'We’ve got it wrong' - WINZ apologises to young family with baby for refusing emergency accommodation

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1 NEWS

Work and Income has fronted up and apologised to a young family with a baby who were denied emergency accommodation despite being homeless.

Nine-month-old Shakana and her teen parents were facing living on the streets, until Auckland Action Against Poverty stepped in.
Source: 1 NEWS

Social agencies say this is another heartless response from a system that is supposed to help out the most vulnerable.

Nine-month-old Shakana and her teenage parents have just been able to move into a motel unit.

“This is something that we never thought we’d get,” says mum Meinga Tawhai.

“I explained to her if you can’t help me then I’m homeless with my baby, my partner” says dad Te Huru Wiki.

“There was no remorse she didn’t really care.”

Work and Income fronted up to apologised today.

 “We’ve got it wrong,” says regional commissioner for the Ministry of Social Development Mark Goldsmith.

“We should’ve given them emergency housing grant right up front. Unfortunately we didn’t and we’ve apologised for that.”

These actions have been a stark contrast to what was promised by Jacinda Ardern.

“Provide for those who are in need. That is what our social services are there for,” she said in an earlier statement.

“It’s very unfit for a government that talks about compassion and kindness to have their government agencies not help people who are about to be homeless,” says Ricardo Menéndez from group Auckland Action Against Poverty (AAAP).

The family was initially forced out of a relative’s state house because of overcrowding.

Te Huru Wiki then had his benefit cut for not turning up to a budgeting course.

“I don’t get enough money to travel,” he says.

Despite telling WINZ his circumstances, staff who had discretion refused to help until AAAP stepped in.

“Without the intervention of advocates people like them and many others are constantly being left on the streets without the assistance they require,” says Menéndez.

Work and income are now reviewing what went wrong and what improvements can be made to its systems.

“There’s actually significant work being undertaken right now,” says Goldsmith.

“It’s around asking the right questions and understanding the client a lot better.”

The young parents hope that by speaking out, others will get the help they need.

They are currently aiming to get their lives back on track.

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