Writehanded: A sea change – or just more weasel words?

Written By: - Date published: 6:26 am, March 28th, 2018 - 69 comments
Categories: benefits, Carmel Sepuloni, labour, welfare - Tags: , ,

Cross posted from writehanded.org

(first published 15/3/18)

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Way back when I was fighting Paula Bennett, the then Social Development Minister, in the media, Labour made a lot of noise about trying to effect a cultural change at WINZ. I know they were in opposition, so I’m kind of not surprised that went nowhere – but what about now?

When my story did the viral thing and I ended up in the media talking about how I and others are treated by WINZ, a lot of politicians were suddenly very interested in what I had to say (as if it was anything new).

Maryan Street, who was Nelson’s Labour MP at the time, was very helpful – but only for me personally, and only then.

A lot of people got in touch with me to share their own WINZ horror stories. Labour’s Sue Moroney took advantage of this to launch a “story collector” on their website. She was hoping to collect and collate all of the anecdotal evidence about the systemic failure and bullying culture at WINZ, and use this as data to press for change.

Not long after that, Sue made way for Carmel Supuloni. I have sent several enquries to Carmel since 2014, and none of them have been adequately answered.

I feel extremely bad about it, because I encouraged vulnerable and disenfranchised people to give up their stories for this cause, so it was my name on the line. And as far as I know, none of those people have ever received a response. So it was just another time when they and their extremely difficult concerns were not acknowledged.

I recognise that Labour was in opposition and as such had limited capacity to push through any real change.

But now they’re the government – and I haven’t seen much discussion about their social development policy, which actually does have some hopeful things in it.

There’s some crossover with the list of promises made by the Greens in the leadup to the election, which is encouraging.

It’s really hard for me to articulate how much these changes would mean for so many people. I know they seem out of our reach – but they’re not. Not if Labour commit to them, or even some of them. And yet I’ve seen nothing about benefits apart from the Winter energy payment thing, and WFF stuff, from them since they took over.

That scares and disappoints me. It makes me think they’re going to fall back on exactly the words they’ve used above “National ruined things for nine years” “This is in keeping with global trends” – to which my response is: I don’t care. You have a massive opportunity here. Yes, we’ve been in the dark for nine years – and before that. Don’t leave us here.

So many continue to live under a system that treats us like criminals and demands that we constantly prove otherwise.

Yesterday, I wrote about how I’ve received four letters this week, each telling me I need to complete different steps in order to keep receiving my benefit. As well as visiting my doctor and filling out a bunch of forms, I need to have a phone appointment with them. Here’s what I’m told will be discussed:

So… nothing to do with how they can help me. Nothing to do with any questions I have. Nothing that acknowledges that I’m not unemployed, I’m sick, and often that is two very different things. That acknowledges how ludicrous it is that the Sickness Benefit was abolished as part of Bennett’s reforms in 2013 .

Any time I try to bring up the issue with treating sick and disabled people the same as unemployed people, I will get a bunch of people yelling at me that I should be on the Supported Living Payment. So I’m just going to stop that right here.

The SLP is generally designed for people who have longterm disabilities (very interested to see if Labour changes this), and it is extremely difficult to get. I have applied, and I was turned down. Despite letters from my GP, WINZ decided they knew better. I was informed that I could contest the decision, which would result in my being sent to a WINZ-selected doctor for a second opinion.

I’m pretty sure you can tell that that is not going to go in my favour.

Which means that, every three months, my doctor has to provide another certificate that says the same thing. “Sarah is still sick with incurable arthritis. Sarah cannot work. Yes, she is trying to get better. Yes, she’s doing everything she can.” It’s such an incredible waste of resources, for everyone involved.

You better believe I’m going to be watching like a hawk to see what, if anything, gets implemented out of this social development policy. Some of it is good words, but that’s all it is – words. And I, and so many New Zealanders, have been burned too many times before.

Time to step up and stand beside our most vulnerable. Let’s go.

___________________________________________________________________________

Sarah has since been granted Supported Living Payment.

Sarah Wilson is a disabled journalist, writer, feminist, social justice campaigner, and poet. She blogs at Writehanded.

69 comments on “Writehanded: A sea change – or just more weasel words?”

  1. No, sorry Sarah, but no.

    Labour has already thrown workers in this country to the wolves by signing the CPTPPA or whatever it’s called.

    They’ve already signalled farmer welfare to bail out farmers from the hole their greed got them into.

    They’ve tossed money like confetti at the rich dilettantes for a boat race.

    You can’t, simply, logically can’t expect them to reform WINZ as well!

