The Toxic culture of WINZ & MSD laid bare


The war of words that has erupted between the Minister and AAAP over who is responsible for beneficiaries queueing outside WINZ offices at 2am is disingenuous and contemptible.

Responding directly to MSD, AAAP have pointed out that...

  • People get turned away/deferred for emergency assistance at reception level. MSD doesn’t classify this as declines.
  • Re: hardship granted. Ppl get far less than what they’re entitled to (eg. $50 vs $150 food 4 a family)
  • While a lot of hardship grants are qualified as “granted”, in truth they are only partially so and the presence of an advocate is what gets them across fully.
  • The issue is that people are getting declined at other offices on other days, not so much when AAAP is there.
  • Encouraging people to use MyMSD or the phone means MSD is unable to properly engage in the use of discretion to help people (ppl get less 4 food). Both these methods create accessibility barriers and remove the possibility of an empathic conversation with WINZ case managers.
  • You go to most WINZ offices and you’ll notice large amounts of empty desks, even on busy days. Chronic understaffing of WINZ staff and low benefit rates, compounded by high rent prices helps create the situation at Manurewa.

Someone needs to suggest kindly to Carmel Sepuloni that attacking an organisation with the mana of Auckland Action Against Poverty is deeply troubling as their advocacy against the toxicity of MSD is essential to this debate.

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Blaming AAAP for the fact beneficiaries are prepared to cue at 2am in the freeing rain because they will do anything humanly possible to have an advocate guide them through the dehumanising and toxic culture inside WINZ is victim blaming in the extreme.

Shame on Labour.

Beneficiaries are frightened by the toxic staff and toxic culture of WINZ, a toxic culture that the Minister herself acknowledges exists but is now embarrassed because she has changed so little.

One is left to conclude by the Minister’s failure to change the damaged toxic culture of WINZ that her own personal history of her mothers benefit fraud has painted her into a corner where she must over compensate by siding with MSD rather than challenge them.

Not to worry, we banned single use plastic bags as an empty gesture instead. The low, low, low, low threshold of ‘transformative’ that so many on the Left are prepared to accept is why change is glacial.‬






    • Thank you for your wonderful article.
      Proud that a journalist like you are still able to publish this kind of article.
      As one day soon this May be classed as hate speech again this Labour led government.

    • I hope so, there is a fundemental need for change there, people need to be treated like humans and not animals

  1. I watched Carmel on Q+A last night saying she wants 10,000 surveys so clients can tell her how they feel.

    John, how does WINZ make you feel: Wasn’t difficult at all

    Jacinda, how does WINS make you feel: Well the kids are stressed

    We all have our biases. The thing to remember is client satisfaction will be inconsistent but not along political lines. Simply by focusing on different parts and talking to different people the interests can swing widely for or against WINZ. Y’know we should get a survey of both clients and case workers to get a fuller picture.

    So the editorial PR bits are just complete garbage.

    • What bloody survey, I never received one email asking me for feedback, they must send them out to the ones that are the softer target, who would not dare rock the boat.

      This is all BS and lies, like so much this and previous governments have sold us.

  2. best you whinging lot vote NATIONAL next election then because i’m sure they will help beneficiaries more!!!!!!

    • In Australia it is illegal not to vote.I hatehow that has turned out recently,but at least you get a better picture of how the electorate feels….I can’t put my head above the parapet;but someone needs to start a campaign to get this happening in NZ…Immigrants ,the youth and the poor seem to feel too disenfranchised to vote,to their detriment!

      • The idea of making voting a legal requirement in a democracy is only fair if the ballot includes a “nobody is good enough” option..

    • You forgot to add the word ‘not’ at the end of your comment but your exclamation marks probably say the same thing.

  3. Most beneficiaries I know don”t vote. Are we subject to trianglisation? No CGT? Proof that almost no private sector employees belong to unions? 3 of 40-plus recommendations from the social welfare review being accepted? This is trianglisation. Talking left while acting right-wing.

    • Good points. I’m a beneficiary and I do vote. I also paid a quarter million in income tax in the last quarter century so these imbeciles at WINZ and the snarling Sepuloni can give me what I’m entitled to or they can fuck off.

  4. 100% agree Martyn.

    Carmel does appear to have been captured and intimidated by the Dept. neo libs, and likely the Labour Caucus as well who have told her–“Remember Metiria?”…The personal is political, but Ms Sepuloni is taking it the wrong way!

    I have been involved with unemployed struggles from the 80s with the various organisations from those earlier times–Te Roopu, CBU, AUWRC etc. through to this day with individual cases.

    AAAP is doing a great job and should be fully funded, but of course will not be because Beneficiary Bashing is indeed the second favourite sport in this country.

    Sue Bradford was the only MP until Marama Davidson who has ever fully understood the issues and fought for the vulnerable in Parliament. Marama dives off on a few tangents so is not necessarily the best at the moment, but hey she has actually attended an AAAP impact day–unlike Carmel or Jacinda.

