capitalism that had been imposed by social democratic management of capitalism were removed.

          Under social democratic managerial settings, labour had much more power than under liberal settings. That was generally reflected throughout society by way of higher employment rates, rising living standards (more or less across the board), and a tethering or reining in of capitalism’s “dog eat dog” culture.

          That all began to be “set to rights” in the period beginning in the 70s. The aim is a return “the west” to the laissez faire liberal capitalism of the mid to late 19th C and early 20th C; the same laissez faire capitalism that has existed throughout the global south for the entirety of the 19th, 20th and 21st Cs.

          • Olwyn 10.2.2.1.1

            I agree with your nit-picking remarks, and only note that certain aspects of post war social democracy, like full employment, helped to disguise the early steps back toward laissez faire settings.

        • greywarshark 10.2.2.2

          Olwyn
          And to this –
          Your point about the prioritisation of work is strengthened by the lack of any commitment to full employment, or a minimum standard of living, accompanying it.

          Add the from the 3rd para. this would be explanatory in brackets.)
          Full employment is a two-way thing…[and needs] A to provide work…. Under neoliberalism the weighting alters…it is no longer up to A to provide it, especially if richer pickings can be gained by not providing it.

          And in the absence of full employment, well-run, stable government needs to step up to fill the gap and need that occurs with the absence of A, which under neoliberalism and the free market can be a deliberate and wilful rort on the economy. Government
          can usefully and responsibly act, coming forward with projects for useful infrastructure and delayed maintenance projects which convey value to the country and in no way are make-work,

          • Olwyn 10.2.2.2.1

            I agree that the government should step up where the free-market fails to provide work, but there is a lot of pressure against them in this regard – fear of inflation, of borrowing, of raising taxes, etc.

        • Draco T Bastard 10.2.2.3

          When full employment was still the broader social aim, the idea of getting unemployed people back to work did not have the punitive flavour that it later acquired.

          When we had full employment as a government policy we had very few people unemployed. That changed (as technology changed and society didn’t) to the point where we started having a few people unemployed. Once that happened the business people started to successfully complain that people on the benefit were doing so as a matter of choice because they had a great time and income being unemployed. With that success the government began demonising the unemployed.

          With the increasing unemployment caused by shifting policies wages could be driven down as we’ve seen and the blame placed upon the unemployed rather than where it should be – on government and business.

          • faroutdude 10.2.2.3.1

            “When we had full employment as a government policy we had very few people unemployed.”
            Can you link to something that shows (as you seem to imply) that there is some kind of Policy against full employment? Or do you mean that full employment is no longer Policy – which doesn’t seem to align with (from Chris above):

            Section 1B Principles
            Every person exercising or performing a function, duty or power under this Act must have regard to the following general principles:
            (a) work in paid employment offers the best opportunity for people to achieve social and economic well-being:
            (b) the priority for people of working age should be to find and retain work:
            (c) people for whom work may not currently be an appropriate outcome should be assisted to prepare for work in the future and develop employment-focused skills:
            (d) people for whom work is not appropriate should be supported in accordance with this Act.”

            It appears that some commentors here are of the opinion that receiving State support via unemployment benefit, sole parent benefit etc is a life option rather than an undesirable or short-term necessity – do you agree with this?

            • Draco T Bastard 10.2.2.3.1.1

              Can you link to something that shows (as you seem to imply) that there is some kind of Policy against full employment?

              There is but not one in writing per sé. It’s basic economic hypothesis that full emplyment increases inflation and so we have the RBNZ tasked with restraining inflation. The necessarily inevitable outcome of this is less than full employmnet. it’s called the NAIRU.

              Essentially, unemployment is kept high to prevent wage rises.

              • Barfly

                I agree wholeheartedly DTB …

                I presume that answers your question “faroutdude “

              • faroutdude

                So this “policy” is agreed to by Govts and their coalition/support partners?
                And from your NAIRU link above..
                “The NAIRU theory has been consistently criticized as lacking any empirical basis in evidence.[8] The NAIRU analysis also assumes that if inflation increases, workers and employers can create contracts that take into account expectations of higher inflation and agree on a level of wage inflation that matches the expected level of price inflation to maintain constant real wages. Therefore, the analysis requires inflation to accelerate to maintain low unemployment. However, this argument implicitly assumes that workers and employers cannot contract to incorporate accelerating inflation into wage expectations, but there is no clear justification for assuming that expectations or contract structures are limited in this way aside from the fact that such wage arrangements are not commonly observed.”

