Asked yesterday by Radio NZ for a comment(s) about this incidence of seeming law-misinterpretation by the Ministry of Social Development that has seen new benefit grants paid out a day late, I said that beneficiary advocacy groups were like a dog with a bone. There are precedents where they have forced MSD into court and MSD has lost. So I wouldn't under-estimate what the taxpayer could be up for. By my calculation easily $200 million. I don't know if the government can successfully retrospectively change the legislation to get MSD off the hook.
But the beneficiary advocates are over-egging the effect of a pay-out citing hardship and child poverty etc. Collectively the sum is large but individually the pay-outs are small. One grant would equate to an average of $40 or thereabouts. And the poorest beneficiaries - those on welfare long-term - would get the smallest payout or none at all.
I have no idea how a 'compensation' process would work but if WINZ were to invite people to make a claim with the exact date of application and any other relevant details, it might just be too tough to bother.
Though who knows. That option might not be legal either.
I did say to the reporter that benefits, whilst an entitlement, are a privilege. New Zealand's welfare system is among the most generous in the world in terms of the length of time people can claim welfare for, and one day's payment wasn't a big deal in the scheme of things. The beneficiary advocates could find better bones to chew on.