Everyone who interacts with the welfare system should have access to the correct information and advice. Everyone who engages with welfare services should fully understand their rights.

70 percent of the people who contributed to our survey experienced a lack of transparency and access to information, particularly about their rights.

“I've never really been told in a full extent of what I'm eligible for. It's like its a big secret, and you have to dig really deep to find out information.”

  • Melodie, Sole Parent, Christchurch

“I cannot get them to give me a copy of my records or even acknowledge my written requests. I’ve been requesting them in writing for about three years now. I want to see my file.”

  • Debra, Disability Allowance, Auckland

“The culture at Work and Income is unpleasant overall. Having to navigate past the security, stand in a line for long periods of time and being talked to like I'm dumb. Having sanctions are destructive, benefit levels are too low, the system is complex and people don't always get what they are entitled to.”

  • Lesley, Social Worker, New Plymouth

“I have found the system confusing and arbitrary - what paperwork is required when, what evidence needs to be shown, how to make it legitimate, when an appointment is needed or not, what the rules are about having a case manager vs. seeing a random person every time.”

  • Abigael, 41, Auckland

Having a good experience or not seems to fall down to individual case workers or whether or not there is a support person or advocate. This should not be the case.

“Empathy is a real issue. Since I've been working I have advocated for people on WINZ entitlements. There needs to be cultural awareness of what empathy is and case workers need to be trained in this. Advocates can easily point to the best case workers in each centre. Perhaps they need consumer feedback and awards to make their roles more incentivised on service rather than getting people off the benefit. I think ethically a case worker and a work broker need to be separate people and have no entwining of what is provided for. I think that penalties should be made for case workers who withhold entitlements. There definitely needs to be an audit of accuracy for clients to know that their case worker is working for them.”

  • Kirstin, Support Worker, Christchurch

“I have a support person who deals with WINZ on my behalf. I had a stroke and for me WINZ was not a place I wanted to be. I knew I would be anxious, agitated, it was so over my head having a brain injury, very intimidating, I just needed not to be there. If it wasn't for my support person I would probably be homeless.”

  • Debra, Levin

“When my doctor decided I should be on supported living, she filled out appropriate forms, but WINZ declined the certificates. She rang them up in front of me and they asked her, ‘What are your medical qualifications?’ She went in to bat for me, and eventually I was moved onto the supported living. But I’m not sure I would have been if my doctor didn’t call.”

  • Elizabeth, Supported Living, Christchurch