Sorry we’ve confused you

Several weeks ago, someone from Labour let me know they were working on pulling together a ‘welfare working group,’ to help advise on changes needed. This panel has now been announced. 

The group of eleven people from a cross-section of different backgrounds, and will take a “broad-ranging” review of the system, according to Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni.

“It will deliver advice to the Government on ways to ensure people have an adequate income and standard of living, are treated with respect, can live in dignity, and are able to participate meaningfully in their communities.”

The ‘Welfare Expert Advisory Group’ (interesting use of ‘expert,’ in my opinion) does have a wide range of members, including people who will know the pitfalls of the system very well, like beneficiary advocate Kay Brereton.

It doesn’t include anyone who is a current beneficiary.

I presume (surely) part of their process will be interviews or some other gathering of qualitative data from those who are living with system.

It would be really great if this would first take into account work that has already been done, including:

  • A) The stories that I collected from beneficiaries five years ago, which we all provided in good faith to Labour, the whereabouts of and response to which I have never gotten an answer, despite numerous frustrating enquiries
  • B) The stories that were submitted by beneficiaries at that time through a portal Labour created on their website for this specific purpose, which one day disappeared and again, I have gotten no response as to where that data ended up, and
  • C) The huge number of accounts collected by the We Are Beneficiaries project.

It makes no sense to reinvent the wheel when there is already so much data available.

The panel will look at specific recommendations on current obligations and sanctions, which sounds hopeful, though I don’t hold my breath. They have also been asking to consider “the overall purpose of the system” – which seems like kind of a massive thing for eleven people to do.

Again, I’m going to be very interested in their proposed processes for carrying out this work.

I don’t think I’m a cynical person in most areas of my life? A realist, yes, possibly sometimes erring too far on the side of caution.

But I am absolutely cynical about this. I think most people whose lives are effected so closely by politics probably become that way. Maybe not. Unfortunately, I’ve been let down too many times to put too much faith in the system or the people that run it, regardless of which political party they belong to.

Meanwhile, someone at MSD was clearly having a bad day yesterday, as I received not one, but three emails in quick succession, all containing wrong information. Despite the usual frustration I feel with MSD’s failure to adequately communicate, the attempted apologies provided a source of amusement.

“Sorry if we’ve confused you” could probably cover my relationship with MSD for the past five years. Maybe also “Sorry we’re so difficult to deal with,” and “Sorry the system is designed to beat you when you’re down.”

I know that some may consider me a hypocrite for this, but – if this Expert Advisory Group contacts me to provide feedback (and I have to reason to believe they might) – I’m very likely to say a very strongly worded No. I presume they’re getting paid for this work, so unless they want to pay me for my expertise – and I would say that, as someone who grew up in a household with a single parent on welfare, and as someone who has now been on it for five years, and as someone who has spent a lot of time talking to others, I do consider myself an expert – unless they’d like to pay me for that knowledge, labour, and emotional work, then No. My answer will be No.

I hope that they go and look at all of the data they already have. There is plenty of it.

Apparently, they don’t have to report back until February next year.

That’s more than adequate time to do proper research and set in motion positive change.

I will be watching with interest.