Just a moment, while I ‘pop’ into WINZ.

Dear John Key (and Prince of Middle New Zealand: Mike Hoskings)

I know you will never read this. I know you don’t care. But, a woman gotta vent somewhere. Good people. If you hear me, share.

This week, you suggested that anyone with a housing issue – living in a car, in a garage, in a small, cold, damp house with your entire extended family, or under a bridge – should go to Work and Income for help. Hardy-har-har. Nice idea. Totally a waste of time though. Literally.

I don’t know what the official numbers are, but there are a heck of a lot of people living in substandard situations. A single mother of three children, including and 8month old, and a couple with their young son who’s wheelchair should demand an appropriate house for his family – living in motels for $1330 a week. Money that they have to pay back to WINZ. The money is there, Key’s National government cannot tell us otherwise. It is about priorities.

Now, I could write a really eloquent piece of writing on this issue, but lots of other people already have. Read more here for instance. And, I’m not feeling all that patient or eloquent right now. I’m pissed off.  So I’m going to write something from the street, so to speak.

Anyone who has ever had to deal with WINZ, will tell you that going there, is kind of hellish. They are unfriendly. They make you feel really small, vulnerable and more ashamed of your situation than when you first stepped in the door.

And we shouldn’t feel ashamed. We all pay our taxes after all, so that in our time/s of need, we can turn to WINZ and find relief.

But the problem is, WINZ doesn’t meet your needs most of the time, or tell you what you are entitled too. You can’t make an appointment in the very office you want an appointment at. You can’t book an appointment on the phone  for more than two weeks out (after your local office tells you to go home and to do so). Even though there are most definitely going to be more than two weeks of time in the future of universal existence. And every time you deal with them, you need to prove your existence all over again. Because they seem to completely lose every single thread of information you have ever provided them with….your first born’s lock of baby hair included. It is SO painful. You wouldn’t know. You are a rich mo’fo.

It is hardly worth the pain for the gain most of the time. I have cried in their faces before out of sheer exhaustion at dealing with their bureaucracy, all over a few pingers for childcare assistance. To which we were entirely entitled too. Or more to the point. OUR CHILD was entitled to.

So, this morning when I ‘popped’ into Work and Income for another Childcare subsidy form (for the baby-child) – I was feeling anxious. This form pays for roughly 50% of childcare costs for under 3s and enrolls over 3s in the 20 hours free childcare programme. So we gotta do it. Anyone with a kid in childcare has got to do this. Unless you are really rich, then you don’t need to worry about it. But you do have to be quite rich to not worry about it, because childcare cost are high. Most of us are not rich. Most of us parents WILL fill in this damned form at some stage.

I did this three years ago for our eldest. It was a really bad time. We filled in the form THREE times, and took it DIRECTLY INTO OUR LOCAL OFFICE as we were told to do THREE TIMES. Why THREE TIMES?

Because each time, the people at the desk lost it. Paper work in this government department is obviously not a top priority. And there is SO much paper work. Each time it was lost, it took an average of  two weeks for WINZ to figure out that this is what had happened. Two weeks of us calling them to see what was going on. Two weeks of feeling embarrassed that the incorrect fee amount was being paid (not paid) to our kid’s childcare centre. Two weeks of really painful conversations with equally confused main office phone worker WINZ people. Another form filled in……Two more weeks of waiting, two more weeks of…..you get the idea.

And, each time, 1, 2 and 3 – we had to take the SAME form back to the childcare centre to be re-filled. This is not what the head teacher at the centre wanted to be doing with their time. This is not what WE wanted to be doing with our time.

All in all, it took 4 months for the ordeal to end. 4 months for the childcare centre to receive the correct fees for the amazing work they do.

Really boring blog so far right. This whole situation was boring for us.

How could such a fundamental and crucial government department handle such a routine, standard, everyday, bureaucratic process so very badly you ask?

Well.

