Confidential documents detailing the mental health conditions of beneficiaries were given to a woman in a major privacy blunder.
Waihi resident Tracy Hall says the documents, which contain the names, phone numbers and mental health details of dozens of Work and Income clients, were given to her in error.
The list was inadvertently bundled up with the beneficiary forms given to Ms Hall.
"People make mistakes, but this was an awful mistake."
Work and Income have confirmed the mistake happened in Waihi's Winz office early this year.
Ms Hall, 53, said that when she informed Winz she had the list, staff made an appointment for her to come in. At that stage she told them she was going to copy the list.
She said the worst possible person they could have made this mistake with was her. A couple of years earlier her name and details had been on a "leaked" ACC client list.
"I felt threatened and intimidated when I saw the list. When I rang them [Winz] a couple of days later I felt fear."
Ms Hall explained that the mental health details on the client list frightened her and although her name did not appear in the documents, she felt intimidated. She feared that, because of her head injury, she would end up on the list. "I would have rocked up and given the list back to them, but I was in fear having seen that list." Soon after making the appointment, she said she received a phone call from a Winz staffer who she says spoke threateningly to her, saying she was bringing the police to search her house.
"Her tone was revolting ... they reacted when they should not have reacted." She was then phoned by another woman from Winz. The upshot was that Ms Hall agreed to hand back the list, using a pirihimana commissioner (Maori policeman) as an intermediary.
Ms Hall then asked Winz to investigate what happened and sought an apology for what she described as intimidating behaviour. The request for the apology was made in July but she never heard back.
She told Winz that if she did not get an apology by the end of August, she would take the story to the media.
Ms Hall said that having been on the receiving end of a leaked document, it was wrong to assume that she would have ever done anything with the list.
She said she was not holding anything over Winz. "I am not after anything. All I wanted was an apology - I have done nothing wrong."
The acting national commissioner for Work and Income Janine Dowding said the government department took the protection of private information seriously but a staff member had passed the information to Ms Hall in error. "In this case our standards were not met ... we regret the mistake."
She said staff tried to get the information back but unfortunately Ms Hall refused to engage with them.
"Instead she passed the information to someone else. We have retrieved it. We are confident our staff did everything the public would expect to fix the situation," Ms Dowding said.
Ms Dowding apologised for the mistake and said they were contacting Ms Hall again to talk through any concerns she may have about how the matter was handled.
"The staff member concerned has received refresher training on the handling of personal information," she said.
Ms Hall said the list was inadvertently gathered up from a photocopying machine in the Winz office and included in her documents.