Monday, December 09, 2019

How the Church warnings about welfare came to pass

I don't know why MSD continues to surprise me. But they do. TVNZ had a piece about how beneficiaries are being provided with My Food Bag deliveries so I did a search of their site to find out more. No joy but this turned up under how MSD helps people live successful lives. Such utter tosh that I hardly know where to begin.

Perhaps I'll begin by remembering the warnings about welfare I posted a couple of days back, that the Methodist church foresaw the moral and spiritual disintegration benefits had the potential to create.

Sorry I cannot paraphrase what I just consumed. You'll have to read the whole thing:

Lea is a Samoan woman in her late 50s who lives alone, has never married, and has no children. She has lived in New Zealand off and on for about 30 years.

She has been employed most of her life but she lost her cleaning job after a miscommunication with her employer, and is now out of work. She is having difficulties in finding employment and she believes her age is the barrier for her getting a job. She is on a benefit and lives in a Housing New Zealand flat.

She met a man who has ‘befriended’ her and moved into her flat. He refuses to pay rent, won’t contribute to paying the power bill, and he eats her food. Lea says he uses all his benefit for gambling, alcohol and cigarettes. He often comes home drunk late at night. Lea is torn because she is active in her church and culturally, she knows it’s the right thing to do to help people. She has asked him to leave and he refuses. Lea doesn’t know what to do and she is worried that if it weren’t for her, he would be living on the streets. But having him there means she is sliding into debt and she has approached Work and Income for help. She is afraid to tell them what is really happening – she assumes they won’t understand.

Being Samoan means that questioning authority is a challenge for Lea. She is vulnerable to being taken advantage of and as English is her second language, she does not feel confident enough to stick up for herself.

In her words
"I got someone to help me, my friend… he never helped me, he just move in my place to live… he was working but he never pay anything to me. I think he’s using people."

"I didn’t want that thing, they [a jewellery store] force me to, they put it in the box, 'this is for you, you can take it home now’ but I don’t want because I can't afford. I said to her no I can't afford and she put it in my bag, she forced me to take home…"

"I always put $20 out from my benefit to put in the church every Sunday… even if I got no money I still put $20."

"My rent is $160, my benefit is $210. I always go and find a job but I think the hard thing for me to find a job because my age."

Her strengths
Lea has a generous spirit and supports those around her
She is resilient in the face of difficult situations and circumstances
She is self-sufficient
She is motivated to find employment even when she experiences constant set-backs.
How can we support Lea to thrive
Find an empathetic supporter who can understand her circumstances, preferably one who can communicate with her in her native tongue, empower her to have better boundaries and help her navigate around the NZ system.
Introduce her to other forms of resources e.g. use of Pacific Island radio station to access information in a language that is easy for her to grasp.
Support her in learning a non-judgemental approach to saying 'no'.
Acknowledge her need for boundaries and her desire to help others.
Focus on ways of protecting her from harm.
Locate a supportive job broker.
Link her to other Pacific entities to provide her with additional support.
Provide Lea with a Building Financial Capability programme that is grounded in her cultural context, e.g. MoneyMates programme run by her church community, using familiar Samoan concepts.

That's it.

The first thing I notice is the man - the predator - is working and on a benefit. Apparently Lea must be helped to say 'no' in a 'non-judgemental' way. What about Work and Income saying 'no' to this guy? He's a fraudster and a sot. Not satisfied with leeching on the taxpayer he's leeching on this hapless woman. But then the benefit system makes women hapless because they become isolated and lacking in self-esteem. Targets for scumbags.

Lea is neither resilient nor self-sufficient. But the MSD looking-glass view of the world portrays her as exactly that. Her church happily takes $20 off her every week yet she still apparently needs to be linked 'to other Pacific entities' for support.

MSD says they can help her 'locate a supportive job broker'. Hello???? She's on a benefit. Why doesn't she already have one? Oh I remember Work and Income have drastically reduced efforts to get people into jobs putting all of their resources into dishing out more money.

And yes I've bought into it but the whole tone of the 'story': man bad - woman good. Man criminal - woman victim. MSD is mostly staffed by women and I suspect that particularly ideology prevails.

I find this cameo and MSD's response to it immature, indulgent and childish.

Generations down the track, welfare has made too many people weak, helpless, stupid, and deceitful. Somehow MSD turns that into a good news story because - wait for it - they can wave a wand over Lea's life and she will live happily ever after. It is inconceivable that they are in fact the problem.

Sorry Lea. You are your own worst enemy and to be told otherwise isn't going to help.