Part-time daycare worker better off getting benefit

Jan Berry loves working but is actually worse off than she would be on the benefit. Photo / Chris Gorman
Jan Berry loves working but is actually worse off than she would be on the benefit. Photo / Chris Gorman

Going back to work left Jan Berry either $23 or $40 a week worse off than she was on a benefit.

Ms Berry, 59, was on the invalid's benefit for 20 years with chronic fatigue syndrome. The benefit pays a higher rate than other benefits - $257.75 a week for a single person against $206.21 on the sickness benefit, rates which have been carried over to the new Supported Living Payment and Jobseeker Support.

She wants to work. "I don't want to go back into depression through not working," she says.

But her illness means she can only work part-time, so she found a job last November at the Puffing Billy daycare centre in Takanini working 25 hours a week.

"They offered for me to do more work but I can't cope with 40 hours a week," she says. "If I have to do more work, I have to get in someone to do my housework, and I wouldn't eat properly because I'm too tired to cook."

At $15.50 an hour, she earns $387.50 a week, or $331.95 after tax. She also gets $107.45 a week in accommodation supplement and disability allowance.

But when her income rose, those extras were cut, leaving her - by her own estimate - $40 a week worse off than she would be on a benefit.

Work and Income's head office in Wellington checked Ms Berry's case for the Herald and confirmed that she was worse off in work, although by only $23 a week, because she was previously on a six-month trial under which invalid beneficiaries can go back to work and keep getting their full benefit as well.

"The intent of this policy is to allow this group of clients to test whether they could move into the labour market, for 15 hours a week or more for up to 26 weeks, without losing their entitlement to invalid's benefit," the agency says.

When the employment trial finished at the end of the six-month period, Ms Berry decided she was able to continue working between 22 and 25 hours a week and therefore would no longer qualify for invalid's benefit, the agency says.

"Ms Berry said she loved the work and working with children and opted to stay in work. Numerous studies show that paid work has health benefits and is a valuable tool in aiding the recovery of many health conditions."

- NZ Herald

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