Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search


Winz Accused Of Abusing Power

Winz Accused Of Abusing Power

Work and Income are routinely abusing their power, says the Poor Peoples Embassy.

Staff are suspending the benefits of clients they have run-ins with. Usually no explanation is given in writing. This has been happening for years and seems to be widespread.

Beneficiaries, who are already struggling, are often left without income for up to six weeks or even an indefinite period. Well-off people may have no trouble covering this unofficial "stand-down", but there is no way the country’s poorest citizens can survive for this long, believes the Embassy. No wonder beneficiaries have one of the highest suicide rates of any group in New Zealand.

In one case, an unemployed beneficiary, Ewen Coker, had laid a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner against WINZ open-plan office layout. From the public reception area he had overheard a staff member discuss the details of a woman going into hospital. The Commission office handed the complaint over to WINZ to deal with, citing it had a twelve-month waiting list. (In a newsletter at the time the Commission bragged how a friend of a staff member got action on a complaint the same afternoon.)

In turn, WINZ demanded Mr Coker meet with them or face his benefit being stopped. When he appeared WINZ staff refused to tell him the reason for the meeting, an argument broke out and he was arrested, charged with trespass and subsequently convicted. Also his benefit was stopped although no reason was ever given.

After serving his sentence, Mr Coker then shifted to another district to start anew.

When WINZ staff member, Lois Walton, of this district’s office heard of the incident she also demanded he discuss it with her or face suspension. Ms Walton continued to make similar phone calls until Mr Coker said he would lay a complaint with Telecom over her "nuisance" calls.

After that another staff member, Des McGrath, began writing letters threatening to stop Mr Coker’s benefit if he did not come into the office and meet with him.

In letters Mr Coker explained he lived 25 kilometres away and having no other available transport was faced with taxi fares of around $80 to attend and requested assistance. He even suggested Mr McGrath come out to his place instead. On several occasions he also requested under the Official Information Act the specific reason for the meetings. All these requests were ignored apart from Mr McGrath pointing out that he had the right to call in clients under a ‘Work Test Agreement’. Earlier Mr Coker had been coerced to sign this so-called "agreement" under duress or be denied State assistance.

Mr Coker’s benefit was eventually stopped in late February although he has not received any official reason why from WINZ.

Mr Coker is currently living mainly on flour and rice. He doesn’t know how he is going to survive when his food runs out in a couple of weeks.

All this has left him stressful, unable to sleep properly at night, and he now finds it very difficult to do even everyday tasks. Although not wishing to die Mr Coker seems to have lost the will to live as he sees no end to this abuse.

Over the years the Poor Peoples Embassy has heard of similar cases of WINZ staff abusing their power over clients. It appears rampant, especially since the previous Government’s public attacks against welfare beneficiaries.

A few years ago community groups in Christchurch met with local WINZ bosses over this abuse. WINZ banned the media from attending, instead a departmental media officer released a statement she had written.

The Embassy calls on the current Minister of Social Development, Steve Maharey, to end this culture of abuse including the use of "spin doctors" to hoodwink the public on what is really happening.

© Scoop Media

Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines


Also, Loan Interest: Productivity Commission On Tertiary Education

Key recommendations include better quality control; making it easier for students to transfer between courses; abolishing University Entrance; enabling tertiary institutions to own and control their assets; making it easier for new providers to enter the system; and facilitating more and faster innovation by tertiary education providers... More>>


Higher Payments: Wellington Regional Council Becomes A Living Wage Employer

Councillor Sue Kedgley said she was delighted that the Wellington Regional Council unanimously adopted her motion to become a Living Wage employer, making it the first regional council in New Zealand to do so. More>>


Scoop Images:
Dame Patsy Reddy Sworn In As Governor-General

This morning Dame Patsy Reddy was sworn in as the New Zealand Realm’s 21st Governor-General. The ceremony began with a pōwhiri to welcome Dame Patsy and her husband Sir David Gascoigne to Parliament. More>>


Ruataniwha: DOC, Hawke's Bay Council Developer Take Supreme Court Appeal

The Department of Conservation and Hawke's Bay Regional Investment Company (HBRIC) are appealing to the Supreme Court over a conservation land swap which the Court of Appeal halted. More>>


With NZ's Marama Davidson: Women’s Flotilla Leaves Sicily – Heading For Gaza

Women representing 13 countries spanning five continents began their journey yesterday on Zaytouna-Oliva to the shores of Gaza, which has been under blockade since 2007. On board are a Nobel Peace Laureate, three parliamentarians, a decorated US diplomat, journalists, an Olympic athlete, and a physician. A list of the women with their background can be found here. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Key Style Of Crisis Management

At Monday’s post Cabinet press conference Key was in his finest wide- eyed “Problem? What problem?” mode. No, there wasn’t really a problem that top MPI officials had been at odds with each other over the meaning of the fisheries policy and how that policy should be pursued... More>>


Mt Roskill: Greens Will Not Stand In Likely Post-Goff By-Election

“The Green Party’s priority is changing the Government in 2017, and as part of that we’ve decided that we won’t stand a candidate in the probable Mt Roskill by-election... This decision shows the Memorandum of Understanding between Labour and the Green Party is working." More>>


Get More From Scoop



Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news