Auckland teacher with cancer challenges ‘patronizing’ benefit system

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Kent Findlay says he finds it patronizing that he has to continually prove that he is unable to work because of his cancer.

KENT FINDLAY

Kent Findlay says he finds it patronizing that he has to continually prove that he is unable to work because of his cancer.

A teacher who is already battling cancer says he now has to fight the authorities to get the right benefit payments.

Kent Findlay, 29, found out last month that he had a recurrence of Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

He stopped working at Onehunga High School in Auckland and had his time off paid.

But when he spoke to Work and Income about his cancer, he was told he would have to wait six weeks before receiving benefits and would be classified as a job seeker.

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This meant additional time and expense to obtain medical certificates, which delayed her benefits.

“It’s a downside and a cost when you’re just trying to focus on recovering and taking care of yourself,” he said.

After questioning the process, he said the Department of Social Development called him this week.

They admitted his case was marred by “human error” and that they had wrongly imposed a one-week suspension period, he said.

But despite an apology and a correction to his benefits, which would be available in two weeks instead of six, Findlay said he still had to go through the trap of being classified as a job seeker.

“This is the condescending and offensive part,” he said.

“The fact [is] that I’m not a job seeker, I have a career, it’s just that I’ve been placed in a position where I can’t work effectively. “

Findlay said he first became aware of the benefits problem when he was diagnosed with cancer last year and said it was “outrageous” that he was not made to. day.

“I don’t know what their purpose is. It’s something that I want to change not only for myself but for everyone who is going through this.”

The Cancer Society said Findlay was not alone in its dealings with work and income, and there were hundreds of patients left in a similar predicament.

The company calls on the government to amend the 1964 Social Security Act so that patients in treatment are eligible for assisted living payment, rather than depending on a jobseeker’s allowance.

CEO Claire Austin said the system needs to change so patients don’t have to go through “ridiculous hoops like applying to be a job seeker in order to get financial support.”

Austin said cancer patients should be treated the same as ACC patients, where a clinician’s opinion was reliable and the patient had a treatment plan, received financial support and did not have to. continually prove that he still had cancer or was undergoing treatment. .

The ministry’s regional commissioner in Auckland, Blair McKenzie, said Findlay’s case had been reviewed and staff had told him sorry for the initial confusion.

However, he said Findlay should “always take reasonable steps to prepare for a job in the future, which may include things such as updating his resume.”

McKenzie confirmed on Thursday that Findlay’s one-week downtime would be removed, but that once Findlay began receiving benefits, periodic updates to the medical certificate would be requested every few weeks.

Parliament was due to consider a private member’s bill calling for simpler benefit payments to critically ill patients.

An earlier version of this story stated that Findlay was seeking compensation to pay for his chemotherapy. The advantage is actually for his living expenses. Treatment is free as it is in the public health system.

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