                • So this “policy” is agreed to by Govts and their coalition/support partners?

                  Can’t say that I’ve heard anyone of them suggesting getting rid of the inflation controls which make up part of the RBNZ regulations nor any of the other legislation that ensures that the economy holds to a neo-liberal viewpoint (see FIRE economy by Jane Kelsey).

                  And I didn’t say that I agreed with modern economic hypothesis – just that the structure of our economy is based around that hypothesis.

            • Barfly 10.2.2.3.1.2

              “It appears that some commentors here are of the opinion that receiving State support via unemployment benefit, sole parent benefit etc is a life option rather than an undesirable or short-term necessity – do you agree with this?”

              This is the shit that neoliberal arsehats have been pedaling for the last 30 odd years it’s “Shearer’s beneficiary on the roof” style bullshit – our economy is structured and run to ensure a certain level of unemployment to maintain a level of unemployment to keep downward pressure on wages and people like you are encouraged to punish those who have fallen into this hole.

              • faroutdude

                “This is the shit that neoliberal arsehats have been pedaling for the last 30 odd years it’s “Shearer’s beneficiary on the roof” style bullshit – our economy is structured and run to ensure a certain level of unemployment to maintain a level of unemployment to keep downward pressure on wages and people like you are encouraged to punish those who have fallen into this hole.”
                So no actual evidence, just a bit of abuse spouting.
                You have no idea what I do, believe etc. I can almost guarantee that it results in more jobs, better pay, bonuses, higher levels of H&S, and a happier crew than anything you have ever done.

              • Richard Christie

                +1 Barfly

                The unemployed should all get medals, instead of vilification, for their sacrifices, sacrifices made in the maintenance of the low wage economy.

                Seriously.

                Medals.

                [if RWNJs want any rationality in their reasoning.]

            • Chris 10.2.2.3.1.3

              Sections 1A and 1B don’t have anything to do with wider economic policy. They’re there to make Work and Income staff believe it’s okay to say to people “no, I’m not going to give you a benefit because you’re a filthy lazy piece of shit who needs to get off your arse and get a job, now fuck off or I’ll call a security guard”.

          • Olwyn 10.2.2.3.2

            We tend to accept the idea that technological change means unemployment with a shrug, as if it is something inevitable. But under the current settings, a technological change that got in the way of capital collecting its tribute would be met with fierce resistance and deemed “unworkable.”

            • AB 10.2.2.3.2.1

              Totally. But technology tends to be something that is privately owned , so it’s hard to see this scenario actually coming about.
              It’s a good point to remember though – technology is neutral, its effects for good or ill come down to who owns it and how they use it.
              Chomsky illustrates this with the story of how IBM’s Hollerith counting machines were taken out of the Nazi death camps at the end of WW2 and returned to IBM. It’s not hard to imagine that these same machines might then have been used for a totally benign purpose, like delivering healthcare.

      • AsleepWhileWalking 10.2.3

        Yeah, I wondered what constituted a “top case manager”.

      • Brigid 10.2.4

        “success supporting people from all backgrounds through difficult situations and into sustainable employment.”
        And how was this ‘success’ determined I wonder.
        Did Sepuloni ask the so called ‘clients’ that were the recipients of this wonderful work by these ‘top’ case managers for their feed back?

        Doubt it.

        I’m not surprised she deleted that tweet. The replies were not what she was expecting I’d say.

  11. cleangreen 11

    Good wrap Weka, We must monitor Labour’s performance to give “inclusion” and keep them honest to their word.

    We have no “confirmation of emails received” back to us after sending emails by almost every Labour MP offices at present. – not good enough here.

    We need an “inclusive Government here as promised.

    So far in our NGOs experience we send our letters to labour MP’s asking for a response and get very little back as yet so Jacinda needs to give all her Ministers solid verbal recommendations respond respectfully to all public inquires to their offices please!!!!!!

