Sarah walks 25km for ben­e­fit

South Waikato News - - NEWS - By PET­RICE TARRANT

Sarah War­ren has walked from Pu­taruru to Toko­roa twice in the past month to en­sure her WINZ ben­e­fit was not cut.

The mother of four, who has been on the ben­e­fit for the past 20 years, said she re­ceived a let­ter about one month ago from WINZ re­quir­ing her to at­tend a meet­ing in Toko­roa.

With no car and no pub­lic trans­port avail­able she com­pleted the 25-kilo­me­tre jour­ney on foot.

‘‘If you didn’t turn up they cut your ben­e­fit off,’’ she said.

Af­ter fin­ish­ing her one- hour ap­point­ment she had to hurry home to her four chil­dren be­fore school fin­ished.

‘‘I was rush­ing to try and get back.’’

Her case man­ager was not in­ter­ested in find­ing a so­lu­tion, she said.

‘‘ They didn’t care how I got there. They didn’t want to hear about my sit­u­a­tion.’’

The sud­den in­creased de­mands on ben­e­fi­cia­ries are part and par­cel of the wel­fare re­forms that took ef­fect in July this year.

Those on the Sole Par­ent Sup­port ben­e­fit, with a youngest child aged be­tween 5 and 13, need to be seek­ing and avail­able for part­time em­ploy­ment un­less there is a spe­cial rea­son.

They need to show they are mak­ing an ef­fort to find work, at­tend any job train­ing cour­ses or work as­sess­ments, at­tend in­ter­views for suit­able jobs and ac­cept any suit­able work of­fers.

Work and In­come re­gional di­rec­tor Ski Wis­nesky said staff took into ac­count that Pu­taruru clients had to travel to Toko­roa.

‘‘A min­i­mum of five days’ no­tice is given to al­low time to make travel and child­care ar­range­ments. Clients are able to se­lect from a range of ap­point­ment times.’’

He said it was not un­rea­son­able to ex­pect clients to make ar­range­ments to at­tend ap­point­ments once a month.

But Ms War­ren’s neigh­bour, a ben­e­fi­ciary faced with the same prob­lem, said the only fam­ily she could call on was her 82-year-old mother.

Rosemaree Man­son has been on the ben­e­fit for the past 10 years, home­school­ing her 12- year- old daugh­ter Jess.

‘‘I’ve told them I’m not go­ing to walk but at the same time I don’t want my ben­e­fit cut ei­ther.’’

Ms Man­son, 52, said she was more than will­ing to at­tend the meet­ings if she was as­sisted with trans­port.

She worked out it would cost her $56 to get her daugh­ter and her­self to one meet­ing and back us­ing In­ter­city.

South Waikato News asked WINZ why the meet­ings can’t be held out of the Pu­taruru Cen­tre but they did not give an an­swer.

Ms Man­son has con­tacted churches, an MP and the South Waikato Dis­trict Coun­cil for help.

Th coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive Craig Hobbs said pro­vid­ing pub­lic trans­port be­tween the two towns would be too ex­pen­sive.

Photo: PET­RICE TARRANT

Stand­ing strong: Rosemaree Man­son, right, her daugh­ter Jess and neigh­bour Sarah War­ren will go hun­gry if they can­not find a ride from Pu­taruru to Toko­roa each week.

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