Full audio: Frustrated Work and Income case manager tells client to 'go rob a bank'

Newshub has obtained an explosive phone call recording of a frustrated Work and Income (WINZ) case manager telling his client to shut up and to "go rob a bank".  

Sajay Singh, 47, was released from Auckland Prison in September after spending two years inside for drug supply.   

He told RNZ he had been living in his vehicle after moving out of the boarding house paid for by Work and Income where he did not feel safe. Newshub has decided to not name and bleep the boarding house in the audio.   

Sajay Singh has been living out of his vehicle after moving out of a boarding house paid for by Work and Income where he said he did not feel safe.
Sajay Singh has been living out of his vehicle after moving out of a boarding house paid for by Work and Income where he said he did not feel safe. Photo credit: RNZ

Earlier this month, Singh sought help from Work and Income and recorded the phone call with his case manager, who Newshub has agreed not to name.   

Newshub has now obtained a copy of the explosive phone call between the WINZ case manager and Singh.  

During the phone call, Singh discussed housing support before his case manager asked why he was moving out of the boarding house.   

"That place, firstly, it is like a square box, like a prison is much better than that place I can tell you that," Singh can be heard saying in the phone call.   

Singh goes on to say it has no storage, and the showers are cold every day. But he added the main reason was there were "violent people" around the boarding house complex and he didn't want to be in "that sort of environment".   

During the phone call, the case manager seemed frustrated by Singh's request.  

"OK Sajay, I'll be upfront with you, can I be upfront with you? Where can [Work and Income] house people with prison records? Where do you think I could put you? With the prison record?" the case manager asked.  

"You come to me for accommodation, help, right? And we help you. And now you turn around and say the shower is too cold. You wanna go back to prison? Back to prison, do you? Wanna go back to prison? No? So, shut up then, don't say that," he continued.  

The case manager can be heard saying he was the only person to complain about the boarding house.   

"I put 40 people [there]. You can't be fussy, okay? I'm gonna tell you straight, you cannot be fussy, okay? Look at yourself. Look at your record. Do you think someone, do you think normal private accommodation will take you? They're going to ask you, they're going to ask you for your criminal record and what are you going to tell them?"  

As the conversation continues about housing support for Singh, the case manager can be heard getting more and more frustrated.   

At the end of the recording, the case manager can be heard telling Singh to "go rob a bank"   

"I'm gonna end this conversation, you annoying me, okay? You know, you are actually annoying me. You know what? Go rob a bank and see how you feel."  

"Totally unacceptable" - MSD

Mark Goldsmith, MSD Regional Commissioner - Auckland Central/East, said in a statement to Newshub he had been provided with a copy of the phone call and said the language used was not acceptable.  

"What I heard was totally unacceptable language in any circumstances. It does not meet my expectations of the service we want to provide. Our front line staff work very hard to support our clients – so this is very disappointing," Goldsmith said.    

"This is very disappointing. I unreservedly apologise to Mr Singh."  

Goldsmith said staff had met with Singh in person to also apologise and he accepted the apology.    

"We are working with him to solve his housing needs. We will remain in touch with him until this is resolved."   

On the MSD case manager the statement said: "In relation to the staff member concerned this is now an employment matter. For reasons of privacy we have no further comment."