Some Bay beneficiaries have had their benefits cut after going overseas without letting officials know. Photo / FIle
More than 1800 Bay of Plenty people had their benefits cut last financial year for travelling overseas without letting officials know.
Ministry of Social Development figures show the number of people that had benefits cut for going overseas without telling Work and Income was 1816 – down on the previous year’s 2083. Benefits related to jobseeker support were those most often cut.
Tauranga Budget Advisory Service manager Diane Bruin said some beneficiaries came to the service for advice after realising their benefit had been cut for travelling.
Some were unaware they needed to let Work and Income know about their plans.
“Also, if they are going to a family bereavement, they don’t necessarily think about letting Work and Income know,” she said.
Ms Bruin advised any beneficiaries travelling to advise Work and Income about their plans.
If they were going for less than six weeks then it might not affect their benefit.
They should tell Work and Income how long they would be away, the reason and how the travel had been funded.
She said beneficiaries received a basic income to live on but it did not provide for holidays.
Nationwide, 31,714 New Zealanders had their benefits cut for undisclosed overseas travel last financial year, compared to 35,565 the previous year.
Ministry of Social Development service delivery deputy chief executive Carl Crafar said welfare reforms came into effect in July 2013 to put stronger obligations on beneficiaries. They included changes to the rules around when people could be paid a benefit while overseas.
All beneficiaries were now required to tell Work and Income about their travel intentions or their benefits were stopped on departure.
Mr Crafar said the rules still allowed for overseas travel on compassionate or health grounds in certain cases.
To support the changes, the ministry enhanced information matching systems it had with New Zealand Customs.
If people had not told Work and Income about their intention to travel and an automatic information match was made, their benefit would be suspended and they would receive notification.
The suspension would remain in place until they returned and contacted Work and Income, said Mr Crafar.NZME
By Kim Fulton, Bay of Plenty Times.
Do you need help managing on a benefit? Get in touch with us today about coming in for a free appointment with one of our fully trained Money Coaches.