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WINZ, waste, and wonky numbers – *up-date*

16 July 2015 7 comments

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hungry and homeless wellington new zealand

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Radio NZ’s reporter, Ruth Hill, posted this story on Friday 10 July. Note Ms Hill’s comment;

“However, 4916 just dropped out of the system because they did not do the paperwork.”

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Thousands losing benefits due to paperwork - radio nz - winz - msd

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Even as National  boasted about a drop in beneficiary numbers;

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Benefit numbers reach a six-year low  - fairfax media - winz - msd

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– unemployment continued to rise;

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Unemployment rises to 5.7 percent - radio nz - winz - msd - unemployment

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This discrepancy can be explained – in part – with RNZ reporter, Ruth Hill, revealing;

“Thousands of people are having their benefits cut off because they are not filling in the complicated paperwork required…

[…]

… 4916 just dropped out of the system because they did not do the paperwork.”

This was a ticking time-bomb predicted by beneficiary advocates in 2013, when National implemented many of it’s punitive welfare “reforms”;

The changes sparked protests in front of three Auckland Work and Income offices by Auckland Action Against Poverty protesters yesterday who said the moves were about “cutting costs by pushing vulnerable people off the books” rather than getting them into decent jobs.

So how bad is the problem with WINZ forms?

On  8 February 2013,   I blogged on precisely this problem (WINZ, waste, and wonky numbers);

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 issued to WINZ applicants.

For 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).

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.

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

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73-pages-of-winz-forms-1

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(Blogger’s Note: for a comprehensive view of each WINZ form, please go to  blogpost: Bill English: When numbers don’t fit, or just jump around)

This system becomes even more laughable when one considers that if an an applicant has been a WINZ “client” (ie, beneficiary) before, they remain on MSD’s computer files. Much of the information sought is already  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. ”

How many people with minimal education or poor command of the English language could hope to fill out so many forms of such complexity?

National has a peculiar – but effective – way of dealing with unpleasant statistics.

It either does not engage in collecting data (eg; foreign house buyers, poverty levels, etc), or, it implements policies that will artificially impact on statistics without actually resolving under-lying problems. Whichever is the cheapest, easiest option. And whichever draws the least worst  headlines.

If pushing New Zealanders off welfare – by making the system unnecessarily  complex and frustrating  – has the end result of an apparent drop in welfare numbers, then that is ‘Mission Accomplished’ for this government.

Pushing people into poverty; homelessness; the degradation of street living and begging; are not matters that greatly concerned successive Social Welfare ministers, whether Paula Bennett, nor her successor, Anne “Look-At-Me-Standing-On-A-Crushed-Car” Tolley, as she told Radio NZ;

There is no reason for Work and Income to continue monitoring people who have chosen not to re-apply for a benefit.

If people require welfare support, it is their responsibility to get in touch and provide Work and Income with information that allows them to assess a beneficiary’s need. Once that is complete, Work and Income can provide the assistance people are eligible for.”

This is the same minister who told  TVNZ’s Q+A, political reporter, Corin Dann, on 21 June;

DANN:

“Some would argue with the recent case, for example, with Emma-Lita Bourne who died in the state house, [a] damp house, why not just give those families more money to pay their power bill, rather than give the organisations money to come in and work and all the rest of it?”

TOLLEY:

“And, and, when you look at something like Whanua Ora, they are doing some of that. See, see, what we’ve got with the focus on individual programmes and agencies working in silos, families don’t work like that. They’re very complex issues so if I don’t know the details of that particular family…”

Tolley admitted not knowing the details of the family whose child died of cold/damp related illness.

Make no mistake, the end purpose of seventythree forms, and having to re-apply every twelve months, is to cause frustration and dissuade people from re-applying for welfare benefits.

Ministers then trumpet “success” at a drop in welfare numbers.

The next time you see beggars on the streets with signs saying “no money, please give what you can” – they are most likely telling the truth. They are this government’s dirty little secret.

Addendum1

There is no official measure of poverty in New Zealand. The actual work to address poverty is perhaps what is most important.

Children move in and out of poverty on a daily basis.” – Paula Bennett, 16 August 2012

Addendum2

One of the more bizarre and ridiculous policies by the Ministry of Social Development is annual re-application forms sent to beneficiaries with permanent disabilities such as spina bifida.

For those who are not aware, spina bifida is a permanent, life-long condition. There is no cure.

MSD seems to believe that a miraculous recovery is possible, judging by the forms it sends every twelve months to people with spina bifida.