    Conclusion – weasel words!

    • Korero Pono 1.1

      +1 @ Tony Veitch (not etc)

    • KJT 1.2

      Agree with all except the boat race bit.
      Money to develop cutting edge industry is not, wasting money on the wealthy, having a boat race. It returns some of the money the wealthy have taken offshore to working class NZ boatbuilding.
      The composite technology leadership, properly nurtured could replace a lot of our commodity export earnings.

      The left wing snobbery against sports that many enjoy, hardly wins us any friends.

      • Draco T Bastard 1.2.1

        +111

      • tracey 1.2.2

        Except our industry was still thriving and worldclass all those years we did not host the Americas Cup

      • savenz 1.2.3

        It’s not snobbery, it’s just sports funding is extremely one sided and often very sexist to boot. NZ has been successful in many sports and industries but the lions share always goes to only a few male dominated sports.

        Funny enough the sports that are well publicised and get excellent sponsorship also gets the government money too. Those that are not on the top 5 male dominated sports, get nothing.

        That’s why NZ is falling behind, power dominates a few sectors and industries and they get everything to the detriment of everybody else in this country.

        This selected corporate welfare means that farms are coming down with diseases but does the government say, buy private insurance to cover this? Nope, instead they get $60 million and full pay out of stock.

        TPPA-11 – again back to beef. Was cited by David Parker as a reason he HAD to sign TPPA-11 because Japanese were buying less NZ beef. This was inspite of the obvious lack of benefits to most other industries and public policy in NZ and the massive and uncalculated risks of signing the deal and the fact that signing the deal does not actually guarantee any increases in beef exports (probably do the opposite as with all the cross contamination and lack of biosecurity under these trade deals we’re not gonna have a beef industry).

        Therefore I don’t think the 200 million on a boat race is a good idea, just like I don’t think the 60 million full pay out of beef stock is a good idea either.

        Other sports and other industries do not get to enjoy such a generous approach.

  2. One Anonymous Bloke 2

    In this, as with many other issues, this government’s intentions will become clearer in their first budget. I suspect that reliance on NZF to pass it spells bad news for social welfare.

    …when you use a deficit approach to people, you will get a deficit result. That won’t be my approach.

    Carmel Sepuloni.

    Sounds good, then…

    I want to take the opportunity to acknowledge the Social Investment Agency, Dorothy Adams and her team for really helping our government extend its thinking in this space. Over the past couple of months our small but mighty team have been busy behind the scenes preparing for what I’m hoping will be a new and inclusive approach to social investment.

    Who are the Social Investment Agency?

    Well, they were appointed by Amy Adams and describe themselves as a “diverse, yet like-minded, group of passionate individuals.”

    Diverse and like-minded eh. I’m beginning to see why Amy picked them.

    Labour had better have their shit together here. Sepuloni makes some good noises, and flushing the poison out of WINZ won’t happen overnight. Still, diverse and like-minded. Uh huh.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.1

      Diverse and like-minded eh. I’m beginning to see why Amy picked them.

      Diverse and like-minded just like National.

  3. UncookedSelachimorpha 3

    When you compare the Labour and Green policies, Labour’s are mostly just words and tinkering, while ignoring the key problems of poverty, punitive taxation and inequality. The Green policies actually tackle the fundamentals – but of course they don’t have the support to make it happen (yet!).

    Hopefully Labour get a bit braver in their budget, but so far is not looking like it.

  4. Stuart Munro 4

    The litmus test for me will be how Labour treats the attempt by the construction sector to lock in their access to 50 000 unskilled foreign labourers. Substantially reducing that number will incrementally shift the local job market – letting them in will mean we still have in effect a National government with no respect for existing laws.

  5. Kay 5

    Social Security Legislation Rewrite Bill still working it’s way through Parliament.
    http://www.legislation.govt.nz/bill/government/2016/0122/latest/whole.html

    Great emphasis on working, obligations and sanctions.
    It doesn’t take till the first budget for this Coalition to start a clear out of MSD management and get the ball rolling on a culture change. That’s not budgetary and if they were remotely interested in doing so that would’ve been started already. They’re NOT interested, especially NZ1.

    Don’t expect anything from Sepuloni- she was bloody useless even in Opposition. We’re only getting that fuel grant as a token gesture so the Coalition can show how “aware” they are of the extra help we need. I will refrain from what I’d really like to say… but along the lines of little things like fuel grants, tiny accommodation grant increases, ANYTHING except increasing the core benefits.

