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Report On Beneficiary Marriage Tests Welcomed

Bradford Welcomes Report On Beneficiary Marriage Tests

Green Social Services MP Sue Bradford today welcomed a report that showed WINZ had been failing to implement the proper tests in determining 'marriage-type' relationships for benefit entitlements.

"The review of the Ruka case backs up what people working in beneficiary advocacy groups have been saying for years - that as many as 15,000 people may have been subject to the wrong benefit assessment criteria over the four years 1996 - 2000.

"Many people, mainly women, will have been adversely financially and emotionally affected by the failure of the Department to implement the correct tests and may have been forced to stay in violent relationships as a result," said Ms Bradford.

"The Greens want to see these decisions reassessed under the correct criteria.

"WINZ refused to follow through on implementing this decision and the review paints a grim picture of the operations of the Department during the Rankin era of the late 1990's. The Department refused to change staff guidelines, training, manuals or provide adequate legal oversight," she said.

"This confirms what people working in beneficiary advocacy groups were saying throughout that time - that the Department did not have the will to actually implement the decision."

Ms Bradford said the review calls into question the whole attitude of the Department towards compliance with Social Security Appeal Authority and Court decisions about beneficiaries. Since 2000 there has been a tendency for the Department to try and overturn legal judgements which go against their usual practices.

"This Report also proves that beneficiary advocacy groups have a valuable role to play in providing independent advice and support for beneficiaries which is often not recognised by departmental staff or by funding agencies.

"Beneficiary advocacy groups should have access to core and ongoing funding to help in their work and not have to continue to struggle for recognition and resources," said Ms Bradford.

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