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Lessons for WINZ from tragic death

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Labour social welfare spokesperson Steve Maharey says lessons must be learnt from the tragic death of an Auckland ACC worker.

"This incident is a shocking reminder to the Government that state employees given the job of implementing Government policy, can be at personal risk.

"ACC is not alone in needing to address its procedures. The Minister of Social Services must realise that growing public dissatisfaction with Work and Income NZ must be treated very seriously.

"Between October 98 and February this year, the police were called to WINZ offices on 86 occasions. 65 of these callouts related to customers who were abusive or had threatened WINZ staff or other customers.

"In select committee this week, concerns have been raised about the standard of WINZ service and the major frustrations for customers that result. I have raised similar concerns directly with the Minister," Steve Maharey said.

"Labour believes that in order for the public to develop confidence in WINZ, it must fundamentally change the way that it operates.

"The next Labour Government will define the level of service that people can expect and improve the range of information available. Clear written instructions will be issued to staff to allow them to be proactive in accessing all avenues of assistance and we will increase their ability to be flexible and use discretion. Labour will also introduce a fair and accountable complaint resolution process.

"The staff of agencies like WINZ and ACC are in the frontline of enforcing Government policy. It is a duty of the Government to do everything it can to ensure there's an environment which recognises the rights of both staff and members of the public."

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