Q: I don't know what I am entitled to from Work & Income (W&I). Can you help me?

You are welcome to give us a ring and we will ask you some questions over the telephone. From there we can advise you as to what you need to apply for. If you live in the North Shore or Rodney district we can make an appointment for you to come and see us to assist either by attending an appointment at Work & Income as your advocate, or to check that you are receiving all that you are entitled to.

Q: I don't understand the Work & Income forms. Can you help me?

Yes we can help you. If you live in the North Shore or Rodney district you can ring us and make an appointment for us to go through the application forms with you. If you don't live in this area then you can also ring us and we can assist you over the phone.

Q: My confidence is low at the moment; I'm stressed and not coping well. Can you come with me to Work & Income?

Yes, we can help you by acting as your Advocate and empowering you in this process. If you live in the North Shore or Rodney district you would need to ring us and make an appointment to sign an authorisation form so we can assist you, if you don't live in the North Shore or Rodney district, then give us a ring anyway and will put you in touch with an advocate in your area.

Q: I have been trespassed from Work and Income. Now what do I do?

You will need to find a trusted person or a Beneficiaries Advocate to act on your behalf as clearly you cannot go near or into any Work & Income Office. The chosen person would need to sign an authorisation form or an agent form showing that you both agree that they will act on your behalf. This needs to be sent to your Work & Income office to be put on your file/ system notes.

Q: I am being investigated. Can you help me?

Yes we can - give us a ring to discuss your situation. If you live in the North Shore / Rodney District then you can make an appointment for us to assist you with this. If you don't then give us a ring and we can advise you over the phone and/or give you the phone number of an advocate in your area to help you. It always pays to seek advice before you meet with an investigator so that you know what your rights are, and what the process is.

Q: I am worried about the changes to the Welfare System that are coming up. Who do I talk to?

Most beneficiaries are worried and so they should be. By all means give us a ring and have a chat or keep an eye on our website for updates. At the moment most changes are hearsay only. We do know that there is a huge push to get people off benefits and out to work. The most common comments we are getting on this subject are "I don't have skills", "I'm unwell and can't work", "I am unable to work full time and apart from that my illness stops me from being able to sustain employment for any length of time". "This is all making me feel suicidal; surely it can't get any worse", "If I could get off a benefit I would".

Q: I disagree with the decision made about my benefit. What can I do?

You have the right to review any decision made about your benefit be that 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. Failing that you need to put in writing "Review of decision" (ROD) and explain why you don't agree with the decision made. Always take a copy before sending it on to the service centre manager of your Work & Income branch.

The ROD process begins with the service centre manager taking a fresh look at the decision made. If they agree that the decision is still correct they will write to you advising of this. From here your case will automatically be sent to a Benefit Review Hearing (BRC). You will be sent a report outlining your reasons why you don't agree and also Work & Income's reason to uphold their decision. A date for the hearing will be organised with you.

If you need help with any part of this process then please free to ring us to discuss. If you live in the North Shore Rodney District, one of our advocates may be able to attend the hearing with you. If after the hearing the decision is still not in your favour then you can choose to take it to the Social Security Appeal Authority (SSAA).

* Please note that if your case is about a decline of Invalids benefit then your case will go straight to a Medical Appeal Hearing and will not go through the ROD, BRC process. Please advise the advocate.

Q: I am struggling to pay for food school uniforms, car repairs, doctor's bills etc I don't know what to do any more can you help me?

Even if you are not on a main benefit i.e. Unemployment, Sickness, Domestic Purposes, Invalids or NZ-Super you may still have entitlement to "Extra Assistance". It pays to check it out as you may be missing out on money you are entitled to. (even if you are working you may have entitlement.) All extra assistance (with the exception of Unsupported Child's Benefit & Child Disability Allowance) is income and asset tested so give us a ring to find out what the cut off points are or ring the W&I links centre (0800 559 009) and ask them. As a Beneficiaries advocate we are up to date on what is available from Work & Income (W&I).

"Extra Assistance" refers to things like the Special Needs Grants (SNG) and is, for the most part, non-recoverable so you do not have to pay it back. There are also "Advances" which must be repaid from any benefit assistance you get from W&I at an interest free low rate.

There is the "Disability Allowance". This helps to pay for any medical costs associated with a medical condition that is ongoing for six months or more. This includes things like Asthma, high blood pressure, etc and doesn't have to be a major illness. Costs can include Doctors visits, medication, gardening, power etc.

There is also "Temporary Additional Support" (TAS). This is a calculated extra payment that can be paid after taking into account things like your accommodation costs, Hire Purchases (conditions apply) and income, etc. This can be paid for up to twenty six weeks after which you are sent a re-application form to fill out and send back to W&I to see if you still have entitlement. If you do and have supplied the re-application then the payment does not stop. The first thing that needs to happen is for either you or an advocate (make an appointment with us first) to ring the Work & Income Call centre on 0800 559 009 and ask for a complete breakdown of your benefit. This must include what you have available in Special Needs Grants (SNG) and Advance Entitlements and also what outgoings you have coming out of your benefit. With this information, we as advocates would ask you questions about your current situation like "Do you have a medical condition that is costing you money?" "Are you getting a disability allowance to help pay for this?" If you are then this may need reviewing due to an increase or change to the costs. If you aren't, we will suggest you apply for this as clearly you are missing out on this assistance (Income dependant). If you are entitled to SNG then we may assist/suggest that you apply for a food grant.

If you do have some advance entitlement available then remember to always get a quote for the item you want to purchase and make an appointment at W&I to apply. Do not pay for it first as you will not be reimbursed. For more information please links BAIS on 09 444 9543 or links W&I on 0800 559 009.