Welfare Debt slaves for life: The horror of the toxic culture of WINZ & why ethical debt collection is the only answer


The neoliberal welfare state in New Zealand is designed to be as punitive as possible so as to frighten the beneficiary from even daring to ask for help in the first place.

On top of the draconian measures used to punish, on top of using desperation, hunger and poverty as tools for compliance, on top of mass surveillance powers used to constantly spy on the lives of the most vulnerable, one of the favourite weapons of choice by the sadists that run WINZ is the punishment of ‘over payments’.

WINZ staff punish beneficiaries with over payments by never being upfront about what the relationship equation is and so a specialised panty sniffing team of bureaucrats are constantly trawling beneficiary social media to catch them out in relationships. Once the panty sniffer team suspect a beneficiary is in a relationship, the beneficiary is then designated to have breached the rules and have been ‘over paid’.

And how much is that over payment?

Exclusive: Taxpayers $1 billion out of pocket because of overpayments to beneficiaries

TDB Recommends NewzEngine.com

Debt figures from 2014 to 2019 were released to 1 NEWS, showing cumulative overpayments had risen to $990 million to the 2018/19 year.

This was an increase of $222 million since the previous 2017/18 year, when debt sat at $767.8 million.

Prior to then, it had only risen $28.8 million from 2016/17, when it was $739 million, and it rose $30.5 million between 2015/16 and 2016/17. 

Figures obtained by 1 NEWS only go back to 2014/15 year, when the cumulative overpayment debt was at $673.8 million. 

The real horror here is that WINZ see that debt as an asset and keep it in the books as an asset. The malevolence to catch beneficiaries out in relationships so that WINZ can punish beneficiaries with punitive over payment fees is purposeful, it isn’t a mistake, just as the demands to work and then punish them for getting extra money is.

The entire system is constructed to be as painful as possible to force the poor to stay away from the WINZ Office altogether.

The solution is ethical debt collection, force WINZ to move the debt to ethical debt collectors in the private market at a far reduced rate and allow people to get out from under the weight of this debt.

The toxic culture that taints all WINZ workers is driven partly by totally inappropriate people being selected to work there and partly due to the high level burn out of staff who begin to hate the beneficiaries as much as the beneficiaries hate them.

WINZ has created a generation of debt slaves who will never be able to pay off the debt they owe the State, and as far as the State is concerned, debt slaves for life is perfectly acceptable.

This is who we are now, this is what we are.



  1. Sad but true–this is who a good number of New Zealanders indeed are–vindictive “Bennie Bashers” who have lost or discarded their institutional memory of the Welfare State, and its “we look after our own” ethos, that began with the Savage 1935 Labour Government.

    The current Govt. Caucus has no one in it that really “gets” the despicable, sadistic, punishment maze WINZ/MSD/ACC/HNZ has become. The last Labour Govt bought in the “Jobs Jolt” that prohibited beneficiaries from relocating towns, and this one despite the words and the Welfare Experts Group recommendations–which provided practical incremental solutions, has done precisely nothing in changing the essential modus operandi of WINZ/MSD.

    Millions put into the pockets of fleabag Moteliers rather than build enough emergency housing–it is the neo liberal way. This is unlikely to change until a mass unemployed movement arises again–and that in itself is difficult thanks to years of officially sanctioned demonisation of NZs underclass.

    • Tiger – Did “Jobs Jolt” mean that if A wanted to move to a town where she had whanau, that WINZ could stop A from doing so ? When was “Jobs Jolt” ? It sounds like a human rights issue.

      I had thought that persons were discouraged from moving to eg a town with no jobs, to stop them becoming beneficiaries – was this the same thing ?

  2. Yep. It’s an easy fix. Ben’s have only had two 2% rate increases since the Mother of All Budgets, 1993.

    So, if you were to use that same method of benefit adjustment at the rate of inflation for another 23 years, which would be, an increase of 46%. That would go a long way to reducing poverty, poor health, truancy and homelessness(kinda) and debt relief. We would be having this recurring nightmare.

    • Oh dear. My apologies for all the typo’s today! 🙂

      “Ben” should be bene!

      “We would be having this recurring nightmare.” Should be “wouldn’t” instead of would.

