Monday, September 10, 2007

But if we let people with depression eat without being wage slaves then everyone will get depression...

Yesterday the government announced a shiny new hoop that sick and disabled people need to go through before they can pay the rent. See here, here or here. The short version is that Work and Income wants to 'help' more sickness and invalids beneficiaries back to work. It plans to do this by paying for extra treatment, initially for those with mild mental health conditions and who are waiting for relatively simple operations, and by trying to get doctors to focus their care on getting people back to work.

Access to medical treatment should not be contingent on whether or not you're available for paid work. Students, retired people, full-time caregivers should have the same access to treatment as people who would be in paid work were it not for the depression. According to nine to nooe only half of the people who are hospitalised for suicide attempts even get a follow up phone call - let alone better treatment. So there are quite a few gaps in our mental health provisions as it is.

But I have a bigger problem than that with this change. Let's be clear here the sickness and invalids benefit exist because we structure work around the needs of business, not around the needs of people. If work was structured around people's needs then almost everyone would be able to do at least some useful work every week. Sickness and Invalid beneficiaries exist because we throw people on the scrap heap and decide we can't use them if they don't meet the very specific needs of business (can work the same number of hours each week, can operate in a workplace environment without modifying that environment, can deal with stress, and so on).

Our economic system is set up so that paid work is only available to people whose bodies meet certain criteria and the sickness and invalids benefit is what we do with the rest. But now the government is saying - hey that's not enough it's not just that we won't modify the work to meet the needs of your body, we want to modify your body to meet the needs - and we have the right to do so.


  1. Anonymous12:35 am

    It's all just bollocks, an attempt to reduce the numbers of medical benefits which have risen in the last decade of increasing poverty and stress and lack of accessible health care.

    The thing that scares me most is this:

    Mr Maharey said the programme would produce savings.

    "We've learned a lot from ACC... For a long time ACC have been purchasing health services for their clients to make sure they can come off the ACC payments, in the same way we want to do this," he told reporters.

    ACC are the arch-nazis of removing funding from people that need it.

  2. Anonymous - if you don't understand the post, please don't post a comment.

  3. Anonymous11:40 am

    Great post, Maia. I'm always wondering why we set up a system that is against human beings and then act puzzled when they can't cope.

  4. Anonymous5:50 pm

    This worries me greatly. WINZ already stresses mentally ill people (and people with other forms of illness too) to the point of wanting to die. Also, I dread the idea of WINZ cutting off benefits to mentally ill people if they won't 'comply with treatment' (for example antidepressants or antipsychotic medications) which can actually have devastating side-effects and don't even work a lot of the time. All sorts of situations could arise. This is worrying. You are right about places of employment not wanting to change **at all** in order to employ workers who are ill/disabled who might very well be excellent workers. I was told at a job I had that I did the work of 3 people. I have a stress condition and was harrassed every time I went to work about my shoes because I needed special ones (had a doctor's certificate and everything). Eventually because of stress I was hardly doing the work of one person, then I was harrassed into finally quitting my job. Brilliant. There is no way I can see to stop that kind of thing from happening in workplaces unfortunately.

  5. What I'd like to know is that if you are over 65 or not working, will public health care still be available as easily? Or will it only be sick 'useful' people who get access to the system?

  6. Anonymous6:15 am

    I've been on the sickness benefit for 4 months now, as a result of mental illness, and its been a real eye opener to the reality of crap support the state offers.
    The beauracracy is mind boggling. They make you "work" (filling in forms, appointments with case managers + doctors, follow-up phone calls) for any additional help with little explanation or guidance. Clearly there are those who cannot cope with this and fall through the cracks. And these are the ones that need the help most.

    No being able to work consistent hours each week is the reason I have stopped paid work. Some days I am fine, others unwell. I used to work 20 hours a week and study part time, then studying got too much and I stopped, then I reduced my hours to 16/week, then 12. Even then, I used all my sick days pretty quick in the first half of the year, I didn't want to go to work and just stare blankly at the papers I was meant to be sorting. It seemed unfair to the people I was working with, better to stay home. Finally I have accepted I need to make big change in my life to be a fully functioning human bean, and feel confident I can live that change.

    And while some may hassle me for living off the gubbermint, I know the money, and all the time and energy people around me are putting in, will be returned three fold once I am well and whole.

    Healthcare is a birthright, not an excuse for increased state intervention in our lives.


  7. Imagine you have a community of ten people, there is two doctors. One doctor is awake and OK - everyone else is lying on the ground sick.

    The theory is that the doctor who is OK would be willing to put a bit more effort into getting the other doctor well again so he can help care for the rest of them.

    Maybe some of the sick people who want to get back to work do productive jobs such as nurses, doctors, maybe some drug chemists, safty engineers, possibly plumbers (for hygene reasons) and so forth.

    Sure some might be quirks of capitalism "useless" or counter productive like advertising agents, fashion designers, lawyers or jewlery salesmen but it is a tough call to rank people's worth by job ..... but you could get them ready to work, so they can if they want to.

    Of course standard of living should be factored in there as wel but surely that goes without saying.

  8. Anonymous8:39 pm

    The majority of sickness and invalid benerficiaries are bludgers and malingerers.