Toxic Work & Income culture the real crime

Rising numbers of assaults on Work & Income staff are proof that the Government’s approach to welfare is fatally flawed.

 “Instead of blaming beneficiaries for ‘copycat’ assaults as Associate Social Development Minister Jo Goodhew does, National should be looking at the real reasons more than 550 people are now trespassed from Work & Income offices,” says Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Sue Bradford.

 “If Ms Goodhew really believes what she is saying, she is demonstrating a disturbing ignorance about what’s really happening inside her own department.

 “National’s welfare reforms have thrown due process and fair procedure out the window, creating a deliberately toxic environment aimed at keeping as many people out of the benefit system as possible.

 “All too often Work & Income staff refuse to allow any challenge to their decisions, even when everyone has a legal right to a review of any decision made about their situation.

 “When someone is denied a food grant or benefit for no good reason, their own and their family’s wellbeing are under immediate threat.

 “When they are then refused any right of appeal, frustration can boil over.

 “The case manager immediately calls in security and yet another person may be trespassed.

 “At the moment Auckland Action Against Poverty has five appeals with the Social Security Appeal Authority and two at review involving requests for food grants that have been denied, involving very low sums, sometimes for very large families.

 “When people are hungry and desperate to feed themselves and their children they easily become distressed and angry.

 “Instead of employing more security guards and trespassing hundreds more beneficiaries from the department on which they depend for survival, Government should ensure that:

 o   Individuals and families in hunger and homelessness should be given the assistance to which they are entitled, instead of facing a culture of denial

o   All people approaching Work and Income for help should be told they have a right to appeal decisions, and given the necessary information to help them do this

o   A new, much fairer review and appeal process should be established

 “The new Social Security Bill due out later this year will be a prime opportunity for changes to be made.

 “Continuing with the status quo should not be an option for any Government which has a shred of humanity to its name.