Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Who's Dreaming Now?

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  • Emma Hart,

    I spent about 1 or 2 months on the dole after I left university and was made to feel like a criminal.

    From what I've seen through friends, there doesn't appear to have been any kind of culture change. It's an adversarial system: the basic assumption is that every single person who comes through the door is trying to rip them off. Nobody would tell you what you were entitled to, you had to already know.

    You do get some great people working there, but they also rotate your case workers, so you don't build up a rapport or end up working with someone who actually knows your case. We needed to transition from a UB in my partner's name to a Sickness Benefit under mine, which couldn't be done, so our case-worker paid us manually for a few weeks.

    A couple of months later we got a letter saying we'd been overpaid X thousand dollars, and they'd already started taking it back out of our bank accounts. We had to wait for what was now our ex-case-worker to get back from holiday to sort it out, by which time WINZ had quite simply stolen a couple of hundred dollars from us. There'd been no investigation, there were simply payments they didn't understand, so they took the money back.

    Because the cost to society of letting people fall through the cracks is *much* greater than the cost of supporting a few people who are lazy.

    QFT. And I think they know that, it's simply that the ideology is more important than the end result.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    Great posts. Thanks.

    I was constantly being sent multiple copies of letters with contradictory messages

    Still get this- and some of the 'feeling like a criminal'- just in relation to an after-school-programme subsidy. But have also dealt with good, friendly helpful people at WINZ, too.
    And another vote for not getting too antsy-pantsy about some people living long-term on the dole. A small proportion of us choosing to live on barely subsistance $ - thus staying a little outside the mass of society- can be a good thing.
    Offers a different perspective. Allows time for productivity that's not counted in GDP- of thoughts, arts, crafts, gardening, families and community work.
    Wouldn't downplay the risks of inter-generational dependency and the way poverty can eat away self-esteem and general well-being. People who want paid work should be helped to find it.
    But if there's a small number of people who can 'live the(ir) dream' on a pittance, I don't mind subsiding them for a while. It's not like they're costing the country big-time- unlike these hoons.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2090 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    I was constantly being sent multiple copies of letters with contradictory messages

    Man, you never want to be payer of child support then. I have received three different letters on the same day, all saying "because your circumstances have changed, your child support payments have changed". None of them were actually correct.

    I've gotten to the stage now where anything from the child support department of the IRD just goes straight in the filing cabinet. Reading them is just a waste of a couple of minutes.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • jessica scott,

    I think the most surreal WINZ story comes from my husband, who is a musician. He was on and off the UB for years but now makes a living from it. At one stage he was being lectured by his case worker about 'whether there was a future for him in music' only to be interrupted by another case worker who recognised my husband and wanted him to write down the chords of one of his songs for him

    Wellington • Since Mar 2010 • 20 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    the basic assumption is that every single person who comes through the door is trying to rip them off.

    That's the culture of disability support services, and increasingly ACC it seems. Spend more money saying no than it would cost to say yes.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19680 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Stevenson,

    it's simply that the ideology is more important than the end result

    and that is the saddest thing

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 206 posts Report Reply

  • Sharron McKenzie,

    I believe I can anticipate National's next big policy announcement. You want to make people on benefits apply for jobs but there aren't any jobs? Want to mine National Parks but don't want tourists to catch sight of a big nasty open cast eyesore?
    Combine getting people off the DPB with "surgical mining" techniques.
    Issue one shovel and a bucket to each the nation's solo mothers.
    Problem solved ;)

    Since Sep 2009 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • Sam F,

    The Civilian Deforestation Corps.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1609 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Combine getting people off the DPB with "surgical mining" techniques.
    Issue one shovel and a bucket to each the nation's solo mothers.
    Problem solved ;)

    Tzk. That's job creation. National is into getting people out of jobs.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    I was constantly being sent multiple copies of letters with contradictory messages, making it all seem very difficult as to what the 'right thing' to do was.

    My reaction to that situation was to reply to all those letters, asking for confirmation and further details on the history of the correspondence and thanking them for their concern. I also found that writing inter-correspontental acknowledgements apologising for delays in acquiring information to be expedient in the case of ongoing negotiations. If you want to twist the administrative knife a little harder, just reply to a letter they haven't sent you stating that "Time is of the essence".

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    I think the most surreal WINZ story comes from my husband, who is a musician. He was on and off the UB for years but now makes a living from it.

    SEE!!! That's the problem. Giv'em a taste of the goodlife on the dole an' see what ya get???...
    They make a living out of it.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Offers a different perspective. Allows time for productivity that's not counted in GDP- of thoughts, arts, crafts, gardening, families and community work.

