Thursday, October 26, 2017

This is just wrong

Its a known fact that WINZ benefits are deliberately not enough to live on, which forces beneficiaries into debt to survive. But it turns out that if you borrow money for food, WINZ considers it to be income and you guilty of fraud. And currently they're pursuing a solo mother through the courts for $120,000 she doesn't have, because they underpaid her in the first place:

In a case being heard in the High Court, the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) is arguing that a sole mother who took out loans to pay for her home repairs and to support her children - because she could not otherwise afford to on the benefit - should have to repay more than $120,000 in so-called ‘over payments’.

This Friday, October 27 is the last day of the hearing. Ms X. has name suppression and is represented by Frances JoyChild QC.

No form Ms X. ever filled out for her benefit asked her to list loans as a form of income. The cost of the nearly eight years of reviews and appeal is huge, both financially and in terms of her health.

This is wrong. Just fucking wrong. WINZ has already been told that by its own Appeals Authority (which pointed out both the absurdity and the unfairness of considering loans to be income while never asking about them), but they've persisted in persecuting this woman. It really gives the impression that their purpose is to grind people's faces into the dirt, rather than provide proper social support so people can live in dignity.

The government committed to reforming the welfare system and changing its punitive culture under the labour-Green confidence and supply agreement. Hopefully they'll start by putting a shit like this - and sacking everybody who has wasted public money on this immoral outrage.

Correction: The Social Security Appeal Authority had ruled some of the loans were not "income" (and noted that WINZ's forms are inadequate and do not ask about loans), but upheld that others are. Details here.