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Posts Tagged ‘Work and Income’

WINZ Privacy for some – but not for others

28 November 2012 5 comments

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Most of us remember this apalling episode of Paula Bennett’s career as Social Welfare minister,

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In 2009, Bennett made public private details of two solo-mothers. She  handed over personal information to the media without the knowledge of the two women, Jennifer Johnston and Natasha Fuller.

The information included each woman’s weekly income from the State, including benefits and  allowances.

Her move was supported by misogynists;  right wing nutjobs; assorted beneficiary bashers; and National’s core constituency of conservative cranks.

Bennett’s actions were roundly condemned by fair-minded New Zealanders who recognised the Minister’s actions as a gross abuse of her power and invasion of their privacy.  No wonder that many who  remembered Rob Muldoon’s style of authoritarian governance likened Bennett’s behaviour to the late, former, Prime Minister.

But Bennett defended her mis-use of Ministerial powers,

If someone is deciding they’re happy to use their case to speak about or against something we are doing, I think it’s fair the full story be told.”

Three years later…

Deputy Chief Executive, Janet Grossman, who had been head-hunted from Britain and paid over $50,000 of taxpayer’s money to re-locate to New Zealand, resigned only eleven months after taking up her role with WINZ,

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Despite quitting less than a year into her new job; and despite over $50,000 paid to relocate her to New Zealand;  it is reported that Grossman was paid out $97,000 as some sort of severance pay.

When Labour MP Jacinda Ardern questioned this extraordinary payment in Parliament, this exchange took place with National Minister, Jonathan Coleman,

Jacinda Ardern: Was the only reason she was given for Janet Grossman’s departure in that briefing or information that “her husband has had job opportunities in the UK and she wishes to return back there.”?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Yes.

Jacinda Ardern: Was Janet Grossman paid a termination benefit?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: As you know, $97,000 was allocated across five people who left that year, and there will be no breakdown given, for privacy reasons, of the allocation to any of those five executives.

See: Social Development, Ministry—Resignation of Deputy Chief Executive

Really? Dr Colemnan cited “privacy reasons “?!

Chief executive of  Ministry of Social Development, Brendan Boyle, was reported by Radio New Zealand as stating,

Mr Boyle says there is nothing unusual in paying out someone their entitlements when they resign but he refuses to disclose just what payment Mrs Grossman got, saying to do so would breach her privacy.

See: MSD chief clashes with MP in committee

So let’s get this straight…

Two solo-parents who have done nothing wrong; and their only ‘misdemeanour’ was daring to criticise a politician; have their personal details of WINZ payments splashed all over the country’s media, inviting lunatics to attack and threaten them…

But the payout to a senior WINZ executive  who resigned/sacked/? is suddenly a matter of “privacy”?

The double standards set by National, and their cronies at highest MSD levels, beggars belief. However, it is unsurprising.

National’s reputation for One Rule For Everyone and One Rule For Themselves, is by now fairly well known in this country.

It demonstrates their  complete contempt they have for the rest of us.

This is the sort of arrogance that in other countries leads to authoritarian rule;  jails full of political prisoners; eventual uprisings by the populace; and a bullet through the head of despots.

Here in New Zealand, we do things differently. Here, despots get elected to two terms of government.

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Previous related blogposts

“One law for all” – except MPs

Hypocrisy – thy name be National

Sources

NZ Herald: Bennett gets tough with outspoken solo mums

Fairfax Media: Paula Bennett accused of Muldoon-style bullying

NZ Herald: Work and Income boss quits

NZ Parliament: Social Development, Ministry—Resignation of Deputy Chief Executive

Fairfax Media: Social Development Ministry grilled over security

Radio NZ: MSD chief clashes with MP in committee

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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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National’s Grand Victory in Employment?!

8 September 2011 5 comments

The number of people on the unemployment benefit has dropped – but more people are claiming welfare.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said the figures dropped last month by 1145 to 55,974, the lowest it had been since July 2009.

But, because of a rise in those claiming the DPB and sickness benefits, total beneficiaries were up from 327,990 to 328,355.

In July the overall number rose by 0.1 per cent and an extra 855 people began claiming the unemployment benefit, mostly because of a drop off in seasonal work.

Bennett said more young people were finding work. “Unemployment benefit numbers dropped last month by with half of the decrease due to more young people going into work.”

Last month 7238 claimants found a job.  There were a number of short-term Electoral Commission jobs currently among 15,000 jobs with Work and Income, she said. 

Source


+++ Reality Check +++

The number of people recieving the unemployment benefit does not reflect the true numbers of unemployed. The actual numbers are determined by the Household Labour Force Survey.

This is because not everyone who is unemployed registers with WINZ. For example married/de facto couples where one is working and the other has lost his/her job, cannot claim for the Unemployment Benefit.

Currently the HLFS figures for unemployed are:

For the March 2011 quarter: 155,000 (6.6%)

In the June 2011 quarter: 154,000 (6.5%)

And youth unemployment remains unacceptably high, at over 19%.

The government has a long way to go before they can announce victory over unemployment.

Worse  still, with the government cutting back on youth training to the tune of $146 million, I think we can start to see where our economy is headed: low wage; “McJobs”; and easy investment, as Bill English suggested, not to long ago;

And to achieve those low wages, government has implemented the appropriate cuts;

Which means that, as government investment in education, training, science, and research is cut back, we get this;

But not to worry, fellow New Zealanders. The government is onto it.

16 and 17 year olds will be given a Purchase Card so they cannot buy booze and ciggies.

What’s that? It’s already illegal to sell 16 and 17 year olds alcohol and tobacco products??

Never mind – bene-bashers love it.