Work and Income offices are being given a makeover to make them more welcoming and family-friendly.

Some of the drab, inhospitable service centres around the North Island have been upgraded into brightly-coloured, cosy spaces which include iPads for children to use.

The new look offices are part of the Labour-led Government's plan to make Work and Income more accessible.

That includes a less punitive approach to suspending welfare payments.

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Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said today she had made it clear that Work and Income staff had to explore every other option rather than suspension, and that such a penalty could no longer be signed off by a single person.

In the three weeks since new guidelines were introduced, there had been a 23 per cent fall in welfare suspensions.

"That demonstrates how critical those changes were," Sepuloni said.

The minister opened one of the four new-look Work and Income service centres in New Plymouth today. If successful, offices will be improved around the country.

"It can be difficult to ask for help," Sepuloni said.

"Creating a friendlier, warmer environment helps. Giving people more privacy, a space that's welcoming and inclusive for everyone, and creating a child-friendly zone for children to learn and play is important."

Among the changes are brightly painted reception areas, pot plants and local artworks on display, and guards in more casual clothes rather than official uniforms.

Child-friendly zones included iPads and activity packs so children will have something to do while they waited for their parents.

Security guards will no longer ask for identification and check people's names off a list. There are still safety measures in place, such as controlled access at the front door.


"Clients have told Work and Income how they want to be treated, and the client commitment that reflects that," Sepuloni said.

The other offices which have been made-over for the pilot programme are in Wellington, Rotorua and Flaxmere in Hawkes Bay.

Sepuloni said the changes were just the start of a culture change at Work and Income.

"We have a long way to travel, and there is a lot more to do, but I am confident that under this new Government, things will only get better for both clients and staff at Work and Income."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has spoken about wanting to create a kinder Government, and has said she wanted welfare officials to be more flexible when dealing with needy individuals and families.