Carmel Sepuloni announces much needed changes to improve WINZ

Written By: - Date published: 3:47 pm, June 27th, 2018 - 41 comments
Categories: benefits, Carmel Sepuloni, labour, welfare - Tags:

From Carmel’s Facebook page:

Today I was in New Plymouth to launch some of the changes we are rolling out across MSD/ WINZ offices. These are a few of the changes:

1. Security guards at MSD offices are no longer required to check people’s names off a list or to ask for ID and they are no longer dressed in security uniforms. What they will do now is welcome people warmly and ensure people feel safe coming in for support

2. All MSD offices now have the new MSD client commitment up in their offices – in English, Maori and sign language (other languages are also provided).

3. Water is now available

4. Where possible accessible toilets are being made available (with baby changing tables)

5. The new layout (being piloted at 4 new sites initially) has more private spaces, a kids play area, more clearly marked areas

6. An eligibility guide has been launched and is now available online nation wide and

7. Today we were able to report that as a consequence of changes I asked for a month ago that led to manual benefit sanctions and cancellations requiring an authorised 2nd person to approve the decision, we have seen a daily reduction of 23% in actual manual benefit sanctions and cancellations.

Still so much more to do but I feel like we are on track towards a fairer and more accessible welfare system. A positive environment will equal positive outcomes.

41 comments on “Carmel Sepuloni announces much needed changes to improve WINZ”

  1. indiana 1

    It doesn’t go far enough. There should be a prayer room for Muslims, like they have at Auckland Domestic Airport.

  2. adam 2

    It’s a start, but really not much more than that.

  3. Ad 3

    Hasn’t even outlined the full review yet.
    Good to see the Minister cracking into it.

    • adam 3.1

      That good to read Ad, thanks for that.

      • Ad 3.1.1

        She had a quick interview on RNZ this morning.

        What the Minister is doing is going for a few of the easy wins.

        The big review is still to come.

        Personally speaking if they can increase the minimum wage, and increase Working For Families, then they should also increase benefit rates. That’s the review bit I’d like to see.

        • The Other Mike

          Surely Ad, the Minimum Wage should be a (the) Living Wage. Remember 40% of the poor are working!

        • Chris

          It’d be wrong to be less than cynical about Sepuloni’s announcement, but getting rid of the thugs-in-uniforms is quite a big deal. A lot of them are pretty nasty and it doesn’t take much too set them off. There’s a total atmosphere of aggression in the offices that’s just so wrong.

          But getting back to the cynicism, why is Sepuloni and the government bothering with National’s Social Security (Rewrite) Bill? National claimed it was policy neutral and aimed to reduce complexity that’s developed as a result of countless amendments. But it’s not policy neutral because it contains a whole bunch of nasty things that are part of National’s war on the poor. Sepuloni says the big changes are coming in the form of amendments, but why even adopt National’s nasty Rewrite Bill if they’re already contemplating amendments, kicking off a string of complexity to an Act before it’s even passed? What’s worse, why are they adopting National’s anti-beneficiary handywork at all if they’re intending to fix things like getting rid of sanctions? The Bill’s come back from the select committee and is set to pass with almost nothing Labour said it was going to do included in it. This is just more of the same from Labour. When it comes to fixing the benefit system it’s the same old story. Nothing ever gets fixed because Labour has no intention of fixing a thing. If it did it wouldn’t have adopted National’s Bill, made it its own and done everything possible to make sure it becomes law. This is worse than when Labour voted for National’s previous attack on the poor in the form of the 2014 amendment. Labour attacking the poor like this is now normal, unsurprising, typically Labour.

          • AsleepWhileWalking

            I agree with you regarding the rewrite.

            The phrase glitter covered shit springs to mind, even with input from the Welfare Working Group.

            • Chris

              The working group has a whole bunch of obvious experts missing. Advocates from Auckland Action Against Poverty for a start.

      • Mereana 3.1.2

        Unbelievable! I was more shocked as to hear the new look of WINZ, water? for goodness sake.Didnt they even provide The bare necessities??? shocking. The previous government really stuffed that one up. Just by creating a safe and welcoming environment will make a massive difference. The minister needs to incorporate is cultural competency training for all staff. As they play a key role in how they treat and value their customers. it’s shocking and appalling and still reading about how customers are treated..if you going to overhaul Winz do it properly!!clean it all out

  4. AsleepWhileWalking 4

    I’m liking this minister.

    These are impressive if for no other reason MSD turns like a battleship not a speedboat.

  5. McFlock 5

    Little things that will make a huge difference. And we’ll see what the broader review comes up with.

    • Chris 5.1

      That’s the problem with Labour and the benefit system, nothing will come of the review because its position on benefits is the same as National’s. It has no intention of changing a thing. Labour voted with National for a war on the poor amendment in 2014. Diehard Labour supporters said they had no choice and that real change will come when they’re the government. Now they’re the government they make a National Bill their own and proceed to make sure it becomes law with next to no changes made to it. Where’s the evidence Labour’s serious about fixing the benefit system?

  6. ianmac 6

    Carmel went on the attack in General Debate No 2 today because the MPs in the Opposition were laughing at her “improvements.” Carmel is a great passionate speaker.

