Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: On benefit fraud

103 Responses

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  • mark taslov, in reply to andin,

    That moral high horse really is getting to be a tired old nag.

    That moral high horse has a tendency to vaporise at altitude. A decade and a half ago I was working part time and receiving a benefit. My wage wasn’t regular and when I was paid over the threshold I called WINZ, knowing that based on projected earnings not reporting would make me liable for around $500 p/a.

    Despite my insistence, I was told not to worry about, and the next time told to stop bothering them about it. Apparently regularly recalculating my benefit was deemed more trouble that it was worth.

    Piu Turei benefitting from a few bucks extra? meh.

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2122 posts Report Reply

  • peter mclennan,

    Universal Basic Income would definitely stop all this penny-ante nonsense.

    AK Central • Since Nov 2006 • 159 posts Report Reply

  • weka, in reply to Katharine Moody,

    but then what it did do was free people up to make their own life decisions.

    It would do that for some people. Others would be pushed into worse poverty, and have less autonomy and self-determination. That's not a universal scheme.

    I'm not sure there are many other policy answers to a UBI.

    At the moment we are using a very dysfunctional, monkey-wrenched welfare system. I'd like to see that put right first, structurally and culturally. Trying to build a UBI out of the mess we have now is fraught (hence the problems intrinsic to TBK). I like the idea of a UBI, but it really comes down to how it is designed. I'd prefer to see it designed by people with social justice in mind rather than economics first.

    Since Dec 2014 • 17 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to weka,

    At the moment we are using a very dysfunctional, monkey-wrenched welfare system. I’d like to see that put right first, structurally and culturally.

    Agree with that too - do you think the Green's proposal comes close to what is needed?

    Palmerston North • Since Sep 2014 • 760 posts Report Reply

  • Dennis Frank,

    There are WINZ employees who do a good job, then there are some who stuff up the lives of their clients due to their incompetence (normally blame the system), and those who get a reputation as Welfare Nazis may even be using the bureaucracy to discriminate against their clients. The whole department ought to be disestablished via switching to a suitable UBI. No leftist party with sufficient courage currently.

    Re giving the rich an unnecessary payment, a suitable design for UBI could negate that criticism by defining it as a universal entitlement based on citizenship and adulthood, but including the right for the government to withold it from those who don't actually need it. The deciding criterion would be income from paid employment above the current cost of living, utilising the currently popular concept of a living wage. A bureaucracy would still be necessary to administer it, but smaller, and with a simpler job to do.

    New Zealand • Since Jun 2016 • 153 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Helga,

    I was standing exhaustedly ironing one day when I was on the DPB and on the radio was Parliament, and there was my PM Rob Muldoon declaring that women on the DPB who took money under the table were worse than tax evaders.
    These were the days when my neighbours were encouraged to snitch if men stayed too many nights with me, and when mortgage interest rates were capped, but not mine because I'd owned a house with my husband and couldn't get an institutional loan - mine was 19%.
    I didn't take Muldoon's assessment of me and my kind - I knew I wasn't trash as he implied - but it was mighty memorable.

    Has the IRD ever promoted dobbing in tax cheats as widely as dobbing in benefit fraud has? I remember under the Shipley Govt, the "Benefit fraud. It's a crime" and ACC's "someone else's money" TV adverts were frequently promoted.

    And it sounds like WINZ's culture of punitivity goes back long before Christine Rankin became its CEO. In any case, the time seems right to rethink the existing orthodoxy, now that the Great Recession and acts like Theresa May's effective bribe to the DUP have made a complete mockery of the austerity mantra.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5328 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to weka,

    I like the idea of a UBI, but it really comes down to how it is designed. I’d prefer to see it designed by people with social justice in mind rather than economics first.

    Economics, isn’t actually a bad place to start, when the economics is fair.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3865 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to peter mclennan,

    It’s quite exciting how popular the idea of a UBI has become even in the last year. Of course a major problem is how to do top ups for those who need a bit more than the basic UBI. I wrote about the UBI after Guy Standing visited last year. I suggested then – and still believe – that there is a great deal of expertise out there to be harnessed from those who have navigated the welfare system. Collectively we could sort out the issues around fair top ups to a UBI.

    https://publicaddress.net/access/the-universal-basic-income-and-its-implications/

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3110 posts Report Reply

  • weka, in reply to Katharine Moody,

    Agree with that too - do you think the Green's proposal comes close to what is needed?

    I think their general Income Support policy along with the announcement on the weekend is very good in terms of addressing the changes that need to happen in the culture, the structure, and the income rates at WINZ. They also want to take the UBI to the country and investigate whether it's a good idea. Given the social intelligence displayed by Turei on Sunday, these are the people I'd want in charge of this stuff.

    Since Dec 2014 • 17 posts Report Reply

  • weka, in reply to Dennis Frank,

    Re giving the rich an unnecessary payment, a suitable design for UBI could negate that criticism by defining it as a universal entitlement based on citizenship and adulthood, but including the right for the government to withold it from those who don't actually need it.

    Some UBI models balance this out by having a higher tax rate for people on higher incomes i.e. they don't literally get the extra $ in their bank account. But if for any reason their income drops, then like everyone else they have a universal entitlement and the UBI comes to them without fuss. It's administered by IRD.

    Since Dec 2014 • 17 posts Report Reply

  • weka, in reply to Dennis Frank,

    The whole department ought to be disestablished via switching to a suitable UBI

    We will always need welfare because not everyone's income needs or abilities are the same. And that necessitates an administering department. I'd be ok with dismantling WINZ if it were replaced by a smaller Dept of Social Welfare and a socially designed UBI.

