The joys of dealing with WINZ

A heart-wrenching story came out today of one woman’s latest clash with the denizens of the WINZ office. A sufferer of a condition that causes her much pain, coupled with anxiety, makes going into the WINZ office very difficult. It’s not good for her to need to attend the office too often, as her medical forms state clearly.

WINZ showed their usual remarkable competence by losing her paperwork at a critical time – only a week or two before they were going to cut her benefit for not putting in enough paperwork. The usual rigmarole that they put their clients through on a regular basis (pro tip: if it’s common knowledge that you often lose paperwork, perhaps it’s time to look at your systems). She was subjected to the stress and cost of redoing all of her paperwork, a task that’s not ideal for a very unwell person.

Finally, she had the joy of meeting a WINZ functionary who appeared to know nothing about what might be going on and recommended contacting her case manager – an activity that she had been engaged in trying for the best part of a week.

This is unacceptable.

WINZ is dealing with some of the most vulnerable people in the country. Those in poverty, those taking care of kids on their own, those who are too ill to work. Their job is to make sure these people are not having to turn to crime or begging to survive, or quietly starving. I know they really don’t want anyone getting a benefit, but that’s not realistic. Making it difficult to get a benefit, especially one that is as sorely needed as a sickness benefit, is despicable.

WINZ should have better document logging and handling. Losing stuff is so unprofessional that they should hang their heads in shame. Maybe if it happened once or twice, it would be understandable. Once or twice per person? That’s ridiculous. That’s a critical failure in processes.

WINZ need to critically assess what their staff are doing. They simply do not treat people like people. There are some lovely case managers, but the culture of those offices is one of humiliation and degradation. Their goal is not to support people into a job, it’s to shame them into taking whatever is available, no matter how unsuitable it is. Or to shame them just for being people who are down on their luck. Sir Bob Jones would be proud.

Classifying sick people as ‘Jobseekers’ is ridiculous. Many have jobs that they cannot do because they are too ill. They’re not being lazy. They’re sick, damn it! They don’t need to be lumped with those who are genuinely looking for work (or not, depending on the person). There’s a reason that sick people (and sole parents, but there’s a rant for another day) were in a separate category from the unemployed. Their needs are different. And they don’t need the pressure of being told to get ‘work ready’ while they’re doing their best to recover.

WINZ is incompetent, inefficient, and humiliating to their ‘clients’. Those in poverty deserve respect, just like their wealthy countrymen. They’re people, and should be treated as such. They also deserve to be treated professionally, with all the efficiency and competency that involves.

What we have now is unacceptable.

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