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Welfare Advocates Support NZCCS Debt Report

PRESS RELEASE: 21 October 2003

Welfare Advocates Support NZCCS Debt Report Recommendations

The National Beneficiary advisory group (NBAG) strongly supports the recommendation made by NZCCS, particularly as they relate to the practices and policies of the Ministry of Social Development.

NBAG is currently involved in a special benefit IMPACT in Gisborne and Ruatoria, which has once again highlighted the negative impact of debt on beneficiary and low income families. This is particularly so with debt to government agencies such as Inland Revenue, Department for Courts and WINZ.

In one case discovered during the IMPACT, a sole parent had more than 37% of her benefit taken for debt payments to Government agencies and 25% on private debt payments for essential costs.

Government needs to make a make a strong commitment to ensure that the debt collecting practices of WINZ, IRD and the Department for Courts are brought under control to prevent agencies exacerbating the hardship already faced by low income families.

Given WINZ legal obligation to ensure people have sufficient income to meet their basic needs, Government should issue a Directive to Work and Income clarifying that it should allow all debt repayments to Government agencies in its calculation of special benefit.

In doing so Government will be confirming its commitment to reducing poverty and enhancing social development. It is also time that the Government gives a firm commitment to reversing the extremely negative impacts of the 1991 benefit cuts.

Paul Blair
Media spokesperson
National Beneficiary Advocacy Group
Contact: Phone 021 1811325

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