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Money Expert - Diana Clement - Financial Planning, Career, Investing, Economy, Property - MSN NZ

WINZ benefit check-up

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Unemployment is on the rise in New Zealand, and if you've never been without a job or find yourself as a single parent suddenly, navigating the benefit maze can be daunting when you first encounter Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ).

I found to my surprise recently that the unemployment benefit (dole) and domestic purposes benefit (DPB) aren't asset tested. A single parent friend had lost her job and assumed because she had money in the bank from the sale of the family home that she wouldn't qualify for either benefit. My friend was wrong.

She could in theory have squillions in the bank and only the income from that money would be relevant to the benefit claim. In fact an official admitted to me that lots of people put their money into Bonus Bonds, which earn no income, and then claim for benefits. That's sneaky.

And I'm sure there were plenty of people like me who were astounded to read in the media recently that hundreds of state beneficiaries are receiving more than $1000 a week each.

If you do lose your job it's important that you don't go into denial. There is help to tide you over and the sooner you apply for the dole, DPB or other benefits the better. Even if you think you're going to be re-employed, it's worth applying just in case. It's taking people much longer on average to get new jobs than it has for the past decade.

Looking for work costs money. As well as the dole and DPB, WINZ has Transition to Work grants that pay for some of the costs of looking for work and attending interviews, which can really add up. If you're looking for work you may qualify for ReStart payments as well, providing you've been made redundant since November 2008.

If you still find yourself in a really tight spot financially there are recoverable and non-recoverable grants including the Special Needs Grants and Temporary Additional Support. You don't necessarily need to be on a benefit to qualify.

Over and above these benefits there is the Working for Families tax package that an awful lot of people don't realise they qualify for. It offers tax credits, an accommodation supplement, and a childcare subsidy for up to 50 hours a week when you're working or studying.

Self-employed people also qualify for Working for Families tax credits, but need to be wary of being audited by the Inland Revenue Department (IRD). If it can be proved they're not paying themselves a realistic wage they could be stung for penalties and interest.

The IRD can also be your friend if you're unemployed. It has options for people in serious financial difficulty. You can sometimes withdraw the money you've paid into KiwiSaver as well if you're in significant financial hardship.

Sudden unemployment or becoming a single parent often pushes people to go back to full-time study. If you are unemployed you may be eligible for a student loan or allowance. There's a useful eligibility test, which can be completed on the StudyLink website.

A couple of other benefits/sources of assistance worth knowing about are:

  • If you're renting, you may be entitled to a Housing New Zealand rental home, which may save you money. But they're notoriously difficult to get with long waiting lists.
  • If you fall sick or become disabled you can get the sickness or invalid's benefits as well as help with medical costs and housing expenses.

Finally, it's astounding just how many benefits there are available — not that they add up to a fortune. It's worth trawling through the A-Z of benefits on WINZ's website, just in case there's something else you qualify for.

Have you got any nifty state benefit tips?

More information

User comments
What Planet is this writer on. Clearly got their info out a fairy tale book.
Bonus bond help the Government, I declare my substancial amount of bonus bond on my yearly WINZ papers, I have had draws of more than 30,000 $ over the years, I am on an invalids benefit and why the hell shouldnt I have these bonds, there`s no way I can ever work again, and I will need something for my old age which is not far away,,,I own my own house , have 2 cars a 50inch widescreen LCD TV,,,and a hell of a lot more,,BUT I NEVER EVER ASK FOR GRANTS,, I say to hell with you nats who say we arte sneaky,,, wake up!!!
My parents recently passed away, all my inheritance is now in Bonus Bonds, and why shouldn`t I be entitled to do this (it is NOT Sneaky), I`ve been on a sickness benefit for a long time with what is now a terminal condition!, I also lost my house in Auckland when I got sick back in the 1990`s due to lack of income support and with it my wife and chils walked out, I feel very bitter about this as I had worked hard for 40+ yrs,, so to hell with people saying it is SNEAKY,, there are people my age who should have stopped working but getting NZ Super at the expense of young people JobLESS,,,THATS WHATS NOT RIGHT!!!!!!!
My own experience is similar to the one above .WINZ is a discrace to New Zealand. Iam a New Zealand citizen.Born in New Zealand. I worked fulltime as a mechanic for a solid few years in New Zealand and payed my fair share of tax to New Zealand . I suddenly lost my job . I went to Winz for financal assistance . I got told I wouldent get a cent of financial assistance for a stand down period of 3 months and shown the door. No Support ! No rent or food support . Nothing at all . the only option was to have everything I owned on trademe to support basic living expenses along with frantic job searching . I give up with New Zealand and since moved to Australia to work and live . New Zealand will never ever see a tax dollar from me again
Hi Genny, "what frightens us is our disabilities are permanent". Lots of disabled people work. Why can't you. I know someone with muscular dystrophy and I can bet he's more disabled that you. He's in a wheelchair and yet he works. I can't believe that both of you can't work. Sounds like you need to pull finger. Jasper.
Another great thing about WINZ is how they discourage people from starting new jobs, by cutting their benefits should they be unable to do the job. I've been living off personal savings for a few months, and an considering doing some seasonal work to get by. However, if I say take a 7-day-a-week seasonal job cutting asparagus and find my back can't take it, then I will be faced with a 6-month stand down period. Subseqently, the rational thing to do is to not take any risky jobs and sign on for unemployment benefit. Great incentive to work.
What all you people fail to see is the benefit is a short term soloution to unemployment, it is there to help when you are made unemployed and provide you with income while you are looking for work. There is no way you would ever receive the same as working and that is because if you did why would you ever work?? It is not there to live off for years and no way could New Zealand afford to give anymore money to beneficaries. We spend billions in benefits in NZ. Stop whinging if you were in America you would be living in a homeless shelter begging for food. Many countries do not have any benefit system, so thank your lucky stars you have one.
We to have wound up on an invalids benefit with no add ons.We simply cannot make ends meet.What we get is less than the old age pension and there are two of usEven if we don't buy food there is not enough money to pay the mortgage, insure our house and pay the power bills.We are not frivilous in any way and what frightens us is our disabilities are permanent ,we have now used all our savings to make ends meet and will soon have to sell our house.We have always been employed people paying taxes.and i too have made those small minded comments about those getting something for nothing in the past.It simply is not enough money to survive on.I can see how the long term unemployed turn to crime,who can honestly live on $169 a week! It's very easy to judge others ,but would the critics like to walk a mile in my shoes...or lack of!
Jay ,auckland Im sorry if my comment upsets you but facts are facts.And for your information about I dont understand,wrong I do understand how life is and how hard it is to make ends meet.Ive been there done it,but just never live on the dole.Good on you for trying hard to look for a job and helping your Mom.Im not rich and certainly not perfect.I am just one of those fortunate Kiwis that got a good job so as the rest of my family.We start from scratch to where we are now so there.I believe there's no such word as I cant.Where there's a will there's a way.
This article is a load of ***. The only way you can get 1000 per week is to have lots of kids, or lots of different false id's. I'm a invalid's beneficiery and only have 25 a week to buy food, clothing, my pills and any doctors visits. I am so poor I have to keep asking my overseas parents to send me money to live. I will be faced with being homeless at the end of the year because I won't qualify for receiving the invalid's benefit and Unemployment doesn't even pay the goddammed rent. My rent is 180 per week - a cheap cold moldy hole, and unemployment is $161 do the figures, lots of people will be faced with homelessness as the national dumb *** govt takes away the benefits we depend on to survive. I will be forced into criminal activities just to eat soon...I don't want to but what do you do when you're starving ?

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