When I arrived at my local office this morning at 10:30am this is what I saw with my eyes:

(note, the amount of blue carpet in this image represents two things, 1. my stealthy photo taking skills, 2. the deepest darkness in the hearts of all who have stood on this carpet)

13221565_10154360265299728_6623580843690931769_n
Busy, busy, getting work done.
  • 3 security guards milling about (they were friendly, I’m not being sarcastic)
  • 1 person at the front desk, 4 computers at the front desk
  • 1 woman at the front desk being served
  • 1 woman in line in front of me
  • another woman sitting in the  waiting area (for a long fought for appointment I assume)

BUT………

  • There were roughly 20 desks in the WINZ office (hard to count exactly without going past the duct taped line on the floor which means ‘if you pass this you will be tackled by 3 security staff)
  • 3 desks occupied by customer services people/agents, whatever they are called these day
  • 1 person being served at a desk by staff. ONE
  • Then I realised the 1 person being served was actually the 4th security guard having a chat.

10:30am in the morning is a really busy time in most work places. So much busy, WINZ.

More things to note: It is nearly impossible to get a real face to face appointment, in order to speed up the process, and make sure that your form won’t get lost. I can see now, why it is so hard to get an appointment. No one is working there. Take the blimmin desks away!  It wouldn’t look so terrible that way.

Even with the above stats, ie one person in the queue in front of me, it still took 25 minute  to be served – I should have downloaded the form and printed it at the local internet cafe.

But wait for it, when I got to the ‘service’ desk I was greeted with ‘What’. Not ‘Hello’ not  ‘Kia ora’ or even ‘Yes?’, but ‘what?’.’WHAT’. It is possible I didn’t hear the rest of what she said because she wasn’t really looking at me. But really?!

The lack of efficiency is staggering. It is almost as if they are trained to be slow, disengaged and impossible to navigate. Online, on the phone and in person.

Apologies to the workers, it must be a stink place to work. I don’t mean any bad vibes to you.

This is my experience with WINZ. And I am someone with lots of resources. I have a great job, my partner works full time. We have healthy children. A house, car, and food in the cupboards all the time. I have a computer and internet connection so I can skype WINZ rather than wait on a landline forever to inquire about my lost application forms. I also have a reasonable amount of knowledge of my rights and obligations to WINZ etc, and enough energy to pursue them to get things like a few bucks a week for childcare assistance.

So if this blog is to achieve anything at all, it is for me to let off some steam, and to illustrate just how incompetent this government department is at dealing with anything, anything at all, let alone someone in desperate need of a housing solution.

Our taxes pay for this. We should be ashamed. And causing a fuss.

John –  your family did so well with the support of New Zealand’s welfare system. You have a really important job now, and lots of food in your cupboards. You are in your third term as our (shudder) Prime Minister – and look at the welfare system now. It’s unlikely you’d be where you are now, if it were like this in your day.

Stop cutting funding to our social services! People will always need help. It is our money, and we know our rights.

To conclude this is what I have to say to you (and Prince of Middle New Zealand: Mike Hoskings)…..

What?! (indignation in my voice)

What?! (increasing sass)

What?! (‘bring it on’ tone)

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45 thoughts on “Just a moment, while I ‘pop’ into WINZ.

    1. John Key. Shame on you if indeed you care. The arrogance of wealth is evident in you. But shame also to the people who voted for you again. They have enabled this problem to exist and continue.

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  1. Many shades of my own experience with WINZ. Demeaning, demanding, stand over tactics, lack of decent training in customer service, look down on you as if youre a piece of shit. Admonish you for not budgeting your money wisely! Huh!! Their customer training is such that they are taught, tactics, of bullying, intimidation, speaking down to. And in many cases, by kids fresh out of school. For all the academic expertise on offer, we are now poorer than poor, and in a place like NZ we shouldn’t be. While CYFs was getting a shake up, it would have been timely that many other government services had the same happen. You cannot do same old, and expect different results. I would venture to say, that the propensity for training workshops conducted from a political and psychological bent, to deliver services that are designed to intimidate, and brow beat. What ever happened to the caring sharing NZ?
    Change MUST come! Resisting change pushes the homeless numbers even higher. IF children are the future, then what are we doing to the future? We can vocally scream about our coloured view, while being deniers of the reality, that it is the children of the future and ultimately all of us who suffer, in some way or other.

