One of the great things about being a New Zealander, is that we pride ourselves on our social security system – the fact that if you lose your job, if everything fails in your life, if you hit rock bottom, the people of New Zealand will provide you with enough money to live and help you find work, get back on your feet.
It’s a system I’m very thankful for – whilst I’ll probably never be in that position (yay, IT jobs), I like to believe that I’m in a society that cares enough for people that we don’t let them starve or die on the streets when they run out of money, like uncivilised nations such as the USA.
But the sad thing is that this just isn’t true – whilst we have this social support in the form of WINZ, it doesn’t deliver – nobody I know who has had to rely on WINZ has had a good experience and the system as a whole is setup to cause people immense stress and anguish.
Thanks to a culture inspired by media and political parties using benifiercies as political target points, there is immense pressure to rid NZ of the “freeloaders” on the system – whilst some complaints are valid, there will always be people who abuse any system, but the existence of these people does not necessarily mean the system itself is bad.
From what I can tell, the users of WINZ seem to fall into one of four main categories:
- People who have recently lost their job and need help in the transition period – not everyone has large savings and can afford to live between redundancies.
- Youth, out of school with few of the real skills required that businesses want and unable to find work.
- Intelligent/otherwise successful people who are having trouble finding work and need support sometimes – maybe the job market isn’t so good, maybe they’ve had some issues (eg depression, unexpected children, etc) and just need a hand.
- People who just don’t want to work and would rather be paid money by the government to stay home.
In my experience, the people in the fourth category are relatively rare – the money isn’t good and the social stigma isn’t that much fun, not to mention sitting around with nothing todo most of the time gets pretty boring pretty fast – most people would rather be working and feel like a member of society.
However with all the political pressure to curb these freeloaders, WINZ has evolved to operate in a way to treat people as poorly as possible to try and force them off their books and into work with some bizarre logic of “if we treat people badly enough, we’ll get them into work”.
I know of many cases where WINZ is:
- Refusing to fund people who have lost their jobs because they “resigned” rather than being fired or made redundant – however this isn’t always simple, people may resign because the job is abusive, dangerous or resign as part of a settlement to avoid firing. In these cases, people still need the same support services, but WINZ won’t fund for at least 10 weeks after the job ceased.
- Sending people to training courses on skills they already have, yet pulling people off training courses they actually want to do because they’re considered unready or unsuitable.
- Randomly cutting benefits with little/no warning and demanding people to justify their payments in order for it to be reinstated.
- Aggressively trying to force single mums who have come out worse from a divorce into the workforce, not considering the child at stake, nor their current challenges.
- Discrimination towards people with mental health issues, trying to cut their benefits, force them off sickness benefits and demand they get a job, when in reality, a number of these people will never be hired by most companies.
The latest issue which has pushed me over the limit, is WINZ trying to force @splatdevil to attend a boot-camp like course to somehow help her to find a job in NZ’s currently difficult job market.
This course involves living to military law for 6 weeks, dressing in military uniform and performing large amounts of physical activity - the write up about it from NZ Military pretty much states what it is – a boot camp, designed for youth who have been in trouble with the law, problems with drugs, violence and other issues.
Essentially, WINZ wants to *force* my girlfriend to attend this course – of course it’s “voluntary”- but if you don’t attend, your benefit entitlements get completely cut, and you’ll be out on the streets with no money. So real voluntary there.
Their thinking is that someone intelligent, with university education, who is working hard having interviews and applying for work, would be improved by spending 6 weeks running through mud, doing military drills and associating with other people with serious violence, drugs and attitude problems.
Not to mention the health impact of forcing someone with asthma and weight into performing intensive physical activities plus the mental damage of pushing a creative free thinking mind into such a rigid structure designed to curb and reduce attitudes to fit a standard mold chosen by out-dated conservative mindsets as being “appropriate” for society.
I don’t have a problem with the boot-camp/LVR course structure per-say, but it’s something individuals need to choose if they think it’s something that they’ll benefit from – at the same time, an individual actively looking for work or doing a data entry course is complete equally entitled to my tax dollars as far as I’m concerned.
I know that someone like myself would end up bitter and resentful at being treated like an idiot and forced into military activities – I’d be more likely to come out angry and bitter at society than someone wanting to work and contribute towards it. Far more likely to sit at home writing black hat malware and hacking systems to get back at the man than to be out there designing solutions and startup companies to bring NZ into the business of technology.
As it stands, I’m sick of WINZ, sick of New Zealand and most of all, sick of the people in New Zealand who, as one smart friend puts it, have the attitude of benefit bashing being a national sport and just sick of the fact that our country is slowly sliding more and more backwards.
Quite frankly, I’m feeling increasingly ashamed to be a New Zealander every day, living in a country that lies about it’s true issues behind the false premise that we’re a clean, green, forwards thinking, socially conscious nation.
And New Zealand probably isn’t that likely to retain me for that much longer – from 2012, I’m strongly considering a permanent move overseas, most likely to AU – there’s little opportunity or future left here for me. And who knows if I’ll ever be back once I leave.