    When our NGO used to correspond to Helen Clark’s office and all her MP’s they all responded far better then this time around so labour pickup your game please.

  12. Michelle 12

    We know the benefit system can work if applied properly look at pulla benefit
    she got the TIA brought a house. The problem is it is all about how you treat people.
    And too many people have been treated like shit even when they are down and out its like kicking a dog when its down. And that is exactly what they gnats have done.
    Dogs bite back and they don’t forget

  13. Kay 13

    “I’m pleasantly surprised to see that she has since deleted the tweet. This appears to be in response to people calling her out on the language and framing and I’m willing to cautiously see this as another good sign.”

    Sepaloni has never liked being called out, even when she was Opposition spokesperson, so not surprised in the least. Her response to a letter I sent her- a hard copy even, not a public tweet- with polite constructive criticism about an RNZ interview she did about 4 years ago (and a followup) were met with stoney silence. Still waiting for even an acknowledgement of receipt, Carmen. I’ve heard similar from other sources, ie she never responded to any form of criticism, especially from beneficiaries. For a time she posted the occasional guest post on The Daily Blog and would get a roasting in the comments for her hipocracy (pretty much along the lines of how much Labour cared about beneficiaries while attacking National, we weren’t fooled).

    There’s one thing they could do for disabled since they’re hell bent on not raising the core rates and it shouldn’t upset anyone’s sensibilities too much. And that’s increase the cap on disability ALLOWANCE. The word “benefit” isn’t in it, and it’s to do with disability, so maybe a bit more acceptable to Lab/NZF and the voters. Framing it that way, like the token $25/week gesture for “child poverty”. Of course, that would no doubt cause the loss of TAS for many of us, even resulting in coming away less of, there’s always a catch. But an idea.

    • AsleepWhileWalking 13.1

      I disagree with the idea of any cap on the Disability Allowance.

      Right now doctors incorrectly explain to patients how they can’t get over $62.xx cap. This is of course bullshit as additional costs are (sort of) picked up by TAS.

      Removing the cap will ensure fairer treatment of disabled in brutal times.

  14. I was thinking about this recently when I saw Minister of Social Development Carmel Sepuloni’s tweet on meeting with senior Work and Income staff,

    How were those top 20 measured?
    And did any one measure the amount of damage that they did to get there?

    What we need is a government that shares power with beneficiaries. That apologises for its historical part in what the welfare state has become, and provides resources so that NZ can go through a kind of truth and reconciliation process about what has been done to the underclasses. Then works with beneficiaries to make it right. I don’t think Labour are that government, but I am open to Sepuloni proving me wrong.

    Yeah, I’m not seeing this version of Labour doing that either.

  15. NZJester 15

    When it comes to WINZ the person who is assigned as your case manager can make all the difference between you having a constantly bad time or semi-smooth interactions with them.
    It used to be you walked into WINZ and waited at a line to talk to the front desk. Now due to a lot of the punitive actions and heavy red tape implemented under National getting people hot under the collar at most of them you must go up to the security guard at the front and state your business showing ID before you can even get in the door.
    You must also book an appointment online or via the phone.

    • Chris 15.1

      A lot of Work and Income offices are almost empty now. People have been chased away by all the bullshit. Many don’t bother applying because they know the answer will be no. So much for the stats, let alone meeting need.

  16. JohnSelway 16

    WINZ needs to become a service that helps rather than one that seems punitive at this current time

  17. greywarshark 17

    I liked this story in Public Address about a boy and his Dad.
    https://publicaddress.net/speaker/unknown-places-gravel-lot-mangere/

    And it reminded me of the 1980’s stories that the media would run about the long hours that some families had to work to make ends meet. You don’t hear about them so much, the focus has shifted.

    Then they told the story about Mums that got up at 3am to travel and do 3 hours cleaning, and got home about 7.30 am and Dad would have got up and given the kids breakfast and gone to work. And she would get the kids off to school and go to bed with the toddler and get some more sleep. And then after Dad came home, she might go off and do 2 hours cleaning and go to bed. That was their day, two ships that passed, gave a brief greeting, and stepped back into the system.

