Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Cui bono?

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  • Walter Nicholls, in reply to Lilith __,

    making public transport free for everyone would have enormous beneficial effects ... all the smiling old folks with their GoldCards<q> and wonder if I'm the only paying passenger.

    Several gold card holders, even ones who still have cars, have said to me that this makes a huge difference to their independence, far far more than the (saved) cost of the bus ticket would seem to justify. All the same reasons would apply to the the sick/disabled, I'm sure - and make the difference to getting to job interviews or for that matter jobs, or not.

    Of course they could just be smiling because they're not being asked constantly if they are still over 65.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Jul 2008 • 38 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Walter Nicholls,

    Several gold card holders, even ones who still have cars, have said to me that this makes a huge difference to their independence, far far more than the (saved) cost of the bus ticket would seem to justify.

    The last I checked the free travel was limited to between 10 AM and 3 PM, so one needs to plan accordingly with medical appointments etc. Does anyone know if the kind of discounted fares that might be available to "jobseekers" have similar restrictions?

    The kind of meaningless churning of the vulnerable that seems to be emerging here became all the go in Australia under John Howard. Pointless and demeaning "seminars" of the kind described by Mellopuffy were often scheduled for 9 AM, preventing those on fixed incomes from taking advantage of freely available off-peak fares on public transport. It's the kind of simple consideration that can literally make the difference between eating and going without.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    Gold card varies according to local authorities. Some have no time restrictions (Auckland?) while Wellington is 9 -3, after 6pm and all day weekends, I think.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3203 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy2, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Russell I wasn't aware that Autism was curable maybe the WINZ people should explain how this can happen and what world beating research they used. This was always one of the more idiotic ideas, that long term disabilities could suddenly disappear. Apparently God works for WINZ but does not tell them when the miracles happen!

    Christchurch • Since Mar 2016 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    Thanks Hilary. So to add to that, Christchurch buses are 10-3 weekdays.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    I would like to say that that most (not all) of the people I have interacted with during my son's long history with Work and Income have been very pleasant and polite. It is the crooked unrealistic system they work in which is the problem, and this comes from the top - ie the Government.

    The idea that Autism and Down Syndrome are curable, and you need to prove that you or your offsping haven't yet been cured, are indicative of the unrealistic barriers and punitive culture. Which somehow miraculously changes when you reach 65 and are then entitled to the respectable benefit regardless of what other wealth or assets you have, which is also the one that costs the country more than all the others put together.

    The sad thing is that a lot of disabled people and poor people don't reach that milestone. Our latest stats for people with intellectual disability, for example, showed a life expectancy of about 20 years less than for the population without ID.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3203 posts Report Reply

  • Angela Hart, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    you reach 65 and are then entitled to the respectable benefit regardless of what other wealth or assets you have,

    or how impoverished you were before. For many disabled, if they achieve 65, they are better off than they have ever been in their lives. Is that reasonable?

    Christchurch • Since Apr 2014 • 614 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    Thanks Hilary. So to add to that, Christchurch buses are 10-3 weekdays.

    And for those without the Gold Card, fares are increasing while the service degrades. They run the service down, fewer people use it, so the fares are increased to compensate, so fewer people use it...

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to Angela Hart,

    Even I am counting down the years. So looking forward to having a regular steady income after years of hit and miss contracting. And the Gold Card for free transport. (Might have to vote for Winston to ensure it is still there then, though)

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3203 posts Report Reply

  • Walter Nicholls, in reply to Emma Hart,

    fares are increasing while the service degrades.

    Off topic but this is happening with our children's school bus. The route isn't 'profitable' or something. The new price $2.90 a ride doesn't sound like much on its own, but for our family that is close $240-odd per month - this for a bus so old and crappy and leaky that the kids prefer to stand rather than sit on the wet uncomfortable seats. (For completeness: decile 10 high school in Auckland's North Shore, so hardly a ghetto).
    I get this back on-topic by observing that services made free/low-cost for the deserving, do need appropriate funding to keep the service serviceable.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Jul 2008 • 38 posts Report Reply

  • Roland Askew,

    Your recommendations are right on the mark, Emma.

