'I survived by stopping trying to cope'

2:13 pm on 11 October 2017

Insight - Intimidating, judgmental and uncaring are some of the words solo mothers use to describe their experience of Work and Income New Zealand.

Video: Rebekah Parsons-King

The former Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei sparked vitriol in some quarters when she revealed how difficult it had been to get by as a solo mother when she was at university.

She said she did not regret telling her benefit fraud story.

Speaking to Insight, four women talk openly about the struggle to look after their children and the stigma that often comes with being a beneficiary.

One of the women, Mary, said the stories she heard about interactions with Work and Income were not consistent with people being treated with dignity, or as if they had rights and New Zealand society was compassionate.

There was one thing that was not said enough, she said.

"To the women who are surviving and keeping their kids going on the DPB. You guys are heroes. You are doing the impossible. And kia kaha."

Another, Cleo, said it was hard to get ahead.

"I mean I didn't feel good receiving a benefit. It made me feel bad about myself. There was like a stigma around it. People just look at you, essentially like you're beneath them, that you're sort of subhuman or something."

The Ministry of Social Development said it listened to feedback from staff, clients and unions and was working to make every interaction with Work and Income a positive one.

You can hear more on Checkpoint tonightand on Insight this Sunday morning.

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