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jesus christ an the official from MSD

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References

Radio NZ: Thousands losing benefits due to paperwork

Fairfax media: Benefit numbers reach a six-year low

Radio NZ: Unemployment rises to 5.7 percent

Fairfax media: Number on benefits drops, reaction mixed

Fairfax media: 5000 beneficiaries quit dole rather than reapply

Fairfax media: Foreign house owner register downplayed

NZ Herald: Measuring poverty line not a priority – Bennett

TVNZ Q+A:  Interview with Anne Tolley

NZ Spina Bifida Org

Previous related blogposts

The law as a plaything

“I don’t know the details of that particular family” – Social Development Minister Anne Tolley

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

WINZ, waste, and wonky numbers

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 12 July 2015.

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WINZ, waste, and wonky numbers

8 February 2013 47 comments

From previous blogpost,  Bill English: When numbers don’t fit, or just jump around

… 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 issued to WINZ applicants.

For 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).

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.

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

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73 pages of WINZ forms (1)

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73 pages of WINZ forms (2)

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(Blogger’s Note: for a comprehensive view of each page, please go to previous blogpost:  Bill English: When numbers don’t fit, or just jump around)

This system becomes even more laughable when one considers that if an an applicant has been a WINZ “client” (ie, beneficiary) before, they remain on MSD’s computer files. Much of the information sought is already  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. (More on that below.)

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 or poor command of the English language could hope to fill out so many forms of such complexity?

By contrast, applying for a bank mortage is vastly simpler – an irony considering the vastly greater sums of money involved.

In fact, an application for an ANZ Mortgage comprises of eight pages (four, double-sided),

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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

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Eight pages for a mortgage to borrow anywhere from $250,000 to $1 million and upward.

And 72 pages for an unemployment benefit of  $204.96 per week, net, for a single person over 25. (See:  Unemployment Benefit – current)

So how much does all this cost us?

Last year, this blogger emailed the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) with an Official Information Act (OIA) request, asking what the cost of all these pamphlets cost,

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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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After seeking an extension, on 4 February this year,  the MSD replied with these costings,

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MSD 1 Feb 2013 OIA response (1)

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MSD 1 Feb 2013 OIA response (2)

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Firstly, it’s disappointing to note that of the eight items that I requested costings for, MSD could provide figures for only five. They admitted not have costings for two documents (“Jobz4u Manual Jobseeker Enrolment” and “Work and Income Online Services” ) and made no mention of another (“Work and Income Unemployment Benefit Application – What to bring” ).

However, based on figures provided for other documents, we can certainly make some rough guesses. If MSD’s  figures are correct,  over four years, the cost of printing these 72 pages is around $1 million. Not a hell of a lot, when considering that WINZ benefit’s will be approximate $4.9 billion for just this financial year alone (see:  Budget 2012 – Vote Social Development).

But if a Bank can offer mortgages from $1 to millions of dollars, using an eight page application form – then why would a government department be wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars – millions over decades – for a measely $204.96 (per week, net, for a single person over 25)?

The reason is fairly obvious.

A Bank welcomes a new client in the hope of offering a financial service – eg, a mortgage. Banks view clients as assets.

Under the current government, WINZ is actively discouraging people from signing up for welfare assistance,

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

Yet, at a time when we have a critical shortage of skilled workers in this country – especially tradespeople for the Christchurch re-build – National views those seeking welfare assistance as a liability.

This is about as short-sighted as a conservative, market-oriented government can get. It shows a lot about the narrow-sightedness of National’s ministers when, like a bank, they don’t see that 170,000 unemployed is an asset waiting to be upskilled; trained and supported into new careers.

Just imagine; 170,000 new builders, computer technicians, doctors, electricians, nurses, quantity-surveyors,  scientists, teachers, vets, etc. Imagine the economic growth this country would have if National viewed an army of 170,000 unemployed as an asset waiting to be tapped – rather than discouraged.

I can imagine it.

National evidently can’t. Not when they prefer to spend millions on 72 pages of bureacratic rubbish, which would put of a lot of people.

I wonder how much business a bank would get if they demanded that new clients fill out 72 pages of forms?

Not much,  I’d wager.

So why does the government do it?

Addendum

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Unemployment rate falls as more give up job hunt

Source

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This is the predictable consequence when a hands-off government does nothing to grow the economy and generate new jobs.

This is the predictable consequence when a government treats unemployed workers as a liability to be discouraged and labelled as ‘bludgers’ – rather than recognising the asset that they really are.

This is the predictable consequence of a National government.

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

13 November 2012 15 comments

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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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