Govt needs to ensure welfare entitlements

Today there’s been a story all over social media (thanks Tulia Thompson) of Work and income telling women that tampons and sanitary pads are luxuries and they can’t use payment cards to buy them.
The Minister has tweeted that this is not the policy at all.

This then raises the question why has this happened? It’s not the first time either that we’ve heard about Work and Income staff telling clients that they’re not entitled to certain things or that they need to do certain things that aren’t policy. There is a pattern.

This government, and the one before it, have focussed their attention on saving money from their budget. The latest law changes also stigmatise beneficiaries sending the message that they’re job avoiding, drug taking, poor parents, and criminals.You can’t send those messages and not have them influence staff and organisational culture.

Further the legislation is far too complicated – it has been amended 131 times, and includes 422 sections and 31 schedules and there are 50 policies that are at the discretion of the CE of MSD rather the law. This makes it very hard for staff to know what people are actually entitled to.

Combine that with the loss of funding to so many benefit rights organisations around the country, and the cuts to legal aid and we have a very dangerous situation where the most vulnerable people in our country are have the food in their mouths or the tampons in their trolleys illegally taken off them.
The Government needs to direct Work and Income to conduct an audit of client’s experiences and entitlements and put systems in place to make sure everyone is getting the meager amounts that they’re legally entitled to. People on or below the breadline need every cent.

23 Comments Posted

  1. @Trevor29 Good points and the Free Wifi at McDonalds would not be free if you had kids with you. I can’t see anyone taking kids into McD’s without the kids trying to get something.

    Wifi is not so bad, people can use WIFIs own protection protocols
    and considering the data being shared with winz there would not be a security issue.

    Biggest problem is the website doesn’t know who you are, as the user could say they are anybody. The site uses the old style security questions that seem good but are so weak to people you know.
    Still I think it’s a good start and can only get better.

  2. Jan and others, if it was just about “tampons”, hey that would make my day, but the whole agenda we are facing with WINZ and MSD now is becoming a life and death scenario for some, it is getting damned serious!!!

    I hear horror stories about sick to be told to look for a job now, and having been given a grace period so to say, I am frightened, fearful and can often not sleep at night, as a “review” is coming nearer.

    This whole new agenda about “looking what people can do, rather what they cannot do” is a perverted way to put pressure on all of us, especially ones with mental health issues. I am close to damned despair. What the hell do some front liners know about my mental health issues, and not being able to handle many situations? I am already struggling to keep my own GP on board, as he gets pressured by WINZ and the Ministry of Health to off-load people like me, and NOT give me another medical certificate stating I cannot work.

    It is getting damned dangerous, what I see and hear!

    I was just referred this post for my “guidance”, which only helps little, but at least is very informative:

    Can you get us some guidance and help offered, by holding the government to account, please, we are getting damned frightened and are running out of solutions and answers. Thank you, Marcus

  3. One problem with free wifi is security. Really not a good idea to be putting personal info into a website on an unsecured wifi connection. Need a VPN.

  4. WINZ isn’t the only site that people need to visit, but getting their kiosks going again would help. However many of the affected people would have difficulty getting to a library, WINZ office or wifi hot spot either because of transport or child-care or both. Being able to access this information while the only children around are sleeping will certainly help.

    School information is another target for Sending Party Pays, as is healthcare information.


  5. In regard to ‘drug testing’.. is Paula B. willing to take one of these tests ? I would be interested to see the results of such tests IF they were mandatory for ALL Govt. workers & MPs (not just beneficiaries) more evidence of beneficiary BASHING !

    What crap. I have to undertake a drug test in my WORKPLACE. Why? Because the workers pushed for it. They did not want to be working in a dangerous industry, where there was the possibility that the guy next to them, who could directly affect their safety, was stoned / high / otherwise not fit to be working.

    Is this Worker Bashing?

  6. The Government says one thing in public and then gives the nudge and wink to WINZ staff to be as mean , bloody minded and obstructive as they like.
    One way of getting the unemployment statistics down I suppose. Harass people until they are mentally ill.

    From personal observation WINZ staff will lie, cheat and obstruct, as much as they can get away with, to avoid paying social insurance recipients their due. Many of them would be unemployable if they treated clients like that, in any other job.
    The few with any compassion do not seem to last long.

    The way they treat teenagers is particularly disgusting. I have supported a few in WINZ offices.

  7. @Trevor29 It seems like a good idea, but we don’t want to build another set of webpages for smartphone use, smartphones can normal websites and even filter those fat graphics. Also with WINZ site is pretty lean in the areas that are required visiting, actually too lean as these is no help texts to explain the questions asked.

    Most urban centers have free wifi somewhere, the McDonald’s has free wifi
    and so do a lot of libraries. Winz also needs to get it’s Kiosks back up and working (yes, they are still just sitting there in the winz offices turned off – waste of money) Why don’t they just turn those into computers people can use, they know what they did wrong last time and there where a heap of good cheap ways to do it safely put forward. But like a small child who has been burned once doesn’t want to go anywhere hot things again.

    I guess it’s like Google reader, google could not afford the consulting lawyers so they shut the service down.

