Terror and humiliation – just another day with WINZ

I have tried to be fair. I have tried to be understanding of the good work WINZ does, and their well-intentioned policies, and to work within those structures. I have tried to be grateful for the support I do get.

But I have had ENOUGH of the sheer and complete incompetence that ensures that I have suffered, that I continue to suffer. That I suffer like I have suffered today.

Maybe I should start at the beginning, because you may have not been following this story. It’s a doozie so you may as well get a drink now.

I am on a ‘Jobseeker Support’ benefit, which in itself is a misnomer. I have a job – I’m too ill to do it. I have multiple medical certificates to prove it. Recently, my benefit, and the Disability Allowance, which is the separate small payment I receive toward my medical costs, came up for “reassessment.” This meant a whole new round of forms and evidence to prove I’m entitled to the support.

Here’s the key points from the post I wrote when this started – February 14.

1. I’ve returned the multiple forms, along with every receipt I’ve kept of doctor’s visits, food bills, and medical costs like prescriptions, plus the form signed by my GP which includes details from him about how often I visit and what for.

2. My case manager rang today to say they “need more proof” which I knew would happen because they always do.

3. Eftpos receipts are now not considered proof of costs. I need to return to all my medical providers and get a signed printout of my annual costs. This obviously takes a lot of time and effort for a sick person. It’s not an easy ask. It causes me a huge amount of anxiety, and physically doing it causes me exhaustion and pain.

4. A grocery receipt is not enough to prove my dietary requirements, I need several week’s worth to show the pattern of food I buy. They said they will then calculate the difference between the “usual” cost and “my” cost, and grant me this. 

5. Until I get all these things, I will live in anxiety that they are going to remove my support. Anxiety and stress make me sick. That’s written on the fucking form I gave them.

Following this post, I got together all the additional evidence they wanted, which took considerable effort. I dropped it in to the office, somewhat gingerly, because they have a proven history of losing things.

I wrote this post a week ago:

My case manager informed me on 14 February (the day before I was going to Wellington for a week) that I had until 14 March to supply new information, or my support would be removed. Getting this new information wasn’t going to be an easy task for me, and it’s fair to say I felt terrified and distressed during that phone call.

My case manager also said she would send a Special Food Grant application form to me, which I needed to provide to them along with at least a month’s worth of receipts to show my grocery expenses.

While I was away, I made phone calls and sent emails in order to get the requested information from my medical providers. As soon as I got back, I labelled them all and took them in to WINZ. That was on 25 February.

Since then, I have sent several emails and left several voice messages, none of which have been returned. My online account shows “no applications pending.” I haven’t received any letters or application forms in the mail. Meanwhile, it’s now less than a week until my support will be removed, and I have no idea if I have provided the necessary information to stop that from happening.

I find it increasingly ironic that WINZ want me well enough to go back to work, yet they consistently subject me to behaviour and systems which stress the fuck out of me, and make me more ill.

Did I say ironic? I meant frustrating, depressing, anxiety-inducing, dehumanising and debilitating.

Yes, WINZ, I agree with you. The sooner I can go back to work, the better.

This week, I realised I still hadn’t heard anything, so I tried again to make an appointment with my case manager. I got no response, so I just made one through the online service.

I was incredibly nervous about the appointment. It’s pretty difficult to walk into this place when you have no idea how you’re going to be treated, and when their role is not to help you, as it would appear, but actually do all they possibly can to get you back into work – even if that’s to your detriment.

Did you know, WINZ has an actual policy to publicly celebrate when people get work? I witnessed this today. A bell was rung, and all the workers stood up and clapped – meanwhile, the poor man who supposedly the happy recipient of this “positive reinforcement” sat still and looked utterly and completely mortified. Apparently WINZ says clients enjoy this.

It was fucking horrifying.

All this, while I myself was sitting meters away with tears of frustration streaming down my face. While I cried, the WINZ worker I was talking to stopped what he was doing, and clapped.

Oops, I’ve skipped a bit. Let’s go back, shall we?

So, I turned up for my appointment. As usual, I was seen about half an hour late. Standard WINZ procedure. Because my case manager had been unreachable (I saw her at her desk across the room), I was randomly assigned.

The person I was assigned to, it’s fair to say, was the single most unhelpful “customer service” representative I have ever had the pleasure of dealing with.

Here’s the key points:

1. He didn’t know what was happening with my Disability Allowance – only, yes, “the system tells me it’ll stop tomorrow.”

2. He suggested I talk to my case manager. When I said I’d been unable to contact her, he said I needed to “make an appointment.” Um, that’s what I thought I was doing right now?

3. They have no record of the information I provided on February 25th. It’s simply not there. He suggested I go back to my doctors (more appointments I will have to pay for), and get the information again. He was totally unmoved when I burst into tears because of the stress this will cause me.

4. He gave me the Special Food application that was promised and never sent. I have to get my doctor to sign it, even though he wrote to them about the food I need in the Disability Allowance Reapplication Form I gave them last month. (Another $37 appointment). Lucky I’ve been keeping all my grocery receipts.

5. The interview ended with him saying blankly “I can’t help you. Ring the call centre and make an appointment” and me walking out in tears.

So: the bus trip, the pain, the fatigue, the stress and anxiety of an appointment – all for nothing. I still don’t have any information about my Allowance. Well, I do. I know it stops tomorrow – even though I have done everything right, and provided everything as asked for, when asked for.

I’m tired. I’m so tired of this. I almost want to force myself to go back to work because trying to stay on a benefit is more stressful than working fulltime with a debilitating chronic illness.

Let’s just say – I won’t be going to those offices alone again.


I guess my presence in the office must have influenced something, because my case manager finally emailed me tonight.

Verdict: My Disability Allowance is being reduced by $40 per week because, on paper, my medical costs have reduced. At least they dated that decision to today, which means I’m not in debt. They could have dated it from the date of reapplication, in which case I would have owed them. They took great care to point out that this was done for me.

Don’t ever let anyone say I’m not grateful.

136 Replies to “Terror and humiliation – just another day with WINZ”

  1. Pingback: Who doesn’t love WINZ? | The Little Pakeha

  2. Robyn

    Oh God, the WINZ clapping! This happened the last time I was at the local office, sitting in the waiting area. The office was generally quiet, when suddenly, and in a very rapid succession – ding! clap! quiet…

    I get that it might be a fun thing if you’re a WINZ client who’s just got a job (yay, etc), or indeed that person’s case manager, but not everyone in WINZ is there for employment issues. For some of us, that dinging bell is a reminder of something we can’t have in our lives anymore. And that sucks.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing your story. I really hope WINZ get organised and this crap doesn’t keep happening for you.

    1. writehandedgirl

      Thanks Robyn. It gave me quite a shock when it happened today. And yes, you’re right – at the moment, it just provided stark contrast to my own situation.

    2. Joy Robinson

      I have had many WINZ experiences like yours and feel exactly the same way as you, I don’t choose to be on the benefit and lets face it if you are an honest person on the benefit you are going to struggle to make ends meet and who would voluntarily struggle every week to pay the bills and feed and provide for your family if you have any other choice. I have not witnessed the bell ringing thing, but would be utterly humiliated if that happened to me and Paula Bennet all you have done is made WINZ more of a humiliating place to be and yet you say you were once like us. NO! You never were! I guarantee! I bet you were on the benefit during a labour government where things are not so humiliating!

      1. Grant ODonnell

        I agree with what you are saying except the last bit about Labour..In fact a lot of what Labour did was based on the same thing “to make it as difficult and humiliating as possble”The Nats have taken it a step further of course but its important to remember that Labour were heading the same way as far as WINZ was concerned

    3. Jenny

      Please take your story immediately to your nearest Labour (or Green) Party Member of Parliament.
      Your story and others like it need exposing publicly – and you can ask to be anonymous – but get these stories out into the open – not just on blogsites – but into Parliament, and into the mainstream media. Please do it. This is disgusting behaviour on the part of WINZ staff (all of it – clapping, losing files,).

      And another thing – get photocopies of all your receipts so if WINZ loses them, you’ve got the copies (or originals). When you’ve contacted your local friendly MP’s office person, hopefully that person will help you with the photocopying – so it doesn’t cost you anything.

  3. vidyutkale

    This is insane. At least in a country like India you’d probably have the luxury of your case getting media attention and cornering some politician into promising the moon instantly or something. Having a bad system is sometimes better than having a strong bad system, I guess.

    I can so hear your frustration and I have no idea what I can do to help from here. Are these creeps on Twitter? I can Tweetpelt the shit out of them for you. Embarrass them enough that US media takes some notice and brings pressure on them for a change.

