Work and Income service centre finds new premises

On the move . . . Ministry of Social Development southern regional commissioner Jason Tibble is looking forward to the relocation of the Dunedin central service centre to John Wickliffe House in the Exchange. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD

Moving the Dunedin central Work and Income service centre to John Wickliffe House in the Exchange will create a more pleasant and flexible environment for clients, officials say.

The Ministry of Social Development embarked on a search for new premises six months ago, after receiving word that the new Dunedin hospital would be partially built on the current St Andrew St site.

MSD southern regional commissioner Jason Tibble told The Star it had been a long search for a new space for the centre, but John Wickliffe House would be a good fit.

“It has a smaller floor space than the current centre, but will function better in terms of privacy, flexibility and accessibility,” Mr Tibble said.

“Plus, it will be a more pleasant place, with the nice courtyard outside and more natural light inside.”

The new service centre, which would house benefit services, the fraud intervention service and StudyLink, would be based on the ground floor, while regional offices would be based on the fifth floor, he said.

Work had begun on renovating the spaces and it was hoped to open the new centre in early 2020.

He was unable to give details of the cost of the move.

About 60 staff will be making the move, along with about 300 people each week who visit the MSD service centre for financial assistance, housing or support to find a job.

A further 150 appointments are carried out by phone.

As planning began last year for the move, the MSD surveyed clients to ask what was most important to them when visiting the site.

More than 2600 people responded to the survey and their main priorities were low-cost or free parking, public transport options, accessibility, privacy, and for the space to be welcoming and friendly.

“We were delighted with the feedback that we received from our clients, and it has been a rich source of information for us,” Mr Tibble said.

“We have a very clear picture of what our clients need, which is a credit to them.”

In terms of privacy, the MSD was focusing on developing meeting spaces that would allow clients to have “quality conversations” with staff.

The car parking situation would be different from that in St Andrew St, where there was a large Wilson car park next to the MSD service centre.

“We won’t have that luxury in the new site, but there is low-cost car parking available in