This morning I met with Labour MPs Maryan Street and Sue Moroney to discuss Labour’s plans to address the systemic mistreatment of beneficiaries at the hands of Work and Income New Zealand.
I’m not a member of Labour or any other party, but I support their work. I’m very pleased to hear about their plans.
However, when I sat down to write about that, the story regarding Bennett’s visit to the Nelson Work and Income office – and subsequent attack on both my state of mind and my character – broke. She denies that there is any need to change any legislation, policies, or practices within WINZ. She frames me as a lone negative voice (I’m not) – and suggests I lack credibility because my illness has affected my state of mind.
She suggests that my illness and the amount of stress on me has distorted my perception of reality. I am utterly gobsmacked. A while ago I wrote about hysteria, and how it is a label given to women to belittle their experience, strip them of their rights, and silence them. This is exactly what is happening here. Yes, Paula, I am stressed. No, I am not incapable. My illness does not effect my brain, and my perception is entirely coherent.
Furthermore, she implies that I have tried to demoralise WINZ staff. That is absolutely untrue. I have consistently said that my fight is against the policies put in place by the Ministry of Social Development, not the staff, and that I recognise that employees work within legislation that forces them to make unfair decisions. I have also personally and publicly thanked my case manager for what she has done on my behalf.
The newspaper has now given me right of reply to these allegations. I prefer to reply here, where I have complete control over my words. I’m very sad that my attempts to expose systematic and widespread mistreatment of vulnerable people at a political level has been reduced to personal attacks. I don’t want to take up column space with “she said” “no, she said” arguments. I can’t win. What can I possibly achieve? All I am is a disabled beneficiary. She’s a cabinet Minster. She has the power and she knows how to use it.
I have… a blog.
Labour’s plan will be released today or tomorrow. It looks at several issues, including:
– The delaying of benefit entitlements being paid out due to mistakes by WINZ
– The removal of benefit entitlements due to mistakes by WINZ
– The treatment of people with chronic illness who have been put on a “Jobseeker” benefit.
Paula Bennett continues to say that widespread, systemic mistreatment does not occur. Here she is denying, despite evidence physically placed in front of her by another MP, that parents of children with congenital conditions such as muscular dystrophy and Down’s Syndrome are being repeatedly forced to prove that their children have not recovered from their incurable disease.
As we all know, the idea that these are isolated incidents is patently untrue.
Finally, on a personal level, I am very pleased to see Labour taking the lead on this. Being an activist, despite having a large number of wonderful supporters, is exhausting and depressing. It feels a bit like being a little bee on the back of the woolly mammoth of bureaucracy and politics. I can sting, but they barely feel it – and I lose a part of myself in the process.
We need a swarm.