    A critic here said if Jacinda did attend an impact day it would be managed by MSD, but it is worth a try to break this impasse. So much could be done easily with the political will–income splitting, no sanctions, no abatement rates for working, no standowns after seasonal work etc.

  5. I have been observing Carmel S and I think she has long way to go why didn’t they put someone like Louisa Wall in there she has more tenacity and she isn’t afraid to fight for a good cause. I find Carmel is still finding her way when we really need someone that is already there. We want welfare to be a last resort and we need to get our Maori whanau of benefits and into sustainable and secure work.

  6. This organisation has always been toxic but under nationals brighter future policy they sunk to a new low and they are just doing the same as cyfs carrying on with the status quo using false names on letters sent to clients this is illegal but they did it and got away with breaking the law for how long before this practise was stopped. The workers all need to be detoxed and decolonised.

  7. This organisation has always been toxic but under nationals brighter future policy they sunk to a new low and they are just doing the same as cyfs carrying on with the status quo using false names on letters sent to clients this is illegal but they did it and got away with breaking the law for how long before this practise was stopped. The workers all need to be detoxed and decolonised.

  8. Carmel is struggling with this portfolio why don’t they give it to Louisa Wall she might be better suited for this role.

  9. Sepuloni, that is a disgusting lie! Please provide details of the source of your statistic that 98% of hardship grants are provided any day of the week!!

    WINZ is a cost-cutting organization – only, the costs being cut are people.

  10. Carmel needs to harden up if she want to continue in this role her MSD staff all need to be detoxed and decolonised what about putting Louisa Wall in that position she might be able to deal better with all the rot

  11. “Average call waiting times this week 7 -9 minutes”

    Say whut??

    I call BULLSHIT on that. Unadulturated, 100%, steaming pile of bivine excrement

    I”ve experienced call waiting times for MSD and 7 -9 minutes is as much effing bollicks as Donald Trump on Twitter

    As for “we are here to help”, yeah, in a Stasi/KGB sort of way

    Remember this;

    “Monthly quotas were imposed at the Ministry of Social Development to prosecute beneficiaries, an inquest into the death of a woman accused of benefit fraud has heard.

    “We had to get one prosecution per month. We had to get $30,000 of debt to be recovered per month,” a former MSD investigator told the inquest into the death of Wendy Shoebridge. “Four cases had to be cleared per month.”

    Shoebridge, a 41-year-old mother, was found dead in Lower Hutt on April 3, 2011.

    The day before, she opened a letter saying she was to be referred for prosecution over an alleged $22,000 benefit fraud. After her death, that amount fell to about $5500.”

    Was anyone held to account for that??

    MSD or winz or whatever the fuck theyre called these days can go take very long FUCK OFF FLIGHT to the goddamn north pole


    As fir Carmel Sepuloni, shame on you lady!!

    • Amazing I declared $80 a week trading online. Deducted automatically. Then forgot about it until 2 years later. A mother of 5 I moved 7 times in under 2 years through no fault of our own. I went into winz for maybe a food grant twice a year. Paid all my own school stuff for kids. Uniforms and all. Then I asked for some petrol to move a couple of uniforms then another lot of petrol for towing moving costs. Went in for the power to help my brother (in my name) 12 of us in a 3bdroom in a housing crisis. Oh you are in hardship… Although I was also told I needed budgeting for any car repairs or any other help. My last help with power was 12 years prior. 2 Years declaring $80 deducted each week. Money I was not earning. On top I now had a label after all my care. Secondhand shops. Living $1 for $1 at times my 5 children did not miss one school trip. Had sports I scraped up for. The label hurt me to know it was all circumstance changing the power 6times. Kids school uniforms… I am still finding it hard while they take $57 weekly for those debts that loom over my head. Who knows without the fuss of the IRD n return of my $80 for over 18 months. Perhaps I may not have had to ask for help with power or anything else.. GO Figure it is hard. I am glad someone is helping. My Mum did for years as an advocate through C. A. B. Help people in Winz with their rights while staff were given bonuses to hold money back where possible. People are afraid when they are told No when their reality of need is far more severe with few or no options left they walk out unable to stand up for rights they do not know they have.

  12. By the way, Martyn I dont say it often enough but THANK YOU

    you and other bloggers on TDB do Aotearoa a service by holding the state to account

  13. The type of person this role needs is a fighter, someone who scrap, theres only one, Melissa Heni Mekameka Whaitiri. They’ll all shit themselves and leave! Simple ay!

  14. Only losers rely on WINZ, smart people learn the drugs and shadow economy trade, and make a living independent of the government, that treats people like a liability, not with respect.

    • Y’know I of course have some sympathy for people who hustle. Y’know, lie, cheat, steal, do a bit of shady shit on the side. And if you think the shadow economy is any different from normal business operations well it’s not. Like let’s say your daughter needs a bit of retail therapy and you raise the cost of your most popular item on the menu just by going on the computer and transferring the extra $50 straight into your personal account. I’d never admit to doing that of course.

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