No benefit for disabled – travel at own risk

Recently there has been several news stories and personal opinion blogs about beneficiaries being penalised for traveling overseas. The position that Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ) have taken is not particularly new. In fact, I remember informing WINZ when I traveled overseas many years ago. However, it now seems to be catching people out, or perhaps WINZ is cracking down even harder.

Headlines like ‘Travel is not a right for those taking welfare’ and the following byline “Workers cannot vanish at will, nor should beneficiaries”, are quite oppositional and conjure thoughts of the ‘nanny state’ vs equality debate.

In one particular article, Labour spokeswoman Sue Moroney said it was “wrong to imagine a benefit alone allowed anyone to travel overseas. Often the cost was met by family members or was a gift.”

This is absolutely true. When I was on a benefit I either did not travel, or family financially supported me to do so. There was no way I could afford to travel overseas solely on the Invalids benefit (now known as the Supported Living Payment).

Both Amy and Simon have blogged recently about their difficulties with WINZ when needing to travel for research and work respectively. I commend them for being determined and able to do so.

From my perspective it seems like just another hoop to jump through, with no consideration of how difficult life can generally be for many people legitimately receiving the Supported Living Payment.

A recent opinion piece published just last week, entitled ‘Beneficiary bashing just too easy’, pointed out that “beneficiary-bashing is a time-honoured political tradition.”

This fits nicely as we’re now in an election year and it angers me. I strongly believe there needs to be some reasonable consideration of who is traveling and why, not just blanket ‘beneficiary bashing’. Cracking down on fraudsters has to happen – but not every beneficiary is a fraudster, nor are they lazy.

Have you experienced this? What’s your opinion?

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