Work and Income New Zealand has apologised to a woman with a debilitating medical condition for placing her on a benefit requiring her to find work.
Carolyn Gane was denied a supported living payment, previously known as an invalid's benefit, despite having her GP's recommendation and was instead placed on jobseeker support, previously known as the sickness benefit.
Jobseeker support is for people who can work but are temporarily unable to do so, and requires them to seek employment while receiving benefit payments.
The 49-year-old Hamilton mother of four is afraid to leave her house in case she has an "embarrassing accident" caused by medical problems with her bowel, and was gobsmacked when Winz deemed her fit for work.
Ms Gane was diagnosed with diverticular disease in 2008 and irritable bowel syndrome in December. The medical conditions cause her pain and to lose control of her bowel with little warning, and as a result she rarely leaves her house in Hamilton East in case she is caught.
"I don't even set foot outside my house unless I have absolutely no stomach pain," she said. "If they think I can just get out there and work when I have all this going on, it's a joke.
"I can't even sit in a cafe and have a cup of coffee with my family or friends for the fear something might happen. What kind of job do they expect me to do?"
A medical certificate supplied to Winz in July meant she had short-term exemption from finding work, but last month Ms Gane's condition worsened and her GP, Dr Tiwini Hemi from the Tuhikaramea Medical Centre, deemed her unable to work in the longer term. She used the medical report to apply for the supported living payment.
A letter from Winz said Ms Gane did not meet the medical credentials to qualify for the benefit and would remain on jobseeker support.
Winz Waikato Regional Commissioner, Te Rehia Papesch, said they had made an error and would be re-examining Ms Gane's case.
"We should have spoken to her GP to clarify some of the points in the medical certificate when assessing her supported living payment application, but we didn't and I apologise to Ms Gane for the frustration this has caused.
"We are now reassessing her supported living payment application."
Ms Papesch also said Ms Gane did not have any "current work obligations'' because of her condition.