Beneficiaries locked out from services

a-closed-door-policyBy Joshua O’Sullivan

From the 13th of February, Work and Income New Zealand will now demand that you provide a community services card and a valid photo ID such as a passport or driver’s license before being allowed to enter the building. This is nothing less than an abandonment of people in need in New Zealand, preventing them from even enquiring about the services the state is legally and duty-bound to provide.

The difficulty and expense of getting a passport or a license in New Zealand now precludes the ability of some of the worst off in New Zealand to even ask for assistance from a department whose sole responsibility is to look after the vulnerable.

This programme is a continuation of the policies of WINZ that underwent a radical restructure under the current Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett. Aiming for cutting beneficiary numbers no matter what, WINZ has consistently pushed humiliation, frustration and grief upon people just needing a little help up. As we have seen from the work that AAAP (Auckland Action Against Poverty) has done in advocating for beneficiaries to ensure that people get what they are entitled to, WINZ has a consistent policy of being obtuse, opaque and downright aggressive when it comes to beneficiaries just seeking their entitlements.

A community services card requires filling out an application to WINZ to receive the card, and often is given as part of acceptance into the Jobseeker Benefit. However, the ludicrous catch 22 – of needing a community services card in order to go into the department that holds the applications in order to get one beggars belief.

Photo ID has been used repeatedly in other countries such as the United States to prevent the poor from voting in many states voter ID laws. It now looks as though this tactic has come to New Zealand to determine whether you are even allowed into the WINZ office. To see the true effects of how this will affect New Zealand, we can look at the statistics behind passport and driver license usage in New Zealand.

The estimated population in New Zealand is 4,754,821 people. Our passport ownership rates which can be got at any age and are necessary for international travel is relatively high compared to other countries at around 75% (from a comparative study with Canada in 2005). For drivers licenses we have StatsNZ total number of license holders at 3,384,395 individuals with a license, 71% of our population. Even a conservative estimate would put around 10% of the entire country unable to access WINZ.

This is another unconscionable act by a despicable government – intent on removing rights of the poor to any access to a social safety net. We need a society that doesn’t throw those struggling under the bus, a society that doesn’t attempt to maintain a 5% unemployment rate to drive down wages. We need to have solidarity with those beneficiaries being squeezed out of society.

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