    At least in India, media attention works wonders for a case like this.

    1. writehandedgirl

      The issue with that is that vulnerable people like me have to put their faces in the media. Yes, it can make a difference, but you basically become a tool in the fight – your story becomes public property. And that’s really really hard.

      1. fractallic

        You may be making yourself vulnerable to judgement from the many people who have NO idea what it’s like, but you’re also opening yourself up to support and encouragement from those of us who have been there, done that, and didn’t have the strength or courage to speak out, as you are.

        Thank you. <3

    2. Good GraveyGoodGravey

      Oh Vidyut. I’ve missed your battle cries. I need to read you more.
      This crap is starting to gain media attention generally. Here in NZ Governemnt agencies are increasingly marginalising and harming the people they are supposed to be supporting. And it just keeps getting worse.

  4. N

    Trying to be positive here, at the risk of doing someone’s job for them…

    What would you think of a system where each WINZ office had a specialist – a disability liaison? – who had actual training in the barriers that people in your situation face. I know there are privacy issues – but it seems like a trained person could ring your GP to confirm details in a statement you had given WINZ without any of this running around after receipts.

    We require a certain standard of training of our educators and medical professionals – it seems that there could be a lot gained in the other major area of national expenditure if we had well trained professionals doing a quality job. You want to get people back into work, WINZ? How about you do your job well, first.

    Thanks for sharing – you are very brave!

    1. writehandedgirl

      I think it’s a good idea. It’d have to be opt-in, because of the privacy issue – but if I had actually had someone on the other side of the desk that understood? That would make such a massive difference.

      Yeah, that’s the thing – if I could get well, I’d be contributing a lot to the economy. I’d be happy to. I *want* to work. But every bit of stress causes a setback.

      1. N

        I know. My experience would suggest that any ‘culture of welfare dependency’ we have in NZ is down to the incompetence of WINZ. Protest however best you can – but also, take care of you!

  5. Vincristine

    Please complain to your local regional Health Advisor. Do they have a nurse in your local WINZ? Complain to them too. And your MP. And the Minister

    I know it takes energy

    This stuff is insufferable

    I am so sorry

  6. Sub Strata (@Sub_Strata)

    Your experience sounds horrific and needs to be brought to the attention of the Labour welfare spokeperson.
    What is evident to me is how differently people are treated in different WINZ offices. There must be a “local culture” that pervades each branch. I love Nelson but their WINZ is not one I could say shows compassion. When I was in need many years ago they had me in tears too. I know for a fact that different policies/interpretations are applied in different offices. Your treatment shows the most rigid, hardline interpretation of their guidelines that you could imagine. They have the discretion to treat you with far greater support. The switch to the evil misnomer Job Seeker Support is the most cruel treatment of ill people you could devise. A wicked torture to tell the sick & disabled to be work ready. If you are under 30 you will be treated far worse than someone over 50 – and that I know is still unpleasant. I think an official complaint is called for in your situation.

    1. writehandedgirl

      I agree. The guidelines are open for interpretation, and the case managers have a lot of power. That’s what makes it so scary going in there. You’re at their mercy.

      The thought of complaining makes me feel very, very tired but it is something I will consider. I feel like my energy might be better spent raising awareness as best I can. The media can apply more pressure to people in political power than my lone complaint would.

  7. WeeBoy

    God, I’m so glad when I got a job all I got was a handshake from my case manager, and the money I needed to move to Auckland.

    But I will never forget trying to get onto the sickness benefit when I had glandular fever. I was very sick, yellow with jaundice, regular vomiting, my pee was the colour of rust and I smelled evil. I called up and asked for a home visit – I couldn’t get from my bed to the front door without a rest, there was no way I could go into the office.

    The earliest appointment was in 4 weeks. 4 weeks of rent, and food and bills. It wasn’t really a choice, I went in because I had to.

    They make you queue for ages. I was bright yellow, sweating noxious liquid, glands so swollen I couldn’t swallow. The world tilted as though I was on a ship.

    I threw up all over the floor. The security guard yelled at me, I was told I shouldn’t have come in, that I had put everyone at risk of whatever illness I had, never mind that the only other option was to starve for a month.

    Mind you, at least it was the fastest processed sickness benefit ever. They wanted me out of their office before I threw up again.

  8. Wombat

    Dealing with WINZ is a special kind of hell. One thing I did learn early on is to ask them to photocopy everything you give them, and stamp and date it so you can prove when it was accepted. It’s a hassle, but it saved me from having my benefit cut several times. Plus, when they lose your form, you already have an official copy ready to hand them.

    That was just my little practice, and I know that it won’t work for everyone. Whatever special way they use to make you miserable, I wish you the strength to beat them.

    1. Maurice Dando

      I do exactly the same thing, Anything I take in I ask for it to copied & receipted, Govt Depts have a really serious problem with loosing your paperwork, I was originally on ACC, after about 4 incidents with them loosing official forms, I started the receipt practice, & then when I transferred over to Winz, I continued this practice & not once have I had a problem, seems to be if they know you’ve had it receipted they don’t loose it, funny that isn’t it.

  9. Anne

    I have had pretty much exactly the same treatment from them. This is my first experience ever with WINZ (Im in my 30s and have worked my whole life, but I now have cancer and am not capable of full time work) … I wrote a 2 page letter of complaint and dropped it to their office yesterday morning with the threat that if it wasn’t sorted out a copy was going to the media. They rang me twice yesterday, and then emailed me today and gave me exactly what I wanted (and should have gotten in the first place).
    The problem I have found is that nobody knows what they are doing. There are too many policies and procedures and nobody seems to know what they are.

  10. DevNull

    I posted this on my FB, but due to my position I have to make it friends only. I hope you understand why I have to post anon here, but I fully support you.

    ‘I’ve had this exact same “We have no record of the information you provided on ” happen to me. Twice. In a week. It’s only because I had the nonce to tape myself handing over the forms on my phone (complete with asking the person at the desk to ‘please tell me what the date is today’) the second time that I didn’t have my benefit cut and starve.

    I work for the government as a web developer. If I created something that lost people’s information with enough frequency that the general public KNOWS “WINZ lose stuff you give them all the time”, I wouldn’t just be fired, I’d be in court for criminal negligence at the best.

    Anyone dealing with WINZ in the future: do what I did. Film yourself handing over the forms, and either film a clock+calendar or ask the receptionist the date when you do so. Then it’s a matter of them losing the forms, not the standard “you never gave us those and it’s our word against yours you dirty beneficiary” we all know and love.’

  11. max

    Its the system the government has setup. I think the WINZ workers are probably well intentioned, but they have been sucked into that system. That system is basically to cut benefit numbers, at all costs. So then the government can stand up and say they are tackling welfare dependence. Meanwhile people starve, people beg, people steal, and long term the country goes to pot. But thats okay because this government won’t be around then to answer for it. It’s all a game to them.

    1. [email protected]

      It obviously doesn’t affect her typing skills or ability to use a computer or visit places, perhaps you could get a job as a receptionist? data entry, all sorts of stuff. I feel sorry that genuine cases need to jump through these hurdles – but when your well enough to go on a computer and put considerable effot into this, perhaps your well enough to put considerable effort into a job? I’m assuming your disability as you don’t mention it has something to do with physical labour…?

      1. Ben

        Have you taken the time to read her blog? Start with the ‘About’ section and go from there to the post about ehr illness. Then feel free to google ‘empathy’.

      2. V (verbscape)

        We’re going to need to see your medical qualifications, thanks – and they’d better be some ridiculously impressive ones given that you apparently have the skills and know-how to diagnose someone as fit for work based on a few paragraphs they managed to write. Since you’re so keen on over-ruling the various medical practitioners who have assessed her in person (and vastly more in-depth), I can only imagine you’re some kind of whizz-kid hybrid of Doogie Howser and Sherlock Holmes, able to deduce amazing facts from the fact that a person was able to a) make a blog post and b) leave the house on a few particular occasions. Where did you study? This is an amazing advertisement for that medical school. Me, in my ignorance I probably would have assumed something ridiculous like “maybe those other doctors actually know something” and “just because someone can do a thing once a month doesn’t mean they can do it fifteen hours a week” (fifteen hours/wk being what WINZ considers “able to do part-time work”) and a variety of other silly notions. I am keen to go to this amazing detective internet doctor school and get my MD in Know-It-Allism so I, too, can be a jerk to strangers!