  3. The IRD will sometimes write off debts if asked to. Winz should do the same.

    If someone with a bit of imagination and flair and panache in the LP (Where ? Where ?) could suggest that the PM did a big write off of appropriate WINZ debt, it would be great publicity for the nice kind LP – and perhaps fatally self -asphyxiate some of the shocked nasties – it could render Bridge and Bennett (sounds like a butcher shop) speechless – and it could be worth doing it just for that.

    It is so easy when poor, to get into a mess. That’s the way it can be.

    Debt and income can be incurred in innocent, but nightmarish ways – including people getting top-ups with irregular pay, or being paid on commission ; some have their benefit unknowingly stopped this way, and find out from banks, not from WINZ.

    Wipe debts . Why not ? All debts due to WINZ errors should most certainly be wiped.

    If WINZ staff are trawling social media sniffing out relationships, that’s quite sick – it could raise privacy issues too.

    • “All debts due to WINZ errors should most certainly be wiped.”

      That is so patently obvious that I have no idea why it has not been done already!
      Of course WINZ must own their own mistakes!!
      That this has not been made right already is disgusting, a gross injustice.

  4. Easy fix- try employment! It does wonders for paying bills. No sympathy for any grown adult with 20 kids getting 3 times the taxpayer support they earn on minimum wage. Sleep in the bed you made suckers! Ain’t life a bitch?

    • What right-wing cesspit have you crawled out from David? Carry on with the stereotyping why don’t you! Most beneficiaries I know (including myself) are in this situation through no fault of their own – usually due to illness/disability – physical or psychological/mental. We’d all be gainfully and meaningfully employed if the employers wanted us. And I can assure you that a benefit for a single grown adult is nowhere near minimum wage. Nor does being a beneficiary mean you are useless and a waste of space. Many (including myself) do voluntary work in the community for causes we believe in. Some may be upskilling/retraining – though no help from the government there if you’re over a certain age and take a tertiary level course. Many others are caring for children and family. P.S. I don’t smoke, take drugs, gamble or have Sky TV

      • I’m not talking about people truly in need. Of course there should be taxpayer support and I’m happy to oblige. What I’ve seen for many years (including personal friends of mine) is a sense of entitlement just for breathing. I was raised to believe that once I was on my own as an adult, you sink or swim. Work, or starve. Let me tell you it works. I’d never heard of a “dole”. I simply have pride in self-sufficiency, and knowing the food that my kids consume was paid for by ME, and not you. (fellow taxpayer)

    • David H. — You are a pig! Life is a bitch mainly because of people with your attitude towards others. So your answer is to Find work that pays enough to live on — and support a family on? Easier said than done for many people. And, buddy, having a family shouldn’t just be for the well off. Martyn, I know you don’t believe in censorship — and neither do I — but reading comments like David H’s might change my mind!

      • Lol! I’m hardly well off mate. I have a grand total of about $1200 in my bank account to last me till my next payday, and I support a wife and 2 kids WITHOUT ever having been near a WINZ office. I don’t own my home. I rent a modest old farm house. The myth that conservatives are all die-hard rich greedy bastards dies right here. I know what it is like to scrounge 2-dollar coins in the couch cushions to get a bit of petrol, or buy a loaf of bread. My point is you guys whine a lot, without mentioning a single time people need to look in the mirror and see who is truly responsible for your own fate. You think the Govt is the Wizard of Oz, when it is YOU.

        • David – I’m responsible for myself, but I also accept that there will always be people who need a helping hand, and because I am reasonably human, I’ll give it where I can.

          Great that you’ve got good health – it’s more than many have, and your children are lucky to have a fine and healthy father.

          If everyone’s problems could be solved by looking in mirrors, life would be nice and simple, but unfortunately not everyone gets dealt a fair hand in life, and that’s that.

        • Well mate, when working families live in cars, when on the bottom end of the labour market it’s mass casualised zero contacts and negotiating with winz to make up the shortfall, when the moldy shithouse rental takes up over 60% of your income (and electricity takes another 12-15%) and poisons your kids to boot then $1200 till next payday, a nice old farmhouse (with someplace for the kids to playt) and a few coins in the lounge look like luxury to me. By the way, what percentage of your income do you pay and power?

          • “and poisons your kids to boot ”

            Yeah, that’s the clincher, isn’t it. Feeling their hunger and their cold, knowing their brains are forming, … from what? From smoggy air, peeling paint and nothing else. Seeing the look in their eyes as someone walks by eating a pie..