    The Greens are the only ones on our side, we know that. But what clout do they have? Are they able to say to Lab/NZ1 “we’ll support you in x if you agree to start a culture reform in WINZ?” (something like that)

    • dukeofurl 5.1

      The Social Security legislation rewrite as you indicated in your link is still a leftover from the old National government.
      http://www.legislation.govt.nz/bill/government/2016/0122/latest/whole.html
      “New Zealand Labour Party minority view:
      While Labour supports the idea of bringing much needed clarity, consistency, and modernity to the Social Security Act, Labour must point out that this rewrite does not align with the policy-neutral rewrite that the National Government has publicly claimed it to be.
      They have a long list of changes they couldnt make before but are likely to do so now the government has changed

      But specifically with Sarahs situation in mind they recommend the following, which hopefully can now proceed.

      Allowing a person who is unable to work on a temporary basis as certified by a medical practitioner to be eligible for the supported living payment. Figures released by MSD from December 2015 showed that 55,257 working-age individuals were receiving the job seeker support with a health condition or disability deferral.

    • Andrea 5.2

      Oh the fuel pittance! Isn’t that there to pay for the announced price hike so the electricity companies can get around to replacing passed its use by date equipment, etc?

      It has to pass through the frozen fingers of The Poor so it looks as if it’s not corporate welfare.

      Another Peter and Paul trick brought to you by people who want to look ‘caring’.

  6. Over the years I have been appalled with the absolute stupidity of the systems that MSD/WINZ (and their predecessors run). As far as I can tell it invariably runs on the basic principle that the most inefficient possible way of handling anything is the way it should be run – and bugger the consequences to those suffering under its imposition.

    I’ve watched my sister in the late 80s on the DPB having to take hours of time to sit around some office waiting to make meaningless noises with what can only be described as a monkey paid to go through a checklist.

    That was when she was raising her kids (initially under 5) while also going through a polytech to get the qualification that could and eventually did get her a job.

    Why waste that time? Purportably, just in case, somehow, miraculously, her circumstances had changed since the time she wasted the previous month doing exactly the same thing. If it’d been possible for her to get a job that paid enough to provide the child care that allowed her to go out and work, then she’d have already had done it.

    As solo parent on a benefit and with a bankrupt ex-husband who was long on promises and way short on delivery, she was already on the bones of her arse financially. There wasn’t the money for her to pay for someone else to take care of the kids for more time than had already been done during the working day (ie when the rest of her family like me were working), and she was spending the time in lectures.

    Now this isn’t hearsay, I was living with her at the time in her rental house so she and my nieces didn’t have to live completely unhealthy dump and I could take care of kids when I wasn’t working.

    Similarly in the late 90s my current partner was living with her partner at the time who had had massive problems dealing with what is now WINZ to get a independent living allowance when he was at school and too young to get benefits. He was legally estranged from his father and his mother was in a different city and had her own reasonably severe problems. But every year without fail he’d have to reapply for the allowance, and every year WINZ would have ‘lost’ his paperwork. Since they had the originals of supporting documentation like the court orders and refused to accept copies, he’d wind up with long periods with absolutely no income having to beg living costs from friends. This could only be described as deliberate abuse by WINZ because his circumstances didn’t change and wouldn’t until he was old enough to get adult benefits.

    But this loss of paperwork isn’t exactly uncommon with WINZ. People even in this day and age when all of that kind of data should be computerised still have exactly the same excuse being used. And over time these systems, despite frequent rejigging (that usually seems to equate to rebranding and name changes).

    I hear this kind of thing over and over again. From people who have lost limbs. From people with mental health issues. From people with a few months of unemployment. From damn near everyone who deals with MSD or WINZ outside of superannuants and post-students.

    It is a punitive system, set up that way by our idiotic politicians in response to a shortsighted and loud-mouthed number of paid mouthpieces in the media revving up their audiences of simple minded bigots.

    The costs of all of this punitive crap is incredible. As far as I can figure out, the costs of running these half-arsed systems for the DPB, sickness and disability, and even as something as transient as unemployment have to be between 20 and 35% of the amounts paid out (depending on overhead allocations). Providing offices for people to turn up at frequent intervals is expensive even before you look at the staffing.

    Just providing meaningless ‘courses’ by rote is expensive. The one time I actually applied for a benefit was between contracts in the depths of the GFC and when I had leaky building to pay for. Now with the exception of some parts of my university education, I have a continuous work history since I was 15 (along with the taxes that come with it) with various kinds of managerial and technical jobs.

