As part of our election coverage of shaming the neoliberal welfare state who treat the poorest and most vulnerable amongst us with contempt, here is Fed-up-with-the-System’s experience of Ministry of Social Development
I moved from Gisborne to Hamilton in April 2016, to complete my psychology career pathway at the university of Waikato and simultaneously reunite with the father of my children.
As there was a long history of domestic violence within this relationship, I was once again devastated to realise that the violence hadn’t ended. My relationship with the children’s father deteriorated quite quickly due to intimate partner violence… yet again. And yes I feel like a fool, the shame of knowing that I should have known better, but what people don’t realise is that its hard being a solo mother. I loved the kids dad, I still do, and hoped for a miracle. I grew tired and weary from carrying the burden of being a solo mother. I was always struggling financially, and I was tired because no one helped me. I wanted to give my children more, a better life, things that on my own I couldn’t do nor give.
I found my sanity in giving back to society, which was all voluntary, I was a fire fighter for approximately 3 years, an active member and secretary on the local community council (Tu Ake Te Karaka), a teachers aide, a soccer and gymnastics coach for the local school in which I was employed with… and a solo mum.
Anyway, after the deterioration of this relationship I fled with my two children and signed up on the solo-parent benefit. I recall going into winz to seek help, after waking 10 kms to obtain parts for my car in order to flee, as the children’s dad had disabled my vehicle, he had taken all communication devices from me; my cell, my computer, and I knew nobody in Hamilton. Only to be asked publicly why I was there, I broke down in front of everyone present as I explained. I discovered that winz had stopped my benefit when my card declined as i tried to buy myself and children breakfast whilst on the run. Their explanation was that they were awaiting a document from me, although I had emailed that to the lady who requested it weeks prior. I explained that my finances could have been a life or death matter in my circumstances.
Womans refuge was phoned, as they questioned me, and this was not a pleasant experience neither! they informed me that they could not help either, unless I was willing to vacate to Whakatane…. In which I wasn’t, as I had enrolled at the university and my five year rest period had expired, I needed to complete my psychology pathway or throw the entire venture in, this would mean 7 years of wasted time and money as this is how long it took me to complete my undergrad via correspondence, I was not prepared to do this. I see the future for myself and children hinge on my completion of this pathway, if I do not complete this, we will always be struggling.
I refused to sign the form woman refuge gave me as they were not able to help me in my situation, I was assisted by a lady from winz who found us emergency accommodation at a motel for one week. When this week had expired, winz were no longer able to help as all the motels in Hamilton were booked out due to the field days event. I was informed that I could go and stay on the marae somewhere and that they were no longer able to help.
The one and only person I knew up here invited us to stay in his one bedroom apartment. I had no choice but to accept, I spent the next two weeks cleaning this place as it was disgusting, mould and mildew everywhere, my children had to top-and-tail on a single coach until I could afford mattresses for them. To my horror, I discovered that my friend, the tenant of this property had a mental disorder, hence the state of his dwelling.
This situation could not persist as they were in such a small dwelling, and with a mental disorder, so again, we were back at winz asking for help, as this guy had kicked us out. We were put into emergency accommodation again after a long and uncomfortable interrogation process from work and income. I had been actively seeking a rental through various rental agencies here, only to be declined every time. This in itself was an expensive and time consuming process, booking a viewing, running from here to there to view each property only to be declined time and time again…. all the whilst I was studying and a solo mum.
Every week I would have to return to winz and answer the same questions and give the same answers about my horrible situation and what I was doing to try and better it. One Saturday I was phone by the manager of winz interrogating me as to what I was doing to find a rental home, this was a very unpleasant and unexpected phone call. I put in a formal complaint about this incident. Additionally, I discover that the emergency accommodation cost were being made recoverable without my knowledge. That meant that I had to pay over $1000.00 a week in rent lol. I could not afford this!!!!! I was told that I was being penalised because I was not doing all that I could to change my situation. I had been looking for rentals in the Hamilton east area, as this is where the uni is located, and the zone in which both of my children go to school. I was also looking for a 2 bedroom place as this was the window in which I knew I could afford. I explained that if i was to pay more in rent it would push me into hardship…. but I was still penalised for not doing all that I could.. At this point, I am psychological wreak, my grades are shocking at school, and I’m not emotionally coping. Simultaneously, I am being passed between the police and lawyers in an attempt to obtain all of my property and the children’s property back from the children’s father, whom refuses to give it back, although it all belonged to me, and was from my home in Te Karaka. This was just another tactic of abuse on top of being stalked for a period of time. So I am living in fear of our saftey and life as the children’s father was also using P or methamphitamine. He kept all of my text books that I needed for study, all of my sentimental items that I are keepsakes from my beloved and passed parents, everything. I was powerless, I could not do a thing, legal aide would not help and i did not have the funds to take this matter to court on my own. My daughter fell sick during this time and was admitted to hospital twice, I was treated with suspicion and was so over trying to responde to the expectations of me. I was mentally, emotionally and phsyically depleted.
I eventually had an offer for a home in the Melville area, I had already been told that winz would no longer assist with emergency accommodation, and I did not want my kids sleeping in our small car with our dog. The rental was a 3 bedroom and cost $350.00 a week, of course it meant that my children would have to change schools and I would have an extra expense with petrol to travel to and from uni. I knew this cost would not be sustainable but it was take it or be completely homeless. What choice did I have?
We slept on the floor for a while until I asked woman refuge for help/ I received some mattresses, and other house hold items. I had been visiting winz a lot during this period, asking for food assistance, first weeks rent, a lawn mower and every time I was challenged with a lack of knowledge into my situation, every time was unpleasant, every time i encountered a power struggle!!! I have been told time and time again that I have no assistance left,all used in trying to reestablish myself and kids, although i have recently discovered that there are grants to help people in my situation although i was never offered this, I am in debt of over $3000.00 and still struggling. I have been past to the salvation army, twice i have had an appointment for budgeting advise, and twice my appointment has been channeled!!!!
I am in desperate need of help, I have touched base with woman refuge, no return email, single parents have provided a counsellor i can talk to at a cost and on a waiting list, winz just doesn’t even want to know me, the doctor threw anti depressants at me which made me feel worse so iv stopped taking them, all services have failed to help but rather caused more harm than good. I don’t know what to do any more. I am a psychology student, and i have studied the impact of inequality, domestic violence, racism and other social issues but I have also and continue to be a victim of it all… and what sux is that we live in a nation where no one gives a fuck….. although we know and research confirms it all, nothing changes….. the system makes people sick, it has made me sick!!!! it has robbed me of my dignity, my sanity, my rights, my mana, my identity!!!!
I am a good moral person that has contributed to society in many great ways, and my children will do also, and to be treated as we have been since moving to Hamilton is such a disgrace, its disgusting!!!!! Through my career pathway, I will make it my sole focus to change our nation, its time that “people” started to matter!!!!!
Have you been treated poorly by our neoliberal welfare state and wish to bring attention to your experience anonymously so that they can’t punish you? Check out our 2017 election campaign to do just that.