      3. Good GraveyGoodGravey

        Just wondering…how do you know whether it affects her ability to use a computer? The fact this was written does not give any indication of how hard it was to do so. Visit places? For some people, they **have** to visit places and it takes everything they’ve got to do so.
        Sometimes people for whom just living their day to day lives is a massive struggle. It may surprise you, but these people sometimes **need** an escape and rely heavily on friends to do so.
        You know when people struggle and are faced with incredible obstacles? These people put a lot of effort into things others consider ordinary.
        Rather than your concern-trolling, I’d suggest you put some of your energy into understanding how other people feel. Into compassion and caring. Into understanding how some people HAVE to expend their valuable energy on dealing with the very real harm caused to them. Or is that a bit too much for you?
        Oh, and you’re right about not being smart.

      4. MC_Odd

        You clearly (a) have never been through even close to what Writehandedgirl has gone to in the last year, and (b) have no capacity for empathy, so if you could just take your ignorant, harmful comments and fuck off to some shitty corner where this kind of bene-bashing crap is tolerated that would just be dandy.

      5. [email protected]

        Perhaps, having people feel sorry on here doesn’t help either – she is obviously a VERY talented writer & can stay focused on that, it’s clear in the blog (I don’t think she’s fainting in between, really!?).. And fair enough to have support i.e. genuine case – but you can get stuck in a rut and never get out. Perhaps best that could happen is people to treat her normal and surround herself with normal people… Could write articles! Don’t dwell on this shit it will eat you up and that’s exactly what’s happening!

      6. [email protected]

        @VERBSCAPE – a few paragraphs? You study maths (more than a few paragraphs there, and well written too)? 17.9 thousand tweets as well, I can’t even imagine being able to do that myself… That would stress me out. It’s fine to recieve support for this, but she could be writing quite good articles earning extra income too rather than dwelling on this and having her whole life evolve around the internet or the twittisphere, what good is that doing really…

        1. V (verbscape)

          Twitter’s been around since 2006. 365 days in a year. 8 years is 2920 days. 17900/2920 = 6.13 tweets per day.

          You’re right, I do know maths. Let’s say writehandedgirl has had her twitter account only for four years, averaging 12 tweets a day. None of which can be longer than 140 characters. (And for most of that, doing it while also holding down a job.) So the equivalent of sending a few text messages to friends is enough to stress you out? You can’t imagine doing that? Wow, Doogie. I guess you didn’t socialise much at Detective Internet Doctor school, what with all your amazing learning to do.

          What they should have remembered to teach you is that human beings are a part of the animal kingdom – specifically, we’re gregarious animals, and tend to fare poorly when deprived of social contact. So, by tweeting or texting or otherwise making sure she is engaging with people even when unable to leave the house, writehandedgirl is taking responsible measures to safeguard her health.

          I’m still waiting to hear the name of that medical school, by the way.

      7. Polly_Preachum

        what exactly constitutes a “genuine case” that “jumps through the hurdles”? Because if you’re so unwell you cn’t type, you probably cant jump through a hurdle so to speak.
        Then again you’re that special type of cretin the National like to pander to, the cause of these problems in the first place. I can imagine you standing over a comatose patient in hospital going “Well if you’re well enough to breathe through that tube…Cant you find a job as plank of wood somewhere?”

        1. V (verbscape)

          Extra in a Peter Jackson movie, no doubt. After all, comatose actors can’t complain about working conditions…

      8. Amber Harlow (@_amberharlow)

        I’m sitting here wondering how someone can read this blog and be so devoid of understanding. Or the desire to understand. We are all different. Recovery is up to the individual. Her path is different to yours, and you need to know that that’s okay.

      9. [email protected]

        lol @ Polly, exaggeration much? Unrealitistic, your going to extremes – @Amber, fair call and I 110% agree with your statement. The path of internet however may not help the situation in my opinion, but good luck – perhaps it helps her and I’m somewhat blind to see how exactly. It may be better to express in a closed forum to family & friends, not the world.

        1. V (verbscape)

          Dear “Not Being Smart” (oh, unintentional honesty), may I point out that shortly after venting on the internet writehandedgirl coincidentally got contacted by the case manager who hadn’t been returning her calls or emails? That progress has now been made? Should I point out that this post has given multiple people the space to share information about dealing with WINZ that could be useful to both writehandedgirl and many, many, many others? Should I point out that no one actually needs your approval on what they talk about online? Or should I just point out that your complaints here don’t seem to be “helping your situation”, and perhaps you would be better expressing “in a closed forum to family & friends, not the world”?

          I mean, if it’s okay for me to post this comment – if there’s a flowchart somewhere for me to check whether it sufficiently helps my situation to type where the public can read it, please let me know.

          PS: still waiting on the name of the medical school where you learned to diagnose on blog writing samples better than other doctors can assess with a proper medical examination (including hospital stay) and multiple follow-up visits.

      10. Cameron Campbell (@ronindotca)

        You know what a lot of therapists have you do? Keep a journal. You know what else therapy is good for? Venting at someone and getting feedback and ideas and suggestions. Know what someone with $40 a week less in their pocket can’t afford? A therapist.

        As for your medical diagnostic abilities, I too would like to see your medical credentials.

        Also, 17K tweets gets in her way to do a job? I’ve got a job. Last I checked I’m somewhere near 113K tweets. I also blog, infrequently.

        Perhaps you are a very slow writer and she is very fast? So, this might not be “considerable effort” for her at all.

    2. Redicine

      Are you serious? Just because someone can type and is able to drag themselves to WINZ because – and I guess you don’t understand this part – otherwise they will completely cut you off does in no way mean they are fit for work! Are you so ignorant you can’t understand the concept of someone having to lie in bed to type? Or that they faint or have seizures and do the writing in between? People like you are exactly what holds progress back on society’s understanding of sickness and disability. You have the audacity to claim that all that needs to happen is for her to make effort. That’s absolutely disgusting. Have you zero concept of things happening beyond one’s control? Clearly you have lead such a privileged existence you’ve never had to deal with the horrors of not being able to work or get out of bed or brush hair or EAT. You aren’t realistic at all. Even the handles you are using when you comment are quite clearly meant to be malicious and spiteful. Go back to your silver-spoon life – YOU are the burden here. You know nothing of what this kind of life is like.

      1. [email protected]

        17 thousand tweets… That’s impressive by any standard. That’s unhealthy – delete it. Spend the time taken to write 17,000 tweets in real life on something productive… All this internet blog, tweeting, everything just makes matters worse for herself – it’s like these people who get bullied on FB, you know you can actually delete a FB account it’s not real life.. You can just turn it off, but most just sit there wanting sympathy – I have sympathy if you turn the shit off and help yourself first. This is quite similar being in an “open” forum… It’s opening herself up to abuse, genuine sick or not – can’t people figure this out…

      2. Chris Miller

        Actually for people who are chronically ill, who find it difficult to leave the house, Twitter can be the easiest and cheapest way to keep in touch with their support systems. It’s sort of the OPPOSITE of being bullied on Facebook. Telling her to delete the forum where she gets all her support or telling her to write articles which often have a high rate of comments asking EXACTLY how disabled she is and telling her she’s running her life wrong is the most backwards arse advice I can possibly think of.

  12. Jessica

    It makes me angry & upset that you have had to go through that. When my daughter was younger she was allergic to dairy so I went to wins & asked if I could have some help, they gave me a form saying what the food was, how much it cost, how much she will eat each time & how much it would cost per time and several other things. It was daunting & I have no flippin’ idea how to sort it out so I gave up & just dealt with the extra, intense, expense. Have you considered taking a support person? You could talk to your gp about it. I understand what it is like going into WINZ with anxiety, I cry every time because I don’t know what to expect.

  13. Rhiannon

    This absolutely mirrors my own recent experiences. Going to unnecessary WINZ appointments I’ve waited days for, waiting to be seen by random staff who know nothing about my situation, who make offensive and/or nosey comments about my personal life, after having to explain it 4 times to 4 different call centre workers who say they can’t help and then make another appointment! Dropping paperwork into their office and not knowing for a long time what will happen to my living money, then being told I need an appointment to have the paperwork processed. Today I actually cried from relief at their office when the woman said she could see I’d been messed around and she even apologised!

  14. Rachel

    I have had the exact same thing happen. I just received my letter informing me of needing to go through all this again and i am dreading it, So much so it makes me cry, makes my chronic anxiety start and my depression get worse. So many people i know ( who are ALL young 20-30 white women) have he same issue. This is not right.

