Underpaying beneficiaries

Written By: - Date published: 10:26 am, September 10th, 2017 - 28 comments
Categories: benefits, class war, national, welfare - Tags: , , ,

Another update from nine long years of the brighter future:

WINZ staff accused of withholding entitlements

The Social Development Minister, Anne Tolley, has defended her department after a report showing people on benefits were missing out on $200 million in entitlements a year.

The figures were in a report obtained by Newsub’s The Nation under the Official Information Act.

It showed 150,000 beneficiaries and low income families were not getting payments totalling $200m a year that they were entitled to.

Labour’s Carmel Sepuloni told The Nation, the culture that had developed in Work and Income offices under Mrs Tolley’s leadership was to blame.

“[WINZ staff are] withholding anything that people are entitled to – they are overstretched…

Tolley blames the underpayment on the complexities of the benefit system. Know what would be nice and simple? Universal Basic Income (UBI).

WINZ creating ‘two classes’ of Kiwis – Labour

Labour says a culture within WINZ which has “created two classes of New Zealanders” is preventing beneficiaries from getting what they’re entitled to.

But Ms Sepuloni said the system is not working.

“Some accessing these hardship grants are on a benefit – some are the working poor, struggling to survive.”

She said it was the “same old, same old from the Government”.

“The Government’s response has been to push people off benefits with no regard for whether or not they’ll in fact be better off.

“This is why we want to focus on upskilling and training, rather than just pushing people into the next minimum wage job that comes along.” …

Beneficiary advocates slam WINZ

Beneficiary groups have slammed Work and Income over a new report showing people missing out on $200 million a year in entitlements.

Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Alastair Russell said Work and Income case managers deliberately withhold information about benefit entitlements.

“There’s a whole raft of entitlements that people both in and out of work are entitled to and Work and Income treat them like state secrets.

“If you don’t ask, you don’t know. And you don’t know what you don’t know.” …

Beneficiaries are not getting the support that they are entitled to. NZ is beset by rising poverty, its associated diseases, homelessness, and suicide. I wonder if these facts could possibly be related?

28 comments on “Underpaying beneficiaries”

  1. So the amount beneficiaries are being *underpaid* is more than 6x higher than the supposed cost of benefit fraud?

    Actually, wouldn’t these payments and entitlements that beneficiaries are purposefully being kept away from amount to state fraud?

  2. Incognito 2

    That is an average under-payment of $1,333 for each of those beneficiaries but it is an absolute certainty that some were under-paid by less and some by much more. Has there been a breakdown of under-payments?

  3. Antoine 3

    I guess I sound like a broken record but I would like to know what Sepuloni proposes to do about this.

    In the articles quoted, she only specifies two actions that Labour would take:
    “Labour would take a look at the current benefit sanctions regime, saying the vast majority of sanctions were being applied to missed appointments and breakdowns in communication”
    “we want to focus on upskilling and training, rather than just pushing people into the next minimum wage job that comes along.”

    I guess I would have liked to hear her say something like “Labour will take action to make sure that beneficiaries receive their entitlements”.


  4. Robert Boesnach 4

    Seems pretty clear to me that this depriving people of their just entitlements (which incidently are probably used to bump up the income of those in power) also leads to them committing fraud and other financially related crimes just to survive.. so who is the real criminal then?

    • tracey 4.1

      Richardson started it by deliberately cutting the benefit to make it hard to live on. When you look at rent and house prices since… the idea was to force the “lazy” to get jobs. The cruelest part is she and other economists decided we coukd have low inflation or full employment but not both. By choosing inflation she and every govt since has punished people for not getting jobs that they have determined cannot exist.

      • greywarshark 4.1.1

        So right. this point should be repeated with loudspeakers. The gummint has engineered the present system of un- and under-employment and low wages and precarious hours. They have brought about the deformed economy and the increasing desperation of people trying to manage within it.

        It is a shrinking lid on government spending, shrinking taxes from those who pay out of their discretionary income, increasing impact on those who pay tax out of their basic income, and shrinking jobs because of preferring and increasing immigrants who force down the number of jobs available to NZ either because they work for less, or because they have a unique appeal at the higher end (‘we employ the best of what the world offers us when choosing professionals’).

        The government is lowering the ceiling on the ordinary person, and soon we
        won’t have breathing room, then they will charge us for air. We can’t afford basics now, and soon we will expire but who cares whether we commit suicide there are plenty more people in the world. Old people are valuable though and can’t be allowed to decide when they die because their pension is locked into the financial system the gummint operates and a whole new industry is being erected on our aged bones, elderly care (poorly paid, mostly by immigrants) and retirement homes. Can’t have the aged cows dying before they are milked out.

        This is globalisation where people and goods are cheap, prices are low, and the wealthy can live high. End of rant!

      • Richard Christie 4.1.2

        Exactly, Tracy.

      • The cruelest part is she and other economists decided we coukd have low inflation or full employment but not both.

        I’m going to have to point out that it was the economists in Treasury that told the National government how much was required to live. It was then the National government, acting purely on ideology, that then cut the benefits by 20%.

        Otherwise, spot on.

  5. silvertuatara 5

    Well, some sector had to pay for the loss of State Revenue previously generated by the sale of NZ State Owned Assets, and English’s and Key’s tax cuts that have disproportionately favored the rich.