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  2. I can top the greeting of ‘what’. I got: ‘If you’ve got a childcare issue I’m going to slap you.’ First thing the receptionist said to me. A threat. To physically attack me. And like you I am well resourced, my kids are healthy and have food in their bellies and I was only after a community services card (so I could go to the curtain bank to deal with the 100 year old windows in our old rental that let in a horrific amount of cold air and were covered with rotten bamboo blinds).

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    1. Painstaking to get what we’re entitled too eh! I’ve had a similar issue with getting insulation, that we were also entitled too. Geez, sounds like you could have filled an official complaint for that ‘greeting’ too! But that said, you get the idea it may never be worth the pain for the gain

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  3. Well said! I totally agree with you. The system at WINZ isn’t working. Yes you do feel like the scum of the earth for even thinking you need a wee bit of help. Sometimes all we need is a hand up. . Not always a hand out!

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  4. I care for my 96 year old mother and had the same put down and the huge amount of information needed as my husband and I were means tested for a carer allowance. If my Mum was in a rest home only she would be means tested and would be cared for by the state to the tune of $1,000 per week plus, a little more than the $180 I get weekly for around 26 hours work looking after her. That said, my committment to her is that I will care for her as long as I am able, I told my Dad this just before he died and I will be true to my word. I challenge the Government to remain true to the words it says especially at election time.

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    1. Wow, good on you Shirley-Joy. Caring for others is a sometimes thankless task but so very important. Whether it be for kids or elderly parents, we should be supported to do so.

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    2. I was in the same boat. With a few extra passengers. 6 years ago I was caring for my father (cancer), mother (copd), and aunt (downsyndrome). At the time I went to winz to see what they could help me and my family with. I’m only entitled to care for one person. So we figured since my dad had so quickly been diagnosed with cancer, it would be him. But because he could still move under his own volition, they deemed him ‘not sick enough’. Apparently, a person actually dying but still able to stand on his own 2 feet, is not worthy of their help. He died 6 months after the diagnosis. There is much more to this story, but to keep it somewhat short…my mother passed away last year, now I just care for my aunt, and I have an appointment set for next week to try and rectify a few things. I feel sick at just the thought of having to walk thru the doors.

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  5. I am a single mother studying full time. All I get is 328 a week take away board, child care fees fuel to get to and from uni. Etc … I was told I’m not entitled to anything, I’m currently 28 weeks pregnant and can’t afford clothing for myself 3 year son and a new born who will be here soon, on 328 a week the system is just shocking. I’m struggling to educate myself to better my future for my children. Winters here and I am living in one of those cold damp houses my children will need clothes I can’t afford, heck I don’t even know if you can ask Sallys.

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    1. I hear about this situation often, and have many friends in your predicament. This is exactly the kind of situation the government should be right behind, supporting parents to further their education (properly, $328 most certainly does not cut it!), and in furthering themselves, greatly improving the outlook for their little ones. Your children are so very fortunate to have such a hardworking and commitment mother. Keep at it, it will pay off. It is just such a shame it can’t be easier for you in our political and economic climate. The money is there, it is all about priorities. At least you have yours right.

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  6. Wow .How very sad..
    Maybe someone should apply for the position at WINZ and show them this report!! or get the people to rise up and vote John Keys out.
    Most people don’t realize their importance,that collectively you can change anything or maybe they have been downtrodden so long they don’t appreciate their own value Or maybe they need a lot of gogetters like you to lead them.
    I live in Aus and have done for a long time but I do care about my homeland and the people within it

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    1. Yes, I care about the people here too! Inequality is on a very sharp rise. The idea that anyone can get themselves out of poverty is a myth. Poverty is a cycle, created by our economic system. A system that favours those who already have money!

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  7. Well said, we are pensioners and having to go in and get help when my husband got sick was distressing to say the least. If doctors had picked up my husbands problem like five or six years earlier we would still both be working, We both started work when we were 15. I don’t get paid for looking after my husband. I miss contact with other people .

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    1. I’m sorry to hear how badly society has thanked you for all those years of hard work. Have winz said you are not entitled to a carer support type payment? There are enough hoops to put anyone off aren’t there!

