Poverty action group aims to help beneficiaries get full due

DANYA LEVY
Last updated 05:00 02/12/2012

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Work and Income is bracing for a three-day action outside its Onehunga branch as beneficiary advocates set up shop in a bid to help up to 300 local welfare recipients get help they say they're missing out on.

Auckland Action Against Poverty (AAAP) is running what is known as an "impact" outside the office from December 10 to 12.

Spokeswoman Sarah Thompson says experienced advocates from around the northern region will set up trestle tables and chairs and assess the needs and current assistance being given to local beneficiaries and low-paid workers.

AAAP expects to find many who are not receiving additional support that beneficiaries are often not informed of, she says.

"Work and Income have a culture of denying people their full entitlements so this impact aims to get people the financial support that is rightfully theirs."

Beneficiaries often miss out on temporary additional support and the disability allowance, Thompson says.

They may also need advance payments for rent and bond, because of increasing overcrowding and a lack of Housing New Zealand homes.

"We expect to find many people in need of food grants as a result of the increase in unemployment and poverty."

By working with beneficiaries, AAAP expected to get around government requirements that beneficiaries get budgeting assistance if they have already had two hardship payments, she says.

"Beneficiaries don't have a budgeting problem, they have a problem of insufficient funds with benefit payments too low."

The advocates also have quotes for essential items beneficiaries can get assistance towards such as washing machines and fridges.

The impact was being held this month because the lead-up to Christmas can be a stressful financial time, Thompson says.

Work and Income regional commissioner Isabel Evans says AAAP has promised not to disrupt its services at the Onehunga branch.

"We actively monitor staffing requirements at all sites, and we are confident we will be able to deal with the anticipated increase in activity."

Work and Income tries to make sure people know about the types of assistance they are eligible for, she says.

Information about hardship assistance and other benefits is in brochures and on its website, and people could call its 0800 line. This is on top of 33,000 face-to-face meetings case managers conduct every week.

On December 11, a political rally will be held at lunchtime featuring speakers from Labour, the Greens and the Mana Party.

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