North Shore benefit advice service being closed; denial from Paula Bennett

Press Release – New Zealand Labour Party
Despite all her talk about ‘wrapping’ support around New Zealand’s most vulnerable Paula Bennett has allowed a key information and advice service to fall over after 22 years in operation, Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says.

“The Benefit Information and Advocacy Service based on the North Shore fields roughly 3,000 phone calls from around the country every year, as well as dealing with the face to face needs of people from across Auckland. It provides advice to people who don’t know how to access help, and steps in when Work and Income gets it wrong.

“Employing just 1.5 full time staff the service does vital work, with Work and Income even referring clients to it because of the help and support it provides.

“Ironically the government agency was only recently looking to refer an entire group of clients to the service, not realising its own minister was on the cusp of forcing the service to shut its doors by putting an end to most of its funding.

“Paula Bennett has seen fit to change the kinds of services that MSD provides support to. Now, if you do advocacy work, she won’t be sending a cent of money your way

“Clearly Ms Bennett feels threatened by those who know exactly what is happening on the frontline and this is her way of silencing them.

If she was standing up and telling us that Work and Income was providing a perfect ‘wrap around’ service that ticked all the advocacy and support boxes, then perhaps her inaction in this instance might be more justifiable.

“In reality, people need this service now more than ever.”

labour.org.nz

News from NZ Government There have been no cuts to government funding to the Benefit Advocacy Information Service and the Ministry of Social Development continues to fund this advocacy service in line with other similar organisations. “Baseline funding for BAIS has increased under National, and is above funding levels it received under Labour,” say Social Development Minister Paula Bennett.

In another example of scaremongering, Labour claims Beneficiary Advocates are not going to be funded anymore – this simply isn’t true and in the current financial year more than $244,000 has been paid to ten services around the country. The Ministry is continuing to work with advocacy groups for allocating the remaining funding of $48,000.

Since 2009/2010 BAIS has received over $29,200 per year through the Citizens Support Fund which provides funding to groups advocating for beneficiaries.

The Benefit Advocacy Information Service has also received more than $135,880 in one-off grants since 2009/10 through the Community Response Fund (CRF). The time-limited CRF was established in 2009 to help NGOs meet critical demand while under financial pressure from the Global Financial Crisis.

The CRF expired in 2011/12, as was always signposted, at which time the Benefit Advocacy Information Service received a final grant of $50,000.

“It’s one thing for Jacinda Ardern to put misinformation out there, I expect it from her, but the Herald needs to check its facts before simply regurgitating what an Opposition MP says.”

“The Benefit Advocacy Information Service recently met with the Ministry of Social Development, and has been advised about further funding options available to them,” Mrs Bennett said.

 

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