Thursday, December 9

The commissioner joins the call for the extension of the pension for the elderly trapped abroad


The Retirement Commissioner says seniors who stay abroad due to lack of MIQ positions should be given an additional six months before their pensions are suspended and fined.

Depressed elderly widow sitting alone at home

Photo: 123rf

It occurs as some older New Zealanders approach their 30th week abroad, which means they will stop receiving their payments if they do not return home.

They are among the more than 25,000 New Zealanders around the world who tried to secure one of the only 3,700 MIQ slots that were available in the last lottery.

You don’t have to look far through Facebook groups to find kiwifruit trapped abroad to find retirees who are now at risk of having their income cut and thousands of dollars in fines.

Under the law, a person is entitled to the first 26 weeks of their normal retirement rate while abroad, provided they return to New Zealand within 30 weeks. If they don’t, they must repay the six months prior to their retirement.

Retirement Commissioner Jane Wrightson said that while this policy is understandable in normal times, the extraordinary situations that people find themselves in now means the policy is not comprehensive.

“This has come to a head during the opening and closing of the travel bubble in June and July. We have several retirees who traveled abroad when the bubble was open, mainly to visit relatives and provide assistance, I have not found Many of those who actually went on vacation, they were going to give support, without expectations that the bubble would close for so long.

“The risk they took was traveling, of course, but I think the bubble was never intended to last that long and the difficulty of entering through MIQ is a new problem.”

She has been talking to several retired Kiwis who are stranded abroad and they say they are in distress.

“They cannot afford to lose their income and therefore what we have is a situation where we have an inappropriate policy that is being implemented without deep thought and this is a huge concern to me.”

Last week, the Retirement Commissioner wrote to the Ministry of Social Development and asked them to reconsider their approach.

“I think MSD has the discretion to apply a different set of rules. What I would like to see is, for example, that people who are actually trying to get home, who can provide evidence of trying to get into MIQ, for example, and that they obtain another six-month exemption on any sanction, either by interrupting their pension and certainly not demanding reimbursements. “

One retiree facing the loss of her pension is Nanette Boyd-Dunlop of Napier.

She and her husband traveled to Melbourne in June to care for their daughter, who had to undergo major surgery.

But then the bubble burst and now, almost four months later, they are stuck and can’t get a place at MIQ to get home.

“We never thought about our pension at the time because we had a lot of time and then I started hearing things about the cancellation and I thought it couldn’t be true. I knew it only lasted a certain period of time under normal circumstances, but this is not normal, this it’s far from normal. “

They have tried their luck with the MIQ lottery, but so far they have not done well.

If they cannot return home before the end of December, they will have no income and will have to pay back the last six months of their retirement.

She feels lucky to be able to stay with the family, but said the situation is far from ideal and is causing sleepless nights and a great deal of stress.

“I feel like we have actually been completely forgotten and ignored. Having our pensions cut is not acceptable. There should be some kind of amnesty for people like us.”

In a statement, the Ministry of Social Development said they appreciate the difficult circumstances facing some retirees in Australia following the closure of the quarantine-free travel bubble and have been continuously monitoring their situation.

“Our ability to pay pensions to New Zealanders abroad beyond 26 weeks is only permitted under certain circumstances, as defined in the New Zealand Retirement and Retirement Income Act 2001 (NZSRIA).

“We are continuing to assess the situation regarding MIQ’s capacity and whether people who traveled during the quarantine-free period could have reasonably anticipated the difficulty in returning before their temporary absence period expired.”

The Ministry of Social Development said they have contacted the Retirement Commissioner.


www.rnz.co.nz

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