Growing anger from people unable to contact Ministry of Social Development for help

There's growing anger from people unable to make contact with the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) in times of need.

Despite dozens of attempts, one complainant hasn't been able to get through to the social agency. And he just needs a one-off payment to feed his family.

Adrian McCauley's not just feeling the cost of living pinch - it's a constant battle.

Like thousands of New Zealanders, his expenses are adding up, and the Community Services Card holder needs a one-off payment to feed his family for the week. But it's a cry for help that's simply not being heard.

"It's inefficient, it's impractical, it's degrading, it's hostile and you've got to fight for what is within the legislation," McCauley said.

Despite repeated attempts to file an application online, he was instructed to ring the 0800-number provided.

"There's no avenue to actually apply for anything," he said.

The phone line appears so inundated with callers that instead of placing him 'on hold' or giving the option to 'request a call back' it cuts him off altogether.

"It's this circular toxic cycle that's kind of extremely stressful for people in our communities and it doesn't actually work to support or eliminate hardship for our communities," said Auckland Action Against Poverty coordinator Brooke Stanley Pao.

Auckland Action Against Poverty said it's an ongoing issue - but one exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

And in 2018, increased security measures were put in place at MSD offices, after two Ashburton Work and Income workers were shot dead.

"We would like for MSD to enact a high-trust model and also make it way easier for people to walk-in at MSD," Stanley Pao said.

McCauley said it isn't a one-off - it's systemic.

In an email to Minister Carmel Sepuloni he called it "a gross failing of the ministry to essentially alienate and isolate thousands of vulnerable New Zealanders across the country from accessing the essential help they need".

In a statement to Newshub the Ministry said: "We are a people business. Every day we talk to around 28,000 clients, either over the phone or face to face in our offices in every community."

"We appreciate the patience of those seeking to get through to us on our main call lines over this period, as we have had to divert resources to supporting those affected by the weather events."

 Auckland Action Against Poverty claims the system has been designed to make it difficult.

"It's making it hard for people to access that support and in order to move them from being on a benefit into full-time work or part-time work... whether that's suitable or not," Stanley Pao said.

"It almost becomes a legal battle just to get the basics," McCauley added.

Basics not everyone can afford right now, without help and support.