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"Special benefits for special people"
Column:Mathew Loh

There has been a whole lot of brouhaha about the oodles of cash Work and Income New Zealand have available for 'Special Benefits' but aren't dishing out to the ddeserving dole dependant. Ironically all this talk of systematic impoverishment is on air and in print at a time when these same broadcast waves band bands are full of news about rich bi-wigs getting fat cheques in the form of 'golden handshakes' and 'parachute pay-offs' meaning 'you've done well but we're sick off you take the cash and see ya later' and 'take the money and jump before you're pushed'.
On the surface the beneficaries and the golden handshake beneficaries are poles apart in their social economic strata to social club.
And sure enough the faceless; numbered masses who WINZ deceives into accepting their paltry lot are a different species to the shifty, skilful executive to who earns the big dollar kiss off.
But those masses on the benefit do have close cousins among the employed - those workers who never get close to or even expect a firm handshake let alone a gold one.
And yes there are those on the benefit who in style but perhaps not substance belong to the "golden handshake" club. These beneficaries know how to manipulate the "Rankin-file" staff of the new Work and Income culture and they do it often and to good effect.
It is a fact the WINZ staff have tonnes of cash to give away and beneficaries are legally entitled to it. WINZ staff will claim it is disgressionary funds - that is it is up to individual case managers or office managers to decide on their whim - but in reality if you're on the dole you are most likely entitled to whole swag of cash and benefits that your friendly case officer is actively encouraged not to tell you about. If you cotton on to the fact you are able to get more than you average paltry dole your case officer huffs and puffs on about disgressionary funds hoping to scare you off by indicating its all not worth the hassle.
But even if you swallow the disgressionary line all you need to do is ask for a straight yes and no answer to your request if it is now, demand an immediate review under the relevent act of the decision - remember to remind the by now worried WINZ officer you want the review completed in triplicate - this is sure to send your now harried case officer scurrying off and after a few sorting of papers, hushed whispers and glances of incredulous respect in your direction you will soon be leaving your local WINZ office the proud owner of special grant given to you at your officer's 'disgression'. Bullshit you were entitled to it all along and as soon as they realised you knew how to play the game they folded and paid up.
Hence the similarity between receipients of golden handshakes and special benefits - the money is there to be had and in fact people are entitled to it - the speciality features among the have and have-nots. The haves are special because they know the rules, play the game and get all they can whether they are on the hustle as CEOs or dole bludgers.
While obviously there is nothing special about collecting your same cheque week in and week out without ever carefully checking what we are really entitled to. This, however is the norm, unfortunately, as the system continues to overwhelm and underpay the majority.
So long-live the minority who get whatever they can and whatever success their speciality earns them may it long be golden.

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