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Work & Income intimidation culture linked to disconnections

Media Release Tuesday 25 March

Work & Income culture of intimidation linked to surge in power disconnections.

A deepening culture of intimidation at Work & Income explains why more people are going without power, and less are receiving their hardship entitlements to cover electricity and gas payments, says Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Alastair Russell.

“Last year, over 41,085 households in New Zealand had their power disconnected. That’s a quadrupling of disconnections since 2008. It’s a shocking increase in the amount of people living without their basic need for power met, “ says Russell. At the same time, hardship grants for power payments have dropped almost 20% since 2011.”

Energy Minister, Simon Bridges, expressed surprise that hardship grants have consistently fallen, despite the Work & Income entitlement criteria remaining the same. “The Minister obviously lacks an understanding of the extent to which peoples access to their entitlements for emergency needs is being impeded by the routine harassment and intimidation beneficiaries face at Work & Income,” says Russell.

“The Energy Minister needn’t look further than his colleague, Minister of Social Development, Paula Bennett, for an explanation as to why people are clearly not gaining their entitlements in desperate times,” says Russell. “Entitlements surrounding hardship grants may remain the same as they were two years ago on paper, but the culture beneficiaries face at Work & Income has changed as a direct result of Bennett’s broader attack on beneficiaries through her reforms.”

“This deprivation is an indictment on Bennett and her Ministries pressure on Work & Income to reduce grants to beneficiaries to a bare minimum, even in instances where people are entitled and most need them,” says Russell. “People are facing sharply rising costs for their basic needs like power and food. Vulnerable people have died due to power disconnections.” he adds.

“Further tragedies are avoidable. Compassionate access to hardship grants for electricity and gas is a necessity in tough times, these statistics are a strong indicator of the toxic culture within Work & Income. The National Government must face up to the responsibility of the environment it has created.”

ENDS

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