Chloe King is a low wage worker who often relies on Work and Income for essential financial support.

I HAVE BEEN on and off welfare for 13 years now (six of those I was on the student allowance which was still shit and hard to access but at least I was never sanctioned). I am a precarious low waged worker which means I can be fired, whenever my employer feels like it or have my shifts cut ‘cos it is slow or they don’t wonna fork the money out, to have me.

This means I have had to go and beg at WINZ (Work and Income aka Welfare) for a lot of my working life. I have mostly felt like I was sub-human while trying to get state support – as if I am a drain on the government’s coffers and in all honesty, I think the state would be happy if us folks on welfare just rolled over and died, or took our own lives. Ya’know one less ugly mouth for welfare.

I’ve sat there at WINZ while case workers actively made up policy and lied to me which is a strategy to deny basic entitlements so, they can meet their targets. Targets which involve pushing as many of us off the benefit and into whatever shitty, lowly paid and depressing job they can force us to take — no matter the human cost. There is no aroha at WINZ. There is no compassion or care and as someone on welfare I am made to feel like I am ‘less than’ — I am other. Because the only value I have in a neoliberal capitalist society is landing some shit job and turning-over a profit for someone else. I think that is bullshit and sad and hard, and I don’t want to live in a society where the measure of a person is defined by their job title. And if you can’t find a job you are labelled worthless and useless and treated accordingly.

I feel tired all the time. I am tired of worrying about being sanctioned or being criminalized. I am tired of worrying about how I will pay my credit card. I am tired of the constant public bullying I face as both a low waged worker and as someone on welfare. I am tired of feeling like a burden on my family, who puts me up which means I am lucky because I am not homeless, and freezing on the streets (how low the bar, now is, in New Zealand – land of milk and honey).

I have been called a “loser”, “drug addict” and “lazy” by politicians and the public more times than I care to remember or can bare. Sometimes I can’t get out of bed because of the name calling and the put-downs and I feel this then feeds into the stereotype that I am a ‘lazy dull bludger’. Which just makes me feel worse about myself – this is all a cycle and the only way up is down. I wish people could understand that for me getting out of bed every-single-day is a revolutionary act because every-fucking-single-day, I would rather pretend I don’t exist and fall deeper into my depression.

We can’t win. Because when you are poor for long periods of time it just gets harder and harder to climb your way out of the debt you rack up and the bills you can’t pay. It is just humiliating. I feel like a failure and I am so embarrassed about my circumstances which effects my ability to apply for jobs and muster confidence and convince someone they should hire me. It is hard not to internalize welfare and poverty shaming and thus believe the awful things people say about us.

I can’t remember the last time I felt joy or happy, I just feel numb.

Post Script: I wrote this today in response to a survey that AAAP (Auckland Action Against Poverty) sent out asking for people on welfare to discuss their thoughts on welfare and housing and employment. What I have posted above was a response to tell my ‘welfare story’. If you would like to share your own story please hit this link : story.

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This article was first published by Millenial Posse.


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