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Welfare Reforms Discussion at Auckland Women’s Centre 18 Sep 2013

Welfare Reforms – a discussion hosted by Auckland Women’s Centre

WelfareReforms_WomensCentre

A community discussion on the July benefit reforms and the obligation that people on a benefit now need to meet.

Presented by Work and Income staff James Bell, Community Liaison Advisor and Mary Underwood, Family Violence Response Coordinator.  Be a part of the discussion.

Wednesday 18th September, 1pm – 2.45pm

Auckland Women’s Centre, 4 Warnock Street, Grey Lynn

Please RSVP to Rochelle by Tuesday 17th September for catering purposes

skip@womenz.org.nz | 376 3227 x 203

 

Welfare Reform Drug Testing Policy Changes Come into Effect on 15 July 2013

A number of changes are being introduced to the welfare system from 15 July 2013.  One of these is the requirement for beneficiaries to take and pass a drug test if they’re referred to a job or a place on a training course where drug testing is part of the application process.

Jobs and drug testing

Around 40 per cent of jobs listed with Work and Income require applicants to pass a pre-employment drug test.

From 15 July 2013 where an employer or training provider asks for a pre-employment drug test as part of the application process for a suitable job, beneficiaries with work obligations will be required to take and pass that test.

What does drug testing involve?

Drug tests will be completed under a national drug testing standard. There are two types of tests, both usually needing a urine sample:

  1. A screening test which shows if drugs are present.
  2. An evidential test completed by an accredited laboratory which shows the type of drug and the amount present.

Most employers will only do the first screening test as this generally provides them with enough information to make a decision on whether to employ an applicant or not.

Meeting drug test obligations

Work and Income beneficiaries can fail their drug test obligations if:

  • a suitable job is available and they advise they can’t apply as they believe they will fail the drug test
  • they refuse to take the drug test for a suitable job
  • they have been referred to a suitable job or course and they fail the drug test.

What happens if a Work and Income beneficiary fails their drug test obligations?

In most cases:

  • The first time they do this, they will have to agree to stop using drugs so that they can pass a drug test in the future.
  • The second time they do this, they will have to agree to take and pass a drug test within 25 working days and provide verification of the passed result to Work and Income.

Beneficiaries should talk to Work and Income about how failing drug test obligations will affect their benefit payments.

Supporting beneficiaries to get help

Together with the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Social Development is establishing an ‘0800 Helpline’ for Work and Income beneficiaries who indicate that they would like support to resolve their drug issues.

The service has been set up for beneficiaries who require support as a result of the new pre-employment drug testing obligations. The service also provides support for people with alcohol problems, however the pre-employment drug testing obligation does not include testing for the presence of alcohol.

The Helpline service will provide:

  • screening for alcohol and other drug use issues
  • brief interventions to minimise harm or motivate change
  • referral to alcohol and other drug treatment services for a comprehensive assessment (where this is appropriate).

People who have a drug dependency or who are undertaking drug treatment won’t be sanctioned for failing their obligations, and can receive a deferral from being referred to drug-tested jobs or training.

Work and Income beneficiaries who engage with this service will be able to receive a deferral from their drug test obligations for a period of time.

Addiction and dependency

The policy is not aimed at people with addictions or dependency.  Comprehensive assessment for drug dependency will be carried out by parties suitably qualified for this work.

New funding has been provided for the 0800 service and specialist assessment.

What this will mean for your service

The Ministry of Social Development and Ministry of Health are working together to ensure both employers and beneficiaries are aware of what needs to happen. However, alcohol and other drug treatment services may get some more enquiries from employers with concerns about where to send people for drug testing, and some beneficiaries may contact you about drug testing or drug treatment.

You may get some self-referrals from beneficiaries prepared to take the first step even before they meet with their Work and Income case manager.  Such cases should be considered as part of your usual case-mix. If you are unable to provide treatment, for example because of a long waiting list, the Work and Income case manager may be able to help find appropriate services.

Registering as a testing agency with Work and Income

Organisations interested in registering as a testing agency for Work and Income to refer beneficiaries to, must comply with the New Zealand drug testing standard AS/NZ 4308:2008 – Procedures for specimen collection and the detection and quantitation of drugs of abuse in urine.

More information about what Work and Income is doing and our processes around drug testing will be made available on the Government Electronic Tendering Service (GETS) website in the next few weeks.

Other changes being introduced:

Warrants to arrest and travelling overseas

Two other changes that come into effect from 15 July include:

·         Beneficiaries with an arrest warrant issued in criminal proceedings that hasn’t been cleared 28 days after its issue will get a letter from Work and Income giving 10 working days to clear it. If the warrant isn’t cleared within 10 working days their benefit payment will be affected.

Those who are in care and receiving a hospital rate, Residential Support Subsidy or Residential Care Subsidy will be excluded from receiving a letter until they are discharged.

If a letter is sent to someone who is in hospital and doesn’t receive it and their benefit is stopped, they or someone who can act on their behalf should contact Work and Income and explain the reason for not clearing the warrant. Their payment will be reinstated and backdated. They will still have to clear their warrant within the required timeframe from when they are discharged.

If the New Zealand Police considers a beneficiary with an arrest warrant is a risk to public safety, their benefit can be stopped or affected immediately.

  • A requirement for all beneficiaries to let Work and Income know before they travel overseas.  Their benefit will automatically stop from the day after they leave New Zealand, unless they’ve told us before they go and Work and Income has agreed there are approved reasons that mean their payments can continue while they travel.

Factsheets about arrest warrants and travelling overseas can be found on the Work and Income website.

More information

Visit www.workandincome.govt.nz, and follow the link on the front page, or call Work and Income on 0800 559 009