Not our job to check accommodation is suitable - MSD

  • 21/07/2016
Not our job to check accommodation is suitable - MSD

The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) has admitted it does not check the accommodation it refers people to is suitable to live in, saying it's not their responsibility.

It comes after a Newshub investigation found people were living in garages after seeking Work and Income's (WINZ) help.

South Auckland property manager 'Debbie' Widharni Iskandar has been renting out garages illegally to families on Government benefits for up to $400 per week. WINZ had been referring people to Ms Iskandar.

Ministry of Social Development National Commissioner Penny Rounthwaite told Newshub checking the quality of the accommodation it refers people to is not in its remit.

"Our role is to help out with the accommodation cost people are facing and we pay around about a billion dollars every year for accommodation costs to people that are on benefits or that are on superannuation," says Ms Rounthwaite.

"Tenants need to make sure that the accommodation is suitable for themselves. That's a role that any tenant has if it's you or I that are renting, [I'll] make sure that it's suitable for my situation."

She says "some time ago" concerns were raised about some sites and it was suggested to staff that those properties should no longer be presented to members of the public as options.

They weren't referring people to Ms Iskandar, just providing information about local accommodation that included properties of hers, says Ms Rounthwaite.

But the message to stop referring people to the illegal accommodation may not have been received by all of WINZ's staff.

The Ministry said in a statement on Thursday it stopped referring people to Ms Iskandar's properties six months ago, but today she did not deny someone was referred three months ago.

"Whether that information got to everyone and across all offices, I can't confirm that, but our staff have been advised now, reminded, not to provide information on this provider."