Home > The Body Politic > Bill English: When numbers don’t fit, or just jump around…

Bill English: When numbers don’t fit, or just jump around…

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Sign of the times: spotted on power pole in Stokes Valley.

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See previous blogpost: Job Hunting, Bennett-style

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As unemployment continues to rise and rise and rise and rise and rise and rise and…  National Ministers have apparently been making friends with Mr Walker, Mr Beam, or indulging in some other relaxing substances

There’s no other way to explain some of the weirdness emanating from Parliament.

Take, for example, Little Leader, Bill English, and his comments about the latest unemployment figures – now at 7.3%, or 175,000 in real people-numbers.

English responded with these curious comments,

What we have found through this recovery is that it has been a bit hard to predict and we’ve seen these sort of numbers jump around, they can be up one quarter and diown another quarter.”

Jumping numbers“,  huh?

Hmmm, maybe Paula Bennet might want to try some of that  work-place drug-testing on Little Leader?

Mind you, it didn’t help when English tried to suggest that the reality of unemployment didn’t match his reality,

These numbers don’t fit with some of the other indicators, just for this quarter. For instance, the number of people on the unemployment benefit continues to drop, including in Auckland where the survey shows a rise in the number of people unemployed.”

See: Jobless figures result of ‘grumpy’ recovery – English

It’s a bugger when “numbers just don’t fit”. Perhaps he needs a bigger shopping bag? Like, enough to hold 175,000 unemployed?!

However, it’s interesting that English sez that “the number of people on the unemployment benefit continues to drop”. He’s either telling fibs (unusual for a National Party politician), or is not aware of MSD unemployment figures which are easily available on the internet…

Registered unemployed on WINZ benefit

December 2011 – 59,964

March 2012 – 53,479

June 2012 – 49,622

September 2012 – 50,390

Source: MSD 2012

Source: MSD 2011

From June to September, there has been an increase in registered unemployed – not a a drop  as English claimed.

So registered unemloyed are rising.

But why are they not rising anywhere near the same numbers as Statistics New Zealand’s  Household Labour Force Survey?

The HLFS survey states that 13,000 more  people were unemployed in the September quarter.  Which is certainly indicated by the number of redundancies we see almost on a daily basis in media reports.

This blogger suggests that there are a number of factors why the number of registered unemnployed does not match the HLFS – though both are tracking upward, proving that unemployment is most certainly on the rise.

1. Married/Relationships

Quite simply; if you’ve lost your job and your spouse/partner is still working, you’re not eligible for WINZ assistance.

This is one of those quirks in our welfare system that a partnered couple can both be working and the State demands that they both pay taxes. Yet if one of them loses his/her job, s./he is not entitled to WINZ assistance. Both would have to be jobless before being eligible unemployment benefits.

Conversely, if two people are flatting together and not ina relationship, the situation is completely different. If both are working and one loses his/her job, s/he is eligible for the unemployment benefit.

Moral of this story; WINZ want to know who you’re in bed with. A quaint bit of 1950s-style moralising by the State?

This blogger suggests that a substantial number who have lost their jobs recently are in relationships will not bother to register with WINZ because it is pointless. They will not receive State assistance. (Despite having paid their taxes.)

2. Redundancy/Holiday Pay

It’s quite like that those made redundant recently still have holiday pay, savings, or redundancy pay to live on. WINZ will not offer an unemployment benefit if the applicant has money in his/her bank account.

3. Stand-down Period

After redundancy or holiday pay is used up, WINZ  can then put an applicant on a 13 week stand-down. (I’ve no idea why. Sadism? Just for the hell of it?)

This blogger suspects that the numbers on unemployment benefits will rise in the next few months, more closely mirroring the Household Labour Force Survey.

Another factor to consider is that Paula Bennett has directed WINZ to make life more difficult for the unemployed, when registering with WINZ. As if losing one’s job wasn’t stressful enough, Bennet has forced the implementation of some draconian rules and requirements for beneficiaries. (The implication being that it’s the fault of  the unemployed for being unemployed?!)

One of the bureacratic bundles of red tape are the number of forms given to WINZ applicants.

Forf those readers who have never had the “delight” of dealing with WINZ – these are the forms that are required to be filled out. Note: every single applicant is given these forms (in a little plastic carry-bag).

The cost of printing these things must be phenomenal.

And if you have to reapply to WINZ for a benefit (if, say, you’ve lost your job again) you are required to fill out these forms all over again.

This is where taxpayer’s money is really going to waste in welfare.

This is the  first booklet; the ‘Unemployment Benefit Application‘ – a thirty-page application form.

