Why are beneficiaries attacking WINZ offices?

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Why are beneficiaries attacking WINZ offices?

The wave of copycat threats that have erupted around the country in the wake of the terrible shootings in Ashburton is no coincidence. It is the reaction of tens of thousands of desperate NZers who have been treated harshly by WINZ, treated harshly because of the economic mismanagement of this Government which has led to National slashing millions from welfare necessitating a hard line from WINZ that has pushed some of the most vulnerable beyond breaking point.

In 2011, as the tax take fell, Bill English signalled the cuts backs would be in welfare

“In the New Year the Government will consider further decisions around how to increase efficiency in the public sector and how it manages some of its large and growing expenses,” English said in a media release on Monday morning.

“This will be assisted by report of the Welfare Working Group, 

…the Welfare Working group was the ideologically stacked razor gang National set up to destroy social welfare in 2010.

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Other than an Islamaphobic fiction writer who connects intelligence to wealth and advocates corporations run social welfare, who was on this razor gang?

Surprise, surprise – former president of ACT, Catherine Isaac. A day after the Welfare Working Group first met on April 30th 2010, Isaac’s husband and Executive Director of the Business Roundtable, Roger Kerr, published an opinion piece in the Dominion Post claiming unemployment is a political choice, as in the poor choose to be poor. 

Roger raged against the welfare machine by claiming if only we dumped the minimum youth wage and weaken unions, then employers like him would hire and Ayn Rand would come back from the grave with Adam Smith and they will lay the foundations of a pure free market city state (with a weirdly overt militaristic Police force). Kerr was writing hard right send-the-kids-down-the-mine-to-work-social-policy the day after his wife’s first meeting for the Welfare Working Group. 

The tone was set.

Also on the welfare razor gang, Adrian Roberts and Enid Ratahi Pryor who were current corporate welfare contractors to the Government. What possible advice were they going to give beyond ‘more corporate contracts in social welfare please’? Which is exactly what has happened. The silent privatisation of social welfare is in stealth mode because no one cares about what happens to beneficiaries.  Sure, if it’s a hydro dam or something we can see and touch we get petitions demanding an end to privatisation, but when it’s the underclass there isn’t even an acknowledgement that it’s happening.  

The 250 000 – 285 000 (we’re not sure because Paula refuses to count them) children in poverty are simply collateral damage in that privatisation.

Take the ideologically stacked Welfare Razor gangs views, combine them with English’s comments on making the $2billion deficit up from his failed pre-rock star turbo-charged economy from welfare alongside Key’s own comment that no one would starve if he slashed all the benefits and they show a clearly plotted 4 year assault against the most vulnerable.

My point is that Ashburton didn’t just happen. The rage so many who are vulnerable that is now being felt through a wave of threats reveals a world that the mainstream media never focus on. An underclass of unpeople who face WINZ staff who are there to say no. That doesn’t in anyway shape or form justify the violence and threats and shootings, but it helps understand why this is now happening.

Desperate people are beyond their breaking points after 4 years of these assaults on their ability to live.

The heavy handed response by Police to those who have made threats to date is a recognition that if the invisible rage the vulnerable are drowning in unleashes, then WINZ will be facing an ever increasing civil war.

How many broken men humiliated by economics and circumstances beyond their control are shivering in their cars with mumbling fantasises of vengeance at a faceless bureaucracy that exists now to only say no?

That number of men should keep Paula Bennett up late into the night. I imagine her washing her hands endlessly and them never feeling clean.

44 COMMENTS

  1. The wonder is that this sort of thing hasn’t happened many times before. If you have ever been a beneficiary – had to wait with dozens of others for a couple of hours waiting to see your case manager trying to stay positive but being embarrassed to be there in the first place. Filling in form after form, having to go to JPs to get documents authenticated time and time again. Giving WINZ information and then having to give the same information to them all over again because you left a T uncrossed. Having all sorts of stupid jobs e-mailed to you and then threatening to cut off your benefit if you don’t go after them with enthusiasm. Being passed on from case manager to case manager like a piece of unwanted furniture. People waiting in those waiting foyers generally tend to avoid talking or eye contact with others because the whole atmosphere is meant to make one embarrassed to even step through the door. And then there is the burly security officer who is always hovering around listening to what you say in case he detects a word of criticism and has the excuse to throw you out. That is what WINZ is like and I don’t know anyone who would willingly subject themselves to such humiliation. People go there because they have to, not because they want to. When I hear some smug arrogant Tory going on about lazy beneficiaries I think these idiots have no idea what goes on with WINZ. They don’t know s..t! I experienced it for only about six months, and that was six months too long. No-one condones violence against people, but the government politicians that have deliberately made the WINZ culture what it is should ask themselves if it was all worth it.

