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Kotahitanga - Helping New Zealanders - Making things better for our clients

05 December 2018.

Better letters project wins plain English award

Award-winning Better Letters team members Louise Grace-Pickering and Karen Lalor.

Our efforts to make people’s contact with us a more positive experience and to bring warmth and simplicity to the way we communicate with our clients has been recognised in the Plain English Awards.

Our Better Letters project team recently won the Plain English Champion – Best Individual or Organisation and the Best Plain English Sentence Transformation at the Plain English Awards held in Wellington.

This project aligns with our strategic shift – Mana manaaki – a positive experience every time.

Each year we send out nearly six million letters to 1.5 million people. What we say in each of these letters has a very real impact on the lives of the people they go to.

Our letters go to people from all walks of life. They’ve come to us for help; they’re often stressed, unwell and struggling to cope. Many have poor literacy or a limited understanding of English. They want hope, but our letters put up a wall of bureaucracy. Our language was difficult, it was hard to know what you had to do, and there was an underlying sense of mistrust. Things had to change – and this brought about the Better Letters Project.

In announcing the award, the Plain English Awards judges said: “This initiative is representative of the nitty gritty, down and dirty, battlefield for plain language. They are making appreciable change at scale. And making a difference in the lives of people in vulnerable circumstances… Keep going and spread the word! Imagine what New Zealand’s public service might look like in every government department took this approach?”

We still have a long way to go reviewing all the letters in our system but this work has already made a huge impact.

Caption: Award-winning Better Letters team members Louise Grace-Pickering and Karen Lalor.

Helping people understand what they can get

eligibility app screenshot

More than 160,000 people have used the new online eligibility guide which helps all New Zealanders find out what help they may be able to get from MSD.

Some people may be eligible for extra help, like the Accommodation Supplement, Disability Allowance or Temporary Additional Support.

The guide is a great first step to understanding what may be available and how to access it.

The 'Check What You Might Get' guide was launched in late June as part of our effort to strengthen our service culture and to ensure people receive Mana Manaaki – a positive experience every time.

The guide takes people through a series of simple questions about their circumstances, their family, children, income, health, expenses and living situation.

Once they have answered all the questions they’ll get a list of the services they may be able to get, along with an estimate of how much they might qualify for and how to apply.

The guide is very user-friendly and will work on any computer or mobile device. It does not keep any of the information that is entered

For more information or to access the guide go to http://check.msd.govt.nz

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