Sarah walks 25km for benefit
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.
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.