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August 13, 2007 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]


Last week several media producers wanted to talk to me. They wanted to know why we wrote an article on how to rip WINZ off. Problem is, we didn’t.

We wrote an article on benefits and entitlements that students, beneficiaries and people on a low income can access through Work and Income and StudyLink. My headline was chosen for it’s saliency and didn’t portray the article correctly – in any case WINZ is the former name for Work and Income. It was later called the Department of Work and Income, and now simply Work and Income.

There was no intention to mislead regarding what assistance low income people can get through Work and Income, but there was an intention to advise what entitlements and assistance they can get – and as most of that is online at the website of the Ministry of Social Development, it’s nothing new.

The only thing that could be seen to be misleading was the insinuation that some could get some free clothes solely for a job interview. Job interviews should lead to a job. While that was not clear in the opening part of the paragraph, when the writer wrote, “get $125 worth of clothes and get the rest either before the next interview or when you start work”, the intention was of securing a second interview for a job or starting work.

Wellington Regional Manager Mike Byant has said that while a lot of the information in our article is right, it was taken out of context.

He’s right. For example, if you want your power bill paid because you think you have an immediate and essential need, you actually need a disconnection notice, something we didn’t disclose. Yet you won’t find that bit of information on any policy or legislation.

In addition to our article a fortnight ago, we thought we’d briefly advise of other entitlements you can get through Work and Income. You can get up to $1000 for glasses, hearing aids, or contact lenses. If you have a fire or burglary, are uninsured, and have a low income and bank balance, you could get up to $1000 for essential items such as fridges and washing machines. If you need to attend a funeral, you can apply for expenses of up to $200 and even koha costs – and if you are stranded, provided you meet the criteria you could walk into your nearest Work and Income office and apply for travel costs of up to $200 to get home. If you have a birthmark you want to remove, and a registered medical practitioner certifies that it is disfiguring, you may be able to get a $300 grant towards laser therapy removal. If you need to have a telephone installed, you may be advanced $200, but you’ll have to pay connection fees. Many were surprised as to what they could apply for through Work and Income and StudyLink. We got many letters. Here’s a letter from Hana, who’s on the Domestic Purposes Benefit.

I am a young single parent on the DPB, but I also study full time and will end up in a government job. In the four years that I have been on the DPB I have not known about dental care, medical care or eye care grants, all of which have been needed at one time or another, yes I am guilty of not asking, but I have never heard these mentioned, and yet now I know they are there. I have struggled to pay bills, but have not known that there are grants available to help me. I have paid bills and then lived on bread and noodles for the week because I haven’t known about food grants.

Well done in getting this article out there, no one on a benefit really enjoys being there and for many you will have made life just a little easier. It is people like Hana whom we had in mind with this piece.

Work and Income and StudyLink need to advise people of their entitlements and, if Hana’s situation is not an isolated incident, it is not doing so. It is not easy living on a student allowance, low income or benefit, less so if you don’t know what additional assistance you can be eligible for. Salient is doing some people a service in advising low income people of their entitlements.


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  1. bob says:

    the reason nobody enjoys being on a benefit is because benefit levels are set too low -hence all these extras that most didnt know about. Work and Income must be hoping that most beneficaries don’t apply for all these extras otherwise it wont be worth going to work compared to what you get on a low income.

  2. Leonie says:

    I don’t know Bob, I think that Case Managers overall, on the most part, are willing to help if you just ask. If something goes wrong, why not find out, if you don’t like the answer you get, go to their manager. The welfare system in NZ is a generous system, we should be thankful for that.

  3. nikki says:

    if you get a good case officer, they do help to tell you of extra things you can get. most of my case officer, you would think they are paying me out of their pocket. i am on d.p.b and studying. there lots of things you can get its just finding out what there is.

  4. steve says:

    I would think it essential for clients to be advised of their entiltments…………..

  5. rick says:

    the powerbill one would be very helpful, but do they really need the disconnection notice? If I let it get to that stage I will have broken my payment arrangement and need to pay over $600.

    I am quite reluctant to go in and see them, because they may decide that my boarder is suddenly income and need me to declare it or something. and cut my allowance back even further…

  6. bob says:

    .. if you dont like the answer they give, go to the manager..

    fat lot of good that`ll do – what if the manager gives you the wrong answer too, remember they don’t know much more than the case managers…. the welfare system is generous, if only case managers knew what they could provide their clients,

  7. dave says:

    my case officer, you would think they are paying me out of their pocket

    What some people often overlook is that benefits are ultimately paid by working people, from their taxes. So due care needs to be taking granting them, to ensure they are being paid according to need and the rules.

  8. tori says:

    my friend and i recieved the exact same special needs grant. i have to pay back the money but my friend was told she dosent need to.(WINZ)

    My friend got a housing new zealand home at the newly developed micheal jones street in manukau (which i applied before she did & my situation was also an emergency) because she knew her case manager. (HNZ)

    There is discrimination within these govt organisations & they are been taught to discriminate.

    I think we need to address tthis issue too.

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