Mental health worsens when dealing with Winz

Press release

People on the Covid-19 Income Relief Payment, a new benefit for those made jobless by Covid-19, are faring better than those on main benefits, new survey data shows.

A collaboration between the University of Auckland, Child Poverty Action Group, Auckland Action Against Poverty and FIRST Union, the national survey compares the experiences of those on the new Income Relief Payment with those on main benefits.

The former get $490 per week and are not subject to obligations or sanctions, while some main benefit recipients are paid only $250 per week. Both groups can access other forms of financial assistance such as the Accommodation Supplement.

“Our early findings suggest that the $25 per week increase the government made to main benefits in its Covid-19 package is making no or little difference to low income households,” says Associate Professor Louise Humpage, a sociologist at the University of Auckland.

She says the results suggest the increase to the Winter Energy Payment was more important, but this is temporary.

By contrast, those who receive the higher Income Relief Payment report fewer occasions where they’ve been unable to meet basic costs, and have a wider range of income sources to draw on, such as passive income or another adult in paid work in the household.

“But in September, the three month Income Relief Payment ends and these people are going to be transferred to a main benefit if they haven’t found work, says Dr Humpage. “This group is already saying that dealing with WINZ has increased their ‘mental stress and worry’ and their ‘financial worry’.

“Once they get the full experience of WINZ – this group have benefitted from new employment centres and job search tools so far – I anticipate their ability to meet basic costs, and their stress, will worsen,” she says.

The survey asks how many more dollars households need each week to meet basic needs and which of a range of benefit rates proposed by New Zealand political parties would better meet respondents’ needs.

Those who have responded so far suggest that at least $490 per week (after tax) is needed.

The results of the survey aim to inform government thinking on benefit rates and services following the election. However, to fully explore and compare these experiences across the two groups, the survey needs more respondents who are currently on the Covid-19 Income Relief Payment.

People can take part until 10 September 2020 at https://www.cpag.org.nz/the-latest/covid-19-survey/