22 Dec 2017

Stories of beneficiaries' lives delivered to Parliament

7:16 am on 22 December 2017

A book telling the stories of 200 beneficiaries has been delivered to Parliament by a group of artists demanding a more compassionate welfare system.

The book tells the stories of 200 people who have spent time on the benefit

The book tells the stories of 200 people who have spent time on the benefit Photo: RNZ / Chris Bramwell

We Are Beneficiaries was motivated by the former Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei's decision to speak out about her life as a beneficiary.

One of the artists, Sam Orchard, said the goal was to continue the conversation that Mrs Turei started.

"[It was] to share the voices about what our lives actually are like, instead of stigma and discrimination, the real stereotypical stories that keep getting put around in New Zealand," he said.

"It's humanising our stories and saying what life is really like for us and to offer some solutions and recommendations for how to create a more compassionate welfare system in New Zealand."

Some of the 35 recommendations in the report include providing mandatory training for all WINZ office staff that improves empathy, cultural competence and communication skills, stopping sanctions and obligations and ensuring WINZ staff are only offering secure employment options.

Associate social development minister Peeni Henare (left, Green MP Jan Logie, and artist Sam Orchard

Associate social development minister Peeni Henare (left, Green MP Jan Logie, and artist Sam Orchard Photo: RNZ / Chris Bramwell

The books were accepted by Associate Social Development Minister Peeni Henare and Green Party MP Jan Logie.

Mr Henare thanked everyone who told their stories in the report.

"We know it's not easy when you come out and speak out against a system or a regime that has treated you so poorly, so it takes a lot of courage not just to coordinate them, but to share your stories," he said.

"It's now our job to get the changes that our people deserve."

Ms Logie said the project had given heart to a lot of people in the wake of what happened to Mrs Turei.

"Why she told that story was to change the culture, because we know what was happening then, is still happening now and we need to change it."

The MPs promised to make sure the reports were put in front of senior ministers.

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