    Since Dec 2014 • 17 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    Of course a major problem is how to do top ups for those who need a bit more than the basic UBI.

    Once upon a time, before the age of user pays...

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3865 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to weka,

    Given the social intelligence displayed by Turei on Sunday, these are the people I’d want in charge of this stuff.

    You know what, my intuition or as they say in Iceland 'inn saei' tells me it's a little fuck all, a little late. The announcement gave me a sugar rush, and I've now crashed back down to my cynical baseline. Are we so close to another election, that the glossy pamphlet party's, are leading from behind the polls?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3865 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to steven crawford,

    Agreed that there needed to be more actual opposition from the Opposition this last couple of terms, but the Greens have consistently done more than Labour there, and you'd be hard pressed to conclude they're as baselessly poll-driven as either National or Labour. On balance, the Greens, having put in more work, should be in charge of social policy; the practical question (given the most likely range of election outcomes) is whether Winston First would allow that.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1751 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    while now WINZ feels like weaponised war on the poor.

    Chris Trotter describes it as an "Empire of cruelty" and, having had some interaction with them in the last year I can see why. I did OK - for reasons to do with race and privilege - but even then, after being employed for a six months I got a letter from section of WINZ or another demanding repayment of $200. I knew they were in the wrong. I had carefully ensured my benefit ended exactly when it should of and I had the bank payments to prove it. I couldn't be bothered going through the rigmarole of fighting them, so I just coughed up. The sooner tey are out of my life the better, I reasoned.

    But the atmosphere of the average WINZ office lingers. They are not places of social security, where sympathetic staff help the worst dregs, the down and out, the defeated, the sick, halt and lame, the temporarily embarassed and the middle class redundancy victims. They were places of colonial administration of a class of people all branded indolent and hopeless . Like all colonial officers they were protected by security guards, the state as an occupation administration of it's own people. And like all colonial governments, the cruelty was casual, normalised, and in the best interests of the natives.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2136 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Benefit levels were quite deliberately set below subsistence level.

    Still at this level, right (or is that just without kids)? Labour never reversed Richardson's benefit cuts, and still haven't promised to.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3185 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to linger,

    Agreed that there needed to be more actual opposition from the Opposition this last couple of terms, but the Greens have consistently done more than Labour there, and you’d be hard pressed to conclude they’re as baselessly poll-driven as either National or Labour. On balance, the Greens, having put in more work, should be in charge of social policy; the practical question (given the most likely range of election outcomes) is whether Winston First would allow that.

    I have considered grudgingly going into the polling booth and voting for the Greens, becouse there isn’t a lot of alternative. I looked at the Greens web sight, but only the parts I’m entitled to look at without formally setting up an account. So I could only see there highlighted “social policy’s”. I couldn’t see there disability policy, and there’s no public health policy’s to address things like addictions and depression, that I could find. There is, at first glance, wall to wall advertising about “The housing crisis!”. And I note the use of green love harts all over the place. It appears, which I suppose is important, that the Greens are lovely people.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3865 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to linger,

    To be fair there has been a lot of opposition this term, but much of it happens in Parliament and not many people are watching.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3110 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    Yes that’s true. Like local body mayors, the opposition doesn’t have a lot of power, but they do have the privileged platforms from which to speak. Some use that to generate race hate, some bring people together and some squander the opportunity/responsibility. The previous mayor of Wellington was absolutely positivly invisible.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3865 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    an “Empire of cruelty” and, having had some interaction with them in the last year I can see why.

    Absolutely, as if inflicting trauma in the community must be an unavoidable byproduct of dispensing assistance.

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2122 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    To be fair there has been a lot of opposition this term, but much of it happens in Parliament and not many people are watching.

    If it is not competently publicised, it didn't happen.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19413 posts Report Reply

  • WaterDragon,

    As I watch the somewhat predictable cries of "pay it back now" from those with too much moral outrage on their hands, I keep thinking that they really have no idea. How exactly is this magical mythical amount to be instantly calculated?
    It is far more likely that the presence of occasional flatmates would result in a diminution of the weekly benefit, not a total loss of benefit. So there would still have been some entitlement. Now W&I systems are mind-bogglingly Byzantine, and they have complex mathematical formulae to apply to virtually everything- accommodation supplement springs to mind as one of their more straightforward examples.
    There would be all sorts of complex calculations to be made, then probably challenged at benefit review, as not every W&I operative gets things absolutely right, and the amount owed as calculated by them could well require adjustment and possibly re-re adjustment.
    Meteria Turei is sensible to await what the functionaries of W&I have to say about amounts. If they do come up with a figure, she will do many other beneficiaries a favour if she has some of the excellent benefit advocates to check out their determinations, and perhaps challenges it. It will encourage others to hold them to account.

    Behind you • Since Jul 2011 • 62 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to WaterDragon,

    How exactly is this magical mythical amount to be instantly calculated?

    As a victim of the system, I have no doubt that MSD have a formula ready at hand. Bastids.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2812 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to nzlemming,

    As a victim of the system, I have no doubt that MSD have a formula ready at hand. Bastids.

    Oh, they have a formula all right "your money. Hand it over. Fuck you".

    I'm not sure I have the order of phrases exactly right, though.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1032 posts Report Reply

  • Moz,

    In Australia some wonk did the numbers and came up with a very detailed explanation, but in short: if every single person getting a non-pension benefit was actually entitled to nothing at all, the level of fraud involved would still be less than the amount of tax fraud detected.

    That's something to keep in mind, and ideally in the headlines, whenever the topic of benefit fraud comes up. Doesn't stop fraud being committed against beneficiaries by the government, as the ongoing "Centrelink Debt recovery" scam/scandal here shows.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1032 posts Report Reply

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