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A thirty page document – to apply for a sum of $201.96 a week (WINZ benefit, nett, for a person over 25).

By contrast, banks have a couple of pages for a mortgage application form where sums in excess of $200,000 are being lent, and repayments start at $400 a week.

Next form, something called ‘Find a job build a future Tools to help you find work’,

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And just because the initial 30-page WINZ application form may not have satisfied the Minister; her Ministry; and sundry bureacrats,  another application form was enclosed in the “pack”;  “Jobz4u Manual Jobseeker Enrolment“.

This one was ‘only’ nine pages,

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Another form, this time only four pages long, the ‘Employment-Earnings Verification‘  form,

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Bizarrely, the above form is replicated on page 4 of  the thirty-page ‘Unemployment Benefit Application‘.  One wonders if Bennett is aware of the duplication of these forms?

The next form (yes, there’s more!) was the ‘WINZ – How can we help you‘. When assisting the person fill out these forms, there was a strong urge within me to scribble across each of the following eight pages,

How can we help you?

By cutting down on these goddamn forms!! How many forests had to die for this crap???

I have a sneaking suspicion that might not have helped the person I was assisting in her application.

The ‘WINZ – How can we help you‘ form,

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And the last two, the ‘Unemploymen Benefit Application – What to Bring ‘ and the ‘WINZ Online Services ‘ (both one page),

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All up, seventythree  pages of information and forms to  read, understand,  fill out, collect information…

This system becomes even more laughable when one considers that if an an applicant has been a WINZ beneficiary before, they are still on MSD’s computer files. Much of the information sought would already be on-file.

The cost of this must be horrendous, and it is ironic that at a time when National is cutting “back room” support staff to save money, that they are permitting taxpayer funding for this ‘Monty Pythonesque ‘ exercise in out-of-control form-filling.

No wonder that this was reported in Fairfax media,

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett this morning said latest figures showed 328,043 people were now on benefits, with 57,058 of those on an unemployment benefit.

Reforms passed by Parliament require people on an unemployment benefit to reapply for it after one year. Bennett said this change had led to 5000 people cancelling their benefit.

More than 1400 of those said they had found work, more than 2600 didn’t complete a reapplication and more than 1000 were no longer eligible.

See: 5000 beneficiaries quit dole rather than reapply

How many people with minimal education could hope to fill out so many forms of such complexity?

Applying for a bank mortage is vastly simpler – an irony considering the vastly greater sums of money involved.

Addendum

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Date: Tue, Wednesday, 14 November 2012 1:38 PM
From: Frank Macskasy
Subject: Information Request
To: Paula Bennett “Paula.bennett@parliament.govt.nz”

Kia Ora Ms Bennett,

I would like to make an official Freedom of Information Request.

Please provide information as to the costings of the following forms and information leaflets produced by MSD/WINZ;

“Work and Income Employment-Earnings Verification” (VO6-mar 2011)

“Work and Income Find a job build a future Tools to help you find work” (JOBSW0007-nov 2010)

“Jobz4u Manual Jobseeker Enrolment” (-)

“Work and Income Unemployment Benefit Application” (M18-JUL 2011)

“Work and Income Unemployment Benefit Application – What to bring” (M18-JUL 2011)

“Work and Income How can we help you” (CM0001 – OCT 2010)

“Work and Income Online Services”  (-)

“Work and Income” plastic carrybag for above items.

Please provide total costings for EACH item printed, on an annual basis for the last four years, and a break-down of costings for usage per year and per WINZ client.

Thank you for your assistance in this matter.

Regards,
-Frank Macskasy
Blogger

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= fs =

  1. 14 November 2012 at 2:45 pm

    Yeah, further to my comment the other day re: the winz training courses dropping official unemployment figures, I was talking with a friend that for those that had jobs until even just a weeks ago, it’s not until the savings accrued from having a job and the cc possibly if you’ve got one start to seriously run dry that you’ll see a little more outcry – hopefully at the very least understanding. Not that I would visit that fate on anyone, knowing what it’s like. But all too often I suspect some of the more distressing comments actually are coming from the middle band a lot of the time, unfortunately, they’ve been kidded into something I’m sure nobody in their right mind would have invited onto themselves. They’ve probably got a bit of savings maybe (if they’re lucky these days), that’ll run out soon. They might have got into their first house, probably again if they’re by and large lucky enough that their credit rating isn’t roasted… but it all runs out someday if people are unlucky enough.

