Today’s Lepers

Opinion – Beneficiary Advisory Service

If we are the (non-rich) 99% I can’t quite figure out how National got nearly 50% of the vote in the election last year. Now that a survey has shown that the economy is one of the biggest worries for New Zealanders, shouldn’t we be looking for a …Feruary 13, 2012

Today’s Lepers

Rebecca Occleston Speaker: Beneficiary Advisory Service

If we are the (non-rich) 99% I can’t quite figure out how National got nearly 50% of the vote in the election last year. Now that a survey has shown that the economy is one of the biggest worries for New Zealanders, shouldn’t we be looking for a solution (long term, not by selling assets!)?

It seems clear to me that greedy capitalism is not working for the world and the People are speaking out about this. So what can we do to change things?

In church yesterday, the sermon was about being kind to today’s “lepers”. Who would this be? The news the other day stated Asians are the most discriminated against group in NZ at this time. I find any discrimination / hatred / prejudice very sad and can’t understand how people can feel this way.

I worry about other groups closer to my heart and work – like beneficiaries, single parents, unemployed, sick and the poor in general. With so many people losing their jobs as a result of the recession, how can society still be so judgemental about the poor assuming they are badly off due to poor choices? There will be a lot of people new to the benefit system and some of these will have been introduced with compassion from recession-related job losses. Some people truly believe that if you explain your circumstances clearly enough, Work and Income will understand and sympathise. These people tend to become confused, frustrated and hurt when this does not happen! People who have been in the benefit system a bit longer due to bad luck (not finding work) or personal circumstances (caring for children/sick or being ill) will be more familiar with the lack of understanding often encountered when asking for extra assistance from Work and Income. BAS (Beneficiary Advisory Service, ph 03 379 8787) have helped a lot of clients with simple needs like getting assistance with an immediate need (food grants, dental/medical needs, advance for eg washing machine or power bill; applications for main or secondary (accommodation and disability) benefits etc). We also help clients with more in depth issues like Reviews, Investigations and Backpayments.

So getting back to what can we do to change things? We can be kind to today’s lepers. This is a message for anyone wanting to live in a better society – one that works! In this ideal community I envision, people are kind to each other, are understanding about people who are different from ourselves and take part in the community. It is indeed true that if we care for those worse off than ourselves, society as a whole will benefit. It costs the Government more to mop up eg when children in poor housing have horrid avoidable illnesses than it would to fix the problems. If we give enough support (not just financial but also encouraging with opportunities and options) to the poor in our society, the children will have a chance for a better future and improve our country rather than needing increasing support themselves.

The Government’s idea that work is good for people is true. However, I severely dislike the way they are going about it. The whole set up with the Working Welfare Group (WWG) was badly done and not only pretty hopeless, but presumably expensive. Attempting to force people to work when there are no jobs is just ludicrous. Creating jobs and opportunities, ensuring good quality childcare and medical services and decent housing is available to all who need it will make the difference. And what has the WWG constantly failed to do? Acknowledge that raising children is real work and very worthwhile.

So what can we do to change things? Be considerate and caring of one another and give your support/vote to policies that will improve the whole country. What we need is a society that appreciates everyone, that looks to understand rather than judge. Greed and Selfishness didn’t work; let’s try sharing and caring.

Beneficiary Advisory Service is a Christchurch-based Community Group who help people on benefits and low incomes with their problems with Work and Income. We are specialists in Welfare Law and provide advice, information, support and advocacy to hundreds of people every year. We can be contacted on 03 379 8787 or at bas.cprc@gmail.com

ENDS

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