Stoke seniors to wave goodbye to WINZ

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At the months end, Stoke’s seniors will lose their local Work & Income office.

The Stoke WINZ office will close on May 30, relocating its staff from Strawbridge Mall to the Nelson City Work and Income service centre on Bridge St.

Regional director for service delivery, Wendy Chisnall, says a review showed demand for face-to-face services at Stoke was low, around 18 hours a week.

“We cannot justify keeping an office of three staff and three security guards open on this basis. It makes sense to relocate to Nelson.

“The way we provide services to Seniors has changed a lot since the Stoke site opened. Many people do not have any contact once their NZ Super is processed, and others needing information or assistance can now do this more conveniently by phone or online.”

However, New Zealand First MP Richard Prosser says the closure shows the government doesn’t care about its people, especially seniors.

“Stoke has the largest population of seniors in the Nelson region residing in their own homes, retirement villages or nursing homes,” says Richard. “To close the local Work & Income office shows a lack of respect for their needs.”

“It’s lunacy for the government to assume that seniors can apply for support via the internet, when only one third of Grey Power members, as an example, have internet access. It is also often difficult to get through to the WINZ office on the phone.”

While the Stoke car park is free, Nelson’s is not and Richard says travel costs will escalate for those unable to use public transport.

However, clients with a SuperGold card can book Nelson appointments to coincide with the free “Nbus” service during off-peak hours.

Wendy says the Nelson city Work and Income office will have a dedicated Seniors area where clients will be seen by specialist case managers, including the staff they are used to seeing in Stoke.

A temporary one-day-a-week visiting service at the Stoke’s Omaio Village offices on Tuesdays will also aid with the transition, say Wendy.