A solo mother has had her benefit halved, just eight weeks after having a new baby, because she failed to attend an appointment with Work and Income.
Leanne Griffin, 39, went to Work and Income's Albany office one week after giving birth by Caesarean section to tell the agency about her new son, Blair. She was surprised to be told that she had to look for full-time work.
"I was speechless. I didn't know what to say," she said. "I had a week-old baby who I'm feeding."
She had taken her hospital discharge papers to confirm she had had a baby, but said her case manager had refused to look at the papers, saying she needed a birth certificate. Ms Griffin did not receive the birth certificate until last week.
Instead, the case manager asked why she had not attended two previous appointments she'd made with Work and Income when she was looking for a house to rent and needed an advance for the bond.
She cancelled both appointments when she failed to secure the houses and is staying with her baby's paternal grandparents in Torbay until she can find a home. The baby's father has admitted himself to rehabilitation after a long history of drug use.
Ms Griffin, who also cares for her 15-year-old daughter and has an 8-year-old son not in her care, said she told the case manager she wanted to finish a degree in social work which she has started at Massey University. But the case manager "didn't really want to know". "She was more interested in getting me into full-time work. She made it clear it was full-time."
At one stage, she paused, looked at her computer a while, then said: "Pause 30 seconds and resume interview." Ms Griffin said: "I looked around to see who she was talking to. She was just so cold and horrible throughout the meeting."
Ms Griffin had to cancel a later appointment made as she'd been disqualified from driving and couldn't get a lift. She didn't hear from the agency again until a letter arrived saying her benefit was being halved for not meeting obligations.
A spokesman said Work and Income staff went "out to their way" to help her but their hands were tied.