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Communtity Law Manual | Work & Income | Other benefits and allowances

Types of benefits

Other benefits and allowances

A range of other benefits and allowances may be available to you, depending on your situation. You may be able to get the Emergency Benefit if you don’t qualify for one of the main benefits explained above, like JobSeeker Support or Sole Parent Support. If you’re getting a main benefit, you may also be able to get additional help, for example, the Accommodation Supplement to help with your rent. Some of this extra assistance is also available if you’re not getting one of the main benefits.

Some forms of additional assistance are income-tested (based on how much you earn), while others are both income-tested and asset-tested (how much savings or other property you have).

Emergency Benefit: When you don’t qualify for a main benefit

When can I get an Emergency Benefit?

Social Security Act 2018, s 17, 63, Sched 4

The Emergency Benefit is usually paid when you don’t qualify for one of the main benefits for some largely technical reason – for example, if you’re 65 or older and you haven’t been living in in New Zealand long enough to qualify for NZ Superannuation. You need to be suffering hardship because you can’t support yourself and your dependants (if you have any).

How much will I get on the Emergency Benefit?

The Emergency Benefit can be paid at whatever rate Work and Income decides in the particular case. This usually means the rate of the main benefit that you would otherwise be eligible for.

You’ll also qualify for the Winter Energy Payment to help with heating costs (see below, “Winter Energy Payment”).

Work and Income can also set specific conditions, such as work-test requirements if the Emergency Benefit is being paid in place of Jobseeker Support.

Accommodation Supplement: Ongoing help with your rent

Social Security Act 2018, ss 6, 17, 65–69, 423, Sched 4

If you’re on one of the main Work and Income benefits, you can also get ongoing help with paying your rent, through the Accommodation Supplement. This pays a proportion of your accommodation costs, provided you’re not a tenant of Housing New Zealand. How much you can get depends on which part of New Zealand you live in and on the size of your household.

People not on a main benefit can also get the Accommodation Supplement, but there’s an income test.

The Accommodation Supplement can be paid for rent or board and, in some situations, for mortgages and other essential costs paid by home-owners. The accommodation can be a house, flat, boat, caravan or other type of dwelling.

How Work and Income calculates your accommodation costs

If you’re renting, your accommodation costs are the weekly equivalent of the costs, excluding any service costs (power, gas or phone for example) that are included in your rent. Rent arrears can’t be included.

If you’re paying board, the amount of your board is multiplied by 0.62 to arrive at the rent equivalent.

For home-owners, accommodation costs are the weekly equivalent of the mortgage costs, rates, insurance (not including contents insurance), and the cost of repairs and maintenance over the last 12 months. You’re expected to apply for a rates rebate if the local council provides for this.

If Work and Incomes believes your accommodation is “excessive”, it can decide not to recognise all of your actual accommodation costs for the purposes of your Accommodation Supplement.

Income and asset tests for the Accommodation Supplement

If you’re eligible for a main benefit, the Accommodation Supplement is not income-tested, but it is asset-tested.

The asset test is based on “cash assets”. This means money in the bank or other assets that can easily be converted into cash. It may include a house or flat that you own but are not using as your home (because that property could be sold and converted to cash).

Non-beneficiaries (other than students) face both the asset test and an income test:

  • The asset test is the same as for beneficiaries.
  • If your gross (before tax) income is over a certain threshold, your Accommodation Supplement will begin to abate (be reduced).

These asset and income limits may be adjusted from year to year.

Social Security (Cash Assets and Income Exemptions—Christchurch Mosques Attack Support Payments) Amendment Regulations 2020

Note: If you’ve received a Christchurch mosque attack support payment, that does not count as a “cash asset” when Work and Income are calculating your accommodation supplement.

Other help with your rent

Different types of support are available through Work and Income for people who are renting privately or moving out of social housing. With some of these payments (called “housing support products”), you’ll have to pay Work and Income back over time, while with others you don’t have to pay any money back. The rules about who qualifies for these payments vary.

The assistance that’s available includes the following:

  • Bond grant – You can apply for a bond grant of up to four weeks’ rent (up to a maximum of $2,000). If you’re given the grant, you don’t have to pay it back.
  • Help with letting fees – In some cases, when you’re moving into a private rental property Work and Income can pay any letting fee charged by a rental agency. You’ll have to pay it back. You don’t have to be getting other help from Work and Income to get this payment.
  • Moving assistance – In some cases, Work and Income will pay up to $1,500 towards moving costs like truck hire, petrol, or hiring a removal company. You’ll have to pay the money back.
  • Tenancy costs – In some cases, Work and Income can agree (at the start of your private tenancy) to cover any costs that you may owe your landlord at the end of the tenancy, such as rent arrears or costs for damage. This can cover up to the equivalent of four weeks’ rent. You’ll have to pay Work and Income back.
  • Transition to Alternative Housing grant – In some cases, Work and Income will pay you $3,000 if you’re eligible for Housing New Zealand housing but you give up your Housing NZ tenancy and agree to rent from a private landlord. You won’t have to pay this grant back.

