Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni accepts problem in Work and Income and client relationship

The Social Development Minister has accepted there's a problem with the relationship between Work and Income and its clients.

Beneficiaries are queueing from as early as 2am so they can be assigned an advocate who will help them deal with the Work and Income staff.

Five hours before the Manurewa Work and Income office opened up, a group was waiting to make use of a Thursday morning support service from Auckland Action Against Poverty (AAA) workers.

Late in the afternoon, advocate Kathleen Paraha was still there supporting people to ask for benefits.

"They're scared of Work and Income, especially the elderly, they haven't got confidence because they think they're going to get declined as soon as they go in," Paraha told Newshub. 

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni turned up to address the crowd. 

"I know some of you haven't felt comfortable coming to MSD (the Ministry of Social Development) by yourself and have preferred to have an advocate," she said.

"We want to strengthen that relationship so that you do feel comfortable with the Ministry of Social Development and so you do have confidence that you get the support that you're eligible for."

Mother of five, Jonelle, says she's been offered just $60 to feed her large family, but going with an advocate is different.

"Going with an advocate, you get more than what you're expecting, going on your own you get less."

She fights emotion as she describes how tough it can be.

"Because seeing beneficiary people struggle and having to take their children out to stand at MSD hours of the morning, they should be helping us," she said.

The Ministry of Social Development says rejection rates are unchanged when AAA advocates are there and say grants are given 98 percent of the time and that is the same as any other day.

Sepuloni says work needs to be done to make sure people can get appointments with advocates in advance so they don't have to line up in the middle of the night.