    I get what you're saying here, but the people I do know who are long term unemployed don't really seem to have as much spare time as most of the full-timers. Poverty is incredibly stressful and time consuming, because every dollar is a battle. Every purchase needs to be carefully considered. Every random downturn is a disaster - a flat tire on a car can cost you days. You need to travel miles to get good prices on things. You try to fix things that really should be replaced. People assume your time is valueless so they help themselves to it. Stink things happen like utility disconnection, and fines for things you couldn't afford to keep up to date, which take time to sort out.

    But yes, they can get to take care of a lot of things that are neglected by people who work for money.

    Wouldn't downplay the risks of inter-generational dependency and the way poverty can eat away self-esteem and general well-being. People who want paid work should be helped to find it.

    Definitely. And the impoverished need not be so damned poor that they can't afford to seek work.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10630 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams,

    This thread reinforces the incredible collective value of the PAS community.

    Sadly, I don't have anything new to add to the discussion but am genuinely saddened that NZ will repeat the failed policies of Ruth Richardson. The transaction costs will negate any real benefit of this approach, the flood of beneficiaries may displace other workers, will likely depress wagesand simply enable low-wage, low-value added employment to continue... does this deliver a dividend to employers, I don't think so, it's just a race to the bottom.

    Red meat for "hard-working mainstream" New Zillunders too misinformed to realise who's actually dicking them over.

    Sadly, I really can't see any evidence that this isn't entirely true.

    On the Training Incentive Allowance, and sorry for the comparisons with Australia, over this side of the Tasman we've significantly increased funding for training targetted at getting people with low skills and low levels of labour participation into training so that they can get good jobs. We might quibble about the specifics, but the approach and funding make Bennett's approach look all the more parsimonious.

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2273 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    I think the most surreal WINZ story comes from my husband, who is a musician. He was on and off the UB for years but now makes a living from it. At one stage he was being lectured by his case worker about 'whether there was a future for him in music' only to be interrupted by another case worker who recognised my husband and wanted him to write down the chords of one of his songs for him

    I was once sitting in the WINZ office, signing up for the dole (having just finished my last exam), when I was phoned on my cell with a job offer. I'm not sure if the case worker quite believed it, but sure enough, I only got the dole for about 5 weeks.

    I also found that writing inter-correspontental acknowledgements apologising for delays in acquiring information to be expedient in the case of ongoing negotiations.

    Ah see, that's not child support. In child support it's "we have assessed your income, this is how much you pay each fortnight, we have already taken it out of your pay packet". If you try and negotiate its "no it is correct we are not wrong, and even if we are we'll assess that at the end of the year and make an adjustment for you". "All your bases belong to us" ain't got nothing on the child support system.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Life is choc-ful of opportunities...

    The Civilian Deforestation Corps.

    This idea could run and run... though there
    will be the inevitable Forest Grumps!

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7886 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    "All your bases belong to us"

    "All your base are belong to us." Let's be precise.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Seems as good a place as any. Heh. The Aucklander has unearthed information about the region's new CCOs exerting their new powers including exporting water and charging for cemetary visits. Unfortunately it's only mildly satirical. (h/t @librarykris)

    Says Mr Bedar, "Some Aucklanders may be surprised at the extent of the intrusions that the Government, and its agents, are claiming under the guise of reforming local councils.

    "It is also fair to point out that all the community spokespeople — including media such as The Aucklander, the NZ Herald, and smaller suburban newspapers — have voiced their concerns about the process of reforming local government and removing everyday people's voices from the equation.

    "However, the Government continues to ride high in the polls. An independent observer can only assume that Aucklanders don't care what's going to happen, or they're happy to accept whatever John Key and Rodney Hide and Steven Joyce say is good for them."

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19680 posts Report Reply

  • Sam F,

    I thought this was particularly inspired.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1609 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Heh. Especially that last line:

    Kate Wilkinson is Minister of Conservation.

    Is this gubmint already at Sarah Palin levels of self-satire?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19680 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    Is this gubmint already at Sarah Palin levels of self-satire?

    Sarah P and Da Cool J
    Yeah Right... Tui anybody?
    And it hasn't gone unnoticed

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Dinah Dunavan,

    I've put my fingers in my ears (temporarily removed to type this) and am singing (flatly) lalalalala

    Wave wildly when this government is given the boot and I'll start using all my senses again.

    I'm tempted to keep my eyes shut too but I'll stick to reading only Agatha Christie and Georgette Heyer in the interim.

    Dunedin • Since Jun 2008 • 186 posts Report Reply

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