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    2. You need to talk to another agency / non governmental – like aged care support or the sallys so you can get support for yourself. Oxygen Mask principle – get own mask before getting your loved ones.

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  8. you just need to look back at the case where 3 case managers that verbally abused a bouncer in taupo to know what kind of people beneficiaries have to deal with on a daily basis. the system is broken. case managers are lacking in customer service and have a certain demeanor about them. as if they are paying out of their own pockets.

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    1. I imagine they don’t have a very happy work environment. It could be so good as well. They are in positions of power, whereby they withhold information, or make things difficult – whether intentional or through lack of training. They can hardly be called ‘case’ managers when they don’t see a ‘case’ through. You never talk to the same person twice! There jobs COULD be very meaningful. Helping people access the support they need and are entitled too as tax payers. They could be spending their days making the lives of others a little lighter.

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  9. Every time you take a form into WINZ you MUST get THEM to photocopy it and stamp and sign ALL copies. You will find once you have done this, They will NEVER lose their copy of your form again. They will tell you that it isnt necessary but you are to stand your ground and tell them that the Call center told you to ask them to do this so can they please do it. Expect exasperated huffing and dirty looks. WINZ only hire the crass bitches because the great staff that go through training dont get their contracts renewed after they have had a trial run at a desk dealing with clients. I know this because someone I know dearly went through the training process and some of her clients were crying in gratitude that she had fixed issues they had previously had a nightmare of a time trying to get sorted. She knew what people were entitled to and gave it to them, she got screamed at by her Manager and as I said, her contract wasn’t renewed. She’s trained in a completely dif field now, but what a waste of her life that experience was.

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  10. I phoned WINZ recently to discuss my up-coming retirement/Gold Card/Superannuation – having never dealt with them before I was taken aback at the attitude and tone of the young lady who answered the phone. Rude is an understatement. When I said to her (in my best bossy teacher voice) ” Excuse me – this is the first time I have dealt with your department – ever” her tone and attitude changed immediately. Clearly ‘pleasant’ isn’t default mode. Went to visit the local office to pick up forms – more security than staff, and no clients – tho’ they were friendly. I find it horrific that we have a department set up to help people and it is incredibly unhelpful. The need to have security guards at all speaks volumes for the frustration generated by their attitude and inefficiency. Notice that Inland Revenue is super-efficient in taking our tax off us – enough said!

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    1. You are kidding !! They have security staff because staff members got murdered. Remember that ???

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      1. Yes, we all remember the murders in Ashburton at the WINZ office by John Tully. I’m not excusing their need for security at all – simply making an observation that they had just a few more case managers than security staff on that day I was in there. However, the reason that they need so much security speaks volumes. The amount of very angry and frustrated clients they have, is in part, due to the way they treat people. I’m not diminishing the actions of John Tully in any way, and do not mean to speculate on the work of those who were killed and injured in Ashburton. However, we all know WINZ can do a lot more to treat those they deal with, the most vulnerable in our society with respect.

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  11. You have to be really quite rich not to worry about childcare costs. Honestly you don’t have to be rich not to qualify for childcare assistance. As soon as you don’t qualify for childcare assistance then at least 25% of your income goes on those costs (well less if you earn more of course). At the lowest level the subsidy stops, as soon as you don’t qualify the for the subsidy you suddenly become saddled with huge costs. For school holidays paying for 2 children I may as well not work at all.

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    1. It is a case of: your damned if you do, damned if you don’t eh! The whole culture of supporting parents to raise children needs radical change doesn’t it. Work places too, as you say, juggling school holiday childcare with working.

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  12. I am also struggling to stay afloat with the help of winz.
    I do not drink or smoke, do not have a car, have no debt, and pay the bills weekly.
    On my last visit to the winz office, upon asking for some help with food and power….I was advised to find a job and go to budget advise ?!?

    Sadly, I fear Mr Key may get the votes to once again lead our bleeding and broken paradise.

    I live with the optimism that I am wrong and by the end of the year John Key will be experiencing the wonderful world of winz for himself.

