Social justice advocates have blamed Work and Income's toxic culture of "harassment, intimidation and punishment" for the lack of support their new advocacy service will get.

Queues of beneficiaries desperate for emergency help have lined the streets outside WINZ offices in Clendon for Auckland Action Against Poverty's advocacy services since they started last year.

AAAP helps beneficiaries get what they are entitled to.

A new service was recently set up in Manurewa to cater for demand and Queen St will get its first one this Thursday.


But MSD have refused to support the extension of the services to Queen St by putting on additional staff. Six extra staff were put on in Clendon and four extra in Manurewa to cope with demand, AAAP advocacy coordinator Alastair Russell said.

Russell believed the queues were some of the worst since the depression in the 1930s.

"The only reason people come and camp out overnight is because of sheer desperation and sheer knowledge that on any other day they would not get what they're entitled to," he told the Herald.

"This proves the toxicity of the culture at Work and Income."

MSD regional commissioner Eru Lyndon confirmed that WINZ provide six additional staff to Clendon on Fridays but not to Manurewa. He said they would not do the same for Queen St and any beneficiaries who are not from the area will be referred to their home site.

"We carry out over 11,000 interviews per week, across 33 sites, in the Auckland Region.

"We are not able to arrange for staff to move offices where AAAP conduct activities without impacting our ability to deliver services to the great majority of clients that AAAP does not represent."

Lyndon said they had a current arrangement to respond to an additional 65 clients with extra staff each Friday in Clendon. He implied that to see more clients appointment times would have to be cut and MSD were not prepared to compromise their service in that way.

"At the end of the day this is about ensuring people get the help that they need. We have worked hard to make this happen alongside AAAP, but our efforts need to be cooperative, with commitment on both sides."

Russell said without an advocate beneficiaries were more likely to get turned away for essential items like food, rent and bond advances, a loan for whiteware, an unsupported child benefit and were more likely to be penalised for situations like not being able to name the father of their child.

"[WINZ] have created a toxic culture of harassment, intimidation and punishment where people regularly leave in tears feeling degraded and humiliated.

"There is a clear move to make getting a benefit as unpleasant as possible to reduce the number of people receiving benefits."

Last time AAAP held a three day workshop to advocate for beneficiaries in April in Mangere last year they were flooded with 1500 people, Russell said. Half they had to turn away due to time constraints.

In November Police were called on long lines of beneficiaries last year when AAAP's help drew queues outside the Clendon WINZ office.

Police told Newshub this was due to WINZ staff feeling intimidated.

Auckland Action Against Poverty

• Started in 2010
• Is advocacy, protest and educate against neo-liberal policies for those in poverty and unemployment
• Three key demands - Lift benefits to levels people can live on, overturn National's welfare reforms and require Government to ensure that everyone has access to secure, healthy & affordable housing
• Will advocate for over 5000 beneficiaries this year