‘Many are finding it difficult to access the assistance available to them at Work and Income,’ Wellington Catholic Social Services Director Lesley Hooper recently told a Select Committee considering the Social Security Legislation Rewrite Bill.
‘In all the decisions you are making about this legislation, we ask that you consider: Is this helping or hindering people in receiving assistance from Work and Income?’ Lesley Hooper asked.
Lesley, together with Teresa Homan of Hutt Valley Benefit Education Service Trust and Lisa Beech of Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand, shared with the Social Services Select Committee experiences from the Upper Hutt Benefit Impact held at St Joseph’s parish hall in May.
Lesley explained the Benefit Impact was an initiative of the Archdiocese in response to the call of Pope Francis to reach out to people experiencing poverty, during this Jubilee Year of Mercy. ‘Helping people to receive the assistance available to them is one way of ensuring our brothers and sisters live in dignity.’
Teresa shared some of the difficulties people had who were receiving disability and child disability allowances. ‘We found there were many medical needs that were pushing people into material hardship.’
In two cases, intervention at the Benefit Impact resulted in increases in weekly income of $42.39 and $51.47 a week. ‘This is a substantial amount that makes a significant difference to the wellbeing of those families.’
Lisa spoke about the transition from prison to the community, which was another concern arising from the Benefit Impact event. ‘It is of benefit to us all as a community that former offenders are supported, and not left without income at such a crucial time in their steps to a new life.’
The Social Services Select Committee is hearing submissions on the rewrite of Social Security legislation, with its report due back in Parliament in September.