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Housing NZ proposal poses dangers for staff

September 2, 2011

Housing New Zealand proposal poses dangers for staff

A proposal from Housing New Zealand to reduce staff numbers and narrow services to tenants potentially puts workers at risk, says the PSA.

Housing New Zealand recently announced that only people with the greatest need will now be eligible for state housing.

Despite the greater needs of tenants, the agency is proposing that tenancy managers no longer assist tenants with their wider social needs as they previously did.

“The proposal defies logic. It assumes that these high-need tenants, many who may have mental health issues, are capable of accessing all the social services they need independently without support and liaison,” says PSA National Secretary Richard Wagstaff.

“Many of our members found the liaison aspect of their work immensely satisfying because it was making a positive difference to people’s lives. Now they’re being told to narrow their focus and ignore any problems they see. This doesn’t fit with the Government’s talk of joined-up public services.

“If tenancy managers are not engaging with tenants’ social needs they may be put at risk, especially considering the fact that Housing New Zealand wants to cut staff numbers.

“If this proposal goes through, some tenancy managers will see their property portfolios go from 300 to over double that amount. This is madness. Some private property managers don’t go over 150 properties on their portfolios.

“Even accounting for different management models and support systems, the idea of having 600-700 hundred properties on a single portfolio would be scorned at. It’s just not possible for one person to manage such a workload effectively,” says Richard Wagstaff.

Housing New Zealand is also proposing to close its neighbourhood units, despite failing to consult with communities on the merits of such a move. Tenancy managers’ cars will now double as their offices.

“Despite the higher risks that come with housing tenants with greater needs and more complex issues the Corporation’s proposal allocates some areas just one mobile tenancy manager.

“If these mobile workers get into difficulties what back up do they have? Members say it’s been suggested they could call on the police or other agencies if they have to visit a high risk tenant. I think the police have enough work to deal with, without covering staff cutbacks in another government agency,” says Richard Wagstaff.

ENDS

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