16 October 2014
Mr Rob Brown
Office of Corporate & Governance
Ministry of Social Development
PO Box 1556
Dear Mr Brown
Thank you for your recent letter I am disappointed the Chief Executive refuses to deal with this matter himself, as it doesn’t appear he has spoken to a disgruntled disabled person on long term welfare, however I will do my best to respond to your letter.
My expertise is in stress disorders, psychology, using welfare, health and justice agencies. 12 years of study to try and understand what was happening to me after I was raped and how useless mental health services were to heal and support me. I have barely worked in this time and currently spend around 70 hours per week trying to get treatment care and rehabilitation as well as protesting to highlight the gross miscarriage of justice going on in ACC and mental health services.
The majority of your staff are of course not directly responsible for the Ashburton killings. However it is the ever increasing degrading policies and demands WINZ makes of disabled unemployed people that is. I cannot believe you don’t understand what degrading hell it is to walk into a WINZ office year after year. To have to tell a stranger what a loser you are, how little money you have and all your personal details. At the same time you are watching the person at the next desk begging for help as well – you know details about why they are there. I want to be able to TELL you these types of stories so you understand what people are going through.
I attended a series of lectures on Public Policy early last year, at one of these it was explained how there was a concern that senior public servants were not being told important information from middle management. This is the only explanation I can think of for why you are not aware of the degrading nature of your processes and environment you have created.
Also I know there are people in your office who decide how much money people on welfare receive. My case manager told me she could not live on what I was getting, but expected me to. I was in a very unstable and dangerous living situation at the time – I already have a life-threatening stress disorder and this made it much worse. Behind her on the wall was a large mural saying te tangata, te tangata, te tangataI (Wainuiomata office), this is so offensive to someone begging for help. I want to tell you about some of my experiences at WINZ, my case managers have all been good people, it is what they are expected to do that is damaging, humiliating and degrading.
Every person who has ever been on welfare for any length of time blames MSD for what happened in Ashburton. Roydon Christie on Breakfast the morning after the shootings first comment was I wonder what happened to that man. You must know this, I can’t believe you take absolutely no responsibility for this considering the increasing levels of violent incidence – why do you think this was happening. It was happening because people were being degraded further and denied more.
The narrow parameters of the review, have avoided the issue of degrading services and people driven to breaking point with unstable housing & income. Have these violent incidents increased since 2011 when the National party changed the law and criteria for disabled people. When WINZ started employing its own staff to define people’s level of health and support they should get? I have spoken with Rob Robinson and Murray Jack about this. I was so extremely concerned with the way the Ministry and Minister had absolved themselves of any responsibility on news media following the tragedy.
Unfortunately Mr Brown the tragedy at Ashburton was entirely predictable for those of us living in the darklands of New Zealand, things out here are very difficult and really harming people psychologically. It was made even more insulting when the National party covered New Zealand in signs saying WORKING FOR NEW ZEALAND. For those of us who cannot work due to lack of health and welfare services it is an insult as the NZ government are not working for us.
Due to my protests about the appauling state of mental health care for abused, disabled and mentally ill people I hear dozens of terrible stories. I get a huge amount of support for my protests from people on the street. I believe my knowledge and ‘lay-expert’ opinion is important to MSD if they TRULY want welfare offices to be safer places for clients and staff.
Recently I was insulted by a young woman covered in tattoos and piercings, drinking red wine from a cup in a van of similar people across from the High Court –they were there supporting a friend who had done something really bad. She insulted me for not working and said at least all of them had jobs and I was just a loser who wanted attention. I am a good person, I do not associate with bad people, don’t have any tattoos and only my ears pierced. Until I was charged with wilful trespass of Law Society ACC and Ministry of Health this year (because I couldn’t get a lawyer or services I was entitled to) I had never had a criminal charge. There have been other instances of degrading insults about not working and I need to TELL you about them, explain what happens – even with my own extended family who are ashamed of me.
Did you have an ‘independent’ senior psychologist/psychiatrist on the review board to advise your department of the adverse psychological impacts of increasing security on the already traumatised and stressed disabled unemployed? Also did you get ANY feedback at all from clients of WINZ in Ashburton. Why do you think another worker killed herself two days later then? It so happens I know a senior employee who had left the office only weeks before the killings – she had been desperate to get out she hated it so much, she was ashamed of working for WINZ – why do you think that is.
This letter is intended to assist MSD and to stop more people flipping out and hurting innocent people. I am devastated by what happened, when I spoke to Rob Robinson and Murray Jack I cried when I said how disappointed I was in myself, that maybe if I had protested more, written more letters, done more to expose just how bad mental health services were and how degrading poverty was in New Zealand then maybe Ashburton wouldn’t have happened.
I understand why you put in more security but I can assure you it is degrading and intimidating. Again I have information with regard to this that you need to hear. I believe the recommendations were short-sighted and over-zealous, you are never going to stop random acts like this. But you can stop degrading people on long-term welfare. Bill English said before the elections how people on long-term welfare were like P addicts, they became addicted to it. I was insulted and horrified that a cabinet minister would say something as ignorant as this. I have been fighting for years to get health care I am entitled to so I can heal and get back to work. This is ignorance combined with bigotry at the highest level and should not be allowed to impact on services WINZ provides as required by law.
You may have taken all steps to protect staff, but you don’t appear to have acknowledge the degrading hell people on long-term welfare are being subjected to. Psychological torture is what it is, ask anybody who has been on long-term welfare – do you survey clients? Especially when you are an intelligent person but too dysfunctional to work and keep getting refused services you know you are entitled to.
You talk about the physical safety of staff, but what about the psychological safety of staff and clients. Although my WINZ case managers have been great I have been told of other people that are not – some who are particularly degrading of men. Can you imagine what it is like for a man to be sitting begging at WINZ, at the table next to him there is a woman ticking shaking and crying. His teenage son is watching him tell the case manager they are about to be evicted because his benefit has been cut because he didn’t get some mail. Of course you would be aware that the way offices are now set up people can hear the next person’s business. The man I referred to above had a security officer hovering nearby, his benefit was restored immediately but they refused to backdate it. Men don’t cry, men bottle it up and they get angry – that is human nature. I was scared of the man’s anger too but could understand why he was like that – you must know this is happening.
I know what the function of the security guards is, but I also know it is stressful, traumatising, degrading and threatening to have them there. How would you like it if there was security all around you because another senior public servant had gone mad and killed people.
Please meet with me, you need to hear what I have to say, even if you don’t like it. Like several people on the street have told me – it needs to be said and MSD need to acknowledge just how degrading their services have become.
This letter also gives you the authority to look at any of my files, police, mental health, ACC and WINZ. You can see what has happened to me over the years rotting on welfare I have nothing to hide. Now I want you to think about giving me authority to look up anything about your financial situation, health status, living situation, family and friends or legal issues. This is what you expect unemployed people to provide and you can’t understand how degrading this is – I find that difficult to believe.
I would ask you to seriously consider meeting with me, only two hours of your time and maybe you will have a better understanding of what is happening to me and others. I can assure you I will be respectful during our meeting but I will also be emotional as you can’t go through what I do and not be. Also please ask yourself, why a person such as myself hasn’t worked for so long? I think this letter shows I am reasonably intelligent, the reasons for this I would prefer to bring up during our meeting.
I can be contacted on if you wish to arrange a meeting, please hear what I have to say, it is vitally important.