    My problem was that I didn’t have the money to pay for groceries that week. I’d just had to pay all of my savings and borrow to to the credit limits to pay for rebuild on my unsaleable apartment. Then I’d had a long-term rolling contract cut short after a month and hadn’t been able to get another job after two months of looking (damn the GFC).

    I just needed money to live on. But apparently according to WINZ what I really needed to do was to wait 2 to 3 weeks to get into a course on how to write a CV to prove that I could hunt for a job. FFS I had a BSc and a MBA and a continuous history of finding work. I asked to see their example CVs, something that turned out to be a complete joke – and something that I’d never give to a recruiter. About that point I walked out, borrowed some grocery money from family to live on, and didn’t waste my time with their fossilised systems.

    It was about then that I decided that we need to completely change the welfare system in NZ. Start by making large chunks of the MSD dealing with adults unemployed. As a taxpayer, I don’t want to pay for those MSD and WINZ parasites freeloading on the taxes. I have yet to see any case outside of some of the CYFS and maybe the mental health processes where they add any value to society.

    I’d prefer to pay for better computer systems for the IRD and better processes to find and to take fraudsters through the courts. Plus money for people retraining themselves. Sure we’d get a few fraudsters gaming the system. But all of that is criminal, so drop the idiotic punitive punishments that WINZ use. Just find and charge the worst examples and take them through the courts. It’d be a damn sight cheaper, probably more effective and changing behaviours, and most importantly stops petty bullies damaging sensitive people by playing stupid games with their life just because they can.

    By way of comparison, there are a couple simple system of benefit entitlements is run by simple entitlement and monitored and moderated by the tax system. The superannuation system works with clearly defined rules that are easy to present in a webpage. Changes in financial circumstances, typically employment, are handled by computers that run the tax system because superannuitant income is taxed. Same with payment of student loans.

    Their overheads are minimal and curiously enough have lower rates of abuse than those enforced by the MSD – ie the ministry of social destruction.

    • Kay 6.1

      “It is a punitive system, set up that way by our idiotic politicians in response to a shortsighted and loud-mouthed number of paid mouthpieces in the media revving up their audiences of simple minded bigots.”

      ^^^
      And there summeth up the problem.

    • dukeofurl 6.2

      I think we can all agree its cumbersome and inefficient.

      But “As far as I can figure out, the costs of running these half-arsed systems for the DPB, sickness and disability, and even as something as transient as unemployment have to be between 20 and 35% of the amounts paid out ”

      Thats way too high.
      From looking at Ministry Social Development annual report for 2017

      Personnel Costs $694 mill
      Other operational costs $614 mill

      Total spending on benefits is around $20.3 billion. So personnel costs are around 3.5% and other operational costs are say 3%.
      The personnel is not just for benefits as they do Adoption, Care and protection
      (now moved elsewhere ) management of student loans, policy advice etc.

      A big difference from 20-35% ratio you suggested
      https://www.msd.govt.nz/about-msd-and-our-work/publications-resources/corporate/annual-report/index.html

      • Barfly 6.2.1

        2016 superannuation total 11billion – universal no ongoing interviews, courses, harassment etc So I think that the true cost of admin to the punitively managed benefits would be about double your figure.

        • dukeofurl 6.2.1.1

          Theres some truth to that. But these figures were for Ministry as a whole, which at the time included CYPS. Now thats been hived off and thats around $600 mill total expenditure, including personnel costs gone.

          Its not clear how much of the $700 mill personnel costs are related to the so called ‘service centres’.

    • cleangreen 6.3

      Thanks Iprent,

      Excellent exhibit of a system designed to demean and strip any pride and loss of dignity & respect of the citizen while seeking support and when I came home in 1998 I received fair response to my disabilities.

      But now the system has been destroyed by 9 yrs of austerity or cutbacks of services.

    • tracey 6.4

      A friend of mine is a school counsellor. She is 57 years old and earns 45,000 per year. Long story short she has been. Bullyied by her boss and took stress leave. Having run out of sick leave the school told her it woukd be unpaid. She went to mbie mediation which concluded the relationship was irreparable. But it was mediation so not binding. Head emailed and told her to get back to work. If she didnt she woukd ve treated as being awol. She went to an employment advocate who woukd charge 200 ph.

      She cannot get a sickness benefit because she has “resigned”.

      • adam 6.4.1

        mbie mediation is a joke. The last two times I’ve been there the mediator (different each time) was driving a 200,000 dollar car. I wonder whose side they are on? No guess really they ran it so the boss would win.

        She needs to goto doctor, and get them to sign a medical certificate to say she has stress and can not work for the next 6 months. Then she is entitled to sickness benefit.

