Follows is a letter written by one of our Christchurch-based supporters to Work & Income New Zealand.
Some of you will be aware that at the moment I am having a stoush with the Department of Work and Income, after they cut my unemployment benefit in late August. After the initial complaint to WINZ through their website, they assigned the manager of the Riccarton branch in Christchurch to deal with my case. Whilst they helped me get in contact with Studylink, and apologised initially for their mishandling of my case, events since then have shown to me that WINZ has fundamental problems needing policy change and Ministerial intervention.
As yet they still haven't reinstated my unemployment benefit - they say that they can't by law, but they expect me to struggle by on $80 a week for food. Further more their staff are seriously deficient in people skills, if not completely lacking. When I go into a department, I expect to be treated with respect and compassion, not to be looked upon as a problem and a burden. When I went in Wednesday the staff member who served me did not make any effort to do background checks, did not ask how I was or what I thought the problem was. More over when I showed him a bank statement indicating I am in serious overdraft because of WINZ's actions, he just ignored it.
WINZ put me into overdraft. WINZ can get me out of it.
I have no confidence that they can or will without Ministerial intervention. Subsequently there is an e-mail currently residing in Paula Bennett's inbox. There is another in the inbox of shadow Minister for Social Development Nanaia Mahuta.
A third one went to WINZ so that there can hopefully be a whole lot of faces drained of colour on Monday morning.
What do I think the problem in WINZ is? There are numerous problems. Some are fairly simple, yet quite fundamental in nature. Others are policy problems that may require legislative change.
1) I think WINZ needs a "fit for purpose" review - just like my old employer Environment Canterbury was subjected to. It is obvious that they have significant problems regarding their internal management; customer service; and expected outcomes.
2) Once a person tells WINZ that they are studying, they should be given a grace period to make contact with Studylink and get on a benefit or allowance. If they are on a benefit there should be a 4 week window or similar.
3) A benefit payment range, partially linked to the market - if basics are more expensive, then there should be a certain amount of leeway allowed by increasing the benefit, and lowering if the prices go do - not from week to week, but maybe from quarter to quarter (Jan-Mar;Apr-Jun...)"
- Rob G
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