These are the kinds of questions we are often asked. If you live in Mt Albert or the surrounding area you can phone us on 09 908 9030 to make an appointment to talk about your questions. If you don’t live in the area, we can help you by phone or email, or tell you who you could see closer to where you are.
Q Several things have gone wrong lately, and I need help. I have never been on a benefit before, and I feel daunted. Can you help me understand what assistance I could get and how to go about it?
A You are welcome to phone us. We will ask you some questions, then advise you what you need to apply for and how to apply. If you have difficulty completing the forms, we can help with that too.
Q I don’t understand how my benefit / allowance is made up. Can you explain the different parts and tell me if I am on the right benefit, or if I should apply for something else?
A If you phone us to make an appointment, and bring with you a
breakdown of your benefit, we can explain it to you. If you haven’t got a breakdown, phone the WINZ call centre on 0800 559 009 and ask for this, if you feel able. We can check that you are receiving what you are eligible for, or attend an appointment with you at Work and Income (WINZ).
Q I am struggling to pay for food, school uniforms, car repairs, doctor’s bills and other essentials. I don’t know what to do. Can you help me?
A If you are on a benefit (e.g. Unemployment, Sickness, Sole Parent Support, Supported Living payment or NZ-Super) or working on a low income, you can apply for ‘Extra Assistance’.
We can check to see if you are getting all the help you can. All extra assistance (except Unsupported Child’s Benefit and Child Disability Allowance) is income and asset tested. Phone the WINZ call centre (0800 559 009) and ask what the cut-off points are, or phone or email us to find out about them. We are up to date with what is available.
‘Extra Assistance’ refers to help like the Special Needs Grants (SNG) and usually you don’t have to pay it back. These are different from ‘Advances’, which WINZ takes out of your future benefits, but at an interest-free low rate.
A ‘Disability Allowance’ helps pay for any medical costs associated with a medical condition that is ongoing for six months or more, such as asthma, high blood pressure, etc., not necessarily a major illness. In addition to medical costs, such as doctor visits and medication, the allowance can contribute to costs of gardening, power etc.
An ‘Accommodation Supplement’ is a weekly payment to help you with your rent, board or the cost of owning a home.
‘Temporary Additional Support’ (TAS) is an extra payment that may be paid after taking into account your income, accommodation and other costs, including hire purchases (under some conditions). This can be paid for up to 13 weeks. After nine weeks you are sent a re-application form to complete and return to WINZ to see if you are still eligible. If you are still eligible and return the re-application before the 13 weeks is up, the payment does not stop.
To apply for TAS initially, either you or your advocate need to phone the Work and Income Call centre on 0800 559 009 to ask for a complete breakdown of your benefit, including what you have available in Special Needs Grants (SNG) and Advance Entitlements, and also what is being taken out of your benefit. We will ask you about your current situation, and suggest other assistance you can apply for. If you are eligible for SNG we might suggest or help you apply for a food grant.
If you have some advance entitlement available, always remember to get a quote for what you want to buy and make an appointment at WINZ to apply. Do not pay for it first, because you will not be reimbursed.
Even if you have exceeded your advance entitlement within a 12 month period, discretion can still be used if your need is deemed essential. (Old debts are not included in the annual entitlement for advances.)
For more information please phone BAMA on 09 908 9030 or WINZ on 0800 559 009. We can also give you contact details for other helping agencies, such as a food bank, or a budget adviser who could help you sort out your finances.
Q We came to this country a few years ago. We have been managing OK, but now our circumstances have changed and we are struggling. Is there any help we can get?
A Many of the people we see have come from other countries and cultures. We have built up a good understanding of what help is available. The criteria for eligibility are often misunderstood, but we can assess your situation and guide you to get any help you are eligible for.
Q I’m stressed and not coping well at the moment. Can you come with me to Work and Income, because I’m not confident I can handle a meeting with them right now?
A Yes. We can help you by acting as your advocate. We can support you and build your confidence to handle these situations in the future. If you live in Mt Albert or the surrounding area you would need to phone us to make an appointment to sign an authorisation form, so we can act on your behalf. If you don’t live in Mt Albert or the surrounding area, we can put you in contact with an advocate in your area.
Q I don’t agree with the decision WINZ has made about my benefit. What can I do?
A You have the right to have any decision made about your benefits reviewed, whether it is a verbal decision told to you by your case manager or a decision sent to you in writing. It is always advisable to speak to an advocate in the first instance, as there may be a clear explanation for the decision.
Different types of review processes apply in different circumstances.
If you applied for a Supported Living Payment (SLP) and were declined, you can apply in writing for a Medical Appeals Board (MAB) hearing. This is a separate process from other types of benefits. The MAB can also consider medical questions associated with other benefits.
For other types of benefits, if, after speaking to an advocate, you still disagree about your benefits decision, you can request a ‘Review of Decision’ (ROD) by the Benefits Review Committee, and explain in writing why you don’t agree with the decision made. We can help you do this. Make and keep a copy before sending the ROD request to the service centre manager of your Work and Income branch, in case it gets lost in the system.
The ROD process begins with the WINZ service centre manager taking a fresh look at the decision made. Whether they find an error, and correct it, or decide that the original decision was correct, they will write to advise you. If the original decision is confirmed, your case will be sent to a Benefit Review Hearing automatically. You will be sent a report outlining Work and Income’s reason to uphold their decision and also your reasons for disagreeing. A date for the hearing will be arranged with you.
If you need help with any part of this process, please phone us to discuss. If you live in Mt Albert or the surrounding area, our advocate may be able to attend the hearing with you.
If the decision is still not in your favour, after the ROD hearing, you can take your case to the Social Security Appeal Authority (SSAA).
If the decision is not in your favour after a Medical Appeals Board hearing, you can take the matter to the High Court, but this is expensive.
If you have been ‘sanctioned’ for not meeting certain conditions of benefits, you can dispute this sanction within five working days of notification by WINZ. You must notify WINZ of your dispute in writing, and they will consider your reasons for disagreeing, and also their original decision to apply a sanction, within five working days. This is a faster process than the ROD. However, whether or not you dispute a sanction using this shorter process, you can still apply for a ROD hearing as well. NB The Supported Living Payment is not sanctioned, but it can be cancelled if you do not return your annual review or medical (if required) on time.
Q I think I might have been paid too much for my benefit, but I don’t have any money to pay it back. How can I sort this out?
A Good on you for checking your payments. If you bring us your benefit breakdown, or email it to us and tell us how much is going into your bank account, we can check your calculations, and also your benefits to make sure you are receiving the correct ones. If you have been paid too much, we can advise you how to negotiate an affordable repayment schedule.
Q I am worried about the changes to the Welfare System that are coming up. How can I find out how these will affect me?
A You are not alone; many beneficiaries are worried. Feel free to phone us to have a chat, or look at our website from time to time. We will update these FAQs from time to time to explain changes. There is a huge push to get people off benefits and out to work. As changes happen, we can help you to understand how they work, how they affect you, and how you can continue to care for those who are dependent on you.
Q I am being investigated. What is going to happen?
A You are welcome to phone us to discuss your situation. It is a good idea to seek advice before you meet an investigator, so that you know what your rights are, what the process is and what information you are going to need.
Q I have been trespassed from Work and Income. What do I do now?
A You will need to find a trusted person or a Beneficiaries’ Advocate to act on your behalf, because you cannot go near or into any Work and Income Office. Whoever you choose will need to sign an agent form or an authorisation form showing that you both agree that this person will act on your behalf. Make sure you keep a copy before you send the original to your Work and Income office to put on your file.