Changing face of Work and Income launched today

Minister of Social Development, Carmel Sepuloni, celebrated the launch of a brand new face to Work and Income, including a newly introduced set of Client Commitments and an online Eligibility Guide.

She also shared the results of changes to how benefit suspensions are undertaken.

Carmel Sepuloni said that much needed change was well underway, and that the new look offices were only the start.

 “Work and Income is piloting a new front of house model in four of their service centres. The Ministry has taken up the challenge to do things differently,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

 “It can be difficult to ask for help. Creating a friendlier, warmer environment helps.  Giving people more privacy, a space that’s welcoming and inclusive for everyone, and creating a child-friendly zone for children to learn and play is important.

“As of today, Work and Incomes Client Commitment will also be on display in every Work and Income office, in English, Māori and in New Zealand Sign Language.

 “Clients have told Work and Income how they want to be treated, and the client commitment that reflects that.

 “It is their commitment to clients, and puts whole new expectations in place in terms of the values Work and Income will live by.

 Today also marked the introduction of an online eligibility guide. Check your Eligibility

 As of today anyone can check what they might be eligible for from any mobile device or the web, including service centre kiosks.

 “People don’t always know what help is available, and now they can see for themselves what support they might get.

 “These changes build on other good work already underway.

 “Already Work and Income has been using clearer guidelines and providing more support for staff when making discretionary decisions about suspending benefits.

 “I have been clear that our staff must explore every other option rather than suspension of a benefit, and that the decision to suspend is not to be made by a single person alone. In the first three weeks since the new guidelines were introduced, there was a daily 23% reduction in suspensions. That demonstrates how critical those changes were.

“We have a long way to travel, and there is a lot more to do, but I am confident that under this new Government, things will only get better for both clients and staff at Work and Income,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

 Access the online Eligibility Guide: https://check.msd.govt.nz/

Photos of the visit are available on Twitter or lee.harris-royal@parliament.govt.nz

Media contact: Lee Harris Royal 022 053 1432

Editor’s note: A summary of the key changes in New Plymouth Work and Income

Creating a more inviting space when clients first walk in

  • People will be greeted as they enter the service centre in a professional and welcoming manner.
  • Bright colour on the walls - clients say having colour makes things more welcoming and less clinical. 
  • Pot plants to create a more relaxed comfortable feeling. They can also help to create private and quieter areas.
  • Displaying local artwork to create more of a community feel. Work and Income supports a lot of people in the community and want to reflect this at work.
  • Having guards wear a polo shirt and black dress pants rather than a formal security guard uniform.

Creating an easier way to find your way around  

  • More signage and making things clearer
  • Using different coloured carpet tiles to create different zones
  • Creating ‘quiet’ zones - People like the idea of a quiet zone for people with sensory or learning disabilities.

Introducing a child-friendly zone for children to learn and play

  • There are 12,285 children living in benefit dependent households in the Taranaki/Whanganui region – giving them something to do while they wait for mum and dad (or their carer) and helping their parents feel more relaxed, is a way Work and Income can help families have a better experience.
  • There will be iPads and activity packs on hand for kids to use.

Having different furniture options

• Work and Income is looking at furniture with a ‘high contrast’ in colours. Some people with vision impairments find it hard to differentiate between the chair and carpet if they’re a similar colour.

Providing water coolers

  •  Work and Income is making water available. There’s overwhelming support from clients to have water available (especially in the front of house).

Providing more privacy

  • To make sure people feel respected Work and Income is providing people with more privacy because they’re often talking about personal information.
  • There will also be more private zones in the front-of-house space. 

The pilots in the Flaxmere, Willis Street and Rotorua Service Centres will start this week also. Not all the changes that are in New Plymouth will be in the other service centres from day one, but will be introduced during the pilot period. 

When Work and Income gets to the end of the pilot in September, they will know more about what works best with all the things they are testing, and how to bring everything together in a cohesive way.

Other initiatives recently implemented

Welcoming people at our front door

Work and Income is making changes to ensure everyone to receive a warm welcome when they come to our service centres, starting at the front door.

At the same time they need to make sure they’re keeping people safe. The safety and security of staff and clients will always come first.

Guards won’t be checking people’s names off a list and asking everyone for ID any more, like they have done in the past.

They will be taking the time to greet and talk with everyone as they come to the door. 

There will still be controlled access in sites - when a door won’t open until it has been released by a security guard.

Continuing the welcoming feeling inside service centres

There are welcome messages from Work and Income staff in different languages on TV screens, acknowledging the beautiful diversity of our communities. 

Ensuring bathroom facilities are made available to clients 

There are 14 service centres with dedicated client bathrooms, including the New Plymouth site. New signs will make it clearer for visitors that bathrooms are available.

If there aren’t bathrooms easily accessible for clients and their children at our sites, Work and Income is encouraging people to talk with the person on reception. They’ll be able to help with directions to the closest bathroom, and reassure them they won’t lose their place.