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.
Natalie, aged 35, currently receiving a benefit
[At Work and Income] there’s no value given to the job you’re doing with your own kids I think. I actually really believe I am the best person to raise my children, especially when they’re really little. I think I am doing a good job of it. And me and their Dad went to check out the day care centres and both decided that for [the children] and for what was available to us that it would be better for me to be really poor. It’s all right for him, but neither of us were comfortable with what was available. But there’s no value put on the job I’m doing. And [Work and Income case managers] are paid by the taxpayer too. I’m paid by the taxpayer …they’re [just] going and sitting somewhere else, but I’m also doing a worthwhile job, it’s just not viewed that way by society.
The last time I went in [to Work and Income] I got quite upset with the woman. She’d said to me, “What’s gone wrong with your budget?” I was so stressed about money, waking up stressed about it, stressed about it all day, going to sleep thinking about it. I did raise my voice to her a bit and just said “this is what I’m paying for, these are the costs”, blah, blah, blah and then I thought oh gosh I really need her to give me a food grant so you have to sort of go, “oh I’m so sorry, I’m just so stressed out” whereas actually you don’t feel sorry. You feel perfectly entitled to say what you’ve said but you need her to cooperate and give you something so you have to [have your] hands out and begging, begging a bit.… If they just look at the things you’ve needed assistance for they can see that it’s not because you’re not budgeting properly.
My sister’s having a baby and desperately wants me to go over to Sydney to be with her, just for a week, and [she’s] happy to pay for it. She was so upset I had to say “I just can’t come because [my benefit will be stopped and] I can’t just not pay rent that week” and that sort of stuff’s heart breaking.
[At Work and Income] the right hand [doesn’t] know what the left hand’s doing. I’ve called up and talked to different people ‘cause we’re moving to Wellington and I’m trying to decide if I’m gonna study or go back to work. Trying to work out what my options are gonna be there and sorting out care with their Dad and how it’s gonna work best for both of us. No one [at Work and Income] can tell me what I’m entitled to in different situations so it’s impossible to make any decisions about where we’re gonna live or what I’m gonna do or how long the kids are gonna be with me and how long they’re gonna be with their Dad, all that sort of stuff because I get a different answer from everyone I talk to. I just don’t understand why that is.
I’ve been on antidepressants probably since about a year after I started on [a benefit] and a lot of that’s just to do with the general feelings of hopelessness about the future and about the current situation.