  8. A suggestion was raised to address the problem of low income people being unable to access government web sites because they didn’t have a phone line and therefore didn’t have internet access. Instead they use prepaid cell phones, but data charges are prohibitive. The suggestion was that government departments create web sites for mobile data access – and pay for the cost of that data. This allows anyone with a cell phone capable of internet access to use the sites even if they have no credit left on their phone. It also gives the departments under discussion good reason to keep the web pages lean, avoiding too much fancy graphics and too many photos which can blow out download times.

    The term used was “Sending Party Pays”.


  9. Since the media turmoil the MSD have accepted errors by Ministry (WK&I staff)- and rightly so. That errors of this type occur typify the attitude of mind and unthinking of the decision makers, or at least decision making that dis-respetcs the applicant (beneficiary) and their needs.
    In the past nappies were not regarded by accepted bo over zealous case managers or supermarket tellers.
    FACE is still a recognised term, but not fully regarded without the likes of organisations like that I work in..namely the Benefit Rights vService, Wellington. We have assisted over 500 clients in the last 12-months.

  10. Good onya Jan, methinks this Tory Govt. are just looking for ways to slash benefits/entitlements.. part of their plan to create an underclass (master & servant mentality they support)

    In regard to ‘drug testing’.. is Paula B. willing to take one of these tests ? I would be interested to see the results of such tests IF they were mandatory for ALL Govt. workers & MPs (not just beneficiaries) more evidence of beneficiary BASHING !


  11. It would be hard to quantify, but I have heard that it has been estimated that the savings made from beneficiaries not accessing their full entitlements (through misinformation, deliberate blocking and ignorance) would be a sum far greater than the losses incurred through fraud.

  12. We have politicians. Not statesmen / women. There is a difference.
    Even if the news is not good there is a right and wrong way of deliverance.
    Perhaps future “representatives”, irrespective of party, need to be scrutinised as to their respective levels of plain old good manners.

  13. The term “full and correct entitlement” is still used by MSD.

    When you read news stories about people who don’t have enough money, charities who talk about demand for food parcels, kids without shoes etc this is a direct result of low income earners not receiving their full and correct entitlement.

    This occurs when:
    – there is a lack of advocacy services in their area (funding has been extensively cut…saving more money but putting people at risk)
    – doctors make the decision that a client won’t be able to claim an essential cost. This is because doctors are not trained in benefit advocacy, they are trained in medicine and health care. Disabled people are shown in MSD’s own research to be more likely than any other group to be in debt.
    – MSD staff are obstructive. Sometimes just being able to make an application in the first place is a great achievement
    – clients (temporary or otherwise) not knowing their rights under welfare law. Again this is where advocacy groups can help but this comes back to funding.

  14. I have seen this kind of thing too where the minister says one thing and then the office staff do the opposite.

    There seems to be a real disconnect between what the Minister thinks is going on and what really is going on.

    This National Govt is committing so many human rights abuses on the beneficiaries it’s bloody criminal.

  15. photonz1: As someone who has had the misfortune of dealing with WINZ, I think you need to realise it’s not just this specific case that concerns people. It’s the fact this is just one example so many cases of WINZ staff getting it wrong. And when they get things wrong, more often that not it results in really horrible cases like this where people suffer simply because the WINZ staffer that caused their hardship didn’t know any better. I’ve personally experienced some really shocking service from WINZ (one of which I was forced to lodge a formal complaint to WINZ in order to get someone to follow up on a missing $2,000 payment; and I am currently, on a separate issue, challenging a WINZ decision due to a staffer’s misinterpretation of WINZ’s policies) and I know of many other even more shocking stories. I don’t blame WINZ staff (the morale at my local office is pretty bad with very high turnover) however the Minister has a reponsibility to ensure that WINZ’s client get the best possible service.

  16. When I worked for the Dept. of Social Welfare years ago the negative attitudes of the benefit staff toward their clients were widely held and well known. They were (and are now) supposed to be trained to be impartial and work by the regulations – but you can’t train people out of prejudice, especially if their ‘masters’ give voice to theirs.

  17. photo, you would not think it “minor” if there was blood running down yOur leg. You really are an …

  18. One person as work and income got a minor fact wrong, and it’s suddenly newsworthy.

    It’s just another case of people trying to make headlines out of minutiae.

    Tens of thousands of people got things wrong today. I got told there were no football boots left in the size I wanted, but the shop assistant was wrong.

    Should I call Campbell Live and get my MP to complain about it?

  19. is this a bad joke from Work and income? tempons and sanitary pads are luxuries !? has NZ become third (or fourth)world country?

    Maybe all those women should go to use work and income’s toilets when they are having their periods and leave all bloody wastes in their toilets?
    I again am speechless towards this madness from Key govt and all his smart ministers…GSNZ!

  20. I echo the sentiments of greenfly. Has it come to the state where the welfare of our low income population is discussed on tweets? I am appalled that the minister does not have the courage to make a definite statement overruling this ridiculous decision. Perhaps this government would like to place all needy females on a drug regime which would do away with monthly periods and also make them unable to conceive. That would ensure the ‘perfect children’ of wealthier parents (mentioned in a previous blog) would be able to take over the world.

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