    And this was satisfactorily being in work according to the government. One could do it for a while and not get flattened, if there was excess money to be saved for a trip back to the Islands and visit the rellies. But now they could be doing this and have to go to a foodbank for extras to see them over. The money for the kid’s education, the support for the church, some to send to the old ones, all the obligations could only just be met, and not much for relaxing, having some drinks, a few hours to enjoy oneselves.

  18. Tiger Mountain 18

    well written and linked piece weka

    what a revolutionary suggestion–talking to actual beneficiaries–like Marama Davidson does, and what any MP worth their salary should make an effort to

    the commenters above have covered many of my views, well done Stephanie Rogers too, and lets not forget the dear old PSA–they need to majorly wake up and educate their members on this if they are capable, and then back them up when and if they start working FOR the vulnerable, there will be consequences for WINZ/MSD workers that support and accurately inform the citizens that make it past security to their desks…

  19. Stuart Munro 19

    I had a bit to do with Winz over the years. They used to be quite reasonable. When I was MAF observing I signed on between trips, because observers had no guarantee of work. Sometimes it was fine, and sometimes some Nazi would mess you around.

    Labour wish to pretend that their neoliberal reforms were something other than an unqualified disaster. Those of us supplanted by cheap foreign labour cannot agree. I was a fucking good fisherman, a good enough ELT teacher to successfully self-employ.
    But I’m facing retirement in extreme poverty – not because I’m lazy (I used to work 116 hours a week) but because NZ employers only want cheap and stupid.

    Not much chance of Labour waking the fuck up. Thanks guys, for ruining our country. You’re not as bad as National – what a claim to fame!

    • Macro 19.1

      Totally support your comment Stuart.
      I’m not expecting great things from this Labour lead govt which has the conservative hand right wing hand of NZF firmly up its back. For WINZ ,”Clients” it was, and “Clients” it will remain.
      The only possible way it could have changed was with the Greens holding the 15% of the vote, just prior to the election and Meteria still there and given the Minister of Social Development. The determination and vision she had would have ridden WINZ of the shit they now peddle. NZ voters meanspiritedness and bigotry ensured that that did not happen.
      I strongly support Marama for co-leader for the work she has done, and is doing in south Auckland – and with an independent voice in Parliament she will be able to hold this government to accountability on working towards ending poverty in NZ.

      • Stuart Munro 19.1.1

        Yeah, Marama gets it. I think Jacinda would get it if she put the time into it, but a lot of her colleagues are deadwood frankly. At least on employment issues. And they can’t manage immigration responsibly unless they understand the employment issues.

    • savenz 19.2

      Also support Stuart Munro comment.

      The lowering of working conditions and ideology that made huge amounts of hardworking and intelligent workers precariat, has been a disaster.

      The government has lost control of our own country and thrust out a few dollars and say we support you into work which is often cheap, insecure and unfulfilling.

      Support is having a fair infrastructure of work – not piecemeal gig contracts of below market wages and now for the last 10 years a culture of artificial competition for any job with 70,000 plus new residents and 180,000 work visas given out.

      And it’s no better at the top, with increasingly our largest companies and decisions being made by new residents on large salaries and locals being kept artificially low in “high” earning industries as well as low earning wages.

      The only reason that there is the appearance of prosperity is that many Kiwis owed their own homes and so that has kept them afloat with wealth that their job does not give them.

      Hence Labour’s extra taxes on property went down like a lead balloon.

      People who did not get on the property ladder are screwed as there is little social mobility anymore even if you are intelligent and hard working.

      And beneficiaries who have less and less choices are getting more and more problematic as are the working poor who need top ups for their worsening wages and conditions.

      A little meal breaks and a bit of tinkering is not gonna bring back people from the brink of poverty. Radical change is needed in particular around the rah rah ideology of neoliberalism, or soon there’s going to be more and more beneficiaries created and not much future for them.

  20. savenz 20

    My concern is that under the current Labour and NZ First vision which is a lighter type of neoliberalism, more and more local people are going to become beneficiaries, clients or what ever the F the current consultants want to call them.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m relieved that Labour finally got back and NZ voters got rid of the more evil National party who was actively destroying the social welfare system from every quarter and actually trying to made money from it with the ‘social investment’ /corporate welfare for their banking and financial mates as a bonus.

