Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Guestie: The War on Women

Many thanks to Amanda from Pickled Think for submitting this guest post.

Perhaps these fictional examples look like women you know about to be effected by the latest rounds of the War on Women...err...Social Welfare cuts.

  • Erin, early 30s, mother of two. Children aged ten and twelve. Has just left an abusive husband of 15 years. No formal education beyond sixth form. Has not worked for almost all of the marriage because husband insisted on controlling finances and did not like Erin "fraternizing" outside of the home. Last job she held was as a "checkout chick" at a local supermarket at age 17. Currently undergoing counselling for domestic violence she suffered. Moving through the court system in a messy divorce and to gain sole custody of children. Children suffering from behavioural problems at home and school because of family violence and divorce, require careful monitoring and CYFs are watching her, making things more stressful. Is often tracked down at a safe place by partner, and driven to further hiding. Cut off from both sets of parents, her siblings and friends because of controlling ex, so cannot count on them for childcare. Cannot afford a car. Cannot get interim education because of Adult Continuing Education cuts. No one wants to hire someone with an empty CV, unreliable transport and unsteady timetable as she moves from one safe house to the next, and struggles to find and afford childcare.

    And this woman is to be forced to find a job why?
  • Maggie, 55, no children. Husband recently died suddenly, leaving a business, mortgage and health care bills to settle. Has university entrance and a few correspondence papers under her belt, but most of her skills have been gained working for her husband's business and unquantifiable.  Husband's health insurance and superannuation payouts and sale of business (after debtors settled) is enough to pay off outstanding bills and mortgage with a little left over which she wishes to reinvest for her retirement (as she is in good health) rather than use it as living expenses now and suffer a cut back retirement. She could go back to tertiary education, but feels it would cut into the time and money she has left before formal retirement age. Employers are wary of hiring someone of her age and empty CV.

    Why would you penalize or completely remove her benefit  simply because she struggles to find a job under the auspices of institutionalized ageism and sexism?
  • Moana, 27, married, 3 children under 10. Left school at 15, no formal education, cannot afford any ongoing education. Lives in an historically high unemployment rural area. Husband works a variety of seasonal jobs that takes him away from the home for weeks at a time, which means their income is not always static and they rely on benefits in between times. She has worked a variety of temp jobs deemed as unskilled labour, often just earning minimum wage. Both sets of parents and a variety of friends are available for child care outside of school hours, though her youngest is not yet school age, and these family and friends also work and sometimes are unavailable to help. She cannot afford child care, and CYFs have unusually targeted her, causing undue stress,  though both are good parents and doing their utmost to earn a living. She has unreliable transport, as the car keeps breaking down. In a particularly low time in job availability, she is offered a job in the next town 45 minutes away, but it is only minimum wage, not flexible in the hours she needs to look after her kids, and not worth it for the amount she must spend on petrol and car maintenance.

    Should she be penalized and/or lose her benefit because she accurately weighs up the economic and time costs of this job, refuses it, and suffers from entrenched racism?
  • Raine, 25, pre-operative transgender woman, single, no dependents. Not in touch with, and can't rely on, any family. Highly educated. Suffers from bad depression. Has lived on the streets before, but currently in a stable, sympathetic living arrangement - would not like to leave if money runs out, but may have no choice. Has worked a variety of well paid jobs, but has been forced to leave many times after being outed against her will and shunned by employees. Would like surgery, but cannot maintain a steady job to afford it as well as her health regimen.  Recently left a sympathetic workplace because of depression issues. Used up all savings towards surgery as living expenses so as not to deal with social welfare system, but now running out of money. Finds sickness benefits excessively difficult and unsympathetic to deal with. Has high medical bills. Can get a benefit, but demands to get another job are stressful as she deals with health care, decision to stay closeted, and living arrangements.

    Should she be penalized because of medical issues and systemic transphobia in the workplace and social welfare system?
  • Tina, 42, 2 children aged 12 and 14, recently divorced. Lives in Christchurch.  University education. Parents deceased, siblings live overseas. Amicable divorce finalized just before Feb22 earthquake, with agreed joint custody. Children suffering some stress and behavioural issues from earthquake and divorce. Lost her house and job from earthquake. Currently renting while waiting for EQC and insurance payouts on house. Unable to find permanent work post-earthquake because of shrinking local job market, though has taken on some temp jobs. Finds a job in Auckland, but it is far less money than desirable, will take all her savings to move, finances will be in flux while awaiting insurance payouts, after school care for stressed children and living expense will be more expensive, and will take children away from the childcare base of their father who is secure in Christchurch.

    And this is an ideal way to "get back into work" how?
  • Sharyne, 17, single, no dependents. Living on her own between a variety of friends houses. Sexually abused from a young age by stepfather. Ran away from home at age 14 after failed CYFs placements. Often needs to leave a flatting arrangement quickly if stepfather and associates tracks her down. Left school at age 15 with behavioural issues. Has worked a variety of temporary jobs but left or been fired each time because of altercations with staff or customers. Family and friends who are trying to keep her separated from her abuser, and helping her contemplate laying charges, helping her towards counselling and various work placement courses that may suit her interests, but when she has a relapse or drinking session ends up on the street and/or picked up by the police. Community services keeping an eye on her, but recommends she needs careful attention before she can return to education or work.

    Does the government not realize that by taking control of paying a person's rent and living expenses they tie them up in impractical paperwork that slows down their retreat from an abuser? That by forcing a young person towards work or education when they are not mentally or socially capable will cause more problems?
  • Robin, 47, single, 1 grown up child who lives overseas. Never married. University education, computer specialist. Suffered a serious back and neck injury twenty years ago, which now creates recurring pain issues and periods of depression. High medical bills. Unable to sit at a computer for long periods of time, though tries a variety of positions/ergonomic furniture to varying success. Some days are better than others with pain management. Reduced mobility with walking stick and scooter, though can look after herself given plenty of time for daily routine. Has tried to work in the past, but met with frustration from employers at her slow movements and high needs. Some success with self employment, but cannot maintain high enough mobility, mental health and energy to self advertise and manage projects.

    Should she be tossed out again into an unsympathetic workplace when she knows how this will end, in more stress, pain, and possible loss of already precarious funds?
These examples just scratch the surface of the depth and breadth of women's needs within New Zealand's welfare system. They're not eating bon-bons and watching soaps, waiting for the next sperm donor to turn up so they can rort the system. But thanks Paula and John-John, you two self-declared products of our welfare system, for that nice little mythology you've chucked out there. Nothing like keeping the rich white voters of the country happy with a few little elitist exaggerations.

Bootstraps, eh? Now available in Kiwi Flavour.


Anonymous said...

Just saying:

Thank you.
Just, thank you.

Anonymous said...

this is the tip of the iceberg, and so much of what i am thinking. thank you Cx

Amanda said...

Anon: yup I could have gone on with far more examples because so many unique women have so many unique needs. The system certainly fails them by lumping them into One Size Fits All rules.

Aaron said...

Go Julie! Can't believe these women are expected to go out an get jobs, if the government just paid them a bit more money each week it would solve a lot of NZ's problems. Tax the rich pricks who have done stuff all to deserve their cushy salaries.