National | Kaiora Tipene

Funeral directors fed up with ‘archaic’ WINZ funeral grant process

Funeral directors across the country are looking for a change in the process for accessing a funeral grant provided by Work and Income.

Māori funeral director Kaiora Tipene has taken to Facebook to express her concerns about the current way people apply to access a funeral grant, saying, “It adds extra stress onto whānau in times of grief”.

To the Minister of Social Development; or any kaimahi at any WINZ office; Is there any online portal for grieving...

Posted by Kaiora Tipene on Monday, June 10, 2024

Tipene says that her role as a funeral director is to help whānau who are in succumbed to darkness to find a light at the end of the tunnel.

“I’m there to be an advocate for our grieving whānau, so I will not sit back and allow them to be bullied because I feel like there is a sense of bullying there. So I will definitely help our kaumātua, kuia with that.”

‘Daunting experience’

In her post to Facebook, Tipene suggested that the processing system is archaic and having to provide the documents in person to a Work and Income case manager or staff member was a “daunting” experience in itself, while having to deal with the loss of a family member.

She says the giving of official documents to prove the death of a family member may send the grieving whānau back into a deep sadness.

“There are somethings that will trigger again, because they’re having to relive the loved one’s history. Look Nanny went for a coffee with Aunty so and so the other day... You know they have to go through their bank accounts with a fine toothcomb. It’s sad in a way that families have to go through that.”

At the moment ito fill out a funeral grant application, there are 12 pages that need to be completed, including an accompanying death certificate/newspaper obituary or funeral director confirmation.

Tipene says the world has changed and having these applications needing an accompanying proof of death in physical form is irrelevant considering the age of social media.

“We can see that there is a formal notification [via social media] by a funeral home, whoever that is to say the passing of their loved one with some form of obituary and then a Work and Income funeral grant application will not accept that. They’d rather a newspaper than a social media notification or a funeral home notification. This is what we’re hoping is that the mnister can review this whole process for the Work and Income funeral grant.”

Funeral directors’ group seeks change

The CE of the Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand chief executive Gillian Boyes says they have also publicly called on Work and Income to improve both the amount and the processes for all New Zealanders.

“We have repeatedly, over many years, called on government to address the level of the grant, noting it is woefully inadequate to cover funeral or tangihanga costs.

“In August 2023 a survey of our members painted a picture of an overly complex and onerous system for those trying to access the grant. We called on the government to update the grant application process and update the grant approval process to improve consistency in payments,” she says.

Tipene says it’s time for a review of the system as it’s not fit for purpose in today’s society.

“I hope for our whānau who are experiencing loss, that there is an easier process for them to submit these applications.”

Ministry of Social Development responds

The Ministry of Social Development says its website for the funeral grant has been updated to make its policies clear.

“Our policy is that death certificates, newspaper notices and funeral director confirmations should all be considered valid when people apply for a funeral grant,” MSD group general manager – client service delivery Jayne Russell says.

“Our policy also includes other ways to confirm a death.

“For example, if the person who died was a stillborn child, our policy is to accept a birth certificate, a letter from an obstetrician or midwife, or the hospital discharge report. It’s important to us that New Zealanders can access clear, consistent information about the support they may be eligible for.”