Enough to live on?

Paula Bennett reckons people have enough to live on, and is trucking out averages as if it proves something, but on the ground, it’s not enough. Here’s some of the stories I’m hearing:

A woman moved from out west to South Auckland because she’d found a house that met her needs for $100 less a week. Work and Income cut her temporary assistance and accommodation supplement. This woman had, after going through budgeting advice, $60pw to spend after rent and power.

People are becoming homeless after having their benefit sanctioned. If they can’t get their benefit reinstated so they can pay their rent within three weeks their landowners are entitled to evict them. Even if they don’t they then have a significant debt which makes it harder to keep up their rent payments.

This also now means property managers are increasingly reluctant to rent to people receiving income support as there is no longer even a guarantee of that basic income.

I met a woman who was currently staying with her mother and one other adult and three children in a two bedroom property. That’s 6 people in a 2 bedroom place. She has a reduced benefit already from paying off previous advances for essentials and said Work and Income don’t want to put her further into debt by advancing her money for a bond and rent in advance for a private rental, so she is waiting for a Housing New Zealand property. Housing NZ have her on the waiting list but have not given any indication of how long the wait might be. She is only deemed moderately urgent.

The woman I spoke to was having to go and provide (again) a birth certificate for her 4-year-old. Her childcare subsidy was cut because Work and Income didn’t have the birth certificate on file. This created a further debt, to the kindy, that she will have to try and pay off, again making it harder for her to survive in Auckland with such high rents.

I heard of another woman who, on release from hospital for a mental illness (before she felt ready) was sent to her sister’s and the number of people there was too overwhelming for her so she ending up living in her car until she got sick again and is now in respite care. She has been told she’s not eligible for a Housing NZ property because, despite being so recently released from hospital, she has been put on a jobseeker allowance.

People go to Work and Income with a property that will meet their needs that is within the average price range and they’re told it’s too expensive and Work and Income won’t support them to live there so they have to continue couch surfing and searching, which also costs money.

Shelter is a basic human need and this Government is failing to ensure adequate housing for all.

18 Comments Posted

  1. I know a 32 year old sufferer of schizophrenia who is unable to get accommodation. The government agencies play a nasty game in pretending that they support such an individual to find accommodation, but in fact they do not.

    They neither offer enough money to help such a person afford market rates, nor will they help him find properties that will be affordable on the income they give him, nor will they offer him a state house (or state flat, or state portacom, or state tent or state anything). They say it is up to him to “engage with the process”. ie: keep smiling, keep waiting, keep living on the streets.

    The result is very much like the recent situation in Ashburton – a desperate male living on the streets, stateless and alone – and as a result posing an unnecessary risk to the public. It is to Paula Bennetts eternal shame that WINZ trespassed such a needy individual – especially after he had made such extensive efforts to reach out to a variety of government departments to access reasonable help.

    Having a home is a basic need of every human – most especially the damaged ones who are no longer able to cope.

    I do not understand how we can have a system of “private property rights” that allows land to become a personal asset, at the expense of the greater good. Where does a poor person go when all of the land around them is gated, fenced and protected by a barrier of high rent?? Pitch a tent by the riverbank?

    it is time our government addressed the need for state-run trailer parks and housing projects to mop up all of those who are currently existing on the streets, under bridges, and in substandard garages. We don’t need expensive 3 bedroom insulated fancy dwellings – we just need somewhere cheap and safe that the poor and disenfranchised can put down some roots.

