WINZ – How do we force change?

One of the things that has struck me about running this blog is the horror stories I have heard from people having trouble with WINZ. Having trouble is putting it lightly, really. Most of them are already suffering. Trying to get financial assistance has been the edge of the cliff for many.

Since I’m about to shut down the blog for a while, I’ve been thinking about everything that has happened since I started it. My reasons for writing have evolved, but the core desire –  to try and address and change the popular perception of beneficiaries – has not.

I started out simply sharing my story. I kind of naiively hoped that would be enough. But we’re climbing a mountain here. In 2013, a Human Rights commission survey showed beneficiaries are the most discriminated against group in the country. I’m going to be blunt. People love to hate us. They don’t understand, and they don’t want to. They are steadfastly sticking to the stereotypes. My voice alone isn’t going to change that.

At least I have been able to make that voice a loud one. And my personal relationship with WINZ has changed as a result of that.

But that leaves thousands of people out in the cold, and I’m painfully aware of it.

Earlier this week I met with Jan Logie, spokesperson for Social Development for the Green Party. We brainstormed ideas for how we could work together to force change. One of the biggest issues with this is that the government keep saying the stories of mistreatment etc are just hearsay. And it’s hard to ask people to put their names and faces to the stories when they feel at risk. I for one know exactly what it feels like to be that face. It’s not a happy place.

So what needs to happen?

  • Identifying the issues and exactly which legislation needs to change to address them
  • Gathering statistical data to prove how widespread the issues are
  • A serious discussion with the Human Rights Commission about what role they should be playing here
  • Encouragement of academic studies into this area to help back qualitative data

Here’s some of the specific issues we know are prevalent (many of these were identified in the Canterbury Community Law Report).

– The power balance between clients and Work and Income

– Case managers not informing clients of all their entitlements

– Declined applications with no real explanation

– Beneficiaries sent to work seminars or budget advisors when there is no work and no budget to work with

– Clients receiving conflicting information from different WINZ employees

I hear many horror stories. I know one man who is terminally ill and still battling WINZ for support.

I know people who have turned to sex work rather than deal with Work and Income any longer.

I hear stories regarding people whose own doctors assess them as too sick for work – but the WINZ employed doctors insist otherwise. (One woman was asked by a WINZ doctor to sign a piece of paper releasing her medical records to him. She wasn’t told it is her right not to do so).

All of this remains deeply concerning to me. I intend to work with the Greens as and where possible.

As I have mentioned, I’m not going to be on the blog much in the coming weeks. But if there is anything important to share or discuss, I will certainly do so.

We all know things need to change. It’s just a question of how.



5 Replies to “WINZ – How do we force change?”

  1. Chris Miller

    Just got back from a Jobseekers Support seminar which is part of the required pre-benefit activities for getting unemployment now. Aside from being a complete waste of time, the guy next to me got kicked out for asking too many questions. He asked why he had to leave and the facilitator went to get security. Totally unreal.

  2. Marcus

    “I hear stories regarding people whose own doctors assess them as too sick for work – but the WINZ employed doctors insist otherwise. (One woman was asked by a WINZ doctor to sign a piece of paper releasing her medical records to him. She wasn’t told it is her right not to do so).

    All of this remains deeply concerning to me. I intend to work with the Greens as and where possible.”

    Congrats for getting into that course at Victoria Uni. As for your efforts raising WINZ problems, thanks for all that, which must have been hard at times, given your health conditions and coping with them.

    Good on you to have met with Jan Logie, and I support your efforts to work with her (one of very few MPs who actually care about our challenges).

    As for these medical assessment issues that seem to pop up again and again for WINZ clients, the mainstream media does not seem to bother reporting on it. There was info sent to some leading journalists, but even with black on white proof, they do not seem to be (allowed to) write about it.

    The medico legal field is a minefield, that few dare treading onto, as they may be sued for “deffamation” and so forth, or at least be threatened with that, if they expose what goes on.

    I know full well what WINZ do with their designated doctors, some of whom are “hatchet doctors”, there is no doubt about it. And Principal Health Advisor Dr Bratt is one to put under scrutiny, I would suggest, him likening benefit dependence to “drug dependence”, and listening to selectively chosen “research”, mostly from one centre in the UK, makes him a very one-sided person.

    There will be some more stuff published, I believe, and those wanting to dig a bit into the details about many issues with MSD, WINZ and the way they handle medical assessments and so, check out ‘nzsocialjusticeblog2013’. It is just a simple blog, but contains much valuable info. Google it, as links to there won’t load here (WordPress being the reason, I suspect).

    Take a break, but come back, if you have the time and strenght, best wishes.


  3. Marcus

    Further to my earlier comment, as for not signing that consent for having WINZ case managers contact your own doctor, they put us in a position, where we cannot withhold the consent. If a person refuses to sign, they will simply not accept arguments to keep or put you on a benefit that you ask to be put on. Even if your GP states that you are unable to work, they will try to challenge the GPs diagnosis and assessment, they do this in increasing numbers of cases.

    They (WINZ) will say, they can then not check details they need from your doctor, should a client refuse consent, and hence they will not process any application, or take you off a benefit you may have been on for poor health and disability, and put you on one where you may have some part time work obligations.

    At least they try to do that and thus put pressure on people. The drive is to get people off benefits, and with the new regime they use much discretion, and look for any reason to declare a person “fit” to do whatever kind of hypothetical work, even if there is no chance of getting work. Cost saving is the main goal they have, the client and “patient” comes after that.

  4. Marcus

    This may interest readers, the welfare reforms that have been introduced and implemented since 2010, especially the major, draconian changes in mid 2013, appear to be achieving little if nothing, when looked at closely.

    Yesterday in Parliament Carmel Sepuloni, Labour Spokesperson on Social Development, had this to ask the Associate Minister:

    It only proves that we were right, that is those of us, who had some idea, that these new approaches will fail:

    Also is there an apparent lack of “evidence” to justify the measures to get sick and disabled into work, by changing work ability expectations, by increasing expectations and by changing the medical and work ability assessment criteria:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.