(For more information, go to www.housing.msd.govt.nz – search for “Housing support products”. For information about social housing available from Housing New Zealand and community organisations, see “Social housing: Tenants in state and community housing” in the “Tenancy and housing” chapter.)

Winter Energy Payment

Social Security Act 2018, ss 70–74, 219, 220, 319

If you’re on a main benefit (like JobSeeker Support) or getting NZ Super or a Veteran’s Pension, you’ll qualify for a Winter Energy Payment to help with the costs of home heating during winter. The payments start from 1 May each year.

Advances of Benefit for immediate, essential needs

Social Security Act 2018, s 347; Ministerial Direction on Advance Payment of Benefits

Advances of Benefit are for beneficiaries (by contrast with Recoverable Assistance Payment Grants, which are for non-beneficiaries: see below).

The Social Security Act gives Work and Income the power to pay you an Advance of your benefit if this would “best meet [your] immediate needs”. You’ll usually be expected to repay the Advance within two years, out of your regular benefit payments.

It’s also possible to get an Advance if you’re not on a main benefit, so long as you’re receiving some other type of payment from Work and Income, for example, an Accommodation Supplement.

Advance must be for immediate and essential need

Work and Income is guided by a “Ministerial Direction”, which specifies that an Advance must be for a “particular and immediate need for an essential item or service”. You’ll need to show that an Advance is the best way to meet this need.

Advances are usually paid for needs such as appliances, furniture, bedding, rent or a bond for new accommodation, power or school uniforms. Payments are made directly to suppliers (if they’re on Work and Income’s database) or indirectly through a payment card provided to you by Work and Income.

Usually an Advance from Work and Income is the last resort – for example, when you’ve received an eviction notice from your landlord or a disconnection notice from your power company.

Restrictions on getting Advances

  • Advances are income-tested and cash-asset tested.
  • An Advance is usually restricted to six times the amount of your weekly main benefit.
  • You can get more than one Advance a year, but usually the total amount to be repaid (including the latest Advance and earlier Advances not yet repaid) must not be more than six times your main benefit. However, the Ministerial Direction restricts Advances to one a year for the same or a similar purpose.
  • There are maximum amounts for Advances for the following three specific needs: home repairs; safety footwear; and travel if you’re stranded and unable to return home.
  • Advances can be refused if you could reasonably have been expected to have provided for the need yourself.

Work and Income’s discretion to grant an Advance despite restrictions

The Ministerial Direction allows Work and Income to step outside some its restrictions in exceptional circumstances (for example, the limit of six times the weekly benefit) after taking into account certain factors, including whether imposing the particular restriction would mean that you, your partner or your children would suffer “serious hardship”.

Challenging a refusal to grant you an Advance

Reviews of decisions to refuse an Advance are heard by a Benefit Review Committee (see “Challenging Work and Income decisions: Reviews and appeals” in this chapter).

Special Needs Grants for food and other specific purposes

Social Security Act 2018, ss 101, 368; Special Needs Grant Programme

Special Needs Grants are paid for a variety of purposes and are available to non-beneficiaries as well as beneficiaries. There are both income-test limits and a cash-asset limit.

You usually don’t have to repay a Special Needs Grant. In some situations, both a Special Needs Grant and an Advance of Benefit (or Recoverable Assistance Payment) can be paid, if the Special Needs Grant is insufficient to meet the entire need.

Work and Income should deal with an application for a Special Needs Grant inside one working day. In some cases, you can apply by ringing Work and Income’s 0800 559 009 number, rather than having to apply in writing.

Payments can be made directly to suppliers, if they’re on Work and Income’s database, or through a payment card provided to you by Work and Income.

Types of Special Needs Grant available

A range of categories of Special Needs Grant exist. For some categories, more than one Special Needs Grant can be provided in the same six- or 12-month period for the same type of need.

  • A common form of Special Needs Grant is for food. To qualify, you must have no cash assets. However, you can get more than one Food Special Needs Grant in a six-month period. There are limits for the total value of Food Special Needs Grants received within six months ($200 for single people, $300 for couples with no children, $450 for families with one to two dependent children and $550 if three or more dependent children are in the family). However, these limits can be exceeded in “exceptional” cases.
  • A range of other Special Needs Grants exist for specific “emergencies”, including: dental or medical treatment; accompanying someone overseas for medical treatment; and getting a birth certificate (which is needed to complete many applications for ongoing assistance).
  • Special Needs Grants are also available for other specific purposes:
    • for people applying for residency who have lost the support of their sponsor
    • for getting a driver licence
    • for repairs and maintenance
    • when you or your partner have applied for a benefit, but the benefit has a stand-down period (see “How to apply for a benefit” under “Applying and qualifying for benefits”)
    • re-establishment costs for: refugees; victims of family violence; long-term patients; released prisoners; and people transitioning out of care by Oranga Tamariki / Ministry for Children.
  • Special Needs Grants are also used to help those in rural communities facing certain kinds of disasters.