    Then the creditors come-a-calling … and winz help will be needed badly. Basically as this situation is continuing and now they have laid the bed for it to go on into the near if not at least mid-term future, you’ll see a greater spike in that unemployment figure in real terms. You’ll probably also see an equal spike and another speech about “greater training opportunities” that have accrued – maybe even accompanied by another roll call of jobs. That amused me watching her have the actual gall to go through with that, Brightwater advertising for 40 jobs, prob same ones they had vacated earlier this year… it goes on.

    Interesting little forms aren’t they…

  2. Green Meadows
    14 November 2012 at 3:50 pm

    Great post Frank.

    Having been in the situation where the sole wage earner was restructured, along with others, out of a job but was paid a redundancy, I can totally understand why so many are not showing up on a benefit. But they will eventually, unless they find other employment or use their redundancy to move across the Tasman. Being in that situation, young children, mortgage, having to move, real estate market plummeting, was terrifying to say the least. And knowing that if you get to the point of having to apply for a benefit you’ll be at the bottom of the cliff. It’s not a safety net, just a bandaid.

    Perhaps part of Nationals cunning plan is to get rid of as many votes that would go against them as possible and hope they can’t be bothered going to the extra effort of voting from overseas?

  3. Recluse
    15 November 2012 at 12:03 am

    Bill English: “the number of people on the unemployment benefit continues to drop”

    Yeah, because we cut them off.

    An increase in registered unemployed from June to September? Just cut more off, oh no wait they’re applying faster than we can cut.

    I wish to apply for the Unemployment Benefit, why am I presented with this phone book called application form?

    Want to reduce unemployment? Make those at the top unemployed for starters; it’ll be a big step in the right direction. Little and Dear Leader? Gone by lunchtime.

    Where I live, front page headline on the newspaper this morning “Unemployment doubles in Wairarapa over the last four years.”

    Frank, I suspect you blanked out the carpenter’s phone number above. You should have left it; the advert could’ve been given more reach over the net.

  4. 15 November 2012 at 10:42 am

    Thanks for the info on Wairaraoa unemployment, Recluse. I always appreciate links to media stories like that – helps to build up a more complete picture…

    “Phone book” sized WINZ application form – I like that phrase.

    I’ve emailed Paula Bennett’s office requesting an OIA on the cost of these forms and brochures. No response as at this time.

    Re the carpenter’s phone number; the photo was taken some time ago and I’m always a bit wary of posting numbers without approval first. Plus of course there is the problem of people phoning the number long after the bloke (or blokette) has found employment.

    However, on the other hand, if it helps someone get a job… Point taken. *thumbs up*

    As for Bill English maintaining that “registered unemployment continues to fall” – I have a suspicion that may change, as WINZ numbers catch up with the HLFS.

    I wonder what excuse English’s taxpayer funded spin doctors will come up with then? More “grumpy” recovery?!

  5. 15 November 2012 at 10:45 am

    “Perhaps part of Nationals cunning plan is to get rid of as many votes that would go against them as possible and hope they can’t be bothered going to the extra effort of voting from overseas?”

    Funny you should mention that, Meadows. I’m planning an upcoming on-line interview with a couple who WERE National voters. No longer. In the last 2 or 3 weeks they’ve become disillusioned with John Key.

    I’ll be getting their views – before they leave for overseas. They’re planning to emigrate to the UK (he’s a home-improvement tradesman and his skills are always in demand).

    One of the questions I’ll ask is if they plan to cast their vote from the UK.

  6. Anonymous girl
    15 November 2012 at 8:58 pm

    I have received the dastardly dreaded 13 week stand-down just because I quit my two part-time jobs in my 20-years-hometown of Napier, to move to Wellington and make a decent life for myself (you know, being a young 20 year old with my whole life ahead of me and all).
    I was messed around being given weeks-apart seminars and appointments to attend, retrieving personal information for that phone-book-of-an-application form, only to finally be informed about two weeks from the initial date I first dropped in to apply for unemployment (which by the way the “Find what you will be eligible for” function advised I would be eligible for), that because I quit my casual part time jobs in Napier to move to a city with at least even half a chance for me to get a REAL job (not kiddie jobs), I have brought upon myself what they term “voluntary unemployment”.
    Those damn bastards I’ve paid my taxes and used my holiday payout of a dismal 300 or so dollars to pay out the last rent I can afford until they decide they want to bother helping me out.
    Oh yeah, – and guess what? The only way for them to surpass my 13 week stand down is to shove me in some free course immediately, where I get to be made to feel like a high school kid again! Yippee! independence at its best!
    I feel (and rightly so!) I am being punished for a big old PHONY’S mistake (Key’s govt) and for something I didn’t do.
    This course is 9am – 3pm every day leaving me only the weekend or the 3-5pm window – by which time I’ve got a headache from being bored out of my brain all day – to hit the streets of Wellington to apply. So I’ve been two weeks in W-town and paying for the puppet-masters at the tops’ mistakes all the way and all I can say is I pray to God I land myself a job before I have to deal with any more of this B-S from WINZ and the government’s scapegoating. To be honest if I could afford it I would probably make the move across the Tasman to a place with better prospects ‘cos at this rate all I see here is a nowhere-country…

