Thursday, September 27, 2007

2007. Christchurch NZ 2005: More WINZ Hassles

2004. Luke Esslemont fishing Tekapo Pukaki Canal, Mackenzie District.

NZ Labour government budgeted financial relief for bourgeois families after the 2005 elections. For the third year running, Inland Revenue advised me they owed me a few cents tax refund. I declined teaching English to Korean kids, as my hearing-aids were useless when listening to soft-spoken Korean kids. The Korean immigrant employer expected me to temp-teach in his Burnside home at night for low-pay. As I'd adapted to my deafness, it wasn't a problem to me anymore, but the often negative and patronizing reactions and responses of others to my deafness was a daily problem.

After bullying and stand-overs at WINZ offices, we expected little from our Papanui WINZ Maori, Indian and Chinese case-managers, who after numerous pointless interviews, wasting our time and resources, said that as "mature beneficiaries," we would thenceforth be managed differently. The expat Durban Indian didn't say how we'd be managed differently. She just spouted the latest PC verbiage, cooked up by her masters. Papanui WINZ wrote: "If we do not hear from you we will assume you no longer require assistance. This will result in your entitlement to receive benefit as a jobseeker being reviewed which may affect your benefit payment." (WINZ letter January 2004). We received many of those blackmailing type form-letters over the years.

WINZ offices were grim and unhappy places, despite cheerful, yellow signage, flash pamphlets and a plethora of pcs. Over time, WINZ had manipulated our dole to my invalid and sickness benefits at Sydenham; to "Job-Seeking" dole benefits and junk-job harassment at Riccarton and Sydenham; to Jake aged 18 and Luke aged 13 reducing state Family Assistance; to "Jobs Jolt" meetings at Papanui, where fast-turnover case-managers asked personal questions (which Leah and I'd answered many times before), without bothering to consult case-managers at other WINZ offices. And if a beneficiary showed signs of exasperation, he / she was accused of being a threat, as I was at Sydenham; glared at by security-staff; and video-cammed by many roof security-cameras.

In 2005, Leah stopped her self-employed tutoring business, and became a low-paid, almost full-time (.8) teacher at Jean Seabrook Memorial School. For the first time in 10 years, Leah got holiday pay, so we went trout fishing in the Alps.

2005. Leah Esslemont & some Jean Seabrook Memorial School School Staff, London Street, Christchurch.

WINZ / Employment Service / Income Support had never advised: "We've considered your over 30 years' combined professional work experiences, and your over 10 years' combined tertiary education. We've found just the jobs for you." WINZ was good at providing dole, but case -managers were evasive when we asked about well paid jobs. I reckoned WINZ employment service was inefficient, as Riccarton and Sydenham WINZ tried forcing me to do low-paid temp-jobs inappropriate for my qualifications and professional work experiences. I wasn't the only degreed beneficiary WINZ tried forcing to do low-paid work.

Sadly, my experiences with WINZ involved scores of letters; useless meetings and telephone calls; waste of my resources; and goose -chases, set up by staff. Whether our WINZ case-managers were National government or Labour government, their bureaucratic indifference was consistent. There was little incentive for employers to provide equitable wages for employees, as many jobs were subsidized by the dole. There was little incentive for the unemployed to seek work, as wages were low. Despite Leah working long hours, after 10 years' NZ residence, we still received state Family Assistance for Luke, and an inadequate rent supplement. Leah's low-wage barely covered our living expenses. We had no savings to buy our own home, no insurances, no annuities, no NZ citizenship (expensive), and we couldn't help Jake pay his student-loan.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

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