The criteria for each type of grant vary, but essentially the grants are available if you have a specific one-off need and are unable to meet it.

You will need to provide details of your particular need. This is often simply your bank balance, showing that you have no resources. If it’s an emergency, such as an urgent need for dental or medical treatment, you’ll need to provide an invoice or quote.

Challenging decisions about Special Needs Grants

If Work and Income refuses to grant you a Special Needs Grant, you can apply for a review of the decision by a Benefit Review Committee (see “Challenging Work and Income decisions: Reviews and appeals” in this chapter).

If you applied for a grant for an emergency or for food, the review must take place within one working day.

Temporary Additional Support: Extra ongoing help with hardship

Social Security Act 2018 ss 17, 95–98, Sched 4; Social Security Regulations 2018, regs 56–71

If you’re experiencing ongoing hardship, you may qualify for Temporary Additional Support. This is ongoing assistance that’s available if you don’t have enough money left after a certain level of outgoings to meet other regular expenses such as food and power.

Temporary Additional Support is available in addition to supplementary assistance such as the Accommodation Supplement, the Disability Allowance and the Child Care Subsidy. It’s also available to non-beneficiaries.

Temporary Additional Support is available for a maximum of 13 weeks.

Formula for deciding eligibility for Temporary Additional Support

Social Security Regulations 2018, regs 56–71

There is a specific formula (set by regulations) that determines whether you’re eligible for Temporary Additional Support.

Note: Despite the formula being clearly set out in regulations, Temporary Additional Support has often been under-used in recent years.

The formula assesses your income from all sources and then deducts an amount for what are called “allowable costs” and another amount for “standard costs”:

  • Income includes: the main benefit; all forms of supplementary assistance; other income support such as the Unsupported Child’s Benefit or Orphan’s benefit; and wages and other non-benefit income.
  • “Allowable costs” are listed in the regulations (reg 71). Many of these costs have a maximum amount specified for them. Besides accommodation, a range of other items are regarded as “allowable”: payments under credit-type contracts for whiteware, bedding, vehicles, and televisions (but not computers); phone rental in some situations; transport; childcare; essential expenses in relation to children for whom the Unsupported Child Benefit or Orphan’s benefit is being paid; and Disability Allowance costs.
  • The total allowable costs are deducted from the total income, leaving what is termed “disposable income”.
  • An amount for “standard costs” is then deducted. This “standard costs” figure is determined by Work and Income as being what is necessary to meet all the other costs. It varies according to family size.
  • If you have a deficit after standard costs are deducted from your disposable income, you’re eligible for Temporary Additional Support. However, there are maximum rates for Temporary Additional Support, regardless of the size of the deficit.

If you have high Disability Allowance-related costs and you also have a deficit, a special formula adjusts your entitlement above the usual Temporary Additional Support maximum.

Social Security (Cash Assets and Income Exemptions – Christchurch Mosques Attack Support Payments) Amendment Regulations 2020

Note: If you’ve received a Christchurch mosque attack support payment, that is not taken into account when Work and Income is working out your entitlement to temporary additional support.

Challenging decisions about Temporary Additional Support

You can challenge Work and Income decisions about qualifying for Temporary Additional Support, or about the rate to be granted, by applying for a review by a Benefit Review Committee (see “Challenging Work and Income decisions: Reviews and appeals” in this chapter).

Loans for people not on benefits: Recoverable Assistance Payments

This assistance is provided under the Ministerial Recoverable Assistance Programme.

Recoverable Assistance Payments are similar to an Advance of Benefit, but they’re payable to non-beneficiaries. Like Advances, they are recoverable – that is, they must be paid back. The rules for these payments are more restrictive than the rules for Advances, in that there are limits on how much can be paid (unless there are exceptional circumstances).

Recoverable Assistance Payments are subject to an income text and an asset test. There are also limits on the amount that can be provided for your particular type of need. As with Advances, you need to show that a Recoverable Assistance Payment is the best way to meet the immediate need, and you must also show how you intend to repay the payment.

Payments are made directly to suppliers (if they’re on Work and Income’s database), or they are made through a payment card provided to you by Work and Income.

If Work and Income refuses to grant you a Recoverable Assistance Payment, you can ask for Work and Income’s decision to be reviewed by a Benefit Review Committee (see “Challenging Work and Income decisions: Reviews and appeals” in this chapter).

Budgeting requirements after repeated hardship assistance

Social Security Act 2018, s 347(2); Social Security Regulations 2018, reg 203

If you make a third request for one-off hardship assistance (Advances, Recoverable Assistance Payments, or Special Needs Grants) within 12 months, you may have to complete a budgeting exercise.

This could include attending a budgeting course or seminar, getting advice from a budgeting service, or simply completing a budgeting work sheet on which you put down on paper all your outgoings and income. If you’re asked to complete a work sheet, you must do this to the best of your ability – you’ll need to remember to put down fortnightly, monthly and annual costs in order to present a full picture.

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