The Ministry of Social Development says its mission is to help people look after themselves – so why are there so many complaints about its lack of humanity?
This radio documentary explores complaints about the treatment of beneficiaries by Work and Income and difficulties being reported in getting full and correct entitlements.
Beneficiaries Insight spoke to as part of this investigation felt that judgement strongly, not only from the public, but also the front line staff they came into contact with at Work and Income. The documentary reports on research being done at the University of Auckland which seems to suggest New Zealanders might be moving away from the idea of a social welfare safety net and leaning towards greater self-responsibility. Louise Humpage, an associate professor of sociology, has been studying attitudes in New Zealand toward beneficiaries. She has been using data from questions she included in the New Zealand Election Study and found real diminishing in support for the unemployed.
Citizen's Advice Bureau (CAB) has received over 7000 calls about income support, nationwide, for each of the last two years. CAB national social policy advisor Jayne McKendry comments and says she wants to see more empathy from front-line staff, and customers being treated with dignity and respect.
Ministry of Social Development general manager of client service delivery Kay Read responds saying the ministry had been listening to the repeating cycle of complaints and was becoming more focused on customer's needs. Work and Income is running trials where client managers got to spend more time with younger clients and, last month, the agency began allowing call centre staff to approve hardship grants, including on Saturday mornings.