An average of nine per cent of Bay of Plenty beneficiaries have their benefits cut or cancelled by Work and Income each year.

In the last quarter, 1758 sanctions were imposed on just over 20,000 Bay of Plenty beneficiaries, according to data from the Ministry of Social Development.

The number has reduced since the same quarter of 2015 when 2529 sanctions were imposed on local beneficiaries.

Sanctions can be imposed on Work and Income clients for failing to fulfil a number of obligations, such as looking for work, preparing for work or attending appointments with a case manager.


The most common reason at a national level is failing to attend scheduled appointments, according to the Ministry of Social Development.

The number of sanctions per Bay of Plenty beneficiary is higher than Auckland, Waikato, Northland, the East Coast and the central North Island.

It is possible to sanction a beneficiary twice in the same quarter, meaning the total proportion of beneficiaries sanctioned could be lower.

Beneficiary fraud has come under scrutiny in recent weeks after Green party co-leader Metiria Turei admitted she lied to Winz while receiving a benefit in the 1990s.

Ministry of Social Development regional commissioner of social development Mike Bryant said local Work and Income offices had few issues with the sanction process.

"Our sanction numbers are in line with other regions such as Waikato, who have a similar number and proportion of clients on the different benefit types."

Waikato had 56 per cent more beneficiaries than the Bay of Plenty region in the last quarter, but just 30 per cent more sanctions than the Bay of Plenty.

"While there is a greater focus on work, we have ensured that people have the ability to meet their obligations, and recomply without impact to their benefit when they fail those obligations," Mr Bryant said.


"We also do a huge amount of work to ensure that people who are sanctioned, particularly those with children, are contacted regularly and helped to recomply."

Work and Income imposed just over 7500 sanctions on Bay of Plenty beneficiaries in the last year.

Beneficiary advocate Jeremy Roundill said benefits were often cut with no regard to the law which governs the process.

"In my experience, Work and Income cut benefits unlawfully more often than not.

"Service centre managers are often ignorant of the legislation which mandates them, and have not been correctly trained to operate in the way the Act dictates."

The Social Security Act 1964 governed the process for severing a benefit - written notice was required and the beneficiary must be informed they could appeal the decision within five days.

The only regions with more benefit sanctions than the Bay of Plenty in the second quarter of this year were Auckland and Waikato.

Work and Income imposed 4530 benefit sanctions in Auckland, just over twice as many as in the Bay of Plenty.

Auckland had about four times as many beneficiaries and five-and-a-half times the population of the Bay of Plenty region.

Tauranga Budget Advisory Service manager Diane Bruin said she had not seen many clients who had a benefit sanction recently.

Benefits could be reduced by a percentage, suspended or cancelled, depending on whether the client had previous sanctions and whether they had dependent children.