      • dukeofurl 6.4.2

        Thats terrible . I cant see the point of mediation unless its a binding form of dispute resolution.

        I looked it up, its seems you have to jump more hoops to get it enforced

        “If the agreement is not kept.
        If one party does not do what the record of settlement says, for example, make a payment, the other party may apply to the ERA or the Employment Court to enforce the agreement.

        It’s a good idea to contact the mediator first for help with encouraging parties to comply with the agreement before going to the ERA or the Employment Court”.
        https://www.employment.govt.nz/resolving-problems/steps-to-resolve/mediation/reaching-an-outcome-in-mediation/

        Im presuming it wasnt a state school who act so dispicably and maybe they conned her with a recommendation rather than a binding finding.

    • Andrea 6.5

      Superannuitants are NOT safe. Winston Peters for one and my far-less visible mother for another.

      Plus security guards who bark at seniors to take off their headcoverings. Those points come quickly to mind.

      It’s a matter of degree: the oldies have fewer indignities – and those indignities are still there.

  7. AsleepWhileWalking 7

    You are on JSS (with medical dispensation). That is the new name for Sickness Benefit.

    Regarding your SLP application…your apathy pisses me off. If you don’t REVIEW THE DECISION then you just agreed with them by default. They know that the majority of people do this because they assume challenging the ministry will fail.

    This is simply untrue.

    You can have a choice of designated doctors, you don’t have to go to whomever they select.

    If for any reason the designated doctor fails you, you can escalate the review to a Medical Appeals Board. This level us frightening so if you do this take an experienced advocate with you IR if possible one of your medical team.

    • weka 7.1

      I’d like you to rethink what you just said AWW. Sarah is a well known and experienced welfare activist (links were included to see her background), who is aware of what her options are within the system. She is also a disability activist which means she understands better than most what it is like to engage with the system when unwell.

      Some people simply don’t have the energy to go through Reviews of Decision, and many people who have gone through them have seen the farce that they often can be and end up feeling they are a waste of time. Likewise the Benefit Review Committee and so on.

      I think you are trying to point out that people have rights and avenues, and I share your frustration about how many people are unaware of those, but it’s important not to blame beneficiaries for struggling when they engage with a system that treats them so badly and is set up so that they more often than not will fail. It’s also not ok to think that all beneficiaries can challenge WINZ on their own ground, many are not in a position to do that. This is why Labour need to make changes.

      Sarah has since gained SLP (the post above was written a few weeks ago), and there will be another post going up about that this week.

    • Kay 7.2

      AWW- I have no idea if you have a chronic serious health condition or not and that’s none of my business. But if you don’t then you may be unaware that severe stress causes no end of problems to said conditions, usually acute flare ups, and depending on the condition can land people up in hospital, and in extreme situations even kill them.

      Dealing with WINZ is right up there on the extreme stress list and over the last 9 years many of us with serious chronic health conditions have suffered badly, and unnecessarly from the “reforms”. There is a very good reason Sarah and others like her have to give up and not go for reviews, even when she is clearly in the right. Any of us can see where she is coming from right away and why she’s made that decision. WINZ are well aware of this and they count on this.

      Sarah, I hope you are able at some point in the near future to get the physical and mental strenght together, and a good support system, and get your review, but only when you’re ready.

      • weka 7.2.1

        Good explanation. It can be hard for people to appreciate just how much it takes out of people who are unwell, and your point that WINZ relies on this is spot on.

        • KJT 7.2.1.1

          Noticed the distinct difference in attitude, and honesty, when one of the young people we know goes in alone. Compared with when I put on the suit, the only time I wear it, and assume the upper crust accent, as a support person.

          I’ve met a couple of good case managers, but the good ones never seem to last long.

          Huge difference from when Labour was in and I had to apply for the sickness benefit, and the current routinely sadistic treatment.

          As for the courses. CV writing courses taught by someone who cannot even spell. FFS.

    • Augustus 7.3

      AWW, your faith in the system is touching. The review by Designated Doctors scheme is a farce. You have a choice who you want to see, but from a list of doctors contracted to WINZ (or whatever they call themselves now). If you live anywhere other than in a city, that list is likely to comprise one name. The review by a designated doctor is NOT a second medical opinion. The DD does not conduct any medical examinations or interviews. Instead, they review your medical files, which led to you applying for SLP on recommendation from your regular doctor, then ask some loaded questions to ascertain whether you can dress yourself and the like (a process copied from the UK, where it is outsourced to private firms).
      Unless you are blind or completely helpless they will find you fit for work, even if its for a few hours in jobs that only exist in their fantasies.
      The Medical Appeals board is supposed to review your case on the available evidence. The evidence will consist of your regular medical notes and a completely unfounded opinion by a designated doctor hired for the purpose of denying you help. A shoe-in? Sadly not.
      These are personal experiences, others might have different ones, but I doubt it. Read some of the posts on ACCforum.org on designated doctors to get the picture.

