Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Auckland exit grant carries sweetener

Homeless people who get a grant of up to $5000 to leave Auckland will now get cash payments of a further $2000 or $3000 on top of their actual moving costs to entice them to leave.

The new grants became available from yesterday, but eligibility details and payment calculations will not be available on the Work and Income website until today.

Press releases by Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett have mentioned only grants of "up to $5000" to cover actual "moving costs, bonds, letting fees and other expenses".

But Ministry of Social Development (MSD) housing chief Carl Crafar revealed last night that everyone who gets a grant to leave Auckland will also get a cash payment of $2000 to move into social housing, or $3000 to move into private housing, as "set amounts" over and above actual moving costs.

The cash payments will be the same regardless of the size of the household, whether it is a single person or a family with 10 children, and "will be paid after the tenants have moved".

Any payments above $5000 in total, including actual moving costs plus the cash grants, "will require sign-off by an MSD general manager".

David Zussman of Community Housing Aotearoa said the cash payments seemed to be a direct "incentive for freeing up the house, or your claim to a house, in Auckland".

Emergency housing agencies Monte Cecilia, De Paul House, the Salvation Army and Emerge Aotearoa all said none of their clients so far wanted to take up the offer.

Bernie Smith of Monte Cecilia said he was not recommending it because "it's setting up families to fail unless the Government moves to a model, like they do with refugees, where there are additional wraparound services with church groups and social services".

But Theodora Despotaki of Emerge Aotearoa, formed by the merger of mental health agencies Richmond Fellowship and Recovery Solutions, said "every single one of our clients has been given information about the relocation grant". But no one was interested yet.

Jan Rutledge of De Paul House said Work and Income offered the grant to one family last week, but they turned it down because their four teens wanted to stay in Auckland.

Jason Dilger of the Salvation Army said the grant could suit some people if Work and Income put services around them when they arrived in their new homes.

Meanwhile a 16-year-old cancer patient, who asked to be known as "B", will move into a "brand new" four-bedroom Housing NZ home today after staying at Te Puea Marae in Mangere Bridge for a week with her dad and four siblings. Her post on the Te Puea Memorial Marae Manaaki Tangata Facebook page reached 438,000 people in 18 hours and drew job offers for her dad and her older brother.

She told reporters that she just wanted to say "thank you for your love and support" to everyone who had helped.

Auckland District Health Board children's health director Linda Haultain said staff assessed the family situation of any child being discharged from Starship hospital and would refer a family to a health social worker if a housing issue was identified.

Ronald McDonald House chief executive Wayne Howett said his charity had rooms for 86 families of Starship patients and could have accommodated B's family if B had been referred from Hamilton, where the family lived before her illness.

But the family moved to Mangere in March to support relatives after B's cousin drowned at Hunua Falls.

- NZ Herald

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