    I have an aquaintance who was working in their call-in help centre until they quit in disgust. Apparently WINZ's funding is tied (in some complicated manner) to the number of beneficiaries in their books - if the official number drops, their overall funding drops. My aquaintance and his intake team was bullied by their boss' superiors into giving minimal time and hanging up on existing beneficiaries, and focus on signing up new beneficiaries. They received calls from women escaping abusive relationships, to people unable to read and write and thus unable to succeed at getting work (because they cannot read WINZ letters or fill out forms) having their benefits cut, and they were forced to hang up on them mid conversation. The daily quotas were very high too.

    The sad irony for WINZ is this funding approach incentivises increasing the numbers on benefits - in contradiction of the national mandate to reduce benefit numbers.

    This may have implications for other things like the Mainstream programme, which rely on that diminished pool of funding.


    Additionally, if case managers help beneficiaries find work, then the work brokers should be ethical and up to the task. I've had to deal with being placed with abusive employers who tried to underpay me and when I said I wanted to leave it the broker threatened a stand down, and in one case a broker prejudicing my employment chances by letting slip I had depression at the time, without my permission, and without opportunity for me to explain that I had been dealing with a difficult flatting situation.

    While I've only had to 'prove' once that I am still autistic and have co-morbid GAD and Depression, that was 2012 and my case was marked 'reassess 5 years', so I'm not looking forward to next year.

    Auckland • Since Dec 2015 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Alec Morgan,

    well said Emma

    WINZ is darkly classic “Catch 22” material–staff are personally rewarded for denying what their “clients” seek rather than providing it!

    what was in earlier times Social Security is now a sadistic bureaucratic punishment maze, a family friend on late stage dialysis was called into a meeting (Henderson office) and told as he sat in his wheelchair with missing toes that he was a job seeker and needed a new medical certificate from a doctor of their choosing, the guy was in tears, he uses his one good hand every day with a rig knitting items for his church shop! One of his brothers on our advice (my partner has been a beneficiary advocate) was appointed advocate and nothing happens without his input now.

    I support a UBI of some form because stable widely available work is largely gone, precarious short term work its replacement, and certainly also to get rid of this blot on society–WINZ

    Tokerau Beach • Since Nov 2006 • 121 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Johnson,

    You can't explore this issue without noticing the high unemployment rate, how has the natural rate of unemployment become 6%, that is a disaster figure and until we get down to the sanity of a 2% unemployment figure we are fueling discontent.

    hamilton • Since Mar 2016 • 98 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Tom Johnson,

    You can't explore this issue without noticing the high unemployment rate, how has the natural rate of unemployment become 6%, that is a disaster figure and until we get down to the sanity of a 2% unemployment figure we are fueling discontent.

    Are there stats for how many of those in work are receiving WINZ assistance - in other words, the working poor. I count myself among the ranks.

    I've been on the mininum wage for as long as I've had a job. We keep getting told that it's a springboard to bigger and better things, but what of those who find the rungs on the career ladder missing?

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5420 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Johnson, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    Exactly, just on top of that 6 % is a bubble of folk working hard jobs for fuck all pay. There is a bubble of about 15% of the workforce who through the adventures of their life story are stuck in a pool of poverty. CV’s accumulate a picture and our pathetic human resources workforce, the kind of place Paula Been it made her first real wage, after years of state stimulus, are pathetic in looking outside outdated squares.

    hamilton • Since Mar 2016 • 98 posts Report Reply

  • Gus,

    And more horrors from the UK - as I read in the Guardian today:

    To summarise: Work tests - for people who are working. Currently being trialled, low income workers who qualify for universal credits (in work tax credits) have to demonstrate that they are seeking to improve their situation. For those on less than 35 hours a week, this requires weekly or fortnightly meetings at the job centre, plus several hours each week must be spent searching for an additional job. Missing the appointment results in a fine. Missing your appointment because you were working is not an acceptable excuse! .