  15. jaybird89

    i feel for you. oh man, they can really suck. i am terrified of WINZ myself. I can see where your coming from. they should have just got on with it and help you. that’s there bloddy job. ive had similar sutiutations to you… thats why i always take my dad with me… because they confuse me alot. so… i cant wait for the day that im not on it any more and not living in the fear that im doing something wrong. which no im not. but oh your story!! i feel like crying for you. i hate being the subject that i belong to anyone as for all that clapping that’s just embarrassing.

  16. thomas

    how often per day do you think this ‘ding the bell & clap’ business occurs?
    it is so incredibly pavlovian, i’d like to document it….
    if i go sit in a queue for a day will i get to film it?
    i spent a year on the dole & back then this kind of misguided nonsense
    would have pushed me off the edge/incited me to do things i shouldnt….
    as it is obviously ‘standard practice’ it should also be posted everywhere,
    to show how utterly pathetic it is… whoever initiated it should be ashamed
    kia kaha

  17. Jeremy Greenfield

    I wish SO much that this could be labeled as a one-off failing by WINZ. But it’s really not. Their condescension, power-plays and petty bullying is FAR too common. Their lack of humanity to a ‘client’ crying in front of them (and no, you definitely weren’t the first I know of) says a lot. I put scare quotes around the word client, because if they really saw us as clients their attitude and focus would be so much more agreeable.
    I was made redundant, then changed my depression medication to one which causes anxiety if I get too stressed. (Ironic, really, since anxiety, stress and depression tend to trigger each other anyway).
    I too have wondered whether it crossed a case manager’s mind that the stress they cause may be hindering my job seeking. It’s clearly written on my forms. it probably doesn’t matter anyway, since I’ve never heard that mythical bell ring a single time in my local office. And I’ve applied for every job I’ve been able to do, including some I could do in my sleep, and several my doctor probably wouldn’t want me to do due to the stress thing. I guess there just aren’t that many jobs around.

  18. sam

    Wow yep I fully know how you feel I have had that when I got givin a temporary contract, when they rung the bell it just humiliated and scared me. I get panic attacks and am currently on the disability and jobseeker benefit due to the current status of my mental state. I went to apply for a food grant the other day and took my budget sheet in, I was told there was nothing they could help with and that I needed to go to the budgeter again and get another form filled out then come back amd make another appointment but there arnt any for a week. The case manager I seen didnt have a clue about my condition and ended up making me historical by asking so many questions and making me feel like the scum of the earth all for asking for some food. As I walked out multiple people came to see if I was ok which made it worse due to anxiety issues with people I dont know. Moral of the story being winz has no idea of what they put people through when they decide its upon them to male a diagnosis themselves she tried to tell me I had nothing wrong with me because I couldnt and didnt want to try explain it to someone I didnt know and was clearly judging me even though I have the med certs to prove it. Nice going winz good to know it doesnt just happen to me and that its happning everywhere. It needs to change!!!

  19. Anon

    I am confused as to how it is you think it’s ok to go on holiday yet expect tax payers to pay for it. You say you have a disability and you happily complain i think you are taking the Mickey. I’m sorry I read a not so sorry story for someone who thinks we should pay for you to live cause you are stressed honey we are all stressed, get a job, move on and grow balls the rest of us have and trust me, our lives have been shit. You annoy me that you feel it’s your right for hand outs and to complain. Move on and make a life it’s a pathetic complaint and not worthy of real stress. There is always someone worse off. Turn a leaf and make something of your self

    1. Nigel

      If you want to make a comment have the guts and decency to be honest about who you are. If you cannot then shut up. You should be ashamed. This young woman is being treated appallingly by a system that should be an insurance policy to protect those who need help. We all into this as a service, its not a benefit and its not a handout. Very few people would choose WINZ handouts as a career. I suggest you apologise or go down to WINZ and get an education.

    2. Redicine

      You piece of shit. You absolute fucking piece of shit. How dare you blame someone for sickness and disability out of their control. You think she chose for this to happen? And do you think she wasn’t fucking paying taxes before this happened anyway? You’re the sort of asshole who would be the first to grab anything you could if your legs suddenly stopped working, but while you’ve got the benefit of ability, you have to go all high-and-mighty on those who need help? Damned right it was ok for her to go on holiday – dealing with all this stress, INCLUDING DIPSHITS LIKE YOURSELF, going away can be extremely good for mental health. You’re absolutely fucking disgusting. I hope you never call for an ambulance or fire brigade or police – I don’t think they should really do anything for you just because your house is on fire or you’re being attacked because honey we all get stressed, move on, don’t ask for those handouts just because you think you need help. You keep fucking telling yourself there’s always someone worse off. And how about you make something of yourself instead of bashing someone while they’re down? You’re the scum of society and I hope you fucking rot.

    3. V (verbscape)

      Writehandedgirl *is* a tax payer. She worked, she paid tax into the system based on the promise that if she got sick the system would be there to support her while she gets better. It *is* her right for hand outs and to complain. The government that happily takes her taxes isn’t living up to its part of the deal. If you had ever been to her blog before, you would know that what she wants most is to get back to work, and WINZ is making it harder and making it take longer by aggravating her medical condition.

    4. Ben

      If you read previous posts it covers Sarah’s issues with being unable to work. What is being outlined here is the specific experience to what WINZ is putting people through who actually need it. Like most capable people I am sure Sarah would work to support herself fully if she could, but as outlined on her blog this is not possible.
      If you find it there is even reference to being advised to take the benefit because of the chronic nature (disease that is persistent or otherwise long-lasting in its effects).
      “Growing Balls” or “hardening up” is not the right approach. You may have heard of the Depression campaign who John Kirwan is the face of? It is not a recommended approach in that space. The same can be applied here. The best approach is support, which I believe is what WINZ is there for? Hence Sarah’s post.

    5. Amber Harlow (@_amberharlow)

      Look Honey, anonymous comments using terms of endearment are inappropriate. And ultimately meaningless. Your overly simplified view of the welfare system and the author’s situation is the problem here.
      Check out Stuff Nation.

    6. Zakzahn

      I am confused as to how it is you think it’s ok to criticise someone who has an illness. You seem to have no empathy and you happily complain. I think you are what is wrong with the world. I’m sorry I had to read a sorry comment from someone who feels they can comment on another’s life in a very condescending way, get a life, move on and grow balls the rest of us have and trust me, our lives have been shit. You annoy me that you feel it’s your right to dictate who gets help, and to complain. Move on and make a life it’s a pathetic complaint and not worthy of real stress. There is always someone worse off. Turn a leaf and make something of your self

    7. MC_Odd

      Maybe you sould get a clue. Accusing someone of faking an illness to get a benefit is a fucking shitty thing to do, worse than that, it’s downright disrespectful and hateful.
      What grounds do you have to make these accusations? Do you know Writehandedgirl? Have you met her? Have you even read a single fucking other post on this blog to have any idea of what she’s going through?
      Clearly not, otherwise you wouldn’t be acting like such fuckwit towards her. You’re just another privileged, entitled bene basher, the kind of which are responsible for the social welfare system being the absolute clusterfuck it is. You’re the reason some of the most vulnerable people in our society are slipping through the cracks.
      Maybe try thinking about what others are going through, try putting yourself in their shoes and imagining the reality of their lived experience? It’s not that fucking hard.
      At the very least, if you’re going to act like a total dickbag to someone who is quite obviously in a vulnerable state, have the fucking guts to put your name behind your shitty comments and stop hiding behind that Anon tag.
      People like you make me fucking sick.

    8. Good GraveyGoodGravey

      You think she is HAPPILY complaining?? What part of this made you think she is happy about this?
      As for this “real stress” you speak of, what do you actually know of her life? Hmmm? And pray tell, what is “real stress” like?
      People who need help from society have just as much right to complain as maggoty privileged arsewipes. Probably a hell of a lot more.
      Oh honey, if writehandedgirl annoys you, just consider how much you fucking annoy everyone else.

