Monday, February 05, 2007

Maia vs WINZ: The Reassessment

A week or so ago I received a letter from WINZ telling me that since I had been on the unemployment benefit for some time I should come in for a reassessment to check that the unemployment benefit was the best benefit for me.

I felt like writing back and saying that I had been on the unemployment benefit for two weeks and that it was not the best benefit for me, the Invalid's benefit or the DPB would be much better. Both these benefits involve more money and less hassle from WINZ. But as I didn't think I was eligible for either of those benefits just at the minute could they just leave me alone.

Of course, it turns out they were lying. They had no interest in reassessing to see if the unemployment benefit was right for me. All they were doing was giving me another hoop so they could cut off the benefit if I didn't comply (the person who ran the 'seminar' said rather gleefully that everyone who had attended the seminar six weeks ago, but hadn't attended this one, would have their benefit cut off).

It didn't begin well - the case manager asked us if we went to the Sevens. As it happens I think I would rather go to an All Black match. At least at normal rugby games the clothes aren't part of the extremely obvious and offensive gender coding.* But even if I thought the Sevens were awesome I get $263 a week, where was the money for a Sevens ticket going to come from? Was this trying to trick us into having money we don't have? Was it trying to entice us to get a job so we could enjoy the thrills of lots of drunk people? Or was it just inane chatter?

Then it was time to assess our job seeking activities. As it happens I've got two weeks of work starting Monday - so that was rather easy for me. But the tone of the whole activity was 'what have you done wrong that you haven't done work. The other woman in the 'seminar' with me was a trained teacher.** Guess why she hasn't got a job? When the school holidays . But when the case manager was out of the room she talked to me about how shitty it felt to apply for job after job and be rejected. If you're going to look for work for an extended period of time, you need confidence that it isn't personal. Having WINZ tell you you've done something wrong because you haven't found a job in six weeks over January isn't going to help.

Then I saw a case manager (not my case manager - I suspect the relief was mutual - my case manager was running a different seminar) who told me to continue ringing the call centre every week to report my job seeking activities and make another appointment in six weeks.

What drives me completely nuts about this whole process is how much it's about ticking boxes. You couldn't quite ring the call-centre and tell them that you job-seeker activities for the weeks have involved harvesting carrots - but it's close. As long as you string words about applications, interviews and calling employers, they write that in. No-one who was having problems looking for a job would be supported by this. For those of us who do know how to find work it's just busy work in the hope that we'll fall down the cracks.

* The dress code at the Sevens for men is to dress up as someone with less power than you have (muslims, women, homeless people), while the dress code for women is to dress up in sexual a way that emphasises how little power we have and how much we are supposed to focus on pleasing men.

** I said it'd be the educated white girls who made it through the hoops and onto the benefits - it's such a stupid system.


  1. Anonymous10:24 am

    Maia - People get "dressed up" at the sevens for FUN....not for a political agenda. This may be hard for some people to believe but there are some of us out here who can have a bit of raunchy intoxicated fun without wanting or needing to make a political statment.

    PS as a naughty nurse I had a lot of power over a lot of men

  2. Huh. I had to go to one of those stupid reassessment things too. Luckily I won't be on any type of benefit any more in two weeks' time, so I won't have to have WINZ plaguing my life out every five seconds.

    The woman who ran my reassessment thing was really nice - I actually felt sorry for her because she's doing her best working for an organization that's creating way more workload for her than she can deal with. I guess the bureaucrats at the tops are making everyone jump through hoops so the government looks like it's "doing something" about the "problem" of beneficiaries. Sigh...