Charities and social workers are calling for an inquiry into Work and Income along with the Ministry of Social Development after slamming their current treatment of many Kiwis in need.
A report released this morning by frontline beneficiary and child right rights organisations has described the Work and Income system currently used in New Zealand as “demeaning and inhumane”.
Along with the report in a letter signed by 13 organisations are calls for an urgent select committee inquiry in the Ministry of Social Development’s frontline services.
Two of those behind the call to action is Jacqui Southey from Save the Children and Tavia Moore from the Beneficiary Advisory Services who both told Breakfast on Wednesday of the current conditions hurting New Zealanders in need.
“We have to remember that Work and Income is a frontline service and it isn’t dealing with trivial matters,” Southey said.
“It is dealing with those that need real help and they need to be able to feel dignified when they access this help, get the information that they need and feel that their mana is enhanced through the process rather than feeling confused, lost, and supported.”
Moore said in her experiences she’s seen plenty of frustration both of those looking for support and those trying to provide it.
“We see [people get incorrectly declined of services] on a daily basis,” Moore said.
“It’s something that we’re thankfully able to quite often have those decisions changed. But it’s alarming to see that they are happening in the first place.
“If we’re able to have them changed, then that indicates that the wrong decisions are being frequently made for those clients and putting them in negative situations.”
In fact, Moore said it’s more common to see an incorrect analysis currently than not.
“It would definitely be over 50 per cent,” Moore said when asked how often decisions get changed.
“I would say, maybe a 60/40 split…it’s definitely a majority.”
Southey said those figures emphasise the concerns her charity and others have with the current system in place and why an iinquiry into Work and Income’s operational processes, culture and training of staff is needed.
“We are really concerned that when a person in need is seeking this sort of help, their rights are upheld,” Southey said.
“These aren’t unreasonable expectations – we have this system that is set up to support whanau and individuals when they need it.
“We would love to see this system working for every person who walks through the door.”
Moore added the recurring themes she and colleagues have seen in recent times include misinformation and dehumanisation of those seeking assistance.
“It’s right from the start of people’s experiences with Work and Income, right from when they first look at applying for assistance.
“It’s humiliating, I’ve had clients use that word before, and they feel belittled and quite often they feel like they’re quite capable people but when they interact with Work and Income, they’re kind of put in a position where they question themselves because they’re treated like children.”
The pair said they’re thankful New Zealand has a welfare system in place but more needs to be done from a government that prides itself on its kindness.
“We’re not talking about luxuries – we’re talking about basic entitlements such as food and housing,” Moore said.
“This Government said they’re prioritising that but we’re just not seeing that in these clients.”