    9. bjhguerin

      It can generally be said that you can tell something about a person by whether they choose to write comments using their real name or not. If you choose to write such derogatory comments, it’s more than a little bit pathetic to hide behind your “anon” status.
      Let’s deal with what you have to say though. I believe you are severely mistaken in your point of view, to the extent that I feel a little bit sorry for your close-mindedness. Here is why:
      You seem to believe that it is not acceptable for Sarah to go on a “holiday” while receiving a benefit. If you knew much about mental illness, then you would understand the positive influence that a change of scenery can have, not to mention to ability to interact with friends when you are relatively isolated where you normally are. Furthermore, a very short visit to Wellington from where Sarah lives hardly qualifies as a “holiday”. It seems that you think she is indulging in luxurious travels while fraudulently claiming a benefit that she obviously doesn’t need. If you took the time to actually read this blog, you would begin to realise how far from the truth that actually is.
      Your next point seems to be that Sarah cannot have a disability, because all she suffers from is “stress”. This is also very wrong. If you simply read the “about” section of her blog, then you would be aware of the multiple conditions that Sarah suffers from. One of these is depression. Depression is not simply “not have enough balls to get over things”, but it is a severe illness that is linked to chemical imbalances in the brain. I would encourage you to read about how depression is a lot more than “feeling a bit down”. I have personally written about it here (http://bjhguerin.com/2014/01/12/here-goes), here (http://bjhguerin.com/2014/02/07/february-reflections) and here (http://bjhguerin.com/2014/02/25/falling-into-chaos). You might learn something. When it comes to stress, the negative effects of depression are often made worse by stressful situations. It is impossible to understand the severity of this if you are not familiar with depression. Please take my word for it when I say it is not pleasant.
      Finally though, your last points complete the transition of your comment from being cowardly and rude to full-on bullying. The line to “turn a leaf and make something of your self” is such a condescending and pathetic remark, that any shred of respect I had left for you has completely dried up. I would ask that you reflect not only on how this comment makes you look like a bit of an asshole, but also that it is extremely hurtful. I am not sure what you wanted to achieve when you wrote it, but if that is that you wanted then I guess you have succeeded.

    10. Robyn

      That’s what the Jobseeker Support benefit is intended for – if someone is not well enough to work, whether in the short term or longer term, the benefit is there to help them. If you have an issue with this, then you should complain to the Minister for Social Development, Paula Bennett, rather than a random beneficiary.

    11. Polly_Preachum

      there’s always someone worse off than the person who is worse off than the person who is worse off…I can see you spiraling into a bit of a vortex of unhelpful ahporisms here.
      I’m unsure of who this “we” and “our” is that you speak of. It’s certainly not me, nope, I’m all good with my tax dollars going to someone who needs help because tax is a social contract, we pay them to look after us. The other issue is the writer is obviously trying to move on with her life but the constant harassment of WINZ is making that extremely difficult for her to do.

  20. Sue Tyler (@styler)

    i wish i could say this is unusual but it’s not, always always insist on copying everything you take into winz. Then get them to date stamp your copies, yes this costs money. But i can count 3 times winz have lost all my applications. Get an advocate, if you can’t have someone in your family find the resource out there. everything at winz can be reviewed EVERYTHING,

    1. Robert

      Yes. REVIEW THE DECISION. Use an experienced benefit rights advocacy service such as BEAS, 04 2102012.

      Also, whenever they “can’t find” forms, lodge a privacy act complaint (failure to properly store personal information). Eventually they learn NOT to lose your forms.

  21. Sue Tyler (@styler)

    So many we should be using this post to make a list?
    1. In the wellington central office they used to have separate seating for superannuitants, my mum who is my advocate comes to every appt with me. One time they asked her if she would like to move and wait in the other section, when they found she was me the offer was recinded.
    2. When i had an annual in person review I waited 2 and a half hours to see my case manager, eventually they took my forms and i never saw anyone.
    3. Another time when i had a training incentive allowance thingy, the day before university not only had that not been processed but they had lost all of invalids benfit application forms which were due at the same time, the day before it was cancelled after a week of leaving phone messages we went in and had things sorted
    4. I no longer have a case manager i don;t think they exist any more, i used ot have a case manager but that stopped
    Some winz staff are amazing and go above and beyond
    Some winz staff work in fear of being attacked
    some winz staff make value judgments regarding their clients
    Some winz staff are woefully undertrained
    We no longer live in a society where those least able to help themselves are given a helping hand, more and more social services are outsourced.

  22. bekitty3

    The Benefit Rights Service will be able to help you. You can either give them a call on (04) 210 2012 or go in to see them — they’re based in Level 2 of Community House, 84 Willis St, in the Wellington CBD. They’re really knowledgeable and helpful.

  23. Esther

    Request a review of decision form. For like… everything. Document what they gave you and what they failed to give you, what you gave them and they subsequently lost etc. Ask them to provide evidence that they followed correct procedures for advising you of their decisions etc. Request backdated Temporary Additional Support to cover the costs of the extra doctor’s visits you had to take because they stuffed you around. While you’re at it, request a review of your Disability Allowance. If you need help, Auckland Action Against Poverty have a really good Review of Decision form that they can help you fill out.
    WINZ are incompetent as all hell, but the Benefit Review Committee generally sort things out. It just takes a lot of effort to get to the people who aren’t useless.
    – an ex-WINZ employee

    1. Sophie

      I had NO IDEA you could do backdated Temporary Additional Support applications! This wouldn’t be normal procedure I’m guessing, but part of a review?

      1. Robert

        Technically, it’s not backdated (that is illegal) but “arrears paid back to the date I first became eligible”.

  24. Gabrielle

    I too have a chronic illness and unable to work fulltime. I have had very stressful dealings with Winz over the years and find any dealings with them an ordeal and the stress makes me more ill. Those of us with chronic illnesses should not be subjected to this type of scrutiny. I have permanent disabilities yet I have to go through this scrutiny on a regular basis. We need to get rid of Paula Bennett and overhaul this terrible inhumane system

  25. Celia Renfrew

    I recently had a randomly assigned customer service person at winz tell me that the < sign printed on my medical certificate was an arrow drawn by my doctor..
    For those who don't know, the medical certificate has time brackets on it that ask your doctor when they expect you to be well enough to work again. They go like this: now, < 3 months, 3-6 months etc. So I had to literally plead with her, tears pouring from my eyes that this "arrow" was NOT pointing towards "I'm ready to work now", and that it is written on every winz medical certificate just like that…
    I also once had a random customer service person/case manager who screamed at me for "not filling in a form". The story goes, I wasn't sure if I had to list my boyfriends details on one of my forms, so I brought them along with me on a bit of paper so I could ask the winz person I was seeing if I needed them. So I sat down with her and she looked at my form and literally shouted at me "WHAT'S THIS?! HOW DO YOU EXPECT TO GET ANYTHING IF YOU CAN'T EVEN FILL OUT A BLOODY FOR PROPERLY?!" I was so taken aback my jaw must have hit the floor. I managed to stammer that I had the details here and I could just fill them in now. She threw the former at me and yelled "WELL ITS TOO LATE NOW!". I burst into tears and she continued to berate me about my appearance before the secretary at this office came over and lifted me out of my chair, took me into a private room, gave me some tissues and a glass of water – and despite not being a case manager, she sat down with me, comforted me and began helping me go through all my paperwork and made sure I got everything I was entitled to.
    I was on the sickness benefit for 8 years with an permanent illness, and it took 2 and a half years of phone calls, forms, meetings, specialist appointments, doctors fees to be moved to the invalids benefit where I should have been all along.
    I feel your pain. Nothing can make a sick person sicker than winz. I've never spoken to a winz client who has nothing bad to say winz.

  26. Sue Tyler (@styler)

    oh and if you are really lucky paula bennet make public all your personal and private details http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10587131.
    I wish i had answer, but get an advocate have them liscensed to act as your agent, my mum is my agent i never talk to winz on the phone EVER she does..
    But there are many free services don’t do this alone, call your local CAB for first port of help or your GP or mental health team may be able to help you

  27. Kamal

    I feel you sister. I was once on jobseeker support and WINZ made me go for an interview with a business “owner”. He wasn’t even running a proper business, during the interview he explained to me what the job was about. It was one of those stupid pyramid schemes that wasn’t selling anything tangible at all. There was a guy whom this “owner” skyped from time to time explaining and outlining techniques of “getting people on board”. The point was to pay this coach to teach you how to get people to pay you to get other people. How horrendous!
    Anyway, I told the owner that I would not be able to do that sort of work as it isn’t feasible employment and I wouldn’t be getting paid until I “signed people up”.
    My case manager at the time said that because I had turned down the job I has to undergo a stand down period. After explaining my case thousands of times to various individuals at WINZ there was nothing they could do, it was “procedure”. Fuck you WINZ. I’m working 2 jobs at the moment (which I love) and have this last semester left before I receive my degree.
    Studylink isn’t as bad as WINZ, but don’t get me started about them. And for fuck sakes, CHANGE YOUR HOLD MUSIC.

