A new survey has shown that four out of five people have had negative experiences at Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ).

The survey, conducted by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and ActionStation, questioned 267 people on their perspectives, insights and experiences of the welfare system.

The findings included an overwhelming trend of people having negative experiences with WINZ and a desperate lack of income to afford basic needs.

One of the key findings was that 84 per cent of people said they did not currently receive enough income to live with dignity and participate fully in the community.


The findings come after the Government announced an overhaul of the welfare system earlier this year.

The overhaul of the welfare system is part of the Coalition Government's confidence and supply agreement with the Green Party.

The Welfare Expert Advisory Group was also set up to undertake a broad-ranging review.

CPAG and ActionStation welcomed this overhaul, but said understanding people's lived experiences of poverty and the welfare system is critical to seeing that vision through to fruition.

Associate Professor Susan St John, CPAG economics spokesperson, says that the sheer scale of poverty should not be underestimated.

"We are seeing a generation of neglect that has undermined people's assets and caused family debts to mushroom. That means it is no quick fix with a few extra dollars," she said.

CPAG economics spokesperson Associate Professor Susan St John. Photo / Michael Cunningham
CPAG economics spokesperson Associate Professor Susan St John. Photo / Michael Cunningham

St John said the Government's Families Package - which came into effect in July and aims to deliver more money to families with children and reduce child poverty - was an important first step, but many systemic issues remain.

"Many of the children living in the lowest income households are far below any of the Government's poverty lines and need an immediate, substantial rescue package."

As part of the solution, Working for Families must be made more inclusive, St John said.

"Denying children in the worst-off families a vital $72.50 a week because the policy discriminates against families who do not meet the work hours required has no rational justification.

"What it does is further entrench the deepest child poverty," she said.

As part of the recent survey, people on benefits were asked what difference $72.50 would make in their lives.

Almost universally, respondents said that the money would be used to buy the basics, such as fresh fruit, meat and vegetables, personal hygiene products, clothing and transport.

Many responded that it would make the difference as to whether they and their children could participate in society, attending school trips alongside their peers.

Director of ActionStation Laura O'Connell Rapira said, "When corporations are taking in record profits, but there hasn't been a real increase in income support for a generation, and more and more people can't make ends meet, our society is out of balance.

"Four in five renters cannot afford to pay their rent comfortably. CEO pay is increasing at almost five times the rate of the average worker. There are now at least 41,000 homeless New Zealanders.

"We need government intervention to end the poverty trap and rebalance our economy.

"We need government intervention to ensure that everyone in this country has enough money to live with dignity and a safe place to call home."

O'Connell Rapira said the Government must put children and whānau wellbeing at the heart of its decisions.

In order to fulfil their vision, CPAG recommended removing the hours of work criteria from the Working for Families In-Work Tax Credit, and paying it to all low-income families.

The also suggested removing the financial penalty for people on benefits who are in a relationship, improving access to child support for parents who receive a benefit, and providing beneficiaries the opportunity to retain more of their benefit income when working part-time or when entering a new relationship.

The survey results will also be submitted to the Welfare Expert Advisory Group today, with the hope to inform the recommendations the group will make to the Government in February.

The full crowd-sourced report on lived experiences of the welfare system can be read online at www.welfareforwellbeing.org