    Auckland • Since Nov 2013 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Alec Morgan,

    staff are personally rewarded for denying what their “clients” seek rather than providing it!

    This is not generally true, but I well remember when managers were appointed at regional level in ?2010 specifically to reduce Disability Allowance spending by the MSD. These managers directly harassed Doctors over certifying their patients' disability costs and trimmed the Disability Allowance payments of thousands of people without consultation. They did this without ever meeting any of the disabled clients or understanding our circumstances, and they were not accessible themselves for appeals.
    My Disability Allowance was slashed at that time, from $57/wk to $12/wk. My doctor wrote to the MSD several times, and each time the level went up slightly. A couple of years later it was restored to the full amount by a caring case worker who was horrified at the amount I was spending without reimbursement.

    When cuts are made to MSD payments and entitlements the directive has come from government.

    I also remember when the Disability Allowance for Counselling was cancelled altogether, some years ago. I was astonished when a case worker suggested I apply for it. It had been re-introduced with no publicity, as she said, "Because there's a need for it."

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3887 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Johnson, in reply to Gus,

    The whole nastiness of modern conservatism is the idea of a uniform citizen, essentially a soft fascism. Labour parties are a vehicle for those opposed to such slow dull civic slog and the sad faces it creates.

    hamilton • Since Mar 2016 • 98 posts Report Reply

  • tussock,

    When Labour was last in, they had a thing on the reserve bank that said they had to consider the unemployment rate when trying to limit inflation, that it should sit around 2% unemployed, which it did.

    When National got in, they removed that and told the reserve bank to work harder on limiting inflation. Like the last time, unemployment rapidly rose to 6% and has sat there ever since.

    Real unemployment rates are much higher of course, most of the extra people who work under Labour don't actually qualify for unemployment under National, they're in some sort of relationship that disqualifies them or simply can't handle the application process.

    Unsurprisingly, this lowers inflation by lowering real wages over time, making people too poor to buy things they used to be able to buy. Turning ever more of the economy to service of the rich, and stifling overall growth in favour of growth for those at the top only.

    The Prime Minister is a proponent of how he wanted to be rich and now is, and therefore everyone would be rich if they just wanted to, so you've just got to kick them a bit harder until they figure that out. When Blinglish talks about useless people, "no hopers", that's literally what they think, it's just people who don't want it. It's a long-disproved medieval philosophy, but still popular with the neoliberals.


    WINZ is also now dealing with vastly more people having the work-seeking requirement, even relative to the extra unemployed, without any extra budget for most of that, so obviously that's made life worse for everyone who has to deal with WINZ in recent years.

    But it was always a shit system. It's founded on a presumption of guilt where you constantly prove yourself innocent and every mistake is punished with the catastrophe of financial abandonment. Which, obviously, isn't helpful for people for anyone who struggles with anything at all. To a large extent, that's because it's not supposed to be. It's not for us, but nothing else is either, so tough luck.

    Since Nov 2006 • 608 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    Urgh.

    Ms Greaves made two applications for her daughter, who has acute leukaemia. The first -- a child disability allowance -- is paid as recognition that a child is going to need extra care. A maximum of $46.49 a week is paid out and Ms Greaves had that approved.
    She also applied for a disability allowance, which covers specific costs like hospital visits, medicines and the travel involved in that. It can provide a family up to $61.69 each week.
    But the Greaves' application for that was turned down and Ms Greaves says she was only told recently that the reason was simply that WINZ lost some of her documents.

    From Newshub.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3887 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Johnson, in reply to Lilith __,

    They are losing a lot of documents these days, always ones that pertain to applications. Winz has been organised to make correspondence very sloppy in this regard, nasty Paula Bennett legacy,

    hamilton • Since Mar 2016 • 98 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    I would like to say that that most (not all) of the people I have interacted with during my son’s long history with Work and Income have been very pleasant and polite. It is the crooked unrealistic system they work in which is the problem, and this comes from the top – ie the Government.

