The terrible deaths at a WINZ office in Ashburton took us all by surprise. Staunch poverty campaigner Sue Bradford commented before the deaths were known and was attacked by waves of twitterarti who knew best. Sue apologised but her wider message that the draconian welfare policies of this Government have pushed many to the edge while ill timed, seem very legitimate.
What has surprised me most about the WINZ shootings is the number of people who have privately expressed to me that but for the grace of God, they could have been Russell John Tully. The anger and frustration this Government’s policies have forced upon the most vulnerable members of our community never justifies actions as extreme and violent as those we have witnessed this week, but the spate of copy cat threats to other WINZ offices isn’t an accident, it highlights how wide spread the desperation of desperate people really is.
Unfortunately for the most vulnerable, I think WINZ Staff have a difficult time being compassionate to the never ending river of need and suffering washing through their offices. It can not be easy being on that coalface. Any progressive Government coming in should consider state funding welfare advocacy groups like the AAAP to help beneficiaries navigate the purposely complex procedures and red tape used to drive desperate people into hopelessness.
Applying for a benefit requires 73 pages. A mortgage takes about 8 pages. There’s a very nasty and calculated reason for that.
When we consider the way Bennet has treated with contempt the privacy of beneficiary Natasha Fuller, has attacked the courage of Sarah Wilson and pushed wheelchair bound Sam Kuha to attack a WINZ office with a hammer, I can’t shrug off pointing the blame where it needs to be pointed.
There will never be a justification for what happened in Ashburton. But there are reasons this happen. If the lesson extrapolated by this needless murder and violence is to make life even more difficult for beneficiaries, we have learned nothing.
My respects and deepest condolences to the families and whanau who have been so traumatised and hurt by this weeks awful tragedy. My best wishes also to every vulnerable person attempting to access these services at their most frightened and angry. Let’s hope September 20th replaces the current regime within welfare that is generating such brutal friction.