  8. patricia bremner 8

    I know you don’t want sympathy, but you have it. I have written to Sepuloni several times and had no response at all. I tried writing to Jacinda on line to no apparent avail.

    I think there was a wish to do something, but the lack of money in the prefu meant even the extra billion in the black was fairy dust. Some decisions appear out of step with need.

    I think you are right, in that some parts of Government see “lazy nephews on the couch playing games” as the problem. By lumping the long term ill and the disabled with job seekers, they have virtually “disappeared” the group.

    I hope we are wrong. But I too feel sad on this front. I feel it will be hard fought.
    Kia kaha Arohanui my friends.

  9. koreropono 9

    I have to say I have seen some small shift with WINZ in recent times but I assume that was based on my role as advocate/support person – not as a beneficiary and I know that it is very different for beneficiaries – I would love to see more AAAP style groups pop up around the country to challenge every WINZ office when that is needed. The number of people I have worked with who do not get their full entitlements is staggering (at a guess 90%). I am sick of hearing about people who are misinformed, or who are given so many hoops to jump through, they simply give up.

    As to Labour’s promises, forget them, they’re empty, hollow words used to get into a position of power. Carmen Sepuloni, waste of space and waste of time (not to mention a waste of our economic investment in supporting useless governments). I am surprised that the writer even got a response from Sepuloni, she’s not the best at communicating with constituents.

    I guess if we can’t rely on Government to do the job, maybe we need to take back our power and start doing it ourselves and while we’re at it remove those overpaid leeches in parliament from power!

    • KJT 9.1

      Funny that both Labour and National reckon being more socialist will not get votes. Until just before election time, when both pretend to be more socialist and caring, than they really are.

      • tracey 9.1.1

        Well said.

        There are some on this site who support the notion that you say and do what you need to to get into power and once there you do what you can to make sure you can keep doung something.

        Heartening isnt it.

    • weka 9.2

      I would also love to see advocacy services across the country. How to fund that is the big question. Needs to be completely independent from govt. I drop hints about this in front of middle class lefties from time to time, no-one seems that interested. But it’s one of the few things that would make a big difference given we can’t rely on Labour. I suspect that many Labour voters believe that Labour will do something useful.

      • Sacha 9.2.1

        Can’t be financially independent of govt (need big, reliable funding), but must be from the agency. The new advocacy service for children in care is a good example: https://www.voyce.org.nz/

        Also HDC for health services.

        • weka 9.2.1.1

          HDC advocacy is a shadow of the service it used to be. It is not patient-centred. Anything that is set up for beneficiaries needs to be designed around their needs.

          The problem with govt funding is they will tie it into contracts which means that the service then becomes about what the govt wants. And next time Nact are in power? There are ways to resolve that (including very long term funding), but I doubt there is the will.

          • Sacha 9.2.1.1.1

            Who pays for it then?

            • weka 9.2.1.1.1.1

              No-one apparently, which is why it doesn’t exist. I’m not against govt funding it if it can be independent. I just don’t think Labour (or NZF) would be willing to do that.

      • Patricia 9.2.2

        I support clients at WINZ and ACC ; amazing what a different outcome is achieved by having a support person / advocate along to challenge decisions. Most clients don’t know what services / benefits are available and if they don’t ask for them they will get nowhere. Every social work / financial mentoring agency should have effective advocates on site.

        • weka 9.2.2.1

          it’s the biggest single thing that will make a difference I think, having someone else in the room who comes across as competent. Which is an appalling indictment of WINZ culture.

  10. OncewasTim 10

    +1
    I think you’d have to agree though that these ‘systems’ and processes have been designed under the direction of public servants at a reasonably senior level.
    WINZ is a good example but the stupidity exists across ministries and departments.
    What interests me is how the lowly ‘coal face’ ps (only following orders) eventually gets captured, as they climb the ranks OR because they simply tire of pushing shit uphill.
    And in some of these places, crony appointments, the use of temporary ‘contractors’ in places where procedural experience is of value, under-resourcing at that coal face (think Labour Inspectorate or INZ or NZQA the agencies monitoring Immig Advisors and enforcers) doesn’t help.
    The problem is actually huge but it’ll never get fixed if any new government or minister simply reilies on advice from their “senior officials”. The problem becomes cultural in terms of the organisation (Winz case in point but just think of others whether to do with Health, Education, infrastructure, etc. Etc.) Anyway I’ll stop now….but in this environment you have to worry about what will come from a redeveloped IRD IT project by the time some of those ‘senior officials’ provide their input when that advice will trump that of those with technical expertise.
    Being charitable….it is conceivable that the very naive Clare Curran might have been trying to cut through all that. The more one sees the state of our PS ( at snr level) though, the less charitable I’m inclined to be.