  28. Mia

    I think I am about to have a meltdown, and it is not an anger meltdown, but one of total hopelessness.
    I received a TAS renewal form which was due to be back with winz before the 3rd March, so I made an appointment with WINZ to go get it renewed, I got a call from winz Levin telling me I don’t need to come in, just drop the form in.
    I mislaid the form, TAS got cancelled, went in today to ask for food grant, and got told my disability benefit has been stopped, and they can not give me a food grant, because it needs renewing before I can be eligible for a food grant, and they can not give me a letter to take to Food bank either.
    IF I had gone to the appointment I made end of February, I would have known about it then and it would have been renewed then, but because it was cancelled, I was totally unaware of it.
    Now, not only is my TAS cancelled, but I don’t get a food grant either, and god knows when my Disability allowance will be renewed…but then again, I really don’t know why my food grant has anything to do with the disability allowance….right now, with the fight with the doctors and with winz, I am wiped out, and all I want to do is curl up and disappear…I am done with fighting.
    UPDATE: Went to doctors, got Disability form signed after much argument, and her telling me she thinks I don’t have the things wrong with me, and that I am creating them, went back to winz to hand in the DA form, got told it was the wrong one, I need to get a Medical Certificate, went back to doctors, asked for med cert, have to go back in the morning to see if she has done it.
    I won’t panic totally until Tuesday, because if it is not renewed by then, there will be no rent, and no food.

    1. Esther

      You’re right; your DA has nothing to do with a food grant. You don’t even need to be on a benefit to get a food grant. People are only supposed to get a certain amount of food money per year from WINZ, but case managers have the discretion to give you extra.
      I’d request a Review of Decision, for sure. That’s flat-out wrong. I’d ask them to back-date your DA to the date of the appointment they cancelled, too. Ask them to provide evidence they advised you that your DA was stopping. Unless they can show that you received a letter, or they told you at an appointment/over the phone, the review committee will probably be forced to give you your DA and backdate it to when it stopped (hell, ask them to do your TAS, too, it can’t hurt). Good luck!

  29. Andrea Skews

    I’m sure it’s not much consolation, but I’ve been where you are and lived the hell that is/was Social Welfare, Income Support & WINZ. I’m now a successful salesperson and I often refer to my ‘begging’ days being a beneficiary when I would walk into the hellhole that is the latest location that they file us beggars into, to be publicly humiliated and beg for more money. It’s actually worked in my favour as I have to beg for sales in my line of work, so I can sometimes be heard saying ‘I have no problem begging, I’ve been a solo mum on the benefit and I’m well weathered in having my pride taken from me!’. Stay strong and don’t let them beat you, that’s their angle you see….if they make it too hard for you to achieve, then they save money ;)xx

  30. SAG

    I’ve had the same issues with winz for my medical, a few times i’ve had to go back and take in another medical because they said they don’t have it, which meant another cost for the doctors. I’ve learnt it’s best to get a copy now. It’s not easy being on the benefit trying to struggle to make ends meet when you’d rather be working. Winz does make it hard instead of helping sometimes, but there are many case managers who will help you, then there’s others that just look down on you. One day i went into winz to drop my medical off and end up having a full on seizure there. The staff really didn’t know what to do? But after that i got less hassle but was sacred to go back there again.

  31. Dan

    Sarah, that was in equal parts a brave story, and informative one for me and rage inducing. I wasn’t sure how to feel about the ‘clapping’ thing when I read about it last week, but framed in this context I can see how dehumanising it would be.
    As for the vast brave anonymous commenter (one called Anon, the other using silly guerilla email addresses): I ask you what sort of person reads an account such as this and that is their first reaction? No, I am genuinely curious: I am unsure whether to think you are a human toilet or feel sad that you are missing an important part of your humanity.

  32. Pingback: The joys of dealing with WINZ | Drop Bear Exterminator

  33. Julian

    This is why I live in parks & abandoned quake damaged houses without WINZ support of any kind. Prefer to live like a social reject than be subjected to that special kind of humiliation that WINZ dish out. That’s not ‘living’ for me.

  34. Max Coyle

    One day if we ever have another decent government they’ll implement a UBI and WINZ/Studylink etc can all be done away with a d every person just gets a decent sum in their bank account every week which is enough to live off and still enjoy life beyond a hardscrabble existence.

  35. Lisa

    Yes I to have suffered under WINZ. Most shocking for me was receiving an attitude about my boyfriend not paying all my bills. That I should dump him and find a builder type guy who will pay for everything. I was in tears. Nutter.
    Anyway I made a formal complaint and struggled to get them to understand why I would not be returning to Avondale branch. I want support not abuse about my choice of boyfriend.

  36. loureed

    Winz gives me free money … i could have been born in a slum in Nigeria where Catholics and Muslims fight, and i would be brought up like that,, But i was born here, Sure they could of been hassling me more and they should, but, bureaucracy is Fucked So BE thankful What you are fighting for is easier than you think, you basically want to live for free never having to do anything.. where the fuck else can you do that, Anger sux, have patience, it makes you happier. i think about wizards in my head when im waiting,,, come to wellington that weekend,find me or good people

    1. Wombat

      ” you basically want to live for free never having to do anything” . . . you evidently have a deep understanding of severe illness and the problems that entails, as well and a master understanding of relative poverty and its effects on people in different societies. I congratulate you on your imperious grasp of New Zealand social issues and your amazing compassion for people is difficult places. You, sir, are a wonderful example of humanity.

      1. loureed

        there is a lot of anger at our social welfare system here, but at least we have one, all im saying.. I understand anxiety as i am around it every day.. in many country’s people with it bad like this would be dead if you cant work, as stressful as it is, with patience it will work out, as this situation has now been resolved, patience was they key, getting angry and stressed and venting probably did more harm than was needed

        1. Wombat

          No. Speaking out did not do more harm than good. If no-one stands up and speaks then no-one will know there is a problem. Patience and calmness is for when the odd issue crops up. Not for when systemic injustices are being swept under the carpet. This needs airing and it needs the attention that it is now getting. Your wishy-washy ‘be calm and carry on’ rubbish is just that – rubbish. And stop telling this woman that someone else has it better. That is disempowering and nasty, as it delegitimises her suffering. Take it somewhere else, preferably somewhere where no-one has to hear it.

  37. Gemm

    WINZ are supposed to be a support agency, I absolutely appreciate the assistance they gave me in the past, but like you, I found it insane the backwards way they work. The left hand has no idea what the right hand is doing.
    I was working part time & receiving the (back then named) invalids benefit, I had to supply many forms of proof I was still ill, as if my genetics were going to change, & notify them if I received a pay rise, to which I always provided a pay slip.
    One year they did a full review of everything over the past couple of years, without informing me, and I received a letter saying I owed them $5000 in ‘over payments’… Yes you read that correctly!
    They ‘had no record’ of my provided pay slips so it was my problem they had over paid me.
    I tried to argue it & take it higher up the chain, to which I received the same response – ‘we have no record of this.’
    So they were paying me just enough to survive, AND wanted me to pay them back. I managed to argue it down so they took only $10 a week from what they were paying me, to pay back ‘my debt’.
    I have since had major surgery & my life has taken a 180, I am now working full time & am paying it off as fast as I can, just to get them out of my life!
    Almost there.
    It is the most backwards government organisation. Misguided & run by monkeys.
    They are not there for the people who need them.
    I hope your support continues & next assessment time is not so stressful & ridiculous!!

  38. [email protected]

    Wow i thought it was bad when i was there, Look all of this is just bullshitty government stuff just get better chick… Better yet leave NZ till there is a real prime minister…

  39. chellz

    It is absolutely ridiculous what some people have to go through to get a benefit and recieve the support they are apparently entitled too

  40. Xanadu

    Christ. Reading this takes me back to one of my worst days with WINZ… I try to avoid the place like the plague (I literally get The Flu, a week or so after I’ve had an appointment at the Upper Hutt office. I’m not a hypochondriac by any means and I usually keep in good physical health – I know it’s due to the inner turmoil leading up to the appointment, sleeplessness and then the inevitable f*ckery I encounter once there.

    In my case I went to inform WINZ that I was leaving their clutches to attend Weltec. GO ME. Despite the social phobia and general anxiety that I live with, I’d decided to take matters into my own hands and enroll. My benefit was due to expire, so I would need a few weeks “top up” until student life/funds kicked in. (Sounds like common sense, right?!)

    I wasn’t expecting a round of applause for my decision, but I also wasn’t expecting poker faces and a run-in with the rudest, most indiscreet receptionist I’ve ever met. I was informed that the information I’d been given by the call centre was all wrong and that I’d have to jump through a number of hoops if I was expecting any “support”. She then announced as loud as she could: “AND I CAN’T GIVE YOU A FOOD GRANT”, right in front of a packed reception.

    This was not only mortifying, it was puzzling.. I’d not said anything about a food shortage or a grant. Lady was trying to humiliate me.