    Labour need to get real and get some real information.

    Firstly they should work out how many people actually are working a 40 hour week in this country and then call that employment.

    Then work out how many are regularly working between 15 – 40 hours a week and call that part time work.

    Then work out how many people are working below 15 hours a week and put those people into another category of near unemployment.

    Then work out how many of these people have guaranteed work.

    Nowadays people can work for 20 years for the same company and then find out their job is gone with little to no compensation. It’s crazy!

    More and more workers are at risk of some increasingly heartless and overseas based employer who run their company based on tax relief and accountancy principals.

    It is crazy to call one hour a week of work a job and they are not unemployed which apparently happened under the Natz.

    Not only is there a problem with so many people who should not be unemployed or underemployed being given a real opportunity to work but so many workers are now precariats.

    Labour need to look at the big picture as it effects both housing and transport as the precariat Rogernomics working conditions for example affects transport, as more and more people have multiple jobs in different locations, with different hours per week and have to navigate their way there (from further away to save rent) clogging up the roads. (Typically the closer to public transport the higher the rents or house prices).

    Apparently (not sure if still like that) Sky city employs people on essentially zero hour contracts, if it’s not busy they let the staff go mid shift only to call them back later to work when it’s busy. So can you imagine how easy that is to plan your life as an employee and also the amount of congestion that causes! Then Skycity they complain they can’t keep staff. It’s become a plague as more and more jobs are run like this.

    Luckily for Skycity and other zero hour contract corporations they have solved the problem by employing migrant labour who put up with it, being used to poorer working conditions and having the carrot of getting residency and bringing their families over, or fear of having to pay back that sizeable loan to the money lender/go between to probably get the crap job in the first place.

    A working group need to urgently go around and investigate all the scams and work out are the recent residents still working in the jobs or have they buggered off, or quit or been made redundant (so the scams can continue with new migrants) and how this effects the economy, housing and transport and the locals who did not get the job/house etc.

    Beneficiaries and workers need to be looked at in combination with also employers.

    We have lemon jobs and the employers are complaining they can’t get peaches. Then they are often getting rotten apples and the whole system is continuing in a race to the bottom and driving down productivity. Nobody is winning apart from scammers the way it’s going at present.

    • greywarshark 20.1

      You said it savenz! A really good comment that gets to the heart of the problems we have.

      • savenz 20.1.1

        The working group should also investigate new residents property deals, with a view to clawing back unpaid taxes and rents!

        I know someone who has lived in NZ for approx 20 years owning property and renting them out for that time and putting them into different kids names (while being on benefits part of the time) and just gets away with it.

        You have to wonder what the IRD are up too. They seem to take years to catch up with new residents driving Mercedes and living in million dollar houses while having community services cards and paying no taxes.

        Every New residents should be checked every 3 years to ensure they are paying the right taxes, especially after removing the language test so that new residents can’t speak English.

        If they check the new residents they can also find out if there has been a scam from the employer aka if the ‘wages’ for the ‘job’ are not going into their account.

        Also a new law that gives out massive fines, jail and deportation for employers running immigration scams and fake jobs.

        Win, win.

  21. patricia bremner 21

    I have written twice to Carmel, no response!!

    • greywarshark 21.1

      It would be polite if the government just added an automatic responder to their systems that said ‘We have received, and thank you, for your communication”. It would give them a lot of kudos and a break before we started to get suspicious that there was going to be no reply, and wrote again. It wouldn’t be much but at least The Government Machine would be acknowledging the peeps when they had peeped.

  22. Pat 22

    After a decade of indoctrination, i’m not sure WINZ (culture and staff) can be turned around, perhaps the only solution is to start from scratch?…although indications to date suggest that tinkering at the edges is more likely Labour’s strategy.

  23. Mark 23

    How about this for a bit of re-framing; how about we hear a few beneficiaries use the word “thanks”, and expressing gratitude to the ever shrinking pool of hardworking net tax payers who are forced to support them.

