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Steve Nicoll



Last week several media producers wanted to talk to me. They wanted to know why we wrote an article on how to rip WINZ off. Problem is, we didn’t.

We wrote an article on benefits and entitlements that students, beneficiaries and people on a low income can access through Work and Income and StudyLink. My headline was chosen for it’s saliency and didn’t portray the article correctly – in any case WINZ is the former name for Work and Income. It was later called the Department of Work and Income, and now simply Work and Income.
There was no intention to mislead regarding what assistance low income people can get through Work and Income, but there was an intention to advise what entitlements and assistance they can get – and as most of that is online at the website of the Ministry of Social Development, it’s nothing new.
The only thing that could be seen to be misleading was the insinuation that some could get some free clothes solely for a job interview. Job interviews should lead to a job. While that was not clear in the opening part of the paragraph, when the writer wrote, “get $125 worth of clothes and get the rest either before the next interview or when you start work”, the intention was of securing a second interview for a job or starting work.
Wellington Regional Manager Mike Byant has said that while a lot of the information in our article is right, it was taken out of context.
He’s right. For example, if you want your power bill paid because you think you have an immediate and essential need, you actually need a disconnection notice, something we didn’t disclose. Yet you won’t find that bit of information on any policy or legislation.
In addition to our article a fortnight ago, we thought we’d briefly advise of other entitlements you can get through Work and Income. You can get up to $1000 for glasses, hearing aids, or contact lenses. If you have a fire or burglary, are uninsured, and have a low income and bank balance, you could get up to $1000 for essential items such as fridges and washing machines. If you need to attend a funeral, you can apply for expenses of up to $200 and even koha costs – and if you are stranded, provided you meet the criteria you could walk into your nearest Work and Income office and apply for travel costs of up to $200 to get home. If you have a birthmark you want to remove, and a registered medical practitioner certifies that it is disfiguring, you may be able to get a $300 grant towards laser therapy removal. If you need to have a telephone installed, you may be advanced $200, but you’ll have to pay connection fees. Many were surprised as to what they could apply for through Work and Income and StudyLink. We got many letters. Here’s a letter from Hana, who’s on the Domestic Purposes Benefit.
I am a young single parent on the DPB, but I also study full time and will end up in a government job. In the four years that I have been on the DPB I have not known about dental care, medical care or eye care grants, all of which have been needed at one time or another, yes I am guilty of not asking, but I have never heard these mentioned, and yet now I know they are there. I have struggled to pay bills, but have not known that there are grants available to help me. I have paid bills and then lived on bread and noodles for the week because I haven’t known about food grants.
Well done in getting this article out there, no one on a benefit really enjoys being there and for many you will have made life just a little easier. It is people like Hana whom we had in mind with this piece.
Work and Income and StudyLink need to advise people of their entitlements and, if Hana’s situation is not an isolated incident, it is not doing so. It is not easy living on a student allowance, low income or benefit, less so if you don’t know what additional assistance you can be eligible for. Salient is doing some people a service in advising low income people of their entitlements.