  2. Two themes seem to be running now…. One a concern of where money comes from and why some have enough (and thus can pay taxes with ease) where as others can not and the other the nature of our legislation pertaining to social welfare.
    As for money, well what a question. Clearly it is form of measure of what we produce, and then taxation/spending by the state is just one of the ways that production is re-distributed. Land rents, share-holder dividends, wages are all other forms of re-distribution. How “fair” these distribution systems are is a debate that probably has no final correct answer, and it also assumes the owners of the production being re-distributed are the legitimate owners to begin with. If people are saying wealth/income is unfairly (or too unevenly) distributed resulting in too few having sufficient to pay taxes, and too few have sufficient paid work; then I agree. Our current systems of distribution do produce unfair outcomes.
    As for re-framing the Social Security Act, many have tried to do this, and some are doing it. I could send folks all the submissions prepared over the years opposing/welcoming parts of the reforms. But as a point of first principle, I would start from the stance that we are all citizens, and all deserve/need the same starting point. Without this we cement in the deformities of the market discussed in regards the first theme.

  3. BJ
    My problem is the way legislation and regulations have to be formulated. It would be impossible to have them cover every possible permutation of situation that a beneficiary may present to WINZ with, so how do you get to the point where there are no anomalies?
    For instance, if you were in Twizel and talked about the ‘average’ rental for a 2 bedroom dwelling, you would probably be talking about 5% below the top and 5% above the bottom. However, in Auckland you might be talking about 12 times the bottom and 1% of the top. If you a have to administer a regulation that states something like “rent support applications must be for a reasonable amount,” in the Twizel situation average would be reasonable, but inh the Auckland scenario it would be difficult to say the average was reasonable.

    So how would a Green Party government resolve this situation?

  4. I wonder why it is that so many people consider there are two lots of money in New Zealand
    1 The government money, for them to dole out as they wish.
    2 The taxpayers money which most people hate to see wasted on bludgers.

    The government has NO money, any money in the government bank is taxpayers money. The citizens of NZ pay taxes on wages, interest and GST and that money is what some of you call the government money.

    Someone wrote of less than 2 million paying taxes to run the country, and someone else spoke of free education and free health. There is no such thing, education and health are paid for from the taxes drawn from the citizens. Nothing is free. It all comes from taxation.

    Sadly those who earn the most pay the least tax because those on high salaries can afford to pay an accountant to put their money into trusts etc where they can legally avoid tax. The guy on a low wage has his money taxed at source.

    The better off can pay their rates, phone bills, power bills etc via the net. Those who live day to day often do not own a computer, they pay over the counter at the Post shop. Now they are to be penalized for this and made to pay a fee for ‘over the counter transactions’.

    Those with jobs which take them overseas are allowed to keep the air points that accrue, they are not taxed on these, so that is extra in their purses at the end of the year and means they can take their kids to Disneyland et al, without paying a cent.

    Many low income people do not apply, often do not know how to apply, for certain child benefits, every poor person is not necessarily a thief or a bludger and there are are rich people who become poor over night often through no fault of their own.

    I put a sensible post on earlier and it has earned ‘dislike’ from three people, are they the kind who are in the lifeboat a beggar those still struggling in the raging sea.

    Shame on you New Zealanders who, have plenty, and despise the poor.

  5. I have just checked on entitlements of a someone on Sole Parent Support ($299), in Auckland with one child (FTC $92 assuming not a teen),…. to get to 560, s/he would have to be paying 310 a week rent, and this would generate an Accommodation Supplement of 149, and Temporary Additional of 18.
    I will leave o more judgmental folk to argue whether 250 is sufficient to meet all other costs…

  6. Well we on average, a sole parent with one child living in Auckland gets about 560 dollars a week. So that’s the average. A lot get a lot more than that, not many get below that to be quite frank

    Does anyone else here see just how wrong this is? HOW THE F*#! can she truthfully use those words and then get that as an AVERAGE?

    “A lot get a lot more than that”… to achieve that as an average then, an EQUAL number have to get a lot less, or a MUCH GREATER number have to get a little less… but “not many get below that”… and the reporter didn’t call her on it, and nobody here has a crap detector with the needle wrapped around the peg yet?


    Describing Ms Bennett as “dishonest” does a disservice to gangsters everywhere.


