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Social Development or Beneficiary Bashing?


PRESS RELEASE

Social Development or Beneficiary Bashing?

Today members of the Wellington People’s Centre were shredding Work and Income Benefit Control Unit letters and DPB ‘Avenues’ interview forms in Wellington Central.

The Benefit Control Unit letters have been sent to various beneficiaries as part of the Benefit Control Unit’s Early Intervention Programme. Ms McIvor, the Benefit Rights Service Co-ordinator at the Wellington People’s Centre said “Benefit Control Unit investigators are sending random letters to beneficiaries demanding an early intervention interview. The Benefit Control Unit has not provided any research that would justify this early intervention nor has it set up proper evaluation processes. This programme is reminiscent of the days of the Benefit Crime Unit when beneficiaries were called criminals before they were proven guilty.”

“As part of the new Social Development model, Work and Income is characterising this early intervention programme as an opportunity to discuss benefit queries and to ensure people are receiving their full and correct entitlement. Yet on the same token, investigators have not undergone any training to equip them for giving benefit advice nor is Work and Income inviting applications for Special Benefits from the thousands of people who, it has the information to show, are potentially eligible.”

The DPB interview forms are part of a Work and Income early intervention pilot programme called ‘Avenues’. These forms are used by client advisers who hope to visit applicants for the Domestic Purposes Benefit 48 hours after they have applied for a benefit.

Ms McIvor said “The interview forms are overly intrusive with respect to the applicant’s personal matters. The information required by the form surpasses the information legally required by Work and Income to test eligibility for the benefit. The forms are demeaning and superfluous.”

Ms McIvor asks “ Why has the Ministry of Social Development focused this early intervention on the Domestic Purposes benefit? We believe Avenues is aimed at reducing the numbers of people applying for the DPB. We are informed that three people who have undergone the Avenues interview have ‘opted’ for the Unemployment Benefit instead of the DPB, which means they will be financially worse off.”

“I sincerely hope that these early intervention programmes aren’t indicative of the new Social Development model espoused by Mr Maharey. This kind of Social Development is a repeat of policies that were behind Jenny Shipley’s beneficiary bashing. They are unnecessary, intrusive and patronising.”

Contact: Tina McIvor (04) 385 8596

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