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Getting a Benefit

Getting a Benefit

New Zealand has a social welfare system to help look after people who don’t have a job and can’t afford basic living expenses to survive. This system is run by Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ).

Some of the benefits available will be explained in this section.

What should I do before applying for a benefit?

Before you apply for a benefit, you should check whether you might be eligible for a benefit. This is an online test that asks you questions about your circumstances and tells you what benefits you could possibly apply for. Please note that this is just an initial online test and has no influence on whether you will actually receive a benefit from WINZ, but will help you figure out what sort of benefit you might be able to apply for. To qualify for a benefit, you must be a legal resident, (live here as a citizen or a permanent resident for at least 2 years at any point) and be physically present in New Zealand. There are some exceptions for refugees.

How do I apply for a benefit?

To apply for a benefit, you’ll need to fill in an application form either online or at any WINZ office.

When you’re applying with WINZ to get a benefit, they’ll require you to provide appropriate documents and information to confirm that you qualify for the type of assistance you’re requesting for. If you don’t complete the process within 20 days after you first contacted WINZ, you might have to start all over again.

Can WINZ make me participate in activities before receiving a benefit?

If you’re applying for a benefit and are of working age, WINZ can require you to participate in certain “pre-benefit activities”. These can include writing a CV, having an interview with a Work and Income case manager, going to employment related seminars, attending courses to name a few.



What will I get on a benefit?

What WINZ gives you will depend on the kind of benefit you get, how much income you already have, and how high your living expenses are.

Most benefits involve WINZ paying you some money so that you can afford to cover your basic living expenses. Sometimes, instead of giving you the money, WINZ will pay it straight to the person/company you need to buy things from – for example paying the electricity company directly for your electricity bill. Sometimes they might only let you spend the money they give you at a particular place – for example giving you vouchers to spend at the supermarket, instead of giving you cash.

You can use this WINZ online tool to see what types of benefits and subsidies you may be eligible for or contact WINZ on 0800 559 009.

What other support can I get from WINZ?

WINZ can assist in making it easier to meet your expenses yourself. For example, they can give you budgeting advice to help you plan in advance how to spend your money. They can also teach you employment skills to help you find a job more easily – e.g. they can teach you how to write a CV or provide you with an English course to make you more employable. They may also recommend courses for you to take and jobs for you to accept.

When will I get my benefit money?

If you meet the requirements for a benefit, you will start getting it once your application has been approved unless you have a stand-down period. You might have a stand-down period where you won’t be able to get a benefit for 13 weeks if your last benefit was cancelled because you failed to meet the benefit conditions, if you quit your job without a good reason or if you got fired for misconduct.

Most main benefits are paid weekly, so you’ll receive a set amount of money from WINZ every week. In some cases, WINZ can pay your benefit money to someone you owe money to or to your partner or dependent children directly before paying you. You can also ask them to pay it to someone else first if there’s a good reason to.

What will happen if I do not meet the obligations associated with my benefit?

It is important to notify WINZ of any changes in your circumstances, and to complete the conditions set to because if you don’t, this could result in:

  • Your benefit being reviewed, reduced or cancelled; and
  • An overpayment of your benefit, which you will have to pay back; and
  • A penalty of up to three times the value of the overpayment; or
  • You being charged with WINZ fraud (a crime).


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