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Conditions on Receiving a Benefit

Conditions on Receiving a Benefit

Once you’ve been given a benefit, there are often conditions you have to complete in order to keep receiving the benefit. If you don’t keep meeting these conditions, then WINZ could stop paying you or reduce your benefit. The things that you have to do depend on your personal circumstances and which benefit you’re getting. Your partner might also have to do certain things, even if they’re not getting a benefit directly themselves.

What are my obligations towards WINZ when receiving a benefit?

If you receive a benefit from WINZ, some obligations you will need to meet relate to notifying them about:

  • Changes in circumstances;
  • Overseas travel;
  • Warrants out for your arrest;
  • Efforts made in seeking part or full-time work.

What obligations do I have with WINZ if I’m a parent?

Parents on benefits (job seeker support, sole parent support, supported living payment or an emergency benefit) have ‘social obligations’ towards their dependent children. These require the parent to:

  • Ensure that any child aged 3 and above are enrolled at and regularly attending pre-school (if available) and school;
  • Ensure that children are registered with a medical centre or primary health organisation and that, up to age 5, they are up to date with the main checks under the WellChild Programme;
  • Attend interviews with WINZ or organisations acting on WINZ’s behalf, to inform them on how you’re meeting these conditions.

If you do not meet these conditions, your benefit may be reduced.

What obligations do I have as a youth or a young parent on the benefit?

If you’re getting a youth payment or a young parent payment, you have to be studying or be available for study that will qualify you at NCEA Level 2 or higher. There’s an exception if your youngest child is younger than 6 months, or if they’re younger than 1 year and you can’t get a place in a teen parent unit. If you have dependent children, WINZ can also tell you to do a parenting education programme. Your children also have to be enrolled in healthcare and in education if they’re at least 3.

What happens if I don’t take a job offer while I’m on a jobseekers benefit?

You have to always be available to work during normal working hours and be doing things to find a suitable job. If you get offered a suitable job, then you generally have to take it. If you don’t, then your benefit can be cancelled, even if it’s the first time you didn’t meet a condition. You won’t be able to get the benefit again for at least 13 weeks. If there is good reason for declining the job offer, you should discuss this with your local WINZ branch.

What other conditions may WINZ require for a jobseeker’s benefit?

If WINZ asks you to, you also have to:

  • Go along to interviews that WINZ set up for you;
  • Go along to interviews with WINZ;
  • Make plans for how you’re going to get a job;
  • Go to a work assessment, seminar, work experience, employment related training or anything else that will make you more prepared for work;
  • Tell WINZ about how you’re meeting all the work test conditions;
  • Pass drug tests that a possible employer or training provider asks you to take;
  • Any other reasonable and relevant conditions WINZ sets.

What happens if I fail the drug test for WINZ?

If you fail a drug test, you will be subject to penalties. The first time you fail a drug test, your benefit will be cut in half and the full benefit will be reinstated if you agree to stop using drugs. If you have not stopped within four weeks after your benefit was cut, then your benefit will be cut completely until you recomply. If you fail a drug test again within 12 months, your benefit will be cut completely and you can only have it reinstated by passing an additional drug test within 25 working days and providing evidence of this to WINZ.

You’re allowed to dispute any result of a drug screening test by asking for the same sample to be tested by an ‘evidential’ drug test which is more accurate. If you want to do this, you have to tell WINZ within 5 days and fill in a dispute form as soon as possible. If you fail the evidential drug test, then you’ll have to pay back to WINZ the costs of both drug tests.

What happens if I break the WINZ conditions?

If you don’t meet the conditions for your benefit, then there will be sanctions (consequences) for your benefit payments.

If WINZ wants to put in sanctions, they must follow a process:

  • They must notify you in writing regarding what you did wrong, what’s going to happen to your benefit, and when it will happen;
  • Notification must be at least 5 working days before they take particular action;
  • They must tell you that you have 5 days to dispute the sanction by calling WINZ to talk about the situation or apply for a review of the decision;
  • Tell you that if it is your first or second sanction, you have the opportunity to meet your obligations (re-comply) before they impose the sanction on you.

What is the consequence if I break a WINZ condition?

Generally, the first time you don’t meet a condition of your benefit, WINZ will cut your benefit by 50% until you meet the condition again. If you still haven’t met the condition after 4 weeks, then they’ll stop paying you altogether until you do.

The second time you don’t meet a condition, WINZ will stop paying your benefit altogether until you meet the condition again.

The third time you don’t meet a condition, your benefit will be cancelled and you will need to re-apply for the benefit. You won’t be able to re-apply until 13 weeks after the cancellation, and when you re-apply you will face a tougher eligibility criteria, penalties,  and investigations of overpayment.

My WINZ payment has been reduced, what can I do?

If your WINZ payment has reduced due to you failing to meet an obligation, you will need to make an appointment at your local WINZ branch and have a re-compliance appointment.

If you fail to meet an obligation, an obligation failure will be noted on your file and the next payment you receive will be reduced. This reduction will continue until you’ve completed your re-compliance appointment. At the re-compliance appointment with a case manager, you’ll need to discuss why you had failed those obligations, and you may need to complete re-compliance activities in order to have the benefit fixed. Generally, your reduction can be fixed on the day that you attend the appointment. Whether you get back paid for reduced payments will depend on the reason for your failure.

For more information, please see the Community Law Centre Manual

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