Work and Income tells woman she's too old to work for them

An Auckland kuia is calling out Work and Income (WINZ) after she says she was told she was too old to work and losing her job.

It comes as the Ministry of Social Development comes under fire for its culture and treatment of beneficiaries.

Donna Te Huia is a pensioner and is determined to work, and thought she'd found the perfect job as a town ambassador in the south Auckland suburb of Manurewa.

"It was just to go around to make sure that the community looked safe, that there weren't people loitering around the carparks."

After going through the interview process, Donna got a job at the Manurewa Business Association working 30 hours a week on minimum wage on a six-month contract. The job was subsidised through WINZ's flexi-wage subsidy .

However, just two weeks into her new job, she was told by her WINZ work broker because she was 65, she didn't actually qualify for the subsidy.

"I even told him to stop my benefit, my pension. I said, 'Can you stop that so I can keep working?' and they go, 'No we can't.'"

Donna said the abrupt termination stung even more when a case manager told her she was too old for the job anyway.

"You know what it's like when your blood boils, eh. But I didn't go there. I just went okay, took it like a woman and just said okay."

Mark Goldsmith is the Auckland regional commissioner for the Ministry of Social Development. He says signing Donna up to the subsidy was a mistake. 

"First of all I really want to acknowledge Donna and the fact that she is wanting to work. I think that's absolutely fantastic.

"The legislation for flexi wages is actually 18 to 64 in this case - she was outside that age bracket."

However, Kathleen Paraha the co-chair of Auckland Action Against Poverty says she's seeing more kaumatua being turned away by WINZ.

"It's about toxic culture I guess - I don't think there's a lot of questions that they asked the elderly. They're sending the elderly out crying."

She says it hurts her to see kaumātua being turned away.

"For them not to be able to cope is just unbelievable."

Goldsmith says any talk of a toxic culture at the ministry is not true.  

The Hui