Bennett's reaction is 'disappointing'

23:58, Mar 25 2014

Minister of Social Development Paula Bennett has "missed the point" about a Nelson woman's campaign to fight for beneficiaries.

Writer Sarah Wilson has been sharing her dealings with Work and Income to inspire other beneficiaries to tell their stories about a policy she called "inhumane".

The Nelson Mail contacted Paula Bennett's office yesterday for comment on Ms Wilson's campaign.

Ms Bennett said Work and Income had apologised to Ms Wilson for its mistakes and was "proactively trying to help her".

"Work and Income case managers meet with more than 30,000 beneficiaries a week. Unfortunately they don't get things right every time but I expect them to fix any mistakes and take responsibility for them, which they have done in this case."

Ms Bennett said the welfare reforms were about "focusing on what people can do and providing the right support for them to work where they can so they are not reliant on welfare which costs this country $22 million a day".


She added that when Ms Wilson's health improved to the extent she could undertake paid work, she would "get the support necessary to help her get work".

Ms Wilson said she found Ms Bennett's response "very disappointing".

"She clearly has missed the point, which is that too many mistakes are being made, and no-one is taking responsibility for them - certainly not the Ministry of Social Development."

Ms Wilson had received almost 100 emails since she started asking for people's stories which she would collate and pass on to Nelson Labour MP Maryan Street who said this would be a "significant" election issue for Labour.

Ms Wilson had been told further hundreds of stories through the comment section on her website as well as on the previous Nelson Mail stories.

"The story I am hearing over and over again is how stressful it is to deal with Work and Income. How people are terrified to visit their local offices, because they know they will be mistreated. How they receive different advice from different Work and Income employees, which results in having to fill out multiple forms, make multiple visits, bring in multiple types of unneeded documentation. They feel hounded. They feel abused."

She said these are "serious allegations of misconduct".