    Dave… c’mon mate. If you elect Greens you’re going to get something very different in terms of WINZ. VERY different… but this particular bit of sniping however, is not speaking to the problem at all.


    Mike – Rosetta won’t (I think) see your comment. Facebook connection is only one way. To respond to her on facebook you have to go through the facebook response. Comments in the blog proper don’t get reflected up AFAIK.


    Mike – Don’t see/understand how you are differentiating between the government and the taxpayers exactly. We are the ones who pay, and it is through government we pay, so that is what happens no matter how it is actually done, and we ARE going to pay eventually.

    In the end we, as a society, have to either do or not do. If we do NOT do something to supply housing we will have people homeless and that through no fault of their own. There-but-for-the-grace-of-god is the usual phrase.

    This is particularly cruel for the children of the unfortunate.

    Given what has been done to our economic system over the past 30 years, the likelihood of the poorest being able to pay their own way in ANY way is diminished and still diminishing. We are quickly transforming ourselves into a third world economy. This is the path of least resistance and so Key is finding it easy to guide us along to the killing chute.

    So we lower the taxes that the wealthiest pay, refuse to tax their privileged sources of income and attempt to balance the books by giving the most vulnerable people in the society even less assistance than we used to.

    If I were attempting to develop a large class of no-hope criminals I doubt I could come up with a better scheme for destroying lives and removing opportunities. If I were working towards fostering active revolt against the government and class warfare, I doubt I would be able to improve on this.

    Which is why we are going to eventually pay for housing them, prison cells however, are more expensive than normal housing… and if they decline to go peacefully (why should they?) the expenses are squared and cubed.

    One asks, yet again, who this government is actually working FOR, because the people of New Zealand certainly are not getting their money’s worth from most of them.


  7. In regards Mike’s question from where do benefits come from. Parliament has a piece of legislation, called the Social Security Act. It describes the entitlements certain citizens/residents can get.
    Ensuring public servants follow the law is fundamental to any civil society….. I am all for a decent civil society.
    Citizens/residents have rights and responsibilities – including paying their income – and if they wish to have a particular “benefit” paid to them in accordance with the Social Security Act, then they have certain obligations as well as “entitlements”.
    As for wealth generation, access to “free” education, and co-paid (that is where people and the state contribute to the costs) education (and health) it seems to me that the NZ government has lost the plot, with as a result a lack of investment in education, a significant incomes gap partly as a result of an under-educated mass resulting in fewer people actually able to contribute to the tax take.
    Time for a change methinks in government….

  8. At present 168,000 taxpayers pay over 90% of private collected tax.
    When is enough enough?

    I do not have the data to hand but I expect that is income tax. Taking GST and charges for things that are “free” like schooling and health care would change that picture drastically.

    Is it the Government’s job to house everyone who can’t get housing or Is it the job and responsibility of taxpayers (those who do pay tax) to house everyone, even those who can’t pay their way?

    Yes. What sort of society do you want to live in? How will you protect yourself against desperate people with no hope and nothing to loose?

    The fundamental problem with all of this is two fold. (1) NZ does not generate enough wealth. Agriculture will not cut it. We are straining at the limits of what we can produce and we cannot support a developed economy into the future with milk solids, wool and meat carcases. (2) The wealth we do have is not properly shared. Too much goes to the owners of capital and too little to those who work.


  9. I agree, our advocacy service is run of its feet. We have examples of “no appointments” for hardship, while at the same testing the work preparations of a solo mothers with toddlers aged one, and those on equivalent of the old Invalids Benefit with incurable conditions on a regular basis.
    Then, when they sanction people, re-compliance activities can not be provided, hence weeks unlawfully of a half-rate of benefit (offering to re-comply should immediately see the full benefit reinstated, but…)
    The system is crazed and dysfunctional.
    It also worth noting the price increases of food, accommodation and electricity far exceed the general CPI, presumably because expensive cars are not increasing hence the CPI average….


