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About illness, Financial hardship, WINZ/IRD

What, no tampons? Quelle horreur!

I wasn’t going to jump on the tampon bandwagon, but here goes. I’ll try to keep this short. Ironically, getting angry makes me more ill – and I’ve never been as angry as I have been since I got ill.

I had to laugh at the outage today about a woman being unable to buy sanitary items on her WINZ card. It was not “oh, this is too funny” laughter. It was painful, bitter, ironic laughter. It amazed me that, out of all the essential, everyday things that beneficiaries are denied, this was the one causing public outrage.

To me, it’s indicative of a much wider, systemic issue of WINZ mismanagement, mistakes, and policies that just don’t fit real people.

I don’t have a WINZ card, so I don’t have a personal knowledge of how they work. I understand that WINZ have responded and said that this incident is not in line with their policy. But several others have come forward having experienced the same thing, which demonstrates the flaws in the WINZ system

Last time I went to WINZ, I was requesting help with my doctor’s fees. Like most chronically ill people, I have more than one doctor – a GP, and two specialists. My case manager showed me the programme she works in. She had already loaded my GP’s fees into the field that calculated what support I could get to help me pay for medical visits. There is only one field available for this kind of support. Therefore, she was literally UNABLE to add my other fees in, despite the fact that they were just as valid. She apologised to me, but said that the computer system is what it is.

WINZ states that they will provide support for people who are unable to work. In the real world, I still have to find $150 to see my specialist for half an hour. Which, of course, I don’t have.

Here’s a list of the things I can’t do and have this week because I’m on a benefit:

1. As stated, I can’t see my specialist. (Good thing he has a 6-week waiting list that allows me to save up).

2. I can’t get the medication and supplements I need that will help me keep my nutrition up because I’m too nauseous to eat.

3. I can’t fill the prescription my doctor gave me, because it’s not subsidised so it costs around $30 a month.

4. I can’t contribute to the petrol my friends use to drive me around because I’m too ill to get anywhere on my own, which makes me feel ungrateful and like a user.

5. I can’t have my current house guest to stay without asking him to pitch in for food and power, even though that makes me feel like a terrible friend and hostess.

6. I’m counting myself lucky that my power bill isn’t due until next week, because that way if I cut my groceries in half I should be able to pay it.

7. Of course, even if I was well enough, I can’t go anywhere with my friends for coffee or out to eat, because how dare a beneficiary spend their support on anything other than basic survival, even if there were enough left over?

Thank god I had the $4.50 that allowed me to buy some Tampax, right?

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About writehandedgirl

Sarah is a writer who is passionate about social justice, feminism, politics, and cats. She is a columnist and poet and currently lives in Nelson. You can follow Sarah on Twitter (@_writehanded_) or read more of her writing at writehanded.org

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