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AAAP calls on MSD CEO and deputy to resign for overseeing unlawful activity

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Auckland Action Against Poverty is calling on the CEO and deputy CEO of the Ministry of Social Development to resign following a report by the Privacy Commissioner, which found that the Ministry was unlawfully breaching beneficiaries’ privacy. The report also suggests that the Ministry of Social Development breached The Bill of Rights 1990, unnecessarily collected intimate text messages of beneficiaries, and failed to ask people on the benefit being investigated information before seeking it from third parties.

"Auckland Action Against Poverty does not make calls for resignations lightly. Successive leadership at the Ministry of Social Development oversaw the unlawful practice of intrusive investigation practices, including the current CEO Debbie Power and deputy CEO Vic Rickard. MSD failed to review its investigative practices twice in 2015 and 2018, despite ongoing concerns by advocacy groups and the Privacy Commissioner, therefore upholding the policy change brought in by the National-led administration in 2012", says Ricardo Menendez March, Auckland Action Against Poverty Coordinator.

"Despite ongoing calls by the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni for kind and compassionate governance, the people running the Ministry of Social Development continued to act unlawfully and abused its powers to pry into beneficiaries’ intimate lives to determine whether they are in a relationship or not.

"This Government had an opportunity to review these invasive investigative practices in 2018 and chose not to, entrenching the National-led Government’s decision to put undue scrutiny on beneficiaries’ private lives. It took a damning report by the Privacy Commissioner for MSD to review its practices, though it was received without remorse and with no apology from the Minister, the CEO or its deputy CEO.

"The CEO and deputy CEO of MSD need to resign, and the Minister of Social Development should apologise for upholding these unlawful and cruel policies while in charge. The Ministry needs to be run by people that are committed to upholding the values outlined by the Welfare Expert Advisory Group recommendations, which are meant to restore dignity to the welfare system.

"The Government also needs to immediately review the legislation and policy concerning ‘marriage type’ relationships. The current law enables the Ministry to arbitrarily determine whether someone is in a relationship. People may completely lose their benefit entitlements and financial independence if they are viewed to be in a marriage type relationship. Our welfare system needs to stop punishing people for being in a relationship and reflect the complex human relationships of the 21st century.

"As one of the organisations that brought forward concerns to the Privacy Commissioner regarding MSD investigative practices, we look forward to continuing our advocacy work to ensure people on the benefit receive their full legal entitlements. Our advocates and volunteers will be working at the frontlines ensuring that they are fairly treated by Government agencies, rather than unduly scrutinised.

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