    • tracey 10.1

      The systems may not be as stuffed as we think. But the higher directives in KPIs determibes interpretation and application.

  11. Michelle 11

    Give them a chance to fix welfare its a big f..n mess. First and foremost they need to sift out the bad ones and there are many. They need to establish who they can trust as the gnats have spies and informants everywhere. They put them in positions of authority for a reason. I know many that work in MSD and some of them are so judgmental some are poisonous so we need to be patient 9 years of damage to any organisation is a long time and a lot to fix up. I know people are getting grants and are being treated a bit better but the mess is deep the bad culture is entrenched it is like a disease that spreads and takes time to eradicate.

    • Chris T 11.1

      “They need to establish who they can trust as the gnats have spies and informants everywhere. They put them in positions of authority for a reason.”

      Lol

      • Michelle 11.1.1

        you sound like our pm chris t when she said we don’t have any Russian agents here that we know of . You also sound like you have no experiences with government agencies like cyfs, winz, acc, nz police, corrections on that note laugh as you may but what the f… k was mr griffin (RNZ) doing when calling melissa lee and giving her a heads up?

        • koreropono 11.1.1.1

          Sorry to tell you this Michelle but the damage to WINZ started way before the gnats took power 9 years ago…this started with a Labour led government back in 1984, then was cemented under a National led government in 1991…successive Labour led Governments have done little to rectify the issue, besides very minor tinkering, since that time. In fact there’s been a few Labour ministers who have contributed to the negative discourse about beneficiaries and the current Labour led Government are no different, despite what you may think, they are not allies, they are part of the problem. I am not a Gnat spy, I am not a Natzi voter, but I sure as hell wouldn’t vote Labour either, to me that would be like propping up more of the same old neoliberal bullshit…classic example is CPTPP…Labour lied, like they usually do if they think they’ll fool enough sheeple to get more votes!

  12. adam 12

    How can a party committed to economic liberalism effect any change for the working poor, or sick? In truth it can’t. It is committed to an ideology which continues to disaffects more and more of the population.

    Anyone would think they going for the old Stalinist plan of making it worse until people revolt.

    But back to economics, how is it possible for the labour party to change anything with this commitment to a economics which is an abject failure?

    In essence we all become Sisyphus, when we let economic liberalism win.

    • Sparky 12.1

      To my knowledge no one revolted against Stalin(shame that) but they did revolt against the corrupt opulence and cruelty of the Tsarist regime. I don’t think this is too different really. Its an increasingly small number of people who have everything acting against the mass of people who have nothing. Will there be a revolution of some kind? Maybe a political one? Who knows. Personally I doubt it as the state simply has too much power these days. More likely environmental collapse which will make it impossible for them to operate. That’s my guess unless some good people come to govt which really means new parties.

      • Stuart Munro 12.1.1

        The short answer is to build a new parallel agency with proper values and then use it to replace Winz. That way you don’t get monkeys with spanners like Griffin in RNZ.

        • weka 12.1.1.1

          That’s actually a really fucking good idea. Thanks because we’re pretty short on useful options about what to do with WINZ.

          They could start with everyone on SLP and reinstate Sickness Benefit. That way they build the organisation around principles of care. Then bring over people on the DPB etc. Then Super. Then look at the dole and split job seeking from income, bring income over. Make the whole department about access to support and entitlements.

          Do that with an eye on a UBI or similar in the future.

          • patricia bremner 12.1.1.1.1

            Yes, but I think we will have to go on the street en masse.

            • weka 12.1.1.1.1.1

              I don’t see Labour doing much useful without a big protest movement 🙁

              My concern is they will do enough to convince mainstream NZ that they are doing Good Things.

      • McFlock 12.1.2

        People could revolt against the Tsars because there was a clear division between the rulers and the ruled, and who supported whom. Not perfect, but a reasonable delineation.

        Stalin had everyone afraid of everyone else: strangers, neighbours, colleagues, family, lovers. Trust was impossible.

