Direct Action Casework Gets the Goods
Auckland Action Against Poverty, a local beneficiary rights group taking action against welfare reform, has been busy implementing a unique form of welfare advocacy in the Auckland region.
Called Direct Action Casework, the group aims to carry out advocacy with beneficiaries but do so in a way that involves and empowers people.
“Currently if someone is having trouble with Work and Income, there are not many places to go for help”, says Auckland Action Against Poverty organiser Chris Zack. “We want to be able to work with beneficiaries in a way that not only helps people win victories with Work and Income, but to do this in a way that organises people to get active on issues of welfare reform and poverty”.
This type of advocacy is different from other “service style” advocacy because the aim is to organise people and try to win real gains for those who are struggling, much like the union. “Because we are an education and protest group that aims to challenge the government on their policies, we will do our best to politicise struggles people have with Work and Income”. What this means is that if many people are experiencing the same problem with Work and Income, AAAP will do what it can to make a fuss about it; protests, media work, occupations, whatever it takes.
All of this work is part of AAAP's broader goal of creating a people's movement to protect elements of the welfare state that the poor rely on. This, Chris says, is where the unions come in. “We believe very strongly that whether someone has a job or not, they should be very concerned about welfare reform. We currently have 165 000 people unemployed and when those people receive cuts to their benefits, it creates a situation where everyone is terrified to lose their job, making their job less secure. Bosses are even more likely to not care about workers rights as there are plenty of other people to take the job. We believe that high unemployment is often used by governments as a way of driving down wages and working conditions.
AAAP has been campaigning hard to get the message out that reform to the benefit system is a distraction from the real problem. “The economy is not doing well, and there are heaps of people out of work. The government needs to commit to the real task of creating decent jobs for people rather than look for ways to make life difficult for people already struggling on low benefit levels.”
Anyone looking for more information about Auckland Action Against Poverty can go to their website at aaap.org.nz. If anyone would like to support us either by getting involved or financially they can get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.