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Appalling Processes Faced By Benefit Applicants

Appalling Processes Faced By Benefit Applicants

Graham Howell, spokesperson for the Benefit Rights Service expresses concern at the appalling processes Work and Income have with regard to applicants for a benefit proving who they are. Two of many situations described below.

Currently, young people who have lived at home and whose parents have been receiving the Family Tax Credit have to jump through amazing hoops to prove they exist. The Department should have their birth certificates but don’t have wit or desire to find the document on their files and help the applicant. The result is begging on the streets ad/or couch surfing. If a new birth certificate is needed Work and Income has the ability to assist getting this, and in fact this assistance is non-recoverable but they almost never ever offer to help get this.

Mr Howell also points to newly-released prisoners. If people are held for more than four weeks they might receive what is called Steps to Freedom. This can be up to $350. However, the main benefit does not start for two weeks after application so in effect the $350 is meant to last for the first two weeks after they are released. $350 for two weeks is not much. The problem though lies with ex-prisoner’s identification. These people often do not have a passports or drivers licenses or even birth certificates. It is dumb logic though to say that the state has held these people in prison without knowing who they are and that, after they have come out of prison, for the state to claim not to know who they are.

This is not only dumb logic but it is an abuse of the ex-prisoner’s rights under section 27 of the Bill of Rights Act.

In fact, Mr Howell argues, that unless the person has a job, then the benefit should start automatically on release without the need for the usual one-week stand-down, the benefit paid one week in arrears and the need for full ID.

The nonsensical bureaucratic standards are leading to extreme hardship and are likely to lead to further criminal or anti-social behaviour from people trying to survive on fresh air.

The ID processes need up-grading to ensure the different parts of the state talk to each other so that hardship is reduced, not exacerbated. If the arms of state can talk to each to establish debt and say when some one leaves New Zealand or goes into prison, why not the other way around.


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