    With an exasperated tone she directed me to wait behind a frail elder, whose wife had just died. He was quietly crying….. He was so disorientated he needed to be guided out the electric doors with the help of the security guard (the most work that WINZ guard had seen in a while). His heartbreak was palpable and I was just trying to hold myself together.

    I could feel my nose starting to drip and a storm brewing inside of me ;-( I sat down and the “case manager” (who had heard everything between the receptionist and I) pretended she hadn’t heard everything and asked me why I was there. It hit me that I was going to have to tell my story yet again to a random WINZ stranger..

    All I remember is pointing at the box of tissues on her desk and politely asking for one and that was it: *Hicuppy Sob*. I remember looking up and seeing the office manager staring at me from across the room. No concern…. Nothing. There I was, right at the front of the office, in full view of everyone.

    It was the most pathetic day of my life, but some good feels have come out of it:

    * I no longer attend WINZ without the backup of an assertive friend.

    * I verbalize how I feel…”I DON”T LIKE COMING HERE”. “I THINK YOUR PROCEDURES ARE FARCICAL” etc, etc 🙂

    * I point out the failures in their systems. It won’t change a thing, but it makes me feel better and smarter.

    * I ask the case manager about their background (usually ex DPB). *Trigger sheepish feelings* in case manager.

    * My Bad.

    * Above all, I realised: It’s pointless having an emotional response, to a system built upon sociopathic bureaucracy.

    I hope some good comes out of you sharing your story publicly, but I feel change will only come with a change of government.

  41. kit

    I’m not sure where you are based but there are sometimes community based groups that can provide support people for dealing with winz. Your local citizens advice bureau might know of them. I also know there are lots of people who help with complaints.

  42. tracy

    Thanks for sharing, I have had a similar situation my son who was diagnosis at 11 months had Hepatoblastoma which is liver cancer. . It took winz two months to sorted out my son’s disability allowance… I was so stress angry etc. That I had to go back to wellington Hospital to talk to the social worker once again to get papers and proof. .This is not good enough something needs to be done. .. in very highly disappointed in winz. .

  43. Kaitlyn Fraser

    This is awful! And the clapping how terrible! I am also on a job seeker support benefit, this struck me as odd when I was assigned onto this last year, (I was previously on what they called the domestic purposes benefit) as I was working part time as well as being on this benefit in order to simply make ends meet, I’m a single mother of a four year old who up until the time that my partner walked out on us had never received assistance and never intended to do so until it became necessary. During this time I was asked over and over to prove and explain why he was not there, naturally this in Itself was extremely painful, this year I started studying, only to find out that the training incentive allowance offered only covered secondary training, not tertiary. To top it all off I was denied temporary additional support on the basis that because I had stopped working and started studying I hadn’t taken “necessary steps” to improve my financial situation!
    The conclusion I have come to with this department is that your essentially deemed a “dole bludger” the second you walk in the door, case managers are there not to assist your requests but to resist them. And the sole purpose is to get people working, yes this I understand as if I was in a situation where I could I would love to be working, but a minimum wage job to support a family that will Infact require you to lean on this system for years to come, compared to a year in an educational institute and a job where you could be fully self sufficient. This I fail to understand. Paula Bennett has Infact made this system more difficult and harder to use, I must note after reaping the rewards of a system that albeit may have had it’s flaws but was essentially based on the needs of the people, not the growing debt of said governed department and reducing those costs at the detrement to those who need it most.

  44. Rebecca

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I have had very similar experiences in Palmerston North/Levin offices.
    Having found myself separated with a 5, 2 and 6mth old child 1 year ago and having to move 4 hours to be near family for support I have had very crazy experiences.
    First speaking to WINZ about finding a house…….(I had $0 at this stage as my ex had everything and I was lucky enough to leave with a bag each) when I asked them what I will receive on the solo parent benefit so I can then know what rent I can afford they told me until the application went through they couldn’t tell me or even give me an idea?? No helpful at all. Then finding that every place had bond, letting fees and weeks in advanced I asked them if it was possible to borrow money for this and pay it back weekly? Answer no! Which I have since found out is rubbish as they help people out all the time with this and some do not have to pay it back!
    Anyway got it all sorted thanks to an amazing supportive family who could help me thank god.
    Fast forward 3 mths and my children were more settled and some of the anxiety and stress had gone from the sudden separation and I decided right enough of this struggling I want to get a job. So next step book in to see WINZ as I know they give job seekers $500 to help with clothes, petrol etc to go to interviews so surely they will help me with a loan for $150 to get registration (what I need to work in my profession). I didn’t want anything else.
    I turned up for my appointment with the paperwork to show what I wanted help with. I sat down and the lady said what can I do for you? I said I need to get back into work and I need help to do it (showed her the form). She didn’t look at it instead she looked at my 8mth old baby next to me and said “no you can’t go back to work your baby is too young! hahaha” . I couldn’t believe this was WINZ I was sitting in. Here is a client sitting in front of them that wants to go back to work and they say that!?!?!
    Tried 6mths later, got a different person and it was all approved and I was even given information about childcare etc I could have been 6 mths further on my job hunt if the first lady had not been judgemental.
    This is just a few of the dozens of horrible experiences I have had in one year on the DPB god I hope work comes up soon. I have been actively applying for jobs and volunteering to get my foot in the door so hopefully I will be back into work well before my youngest is 5!!! and cant wait for the day I will very happily give WINZ and there unfair actions depending on who you are and who you get the middle finger and there is no way they will be ringing a bell for me as they have made it nearly impossible for me to get a job!!! I will cancel my benefit over the phone!!! lol

  45. Jayne

    My mum is seriously unwell and still suffering the effects of multiple cancer treatments including chemotherapy and a stem cell replacement yet she is continually harassed by WINZ as to why she hasn’t found a job. This was like reading her story (except mum’s is made more complicated by the fact she’s actually to unwell to attend any appointments or to related matters and has to have a kind friend (appointed as her agent) be stuffed around on her behalf. Not ok.

  46. Bron.

    I’m so saddened to hear it’s not just me going through this horrific and humiliating process as a sickness beneficiary in a work-obsessed, punitary system. Don’t be afraid afraid to make a formal complaint and ask to speak with a manager if you are being treated unfairly or incompetently, it is often the only way to get what you are entitled to. Kia kaha e hoa, keep standing up for your rights where you can and seek assistance when you can’t. You deserve better than this.

  47. Pat Stewart

    writehandedgirl you are definitely amongst the brown stuff but it’s good to see that you at least have a sense of humour – don’t lose it. Realise now that you are not going to change the culture of a Government Department. Realise also that such a Department pays peanuts for monkeys to work for them – you are dealing with monkeys (I do not mean to denigrate monkeys – many of them are much smarter than a majority of humans. I use the name figuratively). So, get over trying to change what you can’t. Unfortunately you just have to deal with it. Look at others who have to deal with Government Departments but actually get looked after – criminals spring to mind! You know, if you go rob a bank, and get caught, then the ‘system’ works for you. Everything is provided, health, social reintegration, re-education. Cost does not come into it – someone in the ‘system’ has KPIs so they make things happen to get the ticks in the box. With WINZ, their KPIs do not work for you. They are focused on claps (for fuck sakes – give me strength). It’s all about managing your problem. You just have to reorganise your problem from medical to societal. The ‘system’ will then work for you. Flippancy aside – I feel for you. It’s a shame some low life’s are being paid by the taxpayer for being incompetent, unprofessional and not doing what they are paid for. Good luck girl!

  48. audiomarkoni

    None of this is strange to me, WINZ is such a bureaucratic institution, operated by a bunch of incompetent imbeciles. I have seen cases where people genuinely struggle and WINZ is shafting them big time, by : “we need more info, wait for a week, we do not recognize this being a proof etc.!” Rightfully you say fuck WINZ!! Sometime when we look at institutions like WINZ, like ACC, and few other institutions in NZ, we think , why the hell do we live here? NZ is a country that is getting rid of low and middle class slowly but surely, so that people like you and I will have no choice but to leave… but that is a whole other story. Good luck with everything!

  49. cyndy

    I haven’t needed the assistance of a benefit for a few years now (thank goodness) but I feel for you as it is the same bullshit I had to deal with! Advice for you, as this is what I did. Every time you hand over a receipt or form etc you get who ever it is to stamp and date it and sign it, then photocopy it to give you a copy of proof. They questioned me and asked why and I simply said because I was sick of them loosing things and wanted proof to show them I had done what was required. I hardly ever had a problem after that 🙂 Good luck with everything

  50. Rosie Alexander

    I want you to know that this was basically my exact experience about a week ago. Almost word for word, as far as the humiliating disdain and apathy goes.