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    1. Hey Elsie, sounds like you are doing a great job within your means. It is offensive to be told to learn how to budget isn’t it. Fairly hard to budget with very little budget!

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  13. Nice, friendly, caring people working at Winz are rare. More often than not they’re sour, judgmental and just plain assholes. My own personal experience many years ago was when I was 7 months pregnant. I had been living on dry weetbix with peanut butter on it for a week cos that was all that was in the cupboard. The mothers group I went to advised me to go to winz for help, the lady looked at me and told me I should have budgeted better. Budgeting wouldn’t help, once the bills were paid there was nothing left. I ran out of there in tears with nothing. Luckily my mothers group arranged for a food parcel. Things havnt changed since then which was 22 years ago. My daughter is a student trying to better herself and I am giving her what I can because she cant get any extra while studying. After rent she has $5. How is anyone supposed to pay for food, power, phone on $5???? Studylink and Winz are one and the same. This government needs a reality check, or the boot…..the latter preferably.

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  14. My brother did not survive his experience with WINZ. His confidence took such a nasty, nasty knock, and they treated him so badly, he just spiraled into dispair and took his own life. It breaks my heart that they are the same heartless beurocracy now that they were then (1990s).

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  15. I too had an issue this week. I went in for some help not that I want to admit it but hey we all need help sometimes.. I’ve been given a 90 day notice to vacate my property due to renovation of the estate. So I took this in and explained my situation (pregnant with twins kinda don’t have 90 days to muck round) and the lady was lovely.. yes we can help you yes we can pay a bond yes we can help with moving costs (she was being monitored for training).. ok cool I left feeling reassured about the unfortunate position I’d been put in through no fault of my own. So I rung the next day to be polite and to let her know I’d found a house. To which the devil was released!! No I will not help with a bond no I will not help with moving costs I want you to move to a town where you know noone and have no family because it’s closer to the hospital (the hospital in which is no help to me what so ever as they don’t provide an anti d injection nor can I have the babies there because they don’t do c sections there) but no she was adamant I could not move to the house is found for 200 a week because she wants me to move to a town where rent is 260 to 280 for the same or a worse house then the 1 I’d found.. winning NOT.. well stupid part is I’m moving closer to that town (15 mins out of that town to he exact) where I know noone and I wasn’t ringing to ask for help I was ringing to update her as she seemed very concerned the day before.. You just can’t seem to win whether you need help or not they make you feel like scum.. however that won’t put my spirits down as I now have a lovely warm house to live in which even has everything I’ll need to make after surgery easier ie a wet floor shower and no steps into or out of the house as its all set up for wheelchair access.. wonder how much I would have paid for all of that in the town she wanted me to live in.. I’ll tell ya how much 320 to be exact.. why oh why don’t they train their staff in compassion and common sense??

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  16. Ya know i used to be a solo mum on a benifit and yes it was hard going and shameful walking in that office asking for help shameful in my own mind that is, but i got tired of having fuckin nothimg so i got off my arse a single mum with two kids and i went and got a education and a well payed job and never went back to winz it feels great not needing their help but im still greatful for everything they did or didnt do when i was on a benifit because it gave me a push that i needed and the staff were always polite and never looked down at me , i only read a bit of this story because i got sick of the long drawn out story so i dont actually know the ending but i think shit gets tough in life you gotta do whats best for your family mine was to get a education so i could support my kids and not have to rely on winz

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    1. It is so great that everything turned out really well for you and your kids. I do recommend reading the whole piece, it is hard to stick to a comment if you haven’t. They certainly do push people to get there lives sorted, but I’m unconvinced they do it in a constructive and supportive way. The point I am trying to make is that they are not the safety net they are supposed to be, Winz are not meeting the needs of many of our most vulnerable.

