Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Clients often get angry, says ex-Winz worker

Half the people who walk into Work and Income offices get turned down for something and usually get upset, a former frontline worker says.

Solo mother Kaisalina Mealamu, 39, sister of All Black Keven Mealamu, knows what it is like on the other side of the desk. She had a spell on the domestic purposes benefit in 2006 when her daughter Teuila was 4.

She was a frontline case manager at Winz's Otara office for three years before leaving to work for Strive Community Trust in 2012.

"We sat in pods of three or two. That was a safety thing, because if you could hear that your colleague's client was getting loud, you could intervene," she said. "If we could see that a situation was going to escalate, other case managers would come and try to defuse the situation."

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A senior case manager also sat within earshot of reception ready to help if anyone got upset there.

The office had two security guards when Ms Mealamu worked there, but she said they only rarely had to escort people out, and she never saw anyone who had been barred from the office try to get back in.

There were several threats to Winz offices over the 24 hours since the shooting in the Ashburton office.

A 38-year-old man was arrested after a threatening phone call to staff in Blenheim yesterday morning.

- NZ Herald

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