21 Jul 2016

Call for WINZ to vet property managers

7:00 pm on 21 July 2016

Work and Income kept directing people to a property manager despite being told she was placing tenants in garages, a social worker says.

South Auckland property manager Debbie Iskandar rented garages and single rooms to families for hundreds of dollars a week.

Work and Income said it used to direct people to Ms Iskandar, but has not done so for more than six months.

People living in a garage in a South Auckland suburb

A file photo shows people living in a garage in South Auckland Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Reremoana Darlington is a senior social worker with Whanau O Tumanako, which is contracted by the Ministry of Social Development in Manurewa to work with at-risk families.

She told Checkpoint with John Campbell she complained to Work and Income about Ms Iskandar a year and a half ago.

"I did make a complaint because at that time I knew the manager of WINZ quite well, in Manurewa. And I said 'hey, what's going on, you're using Debbie'... she goes 'mate, we don't have any options'. I said 'well, utilising someone who is exploiting our families is not helpful'."

That complaint was never actioned, she said.

"My understanding is my call had no impact because not long after I was still getting families coming to our service with her card."

Work and Income needed to vet the people it paid bond to, Ms Darlington said.

A family who was placed by Ms Iskander said Work and Income "shipped people off" to her.

"Debbie is supposed to be emergency housing for those in need but Work and Income and Debbie are letting Debbie charge people top dollar for just rooms."

Yesterday, the ministry said Work and Income did not vet accommodation and it was up to individuals to make their own decisions before signing a tenancy agreement.

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