    • Carolyn_Nth 23.1

      Oh. You mean, the hard working taxpayers supporting subsidies to landlords for doing F all and still raising rents above incomes; subsidies to corporates for all kinds of contracts that could be more easily done in the public service house; subsidies to wealthy tax avoiders, who are already siphoning off money that’s be better spent supporting and enabling low income people to lead fulfilling lives…..

    • weka 23.2

      Beneficiaries pay tax. If you are feeling aggrieved about the shrinking number of proper jobs you might want to turn your ire towards NZ’s neoliberal governments. Beneficiaries didn’t create that situation, governments and the people who kept voting them in did.

    • greywarshark 23.3

      Mark
      Are you in Bob Jones gang? Or Don Brash’s Hobsons Choice? Would you like beneficiaries to give thanks to you and give you a breakfast in bed?

      Do you realise that you are a beneficiary of a certain type? One of those who has been given an education and been directed towards a job that pays enough to buy a device that sends messages to a public discussion blog like this one. Here we look at the problems we face in this country, with a view to improving things. If you haven’t personal problems and don’t want to think about helping others, then get out of the way.

    • Sabine 23.4

      you do realist that with your taxes that you pay – you, i and everyone else in this country that pays taxes via income taxes or GST – is funding unemployment benefits, social welfare benefits and retirement benefits for our wellbeing so that should harm befall us, or old age we are not to die in a ditch of hunger, old, sick and homeless?

      So no, you are not ‘forced’ to support them at all, you are forced to participate in a system that will provide you with unemployment benefits, retirement benefits, sickness benefits, accommodation benefit, food aid, and any of the other way our society helps people in need..

      I know its hard to fathom for libertarians, but roads, schools, universities, hospitals, streetlights, police force, teachers, nurses, doctors and so on and so on are all financed by the taxes of the people.

      And i would just venture a guess, you were born in public hospital, your father drove your mother to hospital on a public road, a doctor and nurses who studied in public universities made sure you and your mum both made it, and then your dad drove you back home on a public road to your family home that is connected to public sewerage has running hot and cold water, and electricity, then you were looked after by teachers, finished school and went to university and on your way to work you are still traveling on a public road without a surcharge rather then privatized toll roads..

      Civilization, ain’t it grand. Did you ever say thanks to those that came before you and accorded you all the ‘free’ luxury of living in a nice society?

    • Richard Christie 23.5

      How about this for a bit of re-framing; how about we hear a few beneficiaries use the word “thanks”, and expressing gratitude to the ever shrinking pool of hardworking net tax payers who are forced to support them.

      Fuck off, the “hardworking” taxpayers should thank beneficiaries, in particular the unemployed, as their existence ensures NZ has the low wage economy that enables your “hardworking tax payers” to be further fleeced by the 1%ers.

      Right wingers are always suckers for a meme when it comes to identifying the cause of their discomfort, especially if they can put the boot into a soft target that can’t kick back.. Plainly you’ve been led to despise or blame the real victims here rather than those with the power to remedy the situation, pathetic really.

      Presumably you want to increase the “ever shrinking pool of hardworking net tax payers”, learn that snidely deriding the unemployed as ungrateful for the crumbs they receive is an asinine solution.

    • Richard Christie 23.6

      hardworking net tax payers who are forced to support them.

      lol, it’s either support them or die under their pitchforks.

      (or better still, make full employment a priority).

  24. Incognito 24

    Some radical thoughts on WINZ:

    WINZ must become much more inefficient.

    It must drop all those (economic) targets and KPIs, etc., and focus on the people, first and foremost.

    All case-managers need to become mentors and have no more than 10 mentorees each.

    Mentors need to spend much more time with mentorees and focus on their personal circumstances and needs without pre-set timelines or milestones.

    At all appointments mentorees are given free hot drinks with a muffin or a scone, for example, to create a welcoming friendly and relaxed atmosphere without any pressure – this will benefit mentor and mentoree alike.

    WINZ needs to rebrand to Welfare Interest NZ or Welfare Inclusion NZ.

    All force, compulsion and punitive rules must be removed.

    Mentors assist with finding opportunities for mentorees to contribute to society in a meaningful way and ideally encourage them to create and/or find their own opportunities (e.g. learning new skills, training or some kind of education).

