When the system punishes
I haven’t blogged about disability for some time. That doesn’t mean I’ve reached a point of being satisfied, quite the opposite. I can’t change anything that happens in the sector so I’ve been trying to put my energy into positive endeavours and just sitting on any frustrations in the disability space.
Unfortunately I now have leakage…..
If you follow me on twitter, you will have seen me launch into a couple of rants last night. Fair to say, I still haven’t calmed down.
There are process things that make me angry but one bureaucratic rule tops everything.
If an intellectual disability is something people are born with (or acquire at a very early age) and is life long – why on earth does the New Zealand government require them to have a GP (General Practitioner - doctor) verify every two years that it hasn’t gone away or significantly reduced?
Have I missed some medical development whereby damaged chromosomes can be altered or is fairy dust real?
If you are unable to work due to an intellectual disability, you are entitled to receive a supported living benefit via WINZ (Work and Income New Zealand). The entitlement will cease after two years unless a review form completed by your GP certifies that you are still unable to work.
Sure that rule is probably very relevant of sickness situations where people do recover/get well. I can also understand ACC using a similar system for injuries. Permanent disabilities not so much.
Let me run you through how this bizarre rule, coupled with poor systems had led me to this rage. Sit back for it involves love gained and love lost – tissues may be in order for the romantically inclined.
A young man with an intellectual disability is flatting and receiving the supported living benefit. His finance moves in and like any couple, their benefit is adjusted downwards. So far so good. This is as things should be – normal relationships being treated normally by WINZ.
Fast forward a few years and the engagement is off (again, fairly normally really). Advising WINZ of the situation so they can both return to the full benefit and what do we find out….
Man is no longer eligible for the supported living benefit or accommodation supplement because the GP form is over two years old. They didn’t adjust his benefit before because his partner was on the supported living benefit so he was eligible through her but now they are no longer together, he will drop to the job seeker benefit (and have to repay some of the previous amount).
So because he didn’t get a GP to complete a form that WINZ never sent him, to prove that his permanent disability hasn’t miraculously disappeared, he is financially penalised.
So now we have to race to see a GP, just what everyone wants to do in this newly awakened covid environment.
But wait, there's more...
So in the first part of this post we got to the stage where a benefit was cut because someone with an intellectual disability hadn’t completed a form that was never sent to him, meaning he hadn’t proved that his disability hadn’t suddenly disappeared.
Sadly that is not the end of this little saga…
WINZ said the GP would have the required form. The GP said they had no idea what the form was and that WINZ would have it.
We searched the WINZ website for forms, nothing. So I browsed through the instructions for GP’s and buried within, there it was – no not the form, rather where the GP can find it. It is only available on pads supplied to GP’s by WINZ or electronically via the GP system. As I couldn’t provide a copy or link for the GP, all I could do was print out this wee paragraph and let them see that.
In the meantime we’ve now seen the size of the form required to get back onto the benefit he should be on. Gob-smacked is the only way to describe our reaction.
WINZ, according to their website, are meant to be helping their clients. Call me cynical but I really don’t see it.
This whole debacle is due to:
The system not being flexible enough to handle people with a disability having normal relationships, and ending those relationships (ie being normal).
The system being the most important thing. WINZ needs to relook at why they are there – they should be about client outcomes but in reality it appears not.
The sad fact is that whatever the rhetoric and good intentions espoused, people with an intellectual disability are continuously being marginalised. No other demographic could be treated this way with a huge backlash from the media and community.
As a society, we need to hang our heads in shame.
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