New service offers welfare advice
A new service is offering ‘‘top of the cliff’’ advice to people who might be finding it hard to navigate the often complex social welfare system.
Beneficiaries Advice Mt Albert (BAMA) is a joint initiative of St Luke’s Anglican Church and Mt Albert Methodist Church to help people with the process of getting assistance from Work and Income.
‘‘People need help for all sorts of reasons – they might lose a job, or someone becomes ill in the family,’’ St Lukes’ Rev Clare Barrie says.
‘‘All of a sudden they need help and it’s not very easy to access
‘‘For a lot of people approaching WINZ can be really threatening and confusing and if they have never been there before it can really help to have someone there beside them to help sort out the wrinkles that might happen.’’
Both Mrs Barrie and Mt Albert Methodist Church Rev Keith Taylor say the number of families struggling to make ends meet is increasing in their communities.
Mr Taylor knows of one man who has three jobs to support his family while his wife works in another low paying role at a rest home.
‘‘A lot of people don’t know their entitlements and neither do some of the staff on the frontline. Sometimes they might not have been trained enough and part of the advice is just checking out what they are entitled to,’’ Mr Taylor says.
‘‘People have always approached the church when they are in crisis, but we wanted to put something in place to help at the top of the cliff,’’ Mrs Barrie says.
Labour party social development spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern officially launched the service.
She says groups like BAMA play an important role given the complexity of the welfare system, but there isn’t anything else like it in central Auckland.
‘‘We’ve put layers and layers into the system to try and cater to people’s diverse needs, but actually in a way it has led to people not getting their entitlements.
‘‘It’s about to get worse with the new welfare reforms that say they will simplify the system down to three benefit categories, but I think it will actually lose the ability to cater to individual cases,’’ she says.
Anglicans and Methodists in New Zealand have a covenant relationship and there is also a historical link between the two churches that goes back to the to the 1800s.
BAMA is a part time service being run out of St Luke’s Anglican Church.
Guides: Jacinda Ardern, left, Clare Barrie and Keith Taylor hope the Beneficiaries Advice Mt Albert service will help smooth the process for people needing assistance from Work and Income.