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  17. I am a solo parent of two school aged children, one of which is in high school and I receive child disability for, as well as topped up with sole parent benefit. I dont smoke, hardly drink, dont have a car, and dont have debt, and I recently started a new job in March which met the weekly hour criteria for having two school aged children. Hit April 1st, I was now 5hours a week under the winz requisite weekly hours of work. I was informed I needed to visit my case manager monthly to explain my job search progress to meet the new criteria. During the first appointment after the April 1st changes, my case manager told me I needed to find another job that meets the extra 5 hours required of me, because if Im meeting the full criteria of specified weekly hours she could move me off her books on to IRD’s!!
    I asked her why was she harrassing me when I already have a job, a job that I like, a job that suits my sons need for me to be available to care for him during afterschool hours and school holidays. (He is not eligible for Oscar due to his age.) The winz woman said because the govt requires me “to fit in their box”! Anyhow after 30 mins of trying to explain how difficult it is for me to get to winz (I have to bus which is every half hour and depending on what time one of my children gets off his bus, the earliest I can get there is usually 4:45pm) and the conversation going round and round in circles, she told me I needed to write a letter to the manager of her branch asking for an exemption from being made to come to monthly visits as well as having to seatch for a new job that covers school holidays and the extra 5 hrs a week shortfall. To supplement the letter she required me to go to my GP and pay $35 appt fee for him to write me the most pathetic two sentences stating my child is epileptic and that I need to be available to care for the child outside of school hours…ridiculous! this is all info winz already had due to my application and annual reviews of the child disability allowance.

    By the by, this is the same winz case worker who before I started this job, told me I should ask my family up north to cover the costs of moving myself and my children to the north island, so we can live with family, have them care for my children and I could continue my midwifery degree (which I had to give up due to the breakdown of my relationship and having no family or support in my city to care for my children when I would be on placements, shift work and on call).

    I have no respect or admiration for these paper pushing bullies. My experience is they make everything way more complicated then necessary and make you feel like crap at the same time. I felt like total shit when she told me that my job was not good enough for them with regards to their criteria. I said well atleast I have a fucking job, why not concentrate on the people on your screen that dont have jobs and are fully capable of working!!

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    1. Geez, it is really hard to fit into their box isn’t it, impossible even in your experience. Kia kaha. There are many people like you who fall through the many gaps in the system, you are not alone.

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  18. Having worked at Work and Income as a case manager for 40 years I find most of these comments offensive. Most case managers are caring and sensitive people who have to work within set guidelines. Also you need to keep in mind that if you don’t like them the answer is in your own hands. The expectations of people is huge and generally not within the guidelines. To use the excuse I have paid my tax is crap. I base that on taxes cover roads, education, health, and heaps of other Government subsidised stuff. Stop bleating and don’t attack hard working case managers.

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    1. Hi Martin, this is just my experience that I have shared, and it is a true experience. One that has resonated with many people. I have no doubt that you work hard in your job, and understand that there are many more out there like you. However, it is hard to deny the experiences of all these people. It is also true that case managers such as yourself, are essentially the ambulances at the bottom of the many cliffs people fall off, and dealing with that fall out from all the different holes in society there are to fall through – must be difficult and thankless a lot of the time.

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  19. John Key I hear you are planning to remove all winz offices and it will all go on line. I guess you were not thinking of all the over 65s who have never used a computer, mental health consumers, rural people, those in poverty, and homeless people etc.. I guess your white privilege and your govt failed to think of others outside of the insular world you exist in when creating another failed policy to marginalize sectors of the community.

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    1. I haven’t heard about this one. It is true that many government services are reducing ‘in person’ services, however, I don’t think winz could ever do this entirely?!

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  20. all so true!!
    one of my experiences with winz came out in a poem …
    THE BENEFACTRESS
    Colder
    than the coins
    on a dead mans eyes
    was she.
    Thin faced, thin lipped
    with mirrored eyes
    in coal black frames
    had she
    My heart
    it sank and churned
    as wave on wave of pain
    had I.
    My demons flared
    and burned inside my mind
    For I remembered
    ghosts of Christmas past
    and reason fled
    as illness raided its ugly head.
    And sadly I went home
    to bed
    Graham Johnson New Years Eve 2008

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  21. Come to Kawakawa winz, there isn’t even a receptionist at the front desk! You must sit down & wait for someone to hopefully come to see you! It could take quite some time as there is usually only 1 person actually seeing people! Picking up a childcare subsidy form, any form actually, could take about 1/2 an hour! Disgusting!

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