Teaching the ‘lame to game’ the system…nice…

The Media party is helping Sue Bradford publicise her attempts to teach the ‘lame to game’ the welfare system.

In the low-income Auckland suburb of Mangere, a three-day “Impact” event where beneficiaries can seek help from advocates to get their full entitlements from Work & Income has drawn to a close.

Impact is run by Auckland Action Against Poverty(AAAP) founded by Sue Bradford

“While we would be a lot happier if our work wasn’t needed, the stark reality is that every day hundreds of people are denied the full assistance to which they are entitled from Work and Income,” Bradford says.

The benefits system is complex, heavy on paperwork and rules, and benefits officers have discretion over whether to give grants, or impose punitive sanctions.

Often people interacting with complex bureaucratic systems hire experts to help, like the owners of small businesses hiring tax accountants to cope with the tax system.

By definition, beneficiaries have no money to hire help.   

They must rely either on the case officers Work and Income says will deal fairly and helpfully with everyone who comes through its doors, and volunteer benefits advocates from the likes of AAAP.

So what are the strategies people can use to ensure they get the help they need from Work and Income, and ensure they don’t stumble into being “sanctioned”, left with benefits debt, or most terrifyingly, get accused of benefit fraud?

When training benefits advocates for Impact, AAAP claimed people seeking benefits faced a culture of “harassment” and “intimidation” from Work and Income.

Ruth Bound, deputy chief executive for service delivery at the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) which runs the Work and Income service rejects that, saying staff are there to make sure people get the help they needed. In order for them to do that, all people have to do is be open and honest with case officers, she says.

Regardless of where the truth lies, asking for help can be hard, and harder for some than others. Advocates say some Pacific Island cultures do not like asking for help, and, if they fear they will be refused, don’t ask at all.

I loathe the use of the word “entitlements”.

To quote Democratic presidential contender Francis Underwood – “you are entitled to nothing”.


All Sue Bradford is doing is teaching bludgers to bludge some more.


– Fairfax

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