The Salvation Army reports that we have a huge problem of homeless Aucklanders forced to live in cars, shipping containers and garages due to spiraling rents. Our $50 million Prime Minister's response? "Talk to Work and Income":
This morning, Mr Key told Radio New Zealand that families living out of cars should visit Work and Income. It was not acceptable that people lived in such situations, and "that's not the New Zealand that we want".
Immediate solutions might not be perfect, he said, but it would be very surprising if such a family was left in such a "dire" condition.
"People often don't understand what's available to them. My experience with Work and Income is they do their very best to support people in those situations, especially when children are involved."
To which anyone who has ever dealt with WINZ at any point in their lives will let out a bitter laugh. Because if there's one thing WINZ doesn't do, its tell people what they're entitled to, because that costs money. And successive National Ministers have made it very clear that they do not want WINZ spending money if they can avoid it, even when it is absolutely guaranteed by statute.
Its an old, dirty trick, which got started during National's original war on the poor in the 90's as a cost-saving measure. While it improved once Labour sacked Christine Rankin, it has been back with a vengeance under National. So much so that when beneficiary advocates organise to ensure that people do get support and assistance to claim all of their entitlements, the queues start at 6:30 in the morning.
But even beyond that: social housing in New Zealand has been cut so far that you can live in a van for a year (and counting) waiting to get one. So even knowing your entitlements isn't help. The problem is with the government, not people in need.
But rich people like John Key don't see any of this. WINZ is there to help people. So if people aren't getting help, it must be because they are stupid and ignorant - their own fault basicly - not because the system they oversee has responded to their demands for cost savings and crackdowns on (largely imaginary) "fraud" essentially by refusing to perform its mandate.