    Given that is or won’t necessarily be suitable work for each and every mentoree they should not be forced to do mundane crap (literally) jobs or become punished & penalised and treated like bludgers, pariahs, parasites, or outcasts.

    Each individual has something unique to offer, to themselves and to others, which is not necessarily defined by or (best) expressed through a (paying) job or work (or income & paying income tax) – the purpose of being human is not to be a work- or wage-slave.

    Much if not all of the above aligns well with a true UBI.

    I’m sure I’ve forgotten other pertinent points but this will do for starters.

    • Antoine 24.1

      Your suggestions, along with pretty much most of the other suggestions in this thread, have two problems:
      1. They need a leader who’s experienced in transforming an organisation, and
      2. They’re expensive.

      I’m not sure that these problems can be overcome in the short term.

      A.

    • weka 24.2

      Not a great fan of the mentoring idea Incog. I prefer to give people a decent standard of living, and then have options that people can choose or not if they want to. I suspect this is what you are meaning, but honestly, given the last 30 years of both National and Labour, I wouldn’t trust the NZ govt to run anything like a mentoring scheme and not have that be used against people eventually. Even well meaning people with good intentions do things that harm vulnerable people.

      “WINZ needs to rebrand to Welfare Interest NZ or Welfare Inclusion NZ.”

      Nice! Might need to get away from ‘WINZ’ entirely, it’s a deeply sardonic name for many now, and we’ve seen too many rebrandings. But I also like the idea of the government having a welfare department.

      • Incognito 24.2.1

        Sure, it was a bit of a brain dump 😉

        Yes, the name WINZ should be replaced altogether.

        I think mentoring is the closest word I can think of for what I have in mind. After all, the people involved are not victims, clients, customers, patients, or recipients even; they are contributors to a dynamic process that’s aimed at giving them a (more) meaningful existence and to find their place and inclusion in our society. Mentorship is based on trust, respect, friendship even and may start off as a fairly asymmetric relationship but over time it becomes more symmetric (though never equal as in identical).

        Many people have never experienced true mentorship or guidance. Career counselling is available at schools but not everybody make use of it and it has a narrow focus. Life counselling …

        The kinds of things I have in mind used to be (partly) provided when communities were stronger & tighter; nowadays that kind of support network is almost completely absent and people just have to fight & fend for themselves in a very confusing and in many ways cold & heartless society.

        When you say “decent standard of living” I read “a job and income to support themselves”. I am thinking of a bigger picture and meaning of what it means to be included in and engage with society in a reciprocal way.

        I need much more time (and thinking) to let these idea take shape & form (crystallise); my apologies for that.

  25. Sparky 25

    Yes if by “pragmatic” do you mean nothing will change? If so I agree.

    Its clear from their on going support of other ugly rightist polices like the 90 day law and the CP-TPP that this is not the Labour govt as I knew it growing up. Indeed they look more and more like a right wing party with every passing day. No amount of smiling and fluffy speeches changes that.

    For the poor, mentally ill and others I can see little good coming of this govt and that really is an absolute disgrace.

    • weka 25.1

      I see it a bit differently. Labour are most definitely not the Labour of old, but we knew that already right? I think this Labour government will probably do better than Clarks’ and is way better than what National would have done.

      The pragmatic thing is this. Labour have committed to their idea of fiscal responsibility. This means they perceive the running of the country as a balancing of needs where all cannot be met. So something has to be sacrificed. In welfare, I think they are going to sacrifice the people they see as harder to help. By sacrifice, I don’t mean cut loose, they will still try and help. But that help will be what I called a holding pattern. e.g. make entitlements easier to access but don’t increase them in meaningful ways. Throw some food to the people in the water, but don’t give them a life boat of their own.

      Added to that is the ideological approach as outlined by Bill, Olwyn and others above. The centering of work, and the resistance to social democracy, means that those who can’t fit into that will be worse off than if Labour chose social democracy. That’s another kind of sacrificing.

      That sounds bad, and it is. But it’s significantly better than what would have happened under National, so I resist the comparison with them. What the left needs now is to figure out how it’s going to work for bettering the situation given it will already be improving somewhat and mainstream NZ will be thinking things are ok.

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