Saturday, January 15, 2011
Mike Butler: WINZ and food bank queues
Christmas-New Year payment policy was succinctly stated in a message to anyone phoning Work and Income in December. The department made payments due on Tuesday, December 28, available on Friday, December 24, those due on Wednesday, December 29 were available on Saturday December 25 (via ATM). Payments due on Tuesday, January 4, were available on Friday, December 31, and those due on Wednesday, January 5, were available on Saturday, January 1.
Why does Work and Income do this? With Christmas and New Year falling on weekends this year, the only payments affected would be those on Tuesdays, and these would have been delayed only one day. Besides, if funds could be made available on Christmas Day, if the department was overly concerned about income for some benefit recipients being one day late, funds could have been made available on the Tuesdays.
Besides the problem of no income for some from December 31 to January 10, what do you think happens to that extra payment the day before Christmas in the high-demand period for money for Christmas gifts, booze, food, and Boxing Day sales? Is it saved for careful use during the following week or is it spent? What do you think?
When food banks opened on Monday, January 10, after the holiday period, the situation was predictable. A report in the Hawke’s Bay Today said it all. “A Napier food bank re-opened this week to empty cupboards, queues, and threats from at least one desperate client.” It is the same story every year.
How many of those who received a double benefit payment in the week before Christmas went to Work and Income in the first week of January seeking help to pay the rent, or seeking a food grant? How many went to the food bank?
Since my main business is accommodation, I advise tenants every year of the forthcoming problem and offer the opportunity of earlier rent payments to head off a cash crisis.
I have written to a minister of social development without response.
at 1:36 PM