This page is a work in progress. It is intended to be a resource of information about advocacy agencies, complaints procedures, and other avenues you can take if you are experiencing issues with Work and Income New Zealand.
Thank you to everyone who helped put together this information. Further links and suggestions are welcome; please feel free to email them.
Before you read on – remember one thing. You are not alone. One of the main reasons I started Writehanded was to talk about the issues I experienced as an ill beneficiary. I have had many messages discussing the same. It is well known that they can be difficult to work with. Seeking support is logical and smart.
In their Service Charter, WINZ promise they will:
- give you prompt and efficient service
- let you know about our services and how we can help
- give you information that is correct and easy to understand
- give you the assistance you are entitled to
- explain your rights and obligations
- explain why we ask you to do certain things
- listen carefully so we understand what you are telling us
- be understanding and caring about your needs
- be respectful, friendly and professional in the way we serve you
- tell you who may be able to help if we can’t.
Unfortunately, these things don’t always happen. So here’s some information that may help you proceed.
There are some additional forms of assistance not listed there, targeted at specific situations (eg a subsidy for people with disabilities receiving residential support services, a ‘transfer allowance’ for the stand-down period between Student Allowance and Jobseekers Support, an allowance for former Housing New Zealand clients who were receiving Tenure Protection Allowance but moved or their house was sold).
Many of the listed forms of assistance do not require you to be receiving a main benefit to be eligible. In addition to that, although there is a limit to how much you may receive in a year for (for example) Special Needs Grant for food, the case manager does have discretion to go above this limit if you need it.
- Making a complaint – this is really important, though it can be arduous. There are support organisations who can help.
- Review of decision (note the slightly different process for a review on medical grounds)
- Appointing an agent – this is about having a support person who can act for you if you’re having trouble talking to WINZ or dealing with all the paperwork
What WINZ might help with
- You can get a Disability Allowance of up to $61.69 a week to help with health and disability costs such as GP visits, counselling, transport, and food. You don’t have to be on a benefit to get a Disability Allowance
- Eye test and glasses – You might be able to get financial help if you need eye tests and glasses.
- Long-acting reversible contraception
- Full list of health and disability assistances
- Urgent help ie food grants, help with whiteware or bond etc
- Please note this is not a complete list – have a look on their website for more information
Tips and Suggestions
When submitting documents like medical certificates or receipts, ask the receptionist to stamp, date, sign, and photocopy them. (It’s up to you whether to keep the photocopied version or the originals.) Keep your copies in a folder at home. This way you have proof that they received the documents and when.
If they say you haven’t supplied them something that you have (ie they’ve misfiled or misplaced it), you can lodge a Privacy Act complaint (failure to properly store personal information).
If possible, take someone with you as emotional support and to advocate on your behalf – someone you trust to stay calm. Even if you don’t need them to say anything, they can witness what goes on, and it’ll help you feel like you’re not in a “you against them” situation. Especially if you want to lay a complaint later on, it won’t just be your word against theirs. You may also consider appointing an agent to act on your behalf.
When requesting a review of decision, give as much information as possible around what you gave them and what they gave you (and what they didn’t give you). Ask them to provide evidence that they followed correct procedure for advising you of their decisions. For types of assistance like Disability Allowance, Temporary Additional Support, etc, you can request to have arrears paid back to the date you first became eligible.
Advisories (links lead to contact details and extra resources)
- Citizens’ Advice Bureau
- Beneficiaries and Unwaged Workers Trust (Nelson)
- Benefit Rights Service (Wellington)
- Beneficiaries Advocacy Information Service
- Benefit advice by region
- Auckland Action Against Poverty (Auckland)
- Beneficiaries Advocacy Mount Albert (Auckland). BAMA doesn’t have a website – the ofﬁce is based at St Luke’s Anglican Church, 704 New North Rd, Mt Albert. They are part time. You can leave a message for BAMA by phone or email and the Advocate will arrange an appointment with you. PHONE: 908 903 EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Health and Disability Advocates (national list)
Taking a complaint further
The groups above can help you take a complaint further. If you have made a formal complaint about WINZ – or even if you have not, you can write a letter or an email about your experiences to the following offices.
- The Ombudsman -“The Ombudsman helps the community in its dealings with government agencies.We handle complaints against government agencies and undertake investigations and inspections. We also encourage good administration by giving feedback and training to agencies. We will initiate our own investigations where we see the need.Independent and impartial, we focus on fairness for all.”
- Your local MP (link to list of current MPs)
- You can also send a copy of your letter to your local newspaper office. The reality is, the more public the complaint is, the more likely it is to be taken seriously. Talking to the media can be scary, but please consider that your speaking out will give others courage to do the same. The louder we are, the less WINZ will be able to get away with malpractice and mistreatment.