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.
Vicky, aged 47, studying part time, currently receiving a benefit
I actually had a situation back before the quakes, on Colombo Street; they had the income support there and they had these big doors that opened and closed, and I went in this day and it used to be that you go in, you go to the desk and then there was a waiting area just around [the corner] and … the windows were blacked up to so far, so no-one could see you from the street. So I went in this day and as soon as I walked in, the doors opened and then it had a half-circle of chairs sitting [facing the door] and that’s where everybody had to wait. So, I went up to the desk and I said, “What’s happening here?” and that’s the new waiting area.
So I was a bit upset and I said to the lady at the desk, I said, “No, this is not on. It’s like we’re all sitting like animals in a cage”; and it worked out that the monitor on the door, that every time someone walked past outside, it opened. It must’ve been the angle was off. So it wasn’t just if you were coming in, if someone walked past it just actually opened [ and clients were all sitting there] facing the street … so I didn’t swear, I raised my voice a little bit and I said, “No, this is wrong, you can’t do this! This is humiliating.” And blow me down; I saw her eyes flick and the next minute two security guys come over. And I thought, “Oh my God, are they gonna frog march me outta here?” I wanted to say, “fuck off” but I couldn’t, because I needed my appointment.
So, I refused to sit, I stood to the side and the security guards stood with me … I got my appointment and I went to my case manager and I said, “What is going on here?” and she looked at me and she said, “We hate it as well.” And I said, “Well, what are they doing it for?” and she said “When we can’t see you, they’re telling us,” this is the managers, “that we’re not working fast enough and getting everyone through; so when we can actually see the clients sitting there waiting, it makes us move you through quicker”. And she said to me, “Please, there’s a complaint form there. Will you fill it out and put it in?” But even as she said it, I would’ve loved to have, but I thought if I make waves and they’ve got my name on a complaint, maybe a couple of months, maybe six months, I’m gonna get a ping and they’re gonna maybe, you know? And I thought I don’t want that. I don’t want them looking into my life, wanting to look at my bank accounts or anything like that, so I swallowed [it]. I just felt that I wasn’t in a position to make waves at that time, because I just didn’t want them looking into my private [life].
My case manager is a solo mum, she told me that; that was the condescending bit, ‘cause she told me, she’s probably about 27 I suppose and she said, “Its’ really important, Vicky”, she says, “that your children see that you work.” I’m in my third year of my Social Work Degree! I had both my children at six weeks and three weeks old in full-time care, when I was married and was working full-time, I missed out on all the little [things], when they were small, yeah and … It’s like this person that you don’t know has this control over your life.