    Great post by the way, lol, I loved the “phone book” comment and the way the OP really got the point across there with the application form pages in all their glory

    and the following statement is a frightening concept:
    “the winz training courses dropping official unemployment figures”
    I can’t help feeling this is what they are trying to do with shoving me in a course so they can keep me out of the unemployment statistics for at least 13 weeks to buy themselves more time to magic up a cure.

    • Anonymous girl
      16 November 2012 at 12:43 am

      Oh yes and by the way, the two part time jobs weren’t enough to live off, at best about 15 hours a week, and unstable and fairly casual – not fun

      • 16 November 2012 at 8:24 am

        A horrendous tale, ‘Anonymous Girl’, and I suspect it is being repeated all over the country.

        National has turned a social safety net into a punishing exercise for no good reasion except, I think, to push blame onto welfare recipients for the shocking state of our economy.

        If more New Zealanders had experiences like yours, there’s no way that Key and Bennett could get away with their crap. And the most disgusting thing is that both Key and Bennett seem to have forgotten what it’s like to be down and struggling.

        It’s folks like you that motivate me to keep up this blog.

  7. recluse
    17 November 2012 at 1:46 am

    Anonymous girl, I know what you’re going through, not long ago I was on the dole due in large part to this neoliberal “paradise” we “live” in which spawned the Great Recession of 2007. I lived in Wellington and I can tell you finding a job seemed an almost impossible endeavour. So to sustain oneself, the dreaded dole queue awaited.

    Luckily the stand down period didn’t apply to me. But if you think the phone book sized application form was daunting enough. I found the service of WINZ staff especially disgraceful.

    The compulsory “seminars” were an ugly bitter experience, an experience the memory of which haunts me occasionally evoking anger every time. Forget branding these events as “seminars”, interrogation would be more apt.

    The staff members conducting these events were rude and ignorant, on a few occasions even using crude vulgar language, which I thought extremely unprofessional.

    Often you would receive a letter with an appointment to attend one of these “seminars”, describing it as “a seminar to discuss job opportunities and training”, leading one to believe there’s a possible job or training programme available. Yet when in attendance there’s no such talk, only what I would describe as a group interrogation. The staff member would ask the people in attendance individually, before the group, one after another what they were doing searching for a job. Regardless of the lengths one went through in searching for a job, even with any form of supporting evidence, one would only be greeted with harsh rude criticism, with the impression they were not putting enough effort in.

    Remember this is conducted before the group. Shouldn’t a person’s activity in finding work be subject to privacy, say between oneself and the case manager? How does this concern anyone else present? I regard this as an institutionalised scheme to humiliate and intimidate those off a benefit, ignorant of the recipient’s need. In effect state bullying denying the public’s entitlement to the benefit. I assume this has a major role in pushing recipients off the benefit even if their circumstances render them eligible. I would also assume this is a policy of the MSD in training their WINZ staff.

    If you fail to attend a seminar your benefit is cut 50%. And more if you fail to attend subsequent “seminars”, eventually the benefit ceases and then I believe there’s a stand down period of three months.

    I’ve heard that many unemployed young folks who seek to apply for the Unemployment Benefit are placed on “training courses” as a condition of receiving payment, also the “training” offered is remedial and the effectiveness highly questionable.

    Unemployment is undoubtedly rising and the government is dedicated to no progress whatsoever in creating jobs. Their solution is only conjuring up new draconian schemes to cut and deter people from benefits, or ridiculous schemes in creatively hiding registered unemployment, creative schemes which are a major cost in themselves – no doubt benefitting consultants and other government cronies.

  8. 21 November 2012 at 4:41 pm

    Is this the bureacracy-gone-mad that the Nats constantly whinge about? How come tonnes of bureacratic forms for businesses is a bad thing – but tonnes of bureacratic forms for beneficiaries is ok? And we the taxpayer pay for this rubbish!

  1. 5 December 2012 at 3:04 pm
  2. 8 February 2013 at 12:44 pm
  3. 19 July 2013 at 8:09 am

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