'Inhumane' - Work and Income worker slammed for treatment of pregnant mother

The Ministry of Social Development has apologised after a Work and Income employee was accused of being 'inhumane' and speaking down to a pregnant mother living in her car. 

Ngapaki Moetara, a worker who supports whanau in Gisborne, took to social media to express her concerns after she witnessed the way the woman was spoken to on Tuesday.

She said she went into the Work and Income office with the young mother to look for emergency accommodation.

"We sat in WINZ today and the way that she was spoken to, I don't think we really realise just how inhumane it can be, but the way she was spoken to today was a real example of how disconnected we've become.

"She's 30 weeks hapu [pregnant], slept in her car overnight. It's cold out there at this time and all that the worker said to her after her second time going in was not to get upset, because she started to cry when she was told that they were just going to send her back up the coast where she came from."

In the emotional video Ms Moetara breaks down in tears saying she is "really frustrated" at the way the young woman was spoken too. 

"I'm sad but I'm also really frustrated with the way that people think that they can talk to a young mother, a young Māori mother from the East Coast who's looking for help.

"I just wanted to share what goes on because I don't think anyone gives it a voice really what it's like. There's so much shame attached going into WINZ and that's how they're being spoken to.

Ms Moetara said she is aware there is a housing crisis but at the very least the way people are spoken to needs to change.

"It needs to be rectified. It's not good enough, it's not good enough to speak to her like that. I was shocked.

"I didn't expect for her to get housing or any kind of physical help. But I did expect at least a humane exchange and she was spoken down to."

In a statement Ministry of Social Development East Coast Regional Director Naomi Whitewood apologised for the way the pregnant woman was treated.

"This isn't the service we strive to provide." 

She said she spoke with Ms Moetara on Thursday and she does not want anyone leaving the office feeling the way she felt. 

"It's extremely important whānau feel they're being treated in the right way. Our people are working hard to do our best for our whānau and I'm here to support us all in being able to achieve that."

Work and Income is working hard to ensure clients are consistently given a good service, she said.

"Most of the time we get it right. Where we don't get it right, we are committed to putting it right. We're continuing to work with Ngapaki and the mama she's advocating for to ensure we're providing them with the support they need."

Ms Whitewood said no one should have to sleep in their car and no one in need of housing should go unsupported this winter,