  2. Sam Kuha in Kaikohe, in a wheel chair hammering in the local WINZ office window followed by his long grinding hunger strike remains in the memory.

    The very existence of WINZ is an admission of failure. The Department of Social Welfare once provided social security, a ‘safety net’, modern WINZ is a sadistic punishment machine straight out of “A Clockwork Orange”.

    Paula Rebstock and co did indeed launch a ‘war on the poor’ for several reasons. To put downward pressure on wages and divide the population with bennie bashing. The working poor and self employed, tradies etc love to beat up on dirty bennies–“last place aversion”.

    Benefits are miserable and difficult practically to achieve or maintain. Few compos mentis people would go near the WINZ bueraucratic nightmare. Only the desperate do as the Household Labour Force Survey shows.

    WINZ, ACC and IRD staff obviously do not deserve what happened in Ashburton but the PSA imo has for decades enabled the big lie of neutrality and hands off politics for public servants. It is coming home big time.

  3. Christine Rankin talking sh*t again on first line 3 News. Paula Bennett’s staff know when the threats are coming because of the policy changes they are forced to deliver. Its Paula’s Decision that ultimately brought about all this grief. Don’t forget Paula and Christine Rankin would say they did (winz) everything for Tully , but was it what Tully wanted or was decisions forced on him that he felt bullied. His voice is not heard. So looks like advocates will be needed.

  4. Brilliant piece Bomber – something that has needed to be said. The Tories might have more of a right to advocate a degree of intolerance to beneficiaries if we had a full-employment economy. But as it is, National requires that hundreds of thousands of people be out of a job at any time – then they have the temerity to blame those who suffer from the Tories’ poor economic management. It’s a sadistic little game that they play, and it’s little wonder that the WINZ staff suffer aggression from the victims of that game.

    • National requires that hundreds of thousands of people be out of a job at any time

      Got a link?

      • Try Alistair Barry’s “In a Land of Plenty”

        This documentary explains the introduction of the neo liberal approach into New Zealand.

        This was done by the 1980’s Labour party. National have continued to reinforce and extend this approach, whereas it would appear that Labour are now starting to realise what an abject failure neo liberalism has been.

            • I am only asking for a link supporting your claim that National “requires” hundreds of thousands of people to be out of work.

              If you have no link that’s fine. You could just retract your claim.

              • The link is in the comment – hover over the blue writing and click.

                A case of being hidden in plain sight, I guess. 🙂

              • No. The claim is valid. And he doesn’t require your permission to make it.

                Why should a link be required as validation of the argument? It is simply the neo-classical Chicago School economic theory that has advised policy not only of this government (and the previous administrations going back 30 years), but just about every government in the western World (not to mention the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank) for even longer. That so-called theory counts on a level of unemployment to keep wages down.

                Of course, any economic theory that ignores money, banks and debt can’t be much of a reflection of the real world, it’s plain drivel, in fact. But New Zealand’s is by no means the only government that behaves and enacts policies as if they believe it. They probably don’t, really. I suspect they simply recognise it for what it is: a licence to loot the Public Weal as issued by Milton Friedman.

                Look: you must know, surely, that the private sector in this country can not possibly absorb New Zealand’s unemployed – even accepting the official figures as genuine. So how are they to obtain a living (supposing we are not monstrous enough to suggest that we let them starve)? I know the answer, and so deep down do you, but of course, for certain idealogues, that answer is so unacceptable, I doubt their minds could compass it.

                Unable even to contemplate what is needed, the Government falsifies the figures (They have several times altered the criteria for counting unemployment – did you know that even working for an hour a week counts as being employed in the UK? How long before that becomes part of New Zealand’s practice?). Governments have to hide their incompetence and hide themselves away from the reality of the situation by blaming the the victims of the thefts and other collateral damage of the utterly stupid economic practices of the last 30-40 years.

