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Ministry refutes advocacy service claims

03 May 2017.

We’re here to help New Zealanders.

Media coverage today in the NZ Herald details allegations by Auckland Action Against Poverty that misrepresent the efforts of Work and Income staff every day to help New Zealanders get through hard times, and support them to find employment.

Our people come to work every day to help others. They don’t do this because they have a political agenda, or to seek public attention. They do it because they get personal and professional satisfaction from doing what they can for people in need.

They deserve respect for that.

In the interests of the New Zealand public understanding the Ministry’s position on AAAP’s ‘Impact Events’ the comment provided to the NZ Herald is below.

To be attributed to Eru Lyndon, Regional Commissioner- Auckland, Ministry of Social Development:

AAAP have taken an approach where they encourage people from across Auckland to come to the Clendon office on a Friday morning despite the fact that many are resident in areas serviced by other offices. We have engaged with AAAP and have worked with them to make sure their regular activities do not interfere with our normal service at Clendon service centre. While they may prefer that we take further steps to organise our services and staff around their activity, we have an obligation to all of our clients not just those that AAAP advocate for.

For many months we have endeavoured to see every person presenting at Clendon with AAAP. This has not been without its challenges and it’s just as important that we can continue to deliver our service to all clients with minimal disruption.

Based on operational factors including resources and service centre space we have a current agreement to respond to 65 additional clients supported by AAAP, we reserve the right to review that arrangement if it causes issues for staff and clients.

We are not prepared to further compromise our service standards i.e. cut appoint times down from the standard 30 minutes to be able to see more people. Each and every person we work with has the right to have our full attention and be able to discuss their situation fully.

We have been clear with AAAP that the maximum additional number of the clients we will see with AAAP on a Friday in Clendon is 65. At that level we will do our best to interview and meet with all clients presenting at the site. It is disappointing that they are now expecting that we accommodate approximately 100 additional people. We are also concerned for those clients that are encouraged to travel outside of their area only to be referred to another service centre because the numbers exceed 65.

We have arranged regular debriefs for AAAP with a Manager so we can address situations at the time and not continue to have historical issues raised. We are mindful that both ourselves and AAAP would have client interests at heart so we would prefer to work through and resolve issues together. It is disappointing that AAAP have taken this discussion to the media.

At the end of the day this is about ensuring people get the help that they need. We have worked hard to make this happen alongside AAAP, but our efforts need to be cooperative, with commitment on both sides.

In response to your specific questions:

Does MSD provide 6 extra staff at Clendon and 4 extra staff in Manurewa WINZ office when AAAP host their advocacy service?

Our staff work hard to meet the needs of clients who present at the site. We provide six additional staff to the Clendon site on Fridays, so that we can respond to the additional 65 clients from around the Region that visit this site with support from AAAP, while continuing to provide a service to those Clendon clients who have scheduled appointments or emergency needs.

Will they provide additional staff to the Queen St office for the AAAP service on Thursday?

We will not be reallocating additional staff to any of our other sites, including Queen Street and will continue to assess the needs of clients as they present at our sites. For example, any Queen Street client who presents with an immediate need will be booked for an emergency appointment. Those who do not have an immediate need will be booked for a later appointment as appropriate. Clients for other sites who come into the Queen Street site with AAAP support will be referred to their home site for an appointment as appropriate i.e. if a client has an immediate need, they will be referred for an emergency appointment at their home site.

Why/why not?

We carry out over 11,000 interviews per week, across 33 sites, in the Auckland Region.

We are not able to arrange for staff to move offices where AAAP conduct activities without impacting our ability to deliver services to the great majority of clients that AAAP does not represent. Moving a case manager from their home site to assist with any additional work that AAAP activities create, reduces our capacity to see up to 10 clients per day in their home site.

Does MSD support the advocacy work that AAAP does?

MSD supports the right of every client to seek advocacy and have an advocate of their choice present during any interaction with us.

Why do WINZ clients need to go to their homesite office?

In addition to the duty we have to support all of our clients, we want to reduce any additional costs or impact that coming into our site has on clients. While we have a number of channels that clients can engage with us through, such as online and through the contact centre, if a client needs to visit one of our sites, we want to reduce any additional costs that this may cause so ask that they visit the site closest to their home.

We also encourage clients to develop constructive relationships with local case managers.

Why can't advocates approach people in the waiting area or reception?

We have received comments of concern from clients who have had unwanted approaches from AAAP and we do not feel that it is appropriate that when a client is in our office already engaging with us, that they should feel pressured to engage with AAAP.

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