Sepuloni joins queue at Manurewa Work and Income Offices

By D'Angelo Martin

The queues at the Manurewa Work and Income Offices on Thursday mornings are getting longer.  Minister of Social Welfare Carmel Sepuloni turned up hoping to shorten them on the day Auckland Action Against Poverty (AAAP) provides its free advocacy service to beneficiaries. 

The biggest need was for food, electricity costs, and clothing. 

It's a 2am start for this queue outside the Manurewa Work and Income office, with the community demonstrating their desperation by turning up in the cold, just to put food on their tables, gas in their car and clothes on their back. 

Kathleen Paraha, who is a AAAP coach at Work and Income at Manurewa.  She advocates for those who come walking through the doors asking for help.

"Old people children, young and old they all get caught in the rain, they sit in the rain until they get through that door there," she gestures.

AAAP is here to help them tick the boxes a hopefully get a step closer to a hardship grant, but advocates are officially only allowed help 65 people from the queue.

"We send them through that door there, we process them in the inside, we fill out their forms, register them, get them an appointment then they leave. The most that they come here for is basic things like food grants, winter clothing, blankets, things like that."

Sepuloni says the lines of people who stand out early hours on Thursday mornings is not acceptable, "We don't want to see people come out here a 3 o'clock in the morning, let's be honest, that's not ideal.  We want to work together with AAAP to make sure you get those appointments in advance."

That has definitely resonated through the department, with others eager to make changes.

Kay Reid, who is the Group General Manager Social Service Delivery, voices her support,"We know that it's hard out here and it's actually hard for all New Zealanders, it's not just unique to Auckland although as we know Auckland is a pretty tough market in terms of rising housing costs and general household costs ... we want to make sure that all of our clients know that we're here to help them."

However Paraha doesn't mince her words, "This government needs to pull their heads in and do something- it's getting really, really bad."