Calls for Govt to change laws around benefit criteria

Kent Findlay (Newshub.)
Kent Findlay (Newshub.)

Kent Findlay knows cancer all too well.

He's beaten Hodgkin's lymphoma once, but now it's come back for a second round.

The 29-year-old teacher applied for a benefit with Work and Income, but the agency said because he doesn't meet the criteria for a health and disability allowance, he's a 'job seeker'.

Under the Ministry of Social Development's (MSD) guidelines, a 'job seeker' beneficiary must "actively take steps to look for work".

There are ways around that, but the MSD requires the patient to provide regular medical certificates from their doctor to prove they're still sick.

That comes out Mr Findlay's back pocket, and he says proving he has cancer is the last thing on his mind.

"Through the medical certificate you can still circumvent those things, but that is the extra hassle, the extra time, the extra cost of going to see the doctor - at a time in your life when you want to focus on getting better."

Calls for Govt to change laws around benefit criteria

Kent Findlay (Newshub.)

To get a health benefit, also known as a supported living payment, the MSD says you must first be "permanently and severely restricted in your ability to work."

Mr Findlay's not either of those things, but Labour's spokesperson for Social Development, Carmel Sepuloni, says he shouldn't have to be.

Ms Sepuloni has a private members Bill in the ballot at Parliament at the moment, but it's not been drawn yet.

She wants an overhaul of the beneficiary system and an extension to the supported living payment, which would see people with serious illnesses covered.

"They don't need the pressure from a system telling them that they have to get ongoing medical certificates, that they have to keep going to the doctors to prove that they have cancer," Ms Sepuloni says.

"The system is flawed and Anne Tolley does need to get up with the play. She needs to look at extending the provisions of the supported living payments, and she needs to support the private members Bill I put in."

The Cancer Society too says the current beneficiary system lacks empathy.

"People, who are undergoing a cancer journey need to be under a supported living payment - they need supported living assistance," says chief executive Claire Austin.

"We need reform, at the most stressful time in someone's life, if they are suffering a major illness they then have to go through and apply to be a job seeker."

Mr Findlay has no idea how long he will be in treatment this time round, but his doctors say it will be at least a year.

He doesn't consider himself a 'jobseeker' and his old high school has told him they want him back when things go back to normal.

A MSD spokesperson said while Mr Findlay does not have to seek work, he must continue to provide evidence of his sickness regularly and keep his CV up to date.