            (bitter rant thought better of and deleted)

            • Kheala – I’m with you on this. What is happening to some of our littlies really disturbs me, it’s terrible.

              I would love to see one pollie stand up in Parliament and loudly proclaim that it’s not good enough, and frankly if one of them did, then I’d be wondering why it’s taken so long.

        • But you are in need David Hughes. For one thing you need to be able to read, think and understand before you write down your random thoughts about other people’s difficulties. You also need to be kind to yourself and children, and remember what it is like to be living hand to mouth and concentrate your thoughts on working for better wages and a better life, and get some savings. You haven’t time to think about others’ problems, just look after your own, and try to be positive not fault-finding. The people who get on are people who see opportunities, assess them and then work at them, and are positive about it. Those who don’t get on in life have problems that hold them back. Your problem will be that you are so busy skiteing and being negative about others, that you can’t recognise good things and miss your opportunity.

    • I wasn’t going to buy into the ‘David Hughes’ narrative because I have better things to do than dignify the ‘David Hughes’ comments with a riposte but then I remembered the subversive, faux truth-speak and consequential dangers of virus-like logical fallacies. The David Hughes comments are designed to inflame and agitate by intimidation to control the flow of the narrative. I.e. To bury the narrative alive. It’s an old muldoon trick. Obscure, quasi-facts delivered as bullying sarcasm. They’re also designed to be controlling and manipulative so beware of their origins and delivery. When a David Hughes comment comes along? Don’t trust it! Fight back! Gather about you all those wonderful words and let rip! And remember? With such ignorant and disrespectful fuckers you don’t need to let the truth get in the way of a good story!
      If you’re claiming WINZ support and you sit and smoke and drink and play PS Games? Go you! What ever it takes to get you through your shit day as poncy wankers in black curb crawlers drive about with their dicks out and pay less than you in taxes because the tax system has been perverted by them to suit them. How else do you think they get that Bling? With cash by working hard for an honest hourly rate? Fuck off!
      The David Hughes is likely a mythical character invented by neoliberal minions to arse-cover for WINZ by running a dodgy game here and the dirty, slippery ministry peopled by the likes of common little bennett who, if it were not for her stomach clamps would be so fat she’d be moored up in the Harbour by her ballooning cankles. ( That’s a calf-ankle combo when the leg gets so fat the calf and ankle become as one. Thus, c’ankle.)
      @ David Hughes. I have nineteen kids to five different mothers in three different countries, they have 987 grandchildren between them and they all speak in tongues in eleven different languages and I support them all by spending half an hour a day selling my blood to old rich men after I work a 23 hour day in an abattoir. I spend my other half hour man-whoring in a pub in Balclutha doing farmer-sheep three-ways so don’t tell me your problems, you bwave widdle man.
      Here’s what you do with the david hughes’. Ignore the fuckers. Move along. Nothing to see here. Or take the piss. Much more fun.
      One more thing.
      The measure of a civilised society is of how the most vulnerable are respected and treated. In AO/NZ, after 35 years of neoliberalism, the most vulnerable are seen as fair game by a cadre of well paid sociopathic narcissists. The monster-children of the competitive market environment we must now endure. And more of them are on the way, it should be said.
      WINZ are bullies. That, is all they are.
      What do we do with bullies? Yes. That’s right.
      We knock them over then we kick the shit out of them.
      Like this.
      By our complacency, we’ve allowed fools to take over the steerage of our beautiful AO/NZ so in a sense we’ve become that which we hate the most and while we do nothing they’ll stay there. Sucking away on the public tit while the poor, helpless, the down trodden and unlucky and unlovely get blamed for the shit we sink deeper in to.

  5. Streamline tax collection by taxing every cent of income at the same rate – no bands, no tax free allowance.
    Pay everyone the same universal income.
    Gets rid of a huge swathe of government bureaucracy.
    No more benefit fraud since everyone gets it.

  6. Tertiary debt is also an asset in the government books – but it is interest free and repayments are only made when income is over the amount required to meet living costs first. The same system should apply to beneficiaries.

    In fact I would go further.

    1. All those going onto the DPB (or UB as a couple with children) after losing a job or a partner should get their existing debt refinanced, so they can cope with the lower income. And this debt is interest free until they get employment and or a working partner.

