The Catholic Agency for Justice, Peace and Development

Making an impact on benefits

St Joseph's parish in Upper Hutt will welcome beneficiaries to an Archdiocesan “Benefit Impact” event being hosted by the parish from 10-13 May.

People currently receiving a social welfare benefit will be able to check their benefit details with a trained benefit advocate. Those who wish to do so are invited to visit the parish from 10 am - 2 pm on Tuesday and Wednesday 10-11 May. Where it is helpful, beneficiaries may be asked to come back for an appointment with Work and Income staff on Thursday and Friday 12-13 May. Hutt Valley Work and Income offices are putting on additional staff for the week in anticipation of the Benefit Impact event.

The Benefit Impact is being jointly supported and run by Wellington Catholic Social Services, Hutt Valley BEST (Benefit Education Service Trust), and Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand. Further volunteers are also being sought for the event.

“The Benefit Impact will give as many people as possible the opportunity, over one week, to be supported in checking that they are receiving their full and correct benefit entitlement,” says Teresa Homan from Hutt Valley BEST.

“People on welfare assistance are often judged adversely by those who have not experienced the struggle that comes with being financially dependent on a benefit. This kind of discrimination makes people reluctant to seek out support or they simply don’t know where to find the support they need.

“However, we as a society have agreed that a safety net must be provided for people who cannot generate an income for themselves due to loss of work, health issues or family circumstances. All New Zealanders are eligible to receive this assistance if and when needed so we must ensure that people eligible to receive assistance, get all of the assistance available to them.

“Urban myths like people on a benefit making it a ‘lifestyle choice’, or spending the money on drugs and alcohol adds to the stigma of being a beneficiary. This and lack of finance further isolates beneficiaries and their families from the rest of us. There is no lifestyle and there is little or no choice in being reliant on benefit assistance,” says Ms Homan.

While a number of people have come forward to work at the Impact as volunteers, more are still being sought for roles ranging from benefit advocacy to hospitality and support roles.  In this Year of Mercy we have an opportunity through this impact, to participate in the works of mercy, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and welcome the stranger. A training day for benefit advocates takes place on Monday 9 May.

If you would like to help or want to know more, please contact Teresa Homan on 04 5298108 (BEST) or Maria Noonan on 04 385 8642 or 021982167, or email (CSS).

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