International Day for Eradicating of Poverty

Today I asked Paula Bennet what she will do to ensure beneficiaries are able to get their legal entitlements.

I mentioned just three examples that are symbolic of what community advocates have told us is symptomatic of a culture of blame and suspicion that make it “near impossible for people to recieve the assistance they’re are entitled to.”

The Minister took a few different angles in her response:

1) she said it’s not a large problem yet she’s not willing to back this statement by a comprehensive review.
Part of the problem with the statistics is we are hearing an increasing number of stories about people being told no with no paper trail. So these cases doesn’t show up in the statistics.

There are also very significant problems with the complexity of the legislation and the legalistic appeal process that is completly skewed in favour of the government. Imagine you have a neurological condition or an anxiety disorder, or very poor English… and to challenge a decision you need to take on the Department and their lawyers.

For people appealing decisions related to health conditions, the only option they have is to go to the Medical Appeal Board, made up of three medical people appointed by the Ministry who may over rule their GP or specialists opinion without having any specialisation or particular knowledge of that condition. Beyond that you need a judicial review.

2) she suggested I should send these cases to her, implying I don’t really care about these people. These people have got assistance. The issue I was raising was that these decisions happened in the first place. I worry for the thousands of others who don’t know they can challenge the decisions or don’t have assistance to do it. Last month Auckland Action Against poverty helped over 250 people in just three days. All the anecdotal evidence is telling us there is a very real and increasing problem. The Minister needs to do a comprehensive audit to disprove this.

2) she didn’t believe the last example which tells me she needs to get out there and listen to more people in the community .While I find each of these examples shocking, I have heard so many shocking stories now that they no longer surprise me. Her job is in large part to deliver social security assistance to those who need it and she can talk all she likes about the wrap around services but if people are not getting their legal entitlements/help when they need it she is failing in her duty to the most vulnerable.

5 Comments Posted

  1. Bennet doesn’t want to know, she doesn’t want to change her directions (cut, more cuts and deprive beneficiaries..)she needs to follow her boss Key govt’s general instruction which is to screw the poor and the most vulnerables in our country. They want to show the after all cuts statistics to fool the public that govt has done a great job on saving money.

    Transport agency boasting about lower road toll; the truth is who can afford road trips during holidays nowadays? we used to see traffice jams on long weekends, holidays because peole actually did go away for fun…not any more- if so many have problem feeding their family…
    There are so many other manipulated therefore sounding good statistics this govt used to fool the public to make us believe Nat govt is doing a good job when all real facts will tell otherwise, i can write a book about all their lies if I want to

  2. Great work in the House the other day, Jan!

    I can almost totally support what Graham Howell commented above! The whole medical and work capability assessment system has been set up to clearly allow MSD and WINZ to keep the upper hand in each case.

    Official information someone obtained, who I know and trust, shows that only few of these Health and Disability Advisors they have placed in the various Regional Offices, do have up to date and appropriate medical qualifications. Some are nurses, many not even registered, others are all sorts of persons with some “health qualifications”, that though can be anything from a 1 to 2 year study course, to a proper degree. Some are former teachers, counsellors, nurse aids and whatever.

    As far as I can see, only their highly controversial Principal Health Advisor, David Bratt, has a GP qualification. He is the top guy who trains, advises and manages the regional advisors, and he and his staff also give “advice” and “guidance” to the various “designated doctors” that WINZ use. On the Medical Appeal Board (now called ‘Medical Board’) they tend to always have at least 2 WINZ designated doctor sit on the panel of 3, and ALL are appointed by a Coordinator that is a Ministry staff member.

    The new approach to look rather at what a person “can” do, rather than what the person “cannot do” has turned the whole assessment regime upside down, pressuring sick and disabled to basically prove they cannot work, to get any benefit for health reasons. Most struggle with that, as even common GPs (also non designated doctors) do now get “trained” and instructed to follow the WINZ approach.

    There is no appeal after an MAB decision, only judicial review if it can be proved their decision is wrong “in law”.

    And with assessments, they now not only look at the medical information, they have set up a system, that makes it near impossible for anyone, to claim, they cannot do any work. I have heard of cases, where they argued, well, the person could do (hypothetical) work in sitting, if functioning legs, arms, back or so are an issue.

    What is most appalling is recent news I heard, that some advocates out in West Auckland have been harassed by WINZ security guards, while just handing out leaflets with information for clients outside!

    We are nearing conditions that are common in an authoritarian state here!

    Also of interest should be this blog by Chris Trotter:

  3. @Send cases to her. That would be the same minister who already disclosed confidential government information about people who complained about their entitlements. Or perhaps now we’ve got so much government sharing of our information the minister could just have the police or inland revenue have a closer look at them.

    Maybe even get the spies onto looking into their personal contacts, extended families and so on, just in case they’re terrorists or something.

    And yeh, anxiety and depression, good luck even getting help in the first place, let alone when serious people in suits are questioning your needs. Someone should do some sums for adults without any apparent means of support, latest census and all.

  4. Great work Jan,
    Most MAB hearings occur because MSD staff called Regional Health Advisors or Regional Disability Advisors make “recommendations” about someone’s work capacity….
    But, many RHA and RDA have no medical qualifications, and those that do have medical qualifications are at best nurses who have not been employed as a nurse for years…..
    Case managers almost always accept the “recommendation” which is counter to the opinion of the beneficiary’s GP or specialist. Hand-picked GPs, known as a “designated doctor” then have a 10-minute appointment with the beneficiary and often without the individual’s medical file say a person with significant health issues can work, despite years of evidence to the contrary. Then comes the MAB. Many MAB seek to “diagnose” or comment on “treatment plans when” this is not there lawful role.
    The RDA and RHA also inter-fear with treatment plans when they exclude items from what is called a Disability Allowance. The DA reimburses costs of treatment plans for on-going health issues, and the most common problem is excluding the costs of non-Pharmac medicines when the fully subsidized Pharmac medicines cause negative side effects. These DA decisions, however, do not get to be reviewed by a MAB, but a committee made up two Wk&I staff and a community rep, often months after the decision to exclude is made. Result – hospitalisation due to the person not being able to afford the treatment recommended by GP or specialist.
    Paula is well aware of this nonsense!!!!

  5. With increased prices in insurance, beneficiaries really can’t afford it anymore. The average benefit is about $11,000/ annum. With basic combined insurance of personal, 3rd party car and house it comes to about 11% of that income – what person on a basic benefit could afford that? There’s a lot of people on a basic wage as well, and basic cover would be about 7-8% of their income.

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