    And the person Jim and Fiona dealt with when he went in for his meeting was pleasant and helpful and even got him sorted with some counselling support. It was just a farcical basis for the meeting to happen on in the first place, which, as you say, is the fault of the system.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    Is this personal and very human horror to which our society subjects it's citizens really worth that tax cut?

    The weird thing is most folks really aren't selfish, they will happily donate to charities and relief funds or give their old sheets to refuges. But suggest for a second that it could be done by taxation and people turn blue with anger, bizarre.

    I do want to start a rumour that autism can be cured by vaccination ... that would be bad wouldn't it.

    It also strike me that whenever I read threads like this the people working at the desk at the support organisations really want to help, but it is a management structure and policy dictated from the minister down that the system either work well or do harm. It's not the actual system or the people in it that are the problem but rather the way the system is administered.

    That argues that we don't need a new system but rather we need the system managed with a different attitude.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Marc C,

    A reviewer of the WCA did actually recommend the UK look at New Zealand, where things seemed to be done all so much “better”, here some analysis of the WCA, it’s failures, and how New Zealand has come into the picture there:
    https://nzsocialjusticeblog2013.wordpress.com/2015/01/23/the-discredited-indefensible-work-capability-assessment-wca-in-the-uk-and-what-its-demise-must-mean-for-nz-welfare-reforms-part-1/

    https://nzsocialjusticeblog2013.wordpress.com/2015/01/28/the-discredited-indefensible-work-capability-assessment-wca-in-the-uk-and-what-its-demise-must-mean-for-nz-welfare-reforms-part-2/

    And where is the “transparency” re what the outcomes of all this reassessing is? Remember this post that was discussed a while ago, on Public Address:
    http://publicaddress.net/speaker/how-is-government-evaluating-its-welfare/

    We have been told some information was going to be made available at the end of last year, but there was NOTHING, yet again.

    Remember Bill English throwing a few comments around, before the last election, and again a week or so ago, about “hopeless” people:
    http://nzsocialjusticeblog2013.wordpress.com/2014/10/19/nz-finance-minister-bill-english-insults-beneficiaries-with-mansel-aylwards-work-will-set-you-free-approach/

    I dread these “designated doctors” WINZ use, some seem to be used a lot, those that make recommendations that save them money, I suppose:
    http://nzsocialjusticeblog2013.wordpress.com/2013/12/28/designated-doctors-used-by-work-and-income-some-also-used-by-acc-the-truth-about-them/

    Dr Bratt has trained them:
    http://www.gpcme.co.nz/pdf/2014%20North/Sat_Room6_1400_Bratt%20DD%20Training%20Workshop%20GP%20CME%202014.pdf
    On slide 23 he comments this:
    "If you ever get a complaint channelled through the Health and Disability Commissioner’s office let me know asap."


    The author also of this “presentation”:
    http://www.gpcme.co.nz/pdf/GP%20CME/Friday/C1%201515%20Bratt-Hawker.pdf

    And that “bio psychosocial model”, twisted by “experts” such as Aylward and our Principal Health Advisor David Bratt (at MSD), that has not gone away:
    http://nzsocialjusticeblog2013.wordpress.com/2013/09/02/medical-and-work-capability-assessments-based-on-the-controversial-bio-psycho-social-model/

    What is happening seems to be, that so far WINZ have tried to not push too hard with most, but the longer term journey is certainly following the UK in their direction, avoiding though the more extreme approaches.

    I dread the future, but having tried to get some figures from WINZ on people committing self harm or even “successful” suicide, they keep NO figures on causes of death of people on benefits, they simply close the files.

    Akl • Since Oct 2012 • 437 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Johnson, in reply to Marc C,

    It also should be noticed that when you leave a bunch of people work idle for 8 years you do detach them from the work society, from its 8 hour workday social practices. It’s never a good idea to run high unemployment numbers this long but in National world its just P.C to not talk about ramifications of poor social policy.

    Also Bill English pushes obviously unemployable citizens on to the dole and then complains that they are unemployable. Jesus.

    hamilton • Since Mar 2016 • 98 posts Report Reply

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