    I have a severe panic disorder, I barely make it to appointments, often not showing up or cancelling because I can’t bare to make it, this is all on file. when I finally do come I’m treated like utter trash, nothing more than the scum of the earth leeching case workers tax dollars. Queue the endless cycle of being scared to go to my appointments because of how I will be treated. (even though disability, unemployed, and students don’t even reach HALF the cost of pensioners put together.)

    Two things I noticed last time I was in the Mt Albert WINZ office (Auckland)
    This huge poster on the glass wall reading “My only disability(bold) was thinking I couldn’t work(bold)”
    And this white board keeping track of which worker has got the most people on disability back to work, with last months “winner” celebrated at the top of the board.

  51. IamJack'sIrateBowel

    My God,

    You whiny left wing internet-feminists with your entitlement issues never cease to amaze me. “Wahhh, a system set up solely to give other people’s tax money to my useless unproductive ass doesn’t function exactly as I’d like it to, and is bureaucratic.” Just be fucking glad it exists. It isn’t written in stone somewhere that it’s your natural right to receive money you never earned. Personally, I’m pleased I live in a society that provides support to the sick and those who cannot work; but I find this growing culture of entitlement unsettling. You’ve got enough time and energy to write countless blogs and tweets about your myopic western-middle-class feminism entitlement issues; I’m sure you could channel that energy into something productive. Now your little pack of wimps is going to label me callous and do the whole “how can u know wat its lyke if ur not her!!? wahh” thing. Well, fuck you guys, try and practice some intellectual honesty. if you can muster the time and energy to write a million feminist hate wanks, you can earn an income freelancing, or doing any other of the growing number of work from home vocations. JBTW, ctrl f “entitled” – 5 hits. Just exactly who ‘entitled’ you whiny bitches to reach your hands into the the next guys pockets?

    1. Robert

      It’s called “self love”, that is the expectation that others will treat you like a human being, fairly, in reasonable time, and with a reasonable level of compassion as provided for under the Social Securities Act. I guess it’s a tough concept for sociopaths like yourself to understand.

    2. Nat

      1. “I’m pleased I live in a society that provides support to the sick and those who cannot work”
      Check your reading comprehension. I think you’ll find that Writehandedgirl’s story highlights the utter failure to do precisely that.
      2. She does work from home when she’s well enough. She has a job. If you’re too wrapped in privilege to realise that there is a difference between work that is, generally, on a deadline, and being able to write a little at a time with significant breaks in-between any exertion, then we cannot help you.
      In addition to that, not knowing whether you will be well enough to manage _any_ work each day adds significant stress and emotional distress to a person’s life. You’re basically asking that she live a life with even more financial uncertainty than now. A single day where her illness is work could mean she failed to meet her bills. That type of stress has a tendency to exacerbate chronic illnesses.
      3. Aside from all of that, her doctor, a trained, medical professional, has stated she is NOT well enough to work on an ongoing basis. Pretty sure you don’t know better than her doctor.
      4. She worked full-time in a professional job until she was ill. Guess what? That means she paid her taxes. This is what taxes are _for_.
      5. I think you’ll find we all have plenty of intellectual honesty and empathy. Go out and learn a bit more about how the world, and New Zealand, works. As a society, we should be looking after those who are sick and vulnerable. We are failing grossly in that duty right now, and we really don’t need to hear your (most likely) white male tears on how you have to pay taxes. Cry me a river, and cry yourself some compassion.

    3. Nat

      Oh, and writing about your experience is a well-known therapeutic outlet for those with anxiety and depression. Get fucked if you think people shouldn’t do something that helps their medical condition, and instead should do something that could worsen it.

    4. MC_Odd

      Entitled drivel from a libertarian fuck knuckle complaining about other people being entitled.

      A society that works is one that looks after its people – especially those who are sick and in need, those most at risk.

      People like you are the reason this country (and the world in general) is such a fucking mess. If you’re so opposed to society helping its own, go build a shitty little libertarian hellhole under the sea and take all the other heartless tea party scumbags with you.

  52. freedom

    I have experienced so much of what is written above. The fears, the tears, the walls and the lost calls. This harrowing post and the diversity of comments, are full of memories for me. As they obviously are for many others. And like them, my memories are built largely of anger and futility.

    I live with PTSD and Chronic Depression. Six years back, sick of being a hamster on a treadmill and against medical advice, I took myself off the sickness benefit. “Being ‘sick’ wasn’t making me any better” was my thinking!
    I had been trying like hell to never go back. A few months ago The Rock Star kiwi economy somehow resulted in redundancy forcing my hand and I am again navigating the long long road of insignificance back to employment.

    Having not looked for work for a few years I have noticed many changes, not the least of which is the job drought forging its way across New Zealand. More surprising was how WINZ no longer seem interested in helping people into self-employment. There are the work-focus seminars (which are a complete waste of resources for all concerned). There are the ever growing wait times for appointments and the general shift away from open disclosure of entitlement information in the on-line services. As always, there is the conflict between on-line information and case worker knowledge, but that is a natural-product of overly complex systems being poorly implemented. The staff genuinely want to help, that much is obvious.

    But as always, when standing there without hands, what can they offer you as you fall?

    Needless to say I have witnessed some odd things in the modern WINZ office. There has been a noted shift from flexible autonomy to ascribed authority in the decision making. The staff are less interested in individual circumstances, not because they don’t seem to care… more that the always-new rules seem to tell them not to.

    Above any of that though, is the bell ringing.

    The event is ‘what were they thinking?’ inanity! The experiece of witnessing a bell ringing stays with you. (I do know one thing, when I do find a job there is no way on this good earth that bell is getting a look in) This celebration, because apparently that is the event’s intention, seems to be compulsory if you do get one of those ever-elusive jobs. The bell ringing is unavoidable. The bell ringing is unsettling. It is an incredibly twisted experience when you consider the multitude of personal circumstance that are helplessly exposed in the very public space of a WINZ office. What many readers may not realise (at the local office anyway) is they are not using a subtle chime, or some hand tuned bell from long ago that radiates a ceremonial harmony. Oh no. It is a foot high school yard hand bell, like those used at Rugby matches by proud supporters of the team. The client, like all of us remember, is entitled to a modicum of privacy and respect in their dealings with Government agencies. The client is stripped of this dignity. Trapped in this public space, no doubt wanting zero-space to swallow them, the client has to sit there receiving this uninvited adulation. They are probably expected to be be thankful during the entirety of the donging and the obligatory staff applause.

    So back to the center ring of the circus, how did the client react when the trained seals slapped their fins? Put it this way…If the theory behind the activity is how the client’s joy becomes such a radiant beacon of hope and expectation that it nurtures motivation in others using some esoteric form of emotional photosyntheses… well, the beaming smile of gratitude was noticeably absent.

  53. jasmine

    As someone who has just finished studying to be a case manager I am absolutely disgusted in this, what you have described and experienced is breaking so many ethical guidelines and standards that are set out in most organizations procedures. How they are doing these things to clients are beyond me!! I am so deeply sorry on there behalf and I would recommend to speak to their senior case manager,I wounder if their staff are even qualified in their position

  54. Robert Boesnach

    All I have left to say about WINZ is that they are forcing me into a life of crime… at age 60! To hell with this system.. I’m better off alone even if I do have to take risks!

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  56. Rachael

    I was horrified with my experience, I’m an “agent” on behalf of my granddad and was trying to get his medical alarm paid for which he was covered for, the forms were lost on 3 separate occasions, I even went another branch to drop them in to ensure they would get them but still lost, I handed them to the case manager and he lost them, I even had to tell him in one of my many appointments that I had given him the forms that he was asking for, it got to a point where I write a complaint to the branch manager, he called me back and I was able to tell him how horrified I was at the service, if I had gone through that experience what the hell are they doing with all the other older people, they were blankly trying to rip him off by been difficult, the whole ordeal took 11 months to sort out and I made sure my granddad got back paid for the 11 months they had refused to pay, I just feel sorry for all the people that can’t or are unable to stand up for themselves.

  57. Sue Tyler (@styler)

    I’ve just realised, and as my 82 year old mum points out. Everything i do she helps me with with winz, i don;t have to find an advocacy service she has a friend at church who does this for people so he offers her advice for me. Mum fills out all my forms takes all the copies and notes down each appt the person i saw and for how long, she asks for receipts for everything. I do none of that because she does and she’s family i didn’t have to fi d her, i didn’t have to ask i dont have to make appts she is just there and offered.

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