10 Feb 2015

Better WINZ security needed

6:10 pm on 10 February 2015

An independent review has recommended better security and training at Work and Income offices in the wake of last year's fatal shootings in Ashburton.

Floral tributes to the women killed and injured in the Ashburton Work and Income shootings.

Floral tributes to the women killed and injured in the Ashburton Work and Income shootings. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Workers Peggy Noble and Leigh Cleveland were shot dead and another worker was wounded at the Ashburton Work and Income office in September last year.

Ministry for Social Development chief executive Brendan Boyle said the review's final report has found the need to give better security training, and review the deployment of security guards across all offices.

He said the Ministry will review the placement of security guards, so they provide the best security for staff and clients.

Tolerance of abuse too high

The report also finds that Work and Income staff have been putting up with being punched and assaulted, and sometimes not reporting it properly to avoid time-consuming investigations.

It recommends that the ministry share the identities of aggressive or unhinged people with other agencies such as the Salvation Army

Mr Boyle said staff have regarded abuse from clients as part of the job and have, at times, downplayed serious attacks, recording them as medium.

He said staff tolerance to abusive, aggressive behaviour has been too high, and that must change.

Members of the police forensics team leave the Ashburton Work and Income office, where three women were shot, two fatally.

The Ashburton Work and Income Office where the shootings occurred Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The report does say that even if all the recommendations are implemented, extreme events such as Ashburton could still occur.

Following the release of the report, the Public Service Association said security must be among the first considerations for the ministry when leasing, purchasing, or redeveloping property, rather than just an afterthought.

The reviewers were former Police Commissioner Rob Robinson and Deloitte New Zealand Chairman Murray Jack.

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