  10. Rosetta
    I am interested, do you consider your benefit to be from someone else’s paid tax or your entitlement as a citizen?

  11. So, let me get this straight: “trucking out averages as if it proves something” is OK when one is a Green Party MP discussing pay equality, but not when one is a government minister discussing enough to live on.

  12. So Jan,
    Are you saying that, if appointed Minister, you would personally review every benefit claim and determine what amount should be paid?

  13. All of this rings true, but the plural of anecdote is not data, which means this is going to get shot down as soon as I share it on social media (so I won’t, even though I think the core message is important).

    Putting some real numbers behind the “not many” in PB’s quote that:

    “Well we on average, a sole parent with one child living in Auckland gets about 560 dollars a week. So that’s the average. A lot get a lot more than that, not many get below that…”

    would make this a lot more shareable, *especially* with links to the children’s commissioner’s report, and case studies from overseas that show the positive fiscal outcomes of properly supporting the poor.

    So close to an election, lists of anecdotal conversations aren’t going to sway any of the people I know, but forcing people to ask of the government’s policies “where is this working” and being able to show the answer is “nowhere” is more work but vastly more useful.

  14. Take a tradesman with a job, wife and kids, they get an allowance for their kids. He is good upright citizen, well respected, he works, pays taxes. His company closes down on Friday night puts all its workers out of work. The following Friday he applies for the dole. Now the miracle happens. This man and his wife and kids are now dole bludgers, druggies, gamblers, no hopers, a drain on the nation. Or at least that is what right wingers would have us believe and most of the media owned by either an Australian millionaire or an Irish one (not sure of this bit).
    So if you are lucky enough to have a job, you are a good Kiwi, if fate throws you a googly and your firm goes bust, you need help. But look at the label you have to wear and look how your kids are no longer eligible for some welfare grants.
    It is a case of divide and rule, and seems to be working bang on in Godzone.

  15. Ms Bennett knows that getting rid of the ‘welfare net’ is a ‘no,no’ BUT beneficiary bashing is the ‘flip side of the coin’ & it is a populous thing with the extreme right (Key-Party) !
    Role on 21/9 & hopefully Paula & co. will be joining the queue at winz ?

    kia ora Jan

  16. I’ve been thinking about this a lot as I too know of cases here where people are in dire need or have had horrific experiences with work and Income, which is an ironic name to my mind.

    The change over from HNZ to MBIE has been catastrophic for so many people as well, it seems the “thinking things through” part of management and forecasting wasn’t adhered to at WINZ, HNZ and MBIE at all with this change over.

    Plus it seems that instead of saying “we are overwhelmed and can’t help you” they just stuff people around by not getting back to them and leave them hanging in the wind.

    That said, what I’ve been thinking is:….
    Is it the Government’s job to house everyone who can’t get housing or Is it the job and responsibility of taxpayers (those who do pay tax) to house everyone, even those who can’t pay their way?

    You see, it seems to me that whenever there is a problem the cry is “It’s the governments job to fix it”
    The Govt has taken the place of the family and friends and what not.

    I don’t agree with that, nor the ever increasing calls for “the govt to fix it” (read pay for it) because that in reality means more tax on fewer people for those who don’t pay tax.

    At present 168,000 taxpayers pay over 90% of private collected tax.
    When is enough enough?

    so whilst I am well aware of the grief there is out there in the community I am also aware of the dehumanising and dare I say it, abuse (in the form of emotional blackmail – “pay your share”) against those of us who are paying tax and are hearing calls for our hard earned savings to be taxed more and more of our after tax earnings to be taken off of us.

    For the truth is, there can never be enough can there?
    and it’s so easy to spend other peoples money (OPM).

    When I see the Socialistas of this world, really getting to the so called rich pricks who do avoid tax by doing away with the tax shelters and trusts (that includes GREEN MP’s too) and when Google etc are paying 28% on their earnings, then and only then will I think about changing my position on this. Mike

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