    2. All those on the DPB (or UB as a couple with children, or disability/IB) should be able to get emergency grants with no repayments until they get off the benefit.

    3. All those on DPB (or UB as a couple with children or disability) should be able to get interest free loan finance up to $1000 pa – repayable when they get off the benefit (or reach age 65 to get the higher payment Super). Having such cash reserves is important to the well-being of people living week to week on limited income.


    a increase the amount of income people can earn while on benefits.
    b pay the dole to non working partners (this is a two income society) and work test this on the same terms as eligibility for the DPB. This involves significant change to WFF, as well as welfare.

  7. Research in the past has always indicates that benefit underpayment is always five to ten times greater than over payment. This usually results from people not being aware or more likely not being informed of their entitlements. Lets start to get these stories out into the media. The stupid thing is that they will put a family up in a hotel when they cant pay their rent or spend much more on health spending when dire poverty causes illness. I was hoping the Adern government were going to act on this, but like many others have been disappointed. Due to illness I spent several years on a benefit. I was able to use grants and other resources no longer available, to retrain and get well paying work, repaying in tax what it cost many times over. Forcing people into dire poverty is actually false economy and a waste of human capital.

  8. I’m all for as much free speech as poss but Trotter gets 90 responses and the soul of us, the poor, gets 9. Most I have to hope for is the South African favourite for replacing Meng Foon in Gisborne is refuted. With Meng’s coalition the poor mattered here, everywhere else in ‘Godzone’ they don’t. For 35 years. Apart from folk like Adrian Orr. The real patriots who should run this place. We bow to the ‘great’ egalitarians. Aprez-nous, infused by our peculiar upbringing, who? This is our moment, let’s not let the foolish fools in govt prevent us. 7,500 billion surplus! Glad I enlisted in the abominable to vote for Cunliffe.

  9. They had Mr Magoo masquerading as Roger Douglas on The Nation this morning. What a piece of work, basically saying the lower classes deserve nothing with respect to the surplus (‘my precious’ to lunatic right wingers), and mumbling and ranting about the investment class. Well fuck you, you greedy bumbling old sociopath, it’s tax payers like me that paid for your comfortable retirement while some people don’t have enough to live. And Labour wanted to resurrect this swamp creature to subject the population to more of this shit? Whats next, more PR stunts like baby-holding competitions or using the office of NZ government to pick comedians up from the airport?

    • Popeye – What’s next is yet another costly royal visit (I’m sure we’ve had one already this year ? ) and this time to Waitangi. The good news is that at least it’s not Prince Harry and wife.

  10. If a non-beneficiary woman moves in with a beneficiary man – or even visits a few times a week – is she supposed to start supporting him after six weeks?

    Is this part of our ‘culture’ now? Before you’re even sure you want to be ‘an item’ with someone, before you’ve had a chance to see if they’re ‘safe people’, you have to chuck away your independence and choice for some antiquated religious-based nonsense about ‘in the nature of a marriage’?

    Saint Meteiria did nothing about it while she was in Parliament. She and Paula Bennett – pulling up the ladder behind them. Bless. The Greens are too busy splitting hairs to fight this cause now. Labour might be ‘for the working class’ but they’re rarely much support for the people who can’t work enough. National just trumpets unfounded suspicions and plans for workhouses with enough toilers to sort the recyclables for export to Anywhere Over There.

    2020. That’s the year. It’s definitely not about the quality of any vision for the country.

    • Is a non-beneficiary supposed to support a beneficiary after 6 weeks? Absolutely. Even if said beneficiary is 16, on the Supported Living allowance (Invalids’ benefit) and has never had a partner before. As if it wasn’t difficult enough.

    • That’s harsh Andrea – picking on Metiria Turei. Not in the same basket as Ms Bennett. You sound as mean as a WINZ worker. Yet that is what you are complaining about. Have a cup of tea and a thought.

    • “2020. That’s the year. It’s definitely not about the quality of any vision for the country.”

      2020. I think it will be about our vision clearing. Eg, Greta’s UN speech is beginning to have an influence. Hopefully we will all become more clear-sighted over the year ahead. And, we in NZ Aotearoa are much better situated than most places on the planet, to ring in the changes that are long overdue – both social and environmental.

  11. So when is our wonderful new govt going to fix it because if they wanted to they could. I for one wont hold my breath.

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