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.
Kiri, aged 25, currently receiving a benefit
I remember when I split up with my daughter’s dad and it took such a lot for me to do that. He was not very nice; he was quite abusive. I went in [to Work and Income] desperate for help in lots of different ways – not just financially, but support so that I could actually maintain, sustain change and not go back to that violent relationship or that cycle of power and control.
I said, “I’m gonna need a food grant because we just split up today and he’s already left and gone and gambled all of his money away so I’m gonna need a food grant.” [The case manager] started asking questions and I started talking about how I don’t even have enough nappies and my baby’s so young. He goes, “Okay, so how much have you got?” And I said, “I’ve probably got two nappies left and then he laughed [at me] and he was like, “No, I’m not talking about your nappies; I’m asking how much money you’ve got left.” I was like, “I’m at a low, low, low, low point and…just stick your boot in”
… That could have been like just f it. I’ll just go back to him. Don’t worry. I’ll put my kids back in that situation. I’ll put myself back in there. Don’t worry about it. Don’t worry about it. You keep your money. I’ll just go and do what I need to do because you’re not gonna help me.
… Sometimes when you’re doing it on your own, moral support is so important that sometimes you don’t wanna stuff that up by asking for money from your friends and family. It’s so, so hard when you feel like you’re getting judged from all different sides that sometimes it’s better in your mind and your heart to feel like you would just go to [Work and Income] where you know they’re gonna judge you anyway. ‘Cause you’re not gonna have to go and be friends or have dinner with them in the weekend. It’s like, okay, I know that my dad’s probably not gonna be too happy that I can’t afford this, this week; or I’ve already asked my mate if they could do this for me. I don’t wanna burn those bridges just because I’m struggling. I might as well just go and get a food grant and just suck it up and deal with it ‘cause at least I know when I walk out of that place I can just swear in the car park and then just walk away from it. Whereas if you have to ask your family and friends for that over and over again, it’s like you’re gonna not wanna see those people because you don’t wanna be a burden on them.
… I think it’s such a shame that we’ve come … to feel shame and feel as though we are not okay for what we’re doing. And then that doesn’t get compartmentalised just in our dealings with Work and Income; that leaks out into our relationships with friends and family…And it’s horrible… it’s bad enough that that happens with professionals at Work and Income, but then that spill[s] out into your other relationships ‘cause it taints the way that you view support…Obviously you don’t wanna be that person who is relying on somebody else or a state to provide everything that you require for your family. You wanna be able to do it yourself but how can you when it’s not cheap to live? It’s not easy out there, and if you’re on your own it’s even harder.