Work and Income looks for new delivery service of family breakdown assessments

Work and income wants to outsource assessments of family breakdowns to ensure they are legitimate. Photo: Lynn Greveison

The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) is seeking a new private partner to take on the job of deciding whether a breakdown in a young person's family situation is legitimate.

MSD's Work and Income division administers several youth benefits including the Youth Payment, the Young Parent Payment, and the Unsupported Child's Benefit.

For some young people applying for the first two benefits there is a requirement that there has been a breakdown within the family that means they cannot be cared for, or supported by, their parents or any other caregiver.

In a tender released on Thursday, MSD asks for proposals from providers to undertake these family assessments and determine if a breakdown really exists.

This will assist MSD in deciding whether the young person should be given the benefit.

Requirements for the provider including being able to provide the service across New Zealand and undertake face-to-face interviews with the young people and families involved.

Confidentiality and privacy is also stressed as being important, due to the nature of the information collected.

This is unsurprising, given the bad publicity MSD has garnered during the past two weeks. Social Development Minister Anne Tolley has ordered an independent review into a privacy issue identified in a system designed to collect service user's personal information.

The Privacy Commissioner John Edwards also issued a scathing report into MSD's plans to withhold funding for NGOs unless they provided clients personal information.

In a statement, MSD contracts general manager Kelvin Moffatt said an external provider had carried out the assessment for many years.

But the department was seeking interest from other groups, alongside the existing provider, to continue the service.

Moffatt said the data involved was completely separate to the previous data proposals that had raised concerns.

"No contract would be offered until we were absolutely confident a provider had effective data management systems in place," he said.