                Instead of asking for a link, why not research this stuff for yourself you lazy berk? Oh, right… I think I just answered my own question…

  5. Great article Martyn,
    “smug arrogant Tory”

    We are seeing the separation between the rich and poor now turning into real social decay and desperation by the poor to get help.

    We have come a long way from the equal society I grew upp in in 1950’s where everyone had equal share in our commonwealth.

    Now it is uneven and the rich are termed as arrogant Tory’s.

    This was going to happen and anyone who thought it wouldn’t happen is just plain thick, and not fit to run the country.

    Every time we see a Tory run down the unemployed I feel some sadness, as one day even that rich tory will face the same humiliating loss of dignity and support they thought they were always the only one’s entitled to.

    We are now headed down a slippery slope of never ending social unrest perpetrated by these arrogant Tory’s.

  6. I have been waiting for the msm news to ask this very question. All we hear about are extra security measures and police response, ‘copycat’ threats made, lockdowns, etc, etc. All very American.
    Talking to other beneficiaries about this incident, I have yet to find any sympathetic to WINZ staff, although all agree this is a tragedy but one that is played out in minor ways every day. And why? Because they are implementing govt policy that punishes the poor and ill, the elderly, the failures of our educational system…in short the society they would rather not be seen.
    Except to denigrate.

  7. WINZ is now a place of systematic cruelty, there is no real reason for what happens there except to make beneficiaries lives miserable. I maintain it is text-book definition abuse for the government to implement the policies they have because they have it in their power to provide more jobs and end the suffering but instead they insist on punishing people for refusing to get jobs that don’t exist.

    What is rarely discussed is that is their unspoken policy is to maintain an unemployment level of 5-6% to keep pressure on wages and to make employees accept all manner of indignities in their desperate quest for a job. In short it’s class warfare – but remember you can’t say that out loud.

  8. True story: Educated middle-class woman radicalised by WINZ. At the age of 58 forced by recent widowhood to apply for a partial benefit to top up her wages due to collapse of late husband’s business. Didn’t know where the WINZ office was. Almost wished she had never found it, but needs must. Once told me she could well understand why people sometimes go postal in WINZ offices and had felt like doing so herself. Said it was like winning Lotto when she turned 65 and went on govt super.

  9. The name Work and Income says it all. “Work” way back was the Department of Labour who you saw separately from “Income” which was the Department of Social Welfare.

    This might seem like semantics BUT each different entity had a different relationship with the individual, and a very separate role. By linking the two departments what we have allowed is for “work” to be confused with “welfare”, and in fact institutionalised the concept that unless you work you are not worthy of an income.

    There is a concept rarely promoted since the neo libs got ascendancy, and it is of risk sharing aka tax funded unemployment insurance. In a social sense every worker is currently encouraged to think that their taxes are being badly used if a “bennie” receives a cent of them. The same workers are not encouraged to think that a portion of our taxes are an insurance policy for ourselves in case we should ever suffer the misfortune of not being able to support ourselves. Tax to pay for unemployment benefits should be regarded as what it is, a safety net we should all be happy to pay for. Why? Because, the next person could be you or me.

  10. Yes indeed. WINZ and our govt are quite disgusting in their attitude to beneficiaries – bennie bashing has been pointed out many times over this term of govt.

    We must also remember, that a large portion of our beneficiaries, are only in need of their benefit because they are the recovering victims of violent crimes, and domestic violence, and rape and sexual abuse, or have just recently been chucked off their ACC income and transferred onto the WINZ books while waiting for their “review or court date.”

    So the picking on our beneficiaries, is in most cases, picking on the already vulnerable.

    Now, I always have to ask myself – Why?
    Why do people feel the need to pick on people who are already vulnerable?
    This is called bullying – picking on the little guy, the already vulnerable.
    It is nothing more than a gross abuse of power, and it must be changed.
    These bullies need to be kicked out of these WINZ and ACC schoolyards.
    Expelled!
    Corporate psychopaths have no place in making any welfare policies, or welfare policy decisions – because they cannot consider the people factor of anything – only the money factor, and the perverse delight they feel when they know others, and then more others are going to suffer.

    And lets no t forget that our new welfare regime is being implememented on the sayso of prof Mansell Aylward from Wales. What an idiot her is!

