Budget service of little use if cupboard is bare

By Peter de Graaf


Making beneficiaries learn budgeting skills is a good idea - but there's little point if the budgeting services are too overworked to help, a Far North doctor says.

Kaitaia GP Lance O'Sullivan visited hunger-striking invalid beneficiary Sam Kuha last week to offer medical advice and learn about his protest.

Mr Kuha says he has not eaten since September 14 in protest at Work and Income policy that requires beneficiaries to "undertake a budgeting activity" after three special needs grants before they can get another.

The Kaikohe 59-year-old had run out of food and wanted a $40 grant, but would have had to wait two weeks until a budgeter was available. In any case, his income and expenses had not changed since his last budgeting session, he said.

Dr O'Sullivan said poor budgeting skills and financial literacy were real problems for many Northlanders. However, he understood Mr Kuha's frustration, because his patients told him about having to wait three weeks to see a budgeter.

"So, yes, it's wonderful that the government wants to increase the use of budgeting services, but they have to be available. The budget services here in Kaitaia are extremely over-worked and under-resourced."

Dr O'Sullivan said Mr Kuha told him that he was not so much concerned about himself as a single man, but for other beneficiaries who found themselves in the same position but had children to feed.

A Ministry of Social Development spokesman told the Advocate there was sometimes a waiting period to see a budgeter, but clients in immediate need could get same-day emergency budgeting advice.

The doctor planned to stay in contact with Mr Kuha and stop by each time he was in Kaikohe this week.

- Northern Advocate

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