Study finds that many beneficiaries don’t know they can challenge cuts, cuts in payments
Sarah Robson for RNZ
Most beneficiaries who are sanctioned by the Department of Social Development find themselves in additional difficulties, but many of them are unaware that they can challenge the decision – and that there is a good chance that it will be. canceled.
New research from the Christchurch-based beneficiary counseling service has found that some people do not understand why their payments have been reduced or what they need to do to avoid it.
Beneficiaries may have their payments reduced or stopped altogether if they do not meet their obligations, such as going to appointments, looking for work or taking a drug test.
The researchers interviewed around 250 beneficiaries about their experiences and conducted more detailed interviews with around 30 respondents.
They found that when people were punished, many were deprived of everything they needed, such as food, electricity, and medicine.
In addition to this, they also reported feeling continued anxiety about their financial situation.
Tavia Moore, attorney for the beneficiary counseling service, said some had to seek help from extended family or food banks, or even take out loans.
“We have had clients who have explained that they have to go and ask friends and family for food for their children, which I think often causes embarrassment. They don’t want to be. seen as not supporting their families, ”she said. .
Research found that many participants were sanctioned because of administrative errors or because they did not have a clear understanding of the obligations associated with their performance.
“We’ve seen a lot of misunderstanding or lack of communication, and a lot of misunderstanding, both with the department and with clients,” Moore said.
“Many of them did not necessarily understand their obligations or did not know them or did not understand the sanctions and what was required around those sanctions.”
Recipients who are sanctioned can request a review – but research has found that many people don’t know they can, or simply choose not to.
But of the 40% of people questioned who revised their sanctions, the majority had them canceled.
“While this may suggest that the review process is working successfully to ensure that those who have been improperly sanctioned can see their well-being restored, it also suggests, as the Expert Advisory Group report on welfare, that the initial process of identifying breaches of obligations and enforcing sanctions in New Zealand is malfunctioning, “the report said.