When the system punishes – a never ending story

I don’t usually do a follow up post but in this case I really want to share the ongoing frustrations our systems put people through.

So in the first post we got to the stage where a benefit was cut because someone with an intellectual disability hadn’t completed a form that was never sent to him, meaning he hadn’t proved that his disability hadn’t suddenly disappeared.

Sadly that is not the end of this little saga…

WINZ said the GP would have the required form. The GP said they had no idea what the form was and that WINZ would have it.

We searched the WINZ website for forms, nothing. So I browsed through the instructions for GP’s and buried within, there it was – no not the form, rather where the GP can find it. It is only available on pads supplied to GP’s by WINZ or electronically via the GP system.  As I couldn’t provide a copy or link for the GP, all I could do was print out this wee paragraph and let them see that.

In the meantime we’ve now seen the size of the form required to get back onto the benefit he should be on. Gob-smacked is the only way to describe our reaction.

WINZ, according to their website, are meant to be helping their clients. Call me cynical but I really don’t see it.

This whole debacle is due to:

The system not being flexible enough to handle people with a disability having normal relationships, and ending those relationships (ie being normal).

The system being the most important thing. WINZ needs to relook at why they are there – they should be about client outcomes but in reality it appears not.

The sad fact is that whatever the rhetoric and good intentions espoused, people with an intellectual disability are continuously being marginalised. No other demographic could be treated this way with a huge backlash from the media and community.

As a society, we need to hang our heads in shame.

When the system punishes

I haven’t blogged about disability for some time. That doesn’t mean I’ve reached a point of being satisfied, quite the opposite. I can’t change anything that happens in the sector so I’ve been trying to put my energy into positive endeavours and just sitting on any frustrations in the disability space.

Unfortunately I now have leakage…..

If you follow me on twitter, you will have seen me launch into a couple of rants last night. Fair to say, I still haven’t calmed down.

There are process things that make me angry but one bureaucratic rule tops everything.

If an intellectual disability is something people are born with (or acquire at a very early age) and is life long – why on earth does the New Zealand government require them to have a GP verify every two years that it hasn’t gone away or significantly reduced?

Have I missed some medical development whereby damaged chromosomes can be altered or is fairy dust real?

If you are unable to work due to an intellectual disability, you are entitled to receive a supported living benefit via WINZ. The entitlement will cease after two years unless a review form completed by your GP certifies that you are still unable to work.

Sure that rule is probably very relevant of sickness situations where people do recover/get well. I can also understand ACC using a similar system for injuries. Permanent disabilities not so much.

Let me run you through how this bizarre rule, coupled with poor systems had led me to this rage. Sit back for it involves love gained and love lost – tissues may be in order for the romantically inclined.

A young man with an intellectual disability is flatting and receiving the supported living benefit. His finance moves in and like any couple, their benefit is adjusted downwards. So far so good. This is as things should be – normal relationships being treated normally by WINZ.

Fast forward a few years and the engagement is off (again, fairly normally really). Advising WINZ of the situation so they can both return to the full benefit and what do we find out….

Man is no longer eligible for the supported living benefit or accommodation supplement because the GP form is over two years old. They didn’t adjust his benefit before because his partner was on the supported living benefit so he was eligible through her but now they are no longer together, he will  drop to the job seeker benefit (and have to repay some of the previous amount).

So because he didn’t get a GP to complete a form that WINZ never sent him, to prove that his permanent disability hasn’t miraculously disappeared, he is financially penalised.

So now we have to race to see a GP, just what everyone wants to do in this newly awakened covid environment.

This is disability in New Zealand today.

It’s still gold

Almost 10 years on, what Sir Paul Callaghan said while presenting in March 2011 still holds true.

We need to understand the true drivers for our economy – and even back then he knew it wasn’t tourism or politician identified ‘knowledge’.

Niche tech – as identified and researched by entrepreneurs, not bureaucrats and certainly not politicians .

Then he emphasised something so very close to my heart.

We need to be a country where talent wants to live!

We need our environment and communities to be places where our talent wants to remain. We don’t want people flying off to build businesses in Silicon Valley, Hollywood or Tokyo.

It is never a case of the economy or the environment/community. All three are always linked and we must support each of them.

Sir Paul Callaghan – StrategyNZ: Mapping our Future – March 2011 


Own your mistakes

We all know the theoretical strategies for when mistakes happen and for most, they’re easy to implement for the little things.

The latest raft of issues about our covid-19 response however, highlights so many things NOT to do.

Now this isn’t a political discussion because I’m pretty sure the poor handling of the mistakes could have been the strategy for most Governments in this situation.

Don’t try and hide your mistakes. It doesn’t make the problem go away, in fact it will probably make it worse. It also pays to remember that in this information rich world, it is next to impossible to keep mistakes hidden. Your staff will reflect on how you hide issues and in turn look to keep their mistakes from you – is that what you want?

A saying in politics is actually very appropriate for all settings – “it’s not the mistake that takes you down, it’s the cover up”. When people discover the mistake, and the fact that you have tried to hide it, they become angry at your deception and lose trust in you.

You have to own your mistakes. As a leader, the buck stops with you. The very old saying of credit is for the team and criticism is fore the leader remains true to this day. Do not claim that you were not responsible for the error and it was a mistake of someone within the team. People don’t want a witch hunt but they do want accountability. Owning the error shows that, as a leader, you have taken responsibility and it gives people the assurance that you are ‘in control’. On the other hand, if you try and pass on the blame, people will see you as someone more interested in maintaining your reputation than helping solve the problem.

“Throwing your staff under the bus” is one of the quickest ways to lose their respect and trust.  The impact of doing this is so significantly damaging and so very hard to recover from, that it is one of the surest ways to destroy a team.

Don’t hide it, don’t lie about it, and don’t blame someone else. Take responsibility, front foot both the release of information and the action to remedy the situation.

Mistakes happen – it’s how you manage them that will define you as a leader.


Interest is not a result.

If you have what you think is a good idea, an idea that others tell you is a good idea – is it still a good idea if it doesn’t work?

Liking something and wanting to support it is not the same as actually supporting it. We see this in so many areas of life.

Recycling is an idea liked by many who want to support it – yet recyclable items still end up in our landfills.

We like the idea of social enterprise and want to support their activity but how many of us actually contract with them or consistently purchase their products?

We’re always told xx% of millennials would leave a job if their values weren’t aligned – but how many actually do?

We need to stop signaling our support and start actually doing something to prove it!

It starts now…