Jacinda Ardern has slammed a decision to remove a woman's benefit payments because she went on two Tinder dates, saying such practices are disconcertingly common.
The Prime Minister was unequivocal in her criticism of a case manager at the Ministry of Social Development who stopped a South Auckland solo mother of three's benefits when she found out about the dates.
The Ministry has since apologised and reinstated the benefits, but Ms Ardern told RNZ this morning such decisions are signs dramatic culture change is needed within Work and Income NZ.
"No, no I do not think that's reasonable. I think it's completely unreasonable," Ms Ardern said.
Ms Ardern said within her government's confidence and supply agreement it specified such benefit payment mistakes would be explicitly worked on.
"Anyone who's an MP and does electorate work as my office does, repeatedly hears these kinds of stories, it's not OK, the Minister has said that, Work and Income has apologised, but we ultimately do need culture change," she said.
Ms Ardern said she had undertaken conversations with the Minister for Social Development about enacting that culture change among workers, and announcements were upcoming.
The Prime Minister said she had also heard of stories about people having their benefit cut off because they missed an appointment they didn't even know about.
The Auckland mother concerned in this case, said she told her Work and Income case manager the man on the date paid for dinner and a movie, though she had offered to pay for herself.
The case manager had said it was a dependent relationship.
"Now I'm on the benefit they want to treat me like garbage," RNZ quoted the woman, who was not named, as saying.
The ministry said it did not suspend her benefit because she had told them she'd gone on two dates, and would never stop paying someone for that reason.
Her benefit was stopped because of separate allegations which have since been dropped after the ministry could not substantiate them, it said.
It had received an allegation she had been living with a partner, shared a mortgage with him, and that they both had jobs.
Secondly, she failed to attend two consecutive appointments this month, the ministry said.