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.