Tuesday, November 16, 2010

WINZ - Forcing People Into Unsuitable Jobs Is Bad Social Policy

But this is what Paula Bennett's trying to do.

Any new applicant for the unemployment benefit (there's a name they could change for a start, how about income assistance?) has to attend a seminar where they are shown a video of how to apply for a job. This is regardless of your background - whether you were previously a professor, brick layer, student, journalist or scientist, you have to attend this seminar and watch the video. Then you are asked to fill in a form detailing all manner of your previous experience, regardless of whether you have a CV that already shows this.

Then you must speak individually to a WINZ representative who quizzes you on your circumstances. The interviewer amazes at your personal situation, is uncomprehending of what jointly raising a child means for separate parents, and continuously tells you to be flexible in your job choice while showing no clue to the references in their own literature of 'suitable' work or that different people have 'different circumstances'.

Following this you must attend everyday for the next five days an appointment in the WINZ office with a representative who tries to convince you to be flexible in your job choice. Can you imagine the effect of this on people's self concept? On their ability to even look for suitable work while this goes on?

All this takes place before you are even considered able to apply for the benefit. If they recommend you a job during this process you must take it or forfeit any entitlement to assistance.

What will this mean for human beings trying to build careers and productive lives which realise their abilities? What will screwing people into jobs in which they just don’t fit mean for these people? What will happen to the people who don't want to be screwed and fall out of the benefit system altogether?

This is Paula Bennett's new plan to get people into paid work. It will be a quick fix on the numbers in the short run (certainly less on the benefit), but it's going to screw up a lot of people, and the longer this goes on the more it's going to cost us.

This is not the way to help people work or make any form of meaningful contribution. But help isn't what Paula Bennett has in mind. She's short-sighted. Her system isn't designed to help people contribute their best, it's designed to crush people and make them conform to whatever employers need them for. But this method will cost all of us and we'll lose the unique contribution of people who could give more if they were enabled to.

[Post Script – The experience of WINZ, as with many organisations, depends on the WINZ rep you get. A good rep tries to rise above 'the rules' to try and understand the individual and help you (probably to be knocked down by the supervisor), but a bad rep sticks to 'the rules' and is uncomprehending. The question is, 'are the rules or the rep empowered to deliver the service?' If it's the rules, as I fear it is, then people aren't going to be treated as people, and diversity is going to be punished.]


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