        I only mention it because the latter is the level of division that the social warfarists pursue: anonymous “fraud” tip lines, panty-sniffing private investigators, family members judging from the comfort of the middle class, all to build a portrayal of serious “fraud” in a system that frequently requires its victims to commit numerous acts of petty “fraud” to exist, and where they don’t chances are the system’s own errors will be classed as the victim’s “fraud”.

        An example is that I lend a solo mum I know a certain sum a fortnight and she pays me back the next week. It’s zero-sum, but enables her to buy some things in bulk. Technically, she probably should declare that as “income” every other week. I have never asked whether she does or not. It’s none of my business. But it’d be grounds for social warfare to turn her life upside down, and if there were a week she didn’t pay me back for some reason…

        • weka 12.1.2.1

          I don’t have the historical background, but this matches my observation of WINZ and bene bashing culture too. It’s very hard to not see it as intentional. Not necessarily from case managers, but from the people in positions of power.

          What was Stalin’s strategy about?

          • McFlock 12.1.2.1.1

            Stalin was into show trials, Gulags (usually labour camps), and pogroms if things were getting too comfortable for people.

            The sheer numbers are mindboggling, but the effect on society was even more difficult to comprehend. If someone was arrested, they almost always disappeared. Their colleagues would have a meeting where each confessed the signs of the departed person’s treason that they failed to notice and report at the time. The Nazis made such rapid initial advances partly because the Soviet officer corps had been mostly murdered in the previous decades, so the experience level was miniscule. Almost everyone reported by people they knew. Like the Nazis, but more equally on everyone throughout society (although the standard groups like Jews and homosexuals were and still are singled out for particular attention).

            You can read up on it in wikipedia, but I wouldn’t do it before bed.

            • weka 12.1.2.1.1.1

              Was that primarily a method of control? Or was it more ideological?

              • McFlock

                Well, a lot of it did start under Lenin, but ideological justifications were more excuses for control.

                The group confessions could be linked to the practise of dialectic analysis, for example, but by the time you reach the thirties everything seems to be more about preserving the power of the state in order to preserve the power of Stalin. They basically became indistinguishable from any other totalitarian regime.

  13. Sparky 13

    In my opinion this Labour govt and many before it are really National in sheep’s clothing. This story is really sad but I have to say predictable. What amazes me and I see this again and again on social media is how people pick up any positive scraps of news about Labour and try to make something worthwhile out of it. Hoping they will go back to being what they once were.

    Reality is in my view they are no longer representing the people or principles Labour’s founders had in mind when they created the party. Its now a case of stop asking and start doing. If you are that way inclined create your own party. Given the levels of frustration I’m seeing you may be surprised at the positive response .

  14. The Fairy Godmother 14

    I really think the problem is largely nz first. After all they voted with National on the nasty drug penalty increase bill. I have no doubt they get some enjoyment at being nasty to vulnerable beneficiaries as well. There has been a lot of progress in areas where they are common policies. I really hope next election Labour and Greens will have over 50pc. At the moment nz first and national out vote them. I agree it sucks. All those stupid gp appointments make it harder for those who need to see their doctor to get an appointment perhaps even leading to their condition worsening and landing up in hospital and costing heaps. I know it is difficult for me to see my gp on the same day.

  15. Matthew Whitehead 15

    Would just like to give Sarah Wilson a big hand for letting us cross-post this here. Writing about her personal experience under WINZ is another layer of harrowing personal torment on top of the actual experience, and sharing personal details on such a public site as this one is in no way easy. 🙂

  16. Andrea 16

    All that foam from Labour: the details are required. At the moment it reads like a Key promo: you know – ‘aspirational’ far more than actionable.

    The Greens – despite the harrowing experiences of Saint Metiria – another bunch of fluff.

    “9% on income under $14k” Oh how tinkly-marvellous! Not.
    Basic pension is under $19k. Whatever passes for Invalids is a whole lot less. How can someone on many times more be so stinting-gracious?!

    Could they imagine any income below after tax adult minimum is either zero or 5% rate? Above there 5% and rising gently – until the median wage is arrived at.

    Of course not. They’re Green playing at middle class benevolence or sturdy self-sufficiency with sufficient means to be so.

    Their #2 – is that before or after tax? And which tax rate applies?

    And what is the magic of 66% of the ‘average’ wage? A sop to the tearful employers who get to pay equal workers unequal wages? The whole rort of ‘minimum wages’ needs a clean out. Will it be those staunch defenders of the working class – Labour? Probably ‘hell no’.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 16.1

      If you’re talking about the measure of poverty, it’s 60% of the median wage, not the average.

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