WINZ regrets privacy breach

KELLY DENNETT
Last updated 05:00 21/02/2014

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Work and Income New Zealand has admitted its privacy standards were not up to scratch when a beneficiary was mistakenly given a stranger's medical certificate.

Massey resident Louise Hill, 49, attends regular appointments at Westgate Community Link as part of her benefit obligations.

It was there on January 31 that Ms Hill was given a medical certificate belonging to someone else by her case worker.

"I had given her a medical certificate a week ago and she sent it back to me to get corrected because it had the wrong address on it," she says.

"I got all these papers given back to me, she gave me my medical certificate and someone else's. I didn't even realise, I put it in my filing case and when I got home I saw it was someone else's."

The certificate contained a full name, contact details and information about the medical condition of a stranger.

"It looked like it was supplied by their GP. I just looked at it and thought that doesn't even belong to me."

She returned the certificate to a receptionist the following week who exdpressed concern but Ms Hill says they failed to get in touch again.

WINZ regional director Blair McKenzie says they've apologised to Ms Hill and the person whose information was mishandled.

"Work and income takes the protection of private information very seriously. In this case our standards have not been met," he says.

"A staff member incorrectly included a person's medical certificate with papers relating to another client. It was a paper-handling error and we sincerely regret the mistake."

He says staff members have been given refresher trainings to prevent the loss and mishandling of information.

But he did not comment on whether disciplinary action was taken against the staff member.

Ms Hill says the incident has left her concerned.

"If she can give me someone else's papers I'm wondering if she's going to give mine to someone else."

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