Left-wing beneficiary advocates have constantly criticised the use of sanctions (cuts to benefit payments) to enforce work and social obligations. The CPAG has written entire papers about them. (Even Carmel Sepuloni jumps on the band wagon periodically despite Labour being the government that instigated the regime.)
Here's a typical example:
Lisa Woolley, the president of the Council of Christian Social Services, said the numbers were shocking.
She said the first thing to go when budgets were cut was food, but some may also be struggling with rent, which could lead to overcrowding.
"The impact on the health for children on overcrowding is huge and also when you think of the children being moved from house to house, it's their education that gets impacted," she said.
MSD has now conducted some qualitative research into how beneficiaries have perceived and experienced the welfare reforms. From the findings comes this:
Clients who had been sanctioned said the experience had encouraged them to swiftly visit their case manager, and had not impacted on their wellbeing
The few clients interviewed who said that they had been sanctioned reported that they had quickly fulfilled Work and Income requirements to restore their benefits.
While they did not feel that the sanctions had impacted their work search or their wellbeing, receiving notice of the sanction had encouraged a swift visit to their case manager.[My emphasis]
Granted the sample is very small. "Only five of the 140 clients spoken to in the evaluation remembered having their benefit suspended or reduced." But their actual experience is counter to the what anti-reformists want us to believe.
Generally, the overall responses are a mixed bag. There are misconceptions about changes (formed by listening to the media apparently), and adherence to old benefit names. However, a broad understanding that there's a much stronger emphasis on finding work has developed.
If your views of WINZ were formed solely on the negativity pushed by the left, the positivism and even appreciation among interviewees would surprise. The over-riding impression I am left with though is the case manager relationship is all important to beneficiaries experience of and attitude to the reforms. The beneficiaries take on the reforms should not be discounted or downplayed. There is wisdom in the old adage, you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink. I am a great believer in persuasion over force.