    FJK and FJC and FPB and FMSD!!

    Opinion.

  11. Headline in The Press… “Work and Income to ban abusive people”.

    Bennett says “There would be zero tolerance of threats and abuse of staff, even if it meant people couldn’t access help”.

    I think every fair-minded person would agree that staff should not be threatened but sometimes you have to raise your voice or get agitated to be heard. This can only make the situation worse.

    • It’s the neo-liberal dream: complaining is now forbidden.

      You’d’ve thought banning firearms would be the priority.

  12. I didn’t even threaten anybody and I got trespassed from WINZ.

    Apparently raising your voice, using a singular standard four letter word and proclaiming Paula Bennett says “let them eat cake” is bad enough.

    Maybe the French connection there fucked me..

    • Yep, you got it!

      That is exactly going to get worse with the new regime for security. Now the nasty WINZ officers (I focus on them here, not the other ones, of whom some actually may genuinely offer help) will have the ideal working environment.

      If any client only dares to say anything considered “offensive”, they will threaten the person with trespass and worse. They will bully in their usual manner, but expect totally defenseless clients simply sitting there, putting up with any unreasonable demands and expectations, just nodding in agreement, nothing else.

      Should any person dare to dispute a decision or raise a mistake that was made, they will be getting a short shift and warning, to shut up or be out of the door.

      That is what fascism is like, we are on the way to a fascist society here in Aotearoa NZ!

      Police (largely loyal Nat voters) and security mercenaries will happily cooperate and offer “additional services”.

  13. I remember saying this sort of thing would happen over 10 years ago sooner or later if the neo liberal policies kept up its abuse of the people who find themselves on a benefit.

    Tragic that it came to this and that WINZ staff have been basically set up for something like this to happen.

    Anyone who has ever had to do with them more often than not will get the runaround, the soft cop /bad cop routine , files misplaced, a new case manager every week meaning the story has to be retold yet again from the start , circular conditions designed to nullify any possiblity of help…

    Then theres the unspoken policy of not telling ‘clients’ of their entitlements on purpose , not to mention the feeling of smarmy , little 20 somethings telling an older person what and what they should and should not do ….incredible arrogance whereby some of these brats are barely out of high school and daring to talk down to an significantly older person old enough to be their damn parents….no sense of respect whatsoever.

    The picture Im painting is the whole ‘culture’ of WINZ…that is part of the handed down edics of these hideous governmental (and fraudulent ) neo liberals. The workers at WINZ , are not all bad…some are really very very good…but frankly ?…..some of them…are just out and out arseholes.

    These neo liberals ….just never seem to learn that you cannot keep shitting on the populace before something very nasty occurs. I believe they think also that ‘ ah hell, -this is New Zealand , …these passive schmucks wont do anything accept a few protests’…’nothing to worry about’ ‘we can do whatever we want and they’ll hardly even wimper’.

    Well…the WINZ tradgedy was not the only thing I foresaw over 10 years ago as well…and that came to pass with a .22 calibre bullet shot through an MP’s office window…unless this neo liberal deceit and fraudulence is displaced in the coming decades…I fear the worst.

    And thats something none of us wants. Ever.

  14. @ Potato: “… security guards will control entry and may ask for ID” Good god almighty! So it’s come to this… Sounds like a police state, somebody here remarked when I read that out.

    • Yep: an insane kleptocracy run as a Police State. Just about as profound a socio-political irony as can be imagined.

  15. I really can’t understand how asking for ID would help. I could just imagine a rampaging gunman about to initiate a massacre at a WINZ office, and then the security guard asks him for ID. “Oh, Gee, better not shoot this guy then, cos I don’t have any ID, so I may get in trouble.”

    • @Environmental Education:

      It puts the person under control before they enter the building. This is what the security guards at the entrance, and the ID is all about – mind control.

      I want to know why WINZ trust a security guard. I have seen security guards at work – and the reason many become security guards is that they have a natural instinct for aggression, and using the “power” of this aggression – through their uniform – to intimidate everyone else.

      Most security guards have mental health issues connected to violence – or their inability to control their aggression, and the uniform helps them to feel the power and license of their aggressive tendencies – at peace with themselves in this persona.

      Seriously though, the uniform will never stop a bullet! They are setting themselves up as targets is really whats happening here.