    English has turned WINZ into nothing more than a hock-shop, where Winz staff, hold back entitlements from clients by not fully informing them of their rights and correct entitlements, and then by using morally bankrupted practices, provide “credit” back to a beneficiary in the form of a loan which needs to be paid back.

    The running costs of WINZ that should be used for beneficiaries, and shown in WINZ’s accounts as an expense are therefore way lower, and the new debt incurred by the WINZ client shows up on the WINZ books as an asset/outstanding liability to be paid back to WINZ.

    The so called “social investment” framework that Bill espouses is just a dangerous system that turns an individual into a spec of data, the end game being to reduce the overall cost of the scheme…in any way possible……..and if you have ever advocated on behalf of a WINZ client as I have, you will realise the amount of contempt some of the WINZ staff have towards their client’s.

    I would love to see an independent review of WINZ, to see whether any staff within WINZ are paid bonuses based on reducing beneficiary entitlement liability to WINZ or whether the internal culture has been cultivated to ensure that WINZ staff are made well aware that the dirty tricks of holding back entitlements from clients, through not fully informing the clients of their legal financial entitlements and rights, are expected in order to retain their employment, or as a means of conforming that may allow progression up the management chain within WINZ.

    Get prepared for Labour to be ruthlessly pursued by the likes of Heather du Plessis-Allan in articles like this in todays morning Herald website;


    I wonder if Heather will seek additional daily revenue through the NZ Herald in the two weeks leading up to the 2017 Election, with her employment reportedly having come to a sudden end with Mediaworks, through attacking Labour on a daily basis.

    The media are really aware that female voters are sick of old white male reporters and political commentators espousing that a woman (in this case Jacinda), is this, or that, is not experienced enough, is not ready for the role of PM and I think that the MSM will try and use female reporters/commentators to attack Jacinda/Labour.

    It will be interesting to see how present Heather will be within the Herald, and in other political commentating forums targeting Labour and Jacinda along the strict National Party election strategy lines within this next two weeks leading up to election day.

  6. Kay 6

    I’m currently getting underpaid on disability allowance and I know it. Once upon a time I would’ve gone through the motions of getting my ever increasing disability costs signed off by my GP and entered into the system by my assigned case manager, the same one I saw at every appointment and who knew me and my situation (taken away in the name of “efficiency”) And who didn’t have a rigged computer system and was able to use common sense discretion.

    These days, the system is deliberately designed to frustrate even the most clued up of us, and it is rigged. And of course, we are now all guilty of something as a default setting as far as WINZ are concerned so many of us prefer not to rock the boat, even to get money we are legally entitled to. There are very real fears of a “random” audit, and being accused of fraud. No doubt all part of the plan.

    And as I have posted here before, my dealings with WINZ have literally put me in hospital several times (which I suspect has cost the State much more than what they owe me) so it’s safer for me to avoid them and go without. For now I can just manage ok finacially until the rent skyrockets, but am well aware of those who can’t.

    Sepuloni is back to her political point scoring again. Not the first time either. While I’m pleased to see these reports showing up in the news, she’s proven many times during her time as Spokesperson she has no real concern towards beneficiaries, certainly none about our pay rates, and will never respond to any criticism made towards her (still waiting for a reply to my email from 4 years ago Carmen!)

    • tracey 6.1

      It is a national sport I am sorry to say and Labour has been complicit in the past. It will take alot of courage for the next govt to stand up, properly and apologetically for our vulnerable. Time will tell if it will be more than tinkering at the edges.

      Getting someone to have the guts to say “we chose low inflation so we have to have unemployed” will take a miracle.

  7. adam 7

    No offence but how many impacts have the AAAP run, and the media have just noticing this now?

    I stated here how many people I personally dealt with who were massively under paid. I was one of many who caught work and income out in this practice.

    Must be an election on, it appears the only time politicians actually give a damn.

  8. Carolyn_nth 8

    I’ve just watched the Panel on this weekend’s The Nation: video here.

    Sue Bradford’s critique of Labour on social welfare is important. She says the next government needs the green Party for issues like welfare reform.

    But, what is most extraordinary is to hear Patrick Gower’s massive contradictory statements. He’s critical of Labour for not being stronger on reforming welfare, while also saying it’s understandable they are weak on it because of what happened to Metiria Turei. But, Gower seems to forget he was one of the leading commentators baying for Turei’s blood, and pressuring her to resign.

    Gower’s also contradictory about David Seymour, but that’s another issue.

    Does Gower care at all about beneficiaries, or is it all just part of The Game to him- – something he can stir the pot about, and incite angst and anger?

  9. Michael 9

    There’ll be no end to this if Labour wins the Game of Thrones on 23 September, which is why I’m not voting for it. Labour’s “welfare policy”, issued late last Friday, is a sick joke and contains nothing to reassure anyone that it would clean up the welfare bureaucracy; among other considerations, doing so would disturb the sensitivities of the PSA, of whose ranks many of the worst bureaucratic bullies are comprised. Labour simply hasn’t got the guts for such a fight. Another consideration is that providing both the working and the non-working with entitlements already belong to them by current law (grossly unjust as it is), costs money that Labour has already decreed it won’t make available. So Labour is merely crying crocodile tears once more.

  10. Darth smith 10

    6 years is legal limit that’s 1.2 billion owed where is national on this hole

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