My grandmother recently turned 65 - as in retirement and pension age. A couple of weeks before her birthday, she was sacked from her job. She was a productive and useful employee as her co-workers attest, but her supervisor was a petty little bitch with too much power and thus Nan ended up unemployed for no good reason. We thought things would be OK, though: all she had to do was make it the couple of weeks until she's 65 and then she'd get the pension. Now I'm wondering why I thought the system would actually help my grandmother. Right now, neither the Australian nor the New Zealand governments want to know her, and not are they both shirking responsibility and passing the buck, but they don't even have the decency to grant her a case manager to help her through the system and get the money to survive. As far as they're concerned, they just want her off their file - one less person to deal with. Now, Nan's not a rich old lady, she's had to work hard all her life, and although the rest of the family's helping as much as possible, we're not prosperous folk either (I've lived below the poverty line for a few years). But what happened when she asked the government people how she's meant to pay her bills and stay in her home? They essentially told her she's tough out of luck and should go to the Salvation Army. They don't care about her plight, they just want to pass her on to the Salvation Army or the other national government's welfare system or to whatever other agency you can poke a stick at. So much for the so-called 'welfare state'. It's every man for himself, and it's just as cold and heartless as any other system. This is not the welfare state I believe in.
As much as I am cynical of politicians, elections, and all that, I thought the system would at least have the decency to grant a grandmother the pension she needs to simply survive from week to week. I did not think the system would be so cruel as to deny responsibility and leave her to try to eke out an existence. I don't know what we're going to do. I think Mum's already complained to our local member of parliament, not that I expect that to do any good. After all, the MPs just legislate the very system that couldn't care less about my own grandmother.
Ultimately, she's been reduced to a number, and her number's not lucky; it's one the system doesn't want to process. This is what happens when you stop dealing with people as humans - you lose sight of their humanity and you lose sight of their plight. Humans have feelings and worth while numbers are expendable. And I don't accept the argument that the folks working at the local government office are "just doing their jobs" - I'm damn well angry at them. I don't know how you could possibly sleep at night if your job involves turning away grandmothers to fend for themselves. But she's just a number to them, isn't she? Numbers are expendable.