      At the end of this day, you need to ask – why the security guards? Why not help the many homeless families and alone people who need the help of our welfare state.
      This direction WINZ are taking says it all.

      Lots of ACC workers are not at work right now either, so I expect they will adopt the same bully stance as WINZ.

      It is very sick that Bullying Tactics have been chosen over any humane act of Ms Benefit fixing her huge and gross policy and direction mistakes!

      Opinion.

  16. Song for New Zealand….

    Day-o , day-o
    Daylight come and me wan’ go home
    Day,me say day,me say day,me say day
    Me say day,me say day-o
    Daylight come and me wan’go home

    Work all night on a drink of rum
    Daylight come and me wan’go home
    Stack banana till the mornin come
    Daylight come and me wan go home

    Come Mr Key man ,talley my banana
    Daylight come and me wan go home
    Come Mr Key man , talley my banana
    Daylight come and me wan go home

    Lift six foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch
    Daylight come ,and me wan go home
    Six foot ,seven foot, eight foot bunch
    Daylight come and me wan go home

    Day,me say day-o
    Daylight come and me wan go home

    Day me say, day,me say day,
    me say day,me say day

    A beautiful bunch, a ripe banana
    Daylight come and me wan go home
    Hide the deadly , Cameron a- Slater,
    Daylight come and me wan go home

    National governments out to lunch
    Daylight come and me wan go home
    The whole stinkin lot is a rotten bunch
    Daylight come and me wan go home

    Day, me say day , me say day,me say day
    Email come and the de rot is shown

    Come Mr Key man ,talley my banana
    Daylight come and me wan buy a home
    Come Mr Key man ,tally my banana
    Got no food and I got no home

    Day-o ,day-o
    Daylight come and I cant buy a home

    Day , me say day, me say day
    We all is slaves on the minimum pay

    Day ,me say day ,me say day, me say day
    Dont own our country an we got no homes

  17. There are many people I know and have met, who are angry and furious about the welfare reforms this government brought in. I have known one guy with serious mental health issues, who was repeatedly harassed and went into a downward spiral, and he is basically a soul and mind destroyed, wasted person now.

    He did at times live in his car, as he had nowhere to go, but WINZ staff had little time and patience with him.

    Others fared less severely, but also have nothing much good to say about WiNZ. I know nobody who has ever “chosen” to live off the benefit for a “lifestyle choice”.

    And yesterday Paula Bennett infuriated me so much, when talking on the news, about “zero tolerance” and security guards from next week checking persons before they are even allowed into a WINZ office. I was swearing and shouting at her on the TV screen.

    So yes, a shocking incident happened, where someone cracked up and went crazy with a double barreled shotgun. A man isolated in his own home town, and apparently suffering ill health, likely also poor mental health, under all these pressures. Where was WINZ to help him? I do not believe one word that Bennett said about them having done all possible to help the man in Ashburton.

    I actually know that WINZ is also tight with support when it comes to help clients seek counselling, them not covering all the costs, so people have to pay some of the high fees usually asked for with part of their food money. That is as much as they “care” about mental health sufferers. They also now follow UK “experts'” supposed advice and class clients with mental health conditions into categories that mean they only suffer “common” or “moderate mental health issues”, and hence they are capable to work. So they put pressure on some mentally ill to look for jobs.

    How is all this new security approach going to improve the relationship between WiNZ workers and the clients they have to work with? It will not, it will do the opposite, for sure, as more checks, interrogations, bag searches and so will only make more beneficiaries feel harassed, and even more angry.

    And while this may protect WINZ staff more within their offices, they will have to go home from work at some time. Now, a determined person, who really may have evil intentions, would probably know this, so a WINZ staff member could theoretically be attacked outside of their office, at the car-park, during a lunch break, or wherever and whenever.

    This though has all the hand writing of Paula Bennett, who is a nasty bully, when she does not show her more “innocent” face with a cheeky grin in front of the TV cameras. She is like Judith Collins, a nasty piece of work, and she must be behind this harsh security regime they are going to bring in.

