This post was transcribed directly from a focus group recording made during my research. The woman’s name has been changed and any information that could potentially identify her has been removed. In places I have inserted words for clarity (enclosed within square brackets), and in others I have taken out words (indicated by … ), usually because this information contained some identifying features.
Jayne, aged 38, currently receiving a benefit
What I did find really unhelpful was the lack of support … going into Work & Income itself. I was really pregnant, first child sort of thing and you’d ring, you’d make your appointment and you’re on time and I remember summertime and I was about six months pregnant you wait two hours, two and a half hours. There’s no toilet, no toilet facilities, there’s not even water, not any water. You try and sit there for two hours really pregnant with nowhere to go and then they tell you if you go over the road there’s some public toilets out there. There’s no way you’re gonna go there ‘cause you’re scared that you’re gonna lose your place and being a pregnant woman the facilities are just not there and I found it frustrating, like you feel like you’re at the bottom of the pool. I’ve got a friend that works at Department of Corrections, you go in there, they give their clientele water and toilets and there is health & safety. I just felt it’s hard I felt for myself, really difficult … we’re sort of right at the bottom, really at the bottom. That’s how I felt with it, you’re right at the bottom and we’re actually there trying to look after – not ourselves – our children, our babies. We’re putting them first; we don’t go to these places for ourselves.
… I tried to go back full-time being a real estate agent. … There’s just like nothing to ease you back into the system of being self-employed, there’s nothing. So I’ve tried it and I’ve gone back on to the full benefit now because there’s just nothing. They don’t give you any breaks, like if you think “okay I’m gonna get back into my business, pick that up and run” it’s like well, there’s no benefit, there’s nothing. There’s nothing to help you actually, to get you back into the workforce. I don’t know if I talked to the wrong people, I don’t know. I’ve had to go back on the benefit because what I was doing was I was working seven days a week, then I realised I was shafting my child into a day care centre from 8 until 5.30 which you’ve got to pay on top … you’re actually going backwards. It just takes one thing, like for example my daughter, I had a call from day care, they rang and said “[she’s sick] you’ve got to come and get her”. I had to still pay and … no one’s happy with you, no one is happy with you. You’re trying to make everyone happy, work [happy], you’re trying to make the day care happy, you’re trying to look after a sick one and it just topples.
… I needed some assistance with food so they said I had to go to budgeting before I could ask for food. … So I go and see this person at budgeting and [the budget] says I owe so much a week if I actually followed [it], if I actually worked with the budget. Like I allowed that much for my warrant, that much for my rego, phone coming out, maybe a medical coming up, food, power. It doesn’t add up to how much you’re getting a week. … The budget advisor goes “it’s just bullshit but just sign here and then go back with it [to Work and Income]” and that’s what I was told. When I actually said that to [the case manager, she said] “how much are you spending for accommodation, could you look elsewhere?” I said “look I’m in a one bedroom, one bedroom with a child, I can’t live in a box”.
… I mean I get the dollar loaves and I’ve had the odd week where we’re getting really low on food ‘cause I go through a lot of milk ‘cause of my baby and I have had to …just use cheap oil in the frypan, dollar bread and baked beans and [my daughter] loves the beans ‘cause she can pick them up. But my mum would be horrified. There are times when mum says “what have you had for dinner” and I straight out lie, straight out lie ‘cause I can’t, you know, ‘cause that hurts my mum. I just straight out lie.
… If we had the assistance of Work & Income behind us bringing Kiwi families together, actually bringing us forward, that would be nice. When we go there they say “we need ID, we need a drivers license we need your birth certificate, your daughter’s birth certificate, have you got that? We need this, this, this, this”. It’s really hard to get it right to make sure you have very bit of paperwork for them for the day because if you don’t they send you back. How about we go to Work & Income and they … tell us the services that they provide for us?