More people have come forward with tales of being turned away from Work and Income after a homeless young mother and her 4-month-old baby were shut out by the organisation.

The Ministry of Social Development, responsible for Work and Income New Zealand offices, has responded to claims its office are "heartless", saying it was simply a mistake and it had learnt from it.

A Gisborne Work and Income office told a 20-year-old woman and her 4-month-old baby they had to wait eight days for an appointment after showing up with nowhere to stay for the night and $200 in her hand last week.

The woman had called Woman's Refuge and Salvation Army but with no success.


Local real estate agent Bronwyn Kay came to the mother's rescue and organised a vacant house for the mother and baby to use as shelter.

Other people have come forward since her story emerged, claiming Work and Income have turned away many more people in similar situations.

One national Ministry of Social Development helpline worker said countless other people desperately in need were turned away by WINZ.

"We help people in exactly the same situation on a near daily basis. This is certainly not an isolated incident," she said.

Lilee from Palmerston North left her partner after an argument escalated and he slapped her. She spent two nights with a friend, and went to a local WINZ office on the Monday morning, only to be told she had to wait for at least a week for an appointment even though she had no money for accommodation.

"I was pretty much thrown out on my butt with nothing to do and nowhere to go."

She said that after waiting for help for two weeks, she went to a second WINZ office who helped her with her situation.

A woman who wanted to be known only as Angela said her mother was on a waiting list for a state house because she was living in a "rat-infested, damp, cold, mouldy dwelling" for 10 years.


Angela said WINZ told her mother she was not eligible for a state house because she could afford market rent on her benefit, and she should sort out her own private living arrangements.

"She was told if any of her family members had a garage, that she should live in their garage. Or she should move into the student living apartments down in Albany or a boarding home."

"This is absolutely ridiculous and unacceptable," Angela said.

Sue Bradford yesterday said WINZ offices were not there to help but follow the systems.

She said the Gisborne incident showed the "lack of common decency of Work and Income", and highlighted a need for more emergency housing across the country.

Ministry of Social Development chief executive Peter Hughes rubbished the criticism.

He said that on the day in question Work and Income saw 6000 people face-to-face, talked to 20,000 people over the phone and processed 8000 applications for assistance.

"In all of that, I can't promise anybody that we won't make mistakes. But when we do get it wrong, we will own that, do our best to fix it and learn from it. And that is exactly what we have done here."

Work and Income east coast regional director Annie Aranui has apologised for the incident and said the woman should have been given an emergency appointment.