    As for the true reasons for why some people feel so angry about Work and Income and what this government has brought in, once again, I suggest a study of this:

    http://accforum.org/forums/index.php?/topic/15188-medical-and-work-capability-assessments-based-on-the-bps-model-aimed-at-disentiteling-affected-from-welfare-benefits-and-acc-compo/

    http://accforum.org/forums/index.php?/topic/15264-welfare-reform-the-health-and-disability-panel-msd-the-truth-behind-the-agenda/

    http://accforum.org/forums/index.php?/topic/15463-designated-doctors-%e2%80%93-used-by-work-and-income-some-also-used-by-acc/

    One of the typical “presentations” that WINZ’s Principal Health Advisor Dr Bratt has given to GPs and so at conferences:
    http://www.gpcme.co.nz/pdf/GP%20CME/Friday/C1%201515%20Bratt-Hawker.pdf
    (see pages 13, 20, 21 and 35, likening benefit dependence to drug dependence!)

    Also check out a separate WordPress “blog” of sorts called ‘nzsocialjusticeblog2013’ (Google it)

    The above links are all stuff that Marc once used to mention in comments here. Instead of putting all beneficiaries under “collective suspicion”, perhaps the government, Minister and MSD may look at themselves for a change, and reconsider certain approaches they have taken. But I doubt that this will happen, as cost savings is the absolute goal, no matter what.

  18. See the financiers at their 9-course lunch!
    Daylight come and I wan’ go home;
    A heap of bankers is called a wunch!
    Daylight come and I wan’ go home.

    I’ve got a hunch that the lunch they munch
    Daylight come an’ I wan’ go home;
    Is paid for by the global crunch.
    Daylight come and I wan’ go home…

  19. It’s not just economic policy, though that is the prime reason. There is a lot of propaganda to get people to hate the government. That’s why when people lash out, they lash out at government buildings instead of some corporate headquarters.

    This happens a lot in America, which experiences this worse than we do. Many of the attacks there have been by people flying planes into an IRS building or bombing other government buildings ect. Because people are supposed to hate the government.

    • @Stroggos:

      Actually, people are supposed to love their govt.
      And we are supposed to be proud of our flag, and proud to sing our National Anthem.

  20. How to fast track NZ to another american state: it’s pretty much done by the looks of things. Even if NZ welfare policy was more closely following England, the conditions here are vastly different, more volatile, lawless, more gun owners, etc. Throw in a deadly skin condition et voila..it’s not exactly rocket science. My condolences to the families and co-workers of those gunned down. My empathy to anyone with a skin condition which can potentially lead to harm of self and/or others.

  21. Trying to make your articles articulate by using discriminatory words against Islam, you stupid fucker.

    I should hack the crap out of this boring website and bring it down on your ass.

    Go learn how to write and article, rather than give your own stupid Opinion.

  22. Ah yes … alas Jono is right … “it looks like we are becoming a small state of the US ” which I am convinced is the main aim of the US and JK is only too happy to comply. Unfortunately the big ol’ USofA is a failed country … and why any other country would want to use it as a role model is beyond anybody’s guess!
    Think about any aspect of life as manifests in the US and the only evidence of success is based on GREED … which, ironically, only creates a wide swathe of corresponding failure in it’s wake! Go figure!
    Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand were flawed in their thinking … but their ideas have been taken on board as gospel by The Greedy to the detriment of humanity all over the world. The factors that MF and AR didn’t put into their equations were geography, climate and demographics … Duh!
    And we now all have to live with the consequences.

  23. Well I decided it is time WINZ got a swift kick up the backside and lodged a formal complaint to the office of the ombudsman. Anyone reading this that is or has been badly treated by WINZ I encourage you to do the same. As someone pointed out it is a form of bullying. WINZ staff are rude, obnoxious, don’t listen, overide qualified doctors, lie, breech their own legislation as they get a kick out of kicking beneficeries while their on their luck, their lazy, do not notify beneficeries of what they are about to do which causes further hardship, the staff are not trained properly and make mistakes on a regular basis which cost the beneficery. Time WINZ were dealt with as what WINZ staff are doing is plain nasty. On the wall of one WINZ office it says treatvus with respect and we will do the same. Yeah right that lot are clueless don’t know the meaning of respect. The whole WINZ policy needs an overhaul as it is not people friendly. Time things change and it is why I encourage people to lodge complaints to the office of tge ombudsman so that WINZ are forced to change how they treat beneficeries. What the WINZ staff forget is if it weren’t for beneficeries they would not have jobs.

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