Friday, December 12, 2014

Accommodation Supplement - what's going on?

 Some OIA responses leave me more in the dark than prior.

The ex Minister for Social Development issued a press release in May this year entitled Helping more families into rental housing.

Today’s Budget announcement provides funding for MSD’s new functions as well as new money to encourage people who can to move to alternate accommodation.
“Some people may struggle to move to alternative social housing because of upfront costs such as bond, letting fees and moving costs, or because landlords perceive them as risky tenants,” Mrs Bennett says.
“A new housing support package totalling $8 million over four years will deliver a range of assistance to support people to overcome these barriers. It will also help those who, with a little assistance, could manage private accommodation.”
This new assistance will be available from July 2014, and will be available only to households likely to be able to maintain independent housing.
I wanted to know if this meant an increase in accommodation supplement for some people.

So I wrote to MSD asking:

1/ Since July 2014 what is the single highest weekly accommodation supplement paid?

2/ What region was it paid in?

3/ What was the average accommodation supplement paid in the 
period July 1 - October 31, 2014?

4/ What was the average accommodation supplement paid in the 
period July 1 - October 31, 2013?

5/ What is the maximum amount available in accommodation supplement currently?

6/ What was the maximum amount available in accommodation 
supplement prior to July 2014?
Yesterday I received their response. Initially I was pleasantly surprised because they actually managed to get a response to me within the required time frame - or at least the month.

But essentially I am none the wiser for it.

I didn't get the answers to 3 and 4.  Table One data (based on individuals and a snapshot of the week at the end of the quarter) shows no lift in the average accommodation supplement paid between June 2014 and Sept 2014. However I find it quite surprising that there is no variation in the average amount paid over each of the periods provided. And I have to assume that Table Two (current at April 2014) is the answer to questions 5 and 6 and still applicable now. I must also assume that Table Two is the answer to questions 1 and 2 and no-one is paid above the published highest available rate. But a  little more thinking on this has made me remember that the Temporary Additional Support benefit can be used to cover
  • accommodation costs not covered by the Accommodation Supplement

And is available for up to 13 weeks but can be reapplied for after 13 weeks if there is an "ongoing deficiency of income". Not so temporary.

The most recent statistics I can find show a big jump in numbers receiving this benefit between 2008 and 2012

table TS.4: Financial assistance paid to clients granted Temporary Additional Support or
a Special Benefit
Financial assistance paid when Temporary Additional Support or Special Benefit granted Clients granted Temporary Additional Support or a Special Benefit1,2
2007/2008 2008/2009 2009/2010 2010/2011 2011/2012
Unemployment Benefits 10,066 26,502 47,178 46,401 44,227
Domestic Purposes Benefits 42,071 70,125 88,436 89,121 89,113
Sickness Benefits 28,135 44,139 56,669 57,219 59,224
Invalid’s Benefit 17,498 27,863 33,228 34,952 37,372
Other main benefits3 5,665 9,417 11,223 11,955 12,895
New Zealand Superannuation or
Veteran’s Pension
3,058 6,496 8,908 10,099 11,452
None of the above assistance4 10,783 16,842 20,370 19,767 19,406
Total 117,276 201,384 266,012 269,514 273,689

What I am trying to establish is, are WINZ/MSD  providing more assistance with housing costs but doing it quietly to reduce the risk that landlords will react and push up rents?

Finally I asked

7/ What policy advice regarding the accommodation supplement has been 
provided by the "expert group" referred to in the Six Monthly Report of the 
Ministerial Committee on Poverty 
MSD acknowledges that a document exists but has refused to release it on the basis that " is under active consideration. The release of this information is likely to prejudice the quality of information received and the wider public interest of effective government would not be served." 

 Anyone want to translate that for me?


Anonymous said...

It means they either haven t advised the minister formally of the groups view along with advice on its implications for policy, or the minister has got advice but is yet to make a decision,


S. Beast said...

The TAS calculation does include actual accommodation costs less 24.89 as an "allowable cost".

Special Benefit had a capped rate of around $100/wk specifically included so the government wouldn't end up further paying towards high accommodation costs.

Clients not eligible for AS but still has allowable accommodation costs these can be included in TAS
Found at