  7. Sabine 7

    Being able to check for a benefit online is excellent. It actually allows for people to come to the office prepared with paperwork etc and thus makes the life easier for the staff and the applicants.

    • Chris 7.1

      That depends absolutely on the information that’s put up online. Information on the website and on brochures is at the moment used as a way of turning people away by suggesting there’s no eligibility the objective being to put people off applying. And a lot what people rely on these days because of low main benefit rates are the hardship benefits and allowances that are discretionary, where no amount of information can ever replace the need for a proper application and assessment of circumstances to determine eligibility.

      That’s not to say that getting rid of the thugs on the door and providing water and access to bathrooms aren’t important because they are. But the bigger question is whether the government is committed to fixing the Social Security Act. Indications so far are that it isn’t.

    • AsleepWhileWalking 7.2


      There are still a substantial number of people without internet access, many disabled.

      This^^ has to change. Going for free WiFi (often insecure and without a VPN) is leaving entire tranches of vulnerable and isolated behind.

  8. Michael 8

    Yeah right. It’s still business as usual at WINZ offices up and down the country, irrespective of anything the Minister decrees from her Beehive fortress. The bureaucrats continue to shaft our poorest and most vulnerable people at every turn and will continue tormenting and humiliating them unless and until their worst offenders are made an example of. While the current CEO remains, in his overpaid nest, no one within MSD/WINZ has the slightest incentive to change their behaviour. The measures announced above are merely cosmetic – even if they are implemented (and so far, AFAICS, they are not).

    • One Anonymous Bloke 8.1

      The requirement that staff peer review one-anothers’ decisions is a good move, though, and it’s clear that Sepuloni isn’t done yet.

      She can’t just smash the ministry: people rely on it.

    • AsleepWhileWalking 8.2


      Its been ONE DAY!!

    • Sacha 8.3

      “7. Today we were able to report that as a consequence of changes I asked for a month ago ..”

  9. Jackel 9

    The capitalist system isn’t designed to make room for everyone. Where do such people go if not to the dole office. In Tories minds such people are immoral deviants for the crime of finding nowhere within the capitalist system. In my mind they’re human beings with the basic right to at least food and shelter. But yes it doesn’t matter how you dress them up, some of these dole office workers are no more than pen pushing sadists.

  10. Antoine 10

    These are some good changes. Nice to see. Hopefully more on the way


  11. Sacha 11

    These quick changes in practice (without even needing to pass laws) shows how previous Ministerial influence has shaped WINZ’s treatment of people seeking support from them. A rollcall of mendacity.

  12. patricia bremner 12

    Carmel has had huge numbers of letters regarding poor treatment of people seeking help.
    One big change will come through mental health patients receiving more assistance.

    Attitudes to parents with children, the aged the infirm and the dying needed quick changes, and this has begun.

    The taking over of a bill to remove complexity is not necessarily bad, as it will be followed by legislation formed on their own report. Don’t forget the Nat’s didn’t count what they didn’t want to see. ie, suicides.

    I begin to hope.

  13. Michelle 13

    If they want to genuinely help people on welfare they need to invest in 2nd chance learning and put some of the steps to climb the ladder back that were taken away by the last government. Treating people with dignity and respect is a good start, lots of money has been wasted by Winz/MSD by just ticking the boxes exercises. They need to work more with work brokers they need to offer incentives for their staff to help people get of welfare and to get some of our beneficiaries into secure meaningful work. They need to realise some people are unemployable and focus there efforts with the many that are employable.

  14. Chris T 14

    1-3 Are wall paper and fluff

    4 Is shocking this hasn’t been in place for decades. Excellent

    5 Good

    6 Excellent. Please also do one for ACC

    7 The 23% reduction sounds good, but I find it difficult to believe this comes from a 2nd person signing it off. Would think it is more Labour giving them different guidelines on when to hand them out.

  15. veutoviper 15

    By chance I was in the WINZ Service Centre in Newtown Wellington yesterday to pick up a printout I needed.

    I was unaware of the changes that had been announced but was surprised when I was not asked why I was there etc by the security staff before the door was opened. instead I was greeted warmly by the security man who suggested that it would be a long wait due to the length of the line waiting to speak to the person on the reception desk, so we agreed I would come back in an hour or so which I duly did.

    The security staff were all still wearing their security uniforms but well covered by coats, jackets etc which I assumed was because of the cold weather. When I came back later I was again let in without question, had only one person ahead in the queue and greeted with a half smile by the person on reception, who printed off the information I needed without the usual snarl I have had in the past. The biggest surprise was to see signs to the toilets, AND a glass panel behind the reception desk with etchings of the He Tangata meme “What is the most important thing in the world? The people, the people, the people” in Maori and English and of stick people – eg family groups, individuals etc. I remarked about this on the way out to the security guys who told me that big changes were starting, and they seemed quite happy about them and said there would be a children’s play area soon as well.

    Yes, these are all fairly superficial changes as yet, but it is a start. That particular Service Centre has never been a happy place, but there was a distinct if small change in atmosphere for the better.

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