Second blunder by Work and Income with same beneficiary

A woman has had her benefit cut for the second time – Work and Income have admitted another blunder.

RNZ in April: Woman told her benefit was cut because of Tinder dates

The Ministry for Social Development has apologised to a woman who was told her benefit was stopped because she had been on two Tinder dates.

The solo mother of three said she told her Work and Income case manager the man paid for dinner and a movie, and the case manager said it was a dependent relationship.

The South Auckland woman, who RNZ has agreed not to name, said she told her case manager about the two dates because she was trying to be up front.

The case manager pulled a card from her desk and described what a relationship was to the woman.

“She then asked me whether on my dates he had financially paid for me,” she said.

“I said yes, but that I had offered to pay for myself.”

The case manager then said if he was paying for her dates then she could rely on him for money and WINZ will see that as a relationship, she said.

The woman has been on the benefit since January after her former employer tried to swap her shifts into night shifts, which she couldn’t take-on with three young children.

She said the incident left her feeling ashamed and stressed.

“The way they speak to me, it’s really nasty.”

Quibbling over who pays for a date is oppressive.

But it gets worse. Today RNZ reports: Woman has benefit wrongly suspended for second time

The Ministry of Social Development has admitted it again failed to follow proper process, by not following up with the woman after she told them her daughter would be staying with her grandmother for part of the week.

That was so her daughter didn’t have to change schools after the family moved from west Auckland to South Auckland, the woman said.

Because it meant a change to her circumstances, and she was on the sole parent benefit, the woman knew she should tell Work and Income.

“I knew that this was a big change, I didn’t want to get in trouble so I thought, you know, I’ll call just I just want to be safe.”

But her sole parent benefit was suspended.

The woman said she made repeated attempts to get in touch with Work and Income to sort it out – to no avail.

It was only when she got an advocate from Auckland Action Against Poverty involved that anyone listened.

This looks bad on it’s own, but also suggests fundamental problems in Work and Income. If one person has their wrongly benefit stopped twice there seems to be a good chance similar is happening to others – potentially many others.

Ministry of Social Development group general manager of client service delivery Kay Read said the woman had received an apology.

“We’re sorry, we made a mistake.”

Ms Read said the woman did the right thing by telling Work and Income about her change of circumstances.

“This was then entered by one of our staff into our system without us having a conversation with her to actually learn more about the situation.”

Because the woman still had two children in her care, who were born while she was on the sole parent benefit, Ms Read said she should have transferred on to a jobseeker benefit, but that didn’t happen.

“We should’ve had the conversation… and explained that if we’d taken the time, either phoned her or talk with her at the time she dropped that in, we would’ve understood her circumstances in much greater detail and in fact we wouldn’t have had to adjust anything.”

The mistake was caught before the woman missed a payment, Ms Read said.

But the woman said having her benefit suspended twice has made her question how worthwhile it is to be honest with Work and Income.

Not being honest could end up with much worse repercussions.

It’s hard enough on beneficiaries having to report things like dates, but made far worse when Wirk and Income punish them (wrongly) for being honest.

The government has promised major changes to the culture at Work and Income, as part of its overhaul of the welfare system.

This looks overdue. It could be difficult getting the balance right. Having to report things like social contacts seems oppressive, but I doubt a no questions asked approach to benefit payments will be acceptable either.

Eligibility for benefits needs to be simple, clear and fair.

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7 Comments

  1. Kitty Catkin

     /  June 12, 2018

    This must be what Marama Davison was on about.

    One case out of how many thousand isn’t a bad record, not that it’s a consolation to the person who happens to be that one.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  June 12, 2018

      I remember when it was reported that a case manager had told someone to sell the childrens’ toys to raise money.

      In fact, he had asked her what she thought she could do to make some money and she said that she could sell the outgrown Play Stations (or something like that) He then wrote this down. I can’t remember how the story got out.

      Reply
  2. Gezza

     /  June 12, 2018

    Because the woman still had two children in her care, who were born while she was on the sole parent benefit, Ms Read said she should have transferred on to a jobseeker benefit, but that didn’t happen.

    Mishandled by W&I, & the culture there is suspicious, bureaucratically rigid, punitive, & insensitive. But there’s more to this case than we are hearing I suspect.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  June 12, 2018

      I don’t believe that WINZ is those things as a rule.

      But having two more children while on the sole parent benefit seems an abuse of the system.She must have taken advice from the crassly irresponsible budget advisor who advised women to have a new child every 18 months to keep the benefit going. Too bad about the fatherless children and their social problems as a result of being used as commodities.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  June 12, 2018

        The weekly monitoring & reporting requirements on people on job seeker benefits are positively oppressive & rigid rule impositions that mean if you get any temporary work for even a haphazard few hours one week & not the next they dick around with your benefit payments immediately – regardless of whether you have bills or rent due. If they are going to put you in debt with this approach their solution is a loan you have to pay back. With no job to pay it back with. They put people already with nothing into debt on top of it. This happened to a friend of mine. It was nightmarish for her. Total stress. She was already stressed & that caused her job loss.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  June 12, 2018

          I thought that people could earn $x before it affected their WINZ money.

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  June 12, 2018

            The amounts deducted don’t seem to be very logical, but the amount deducted isn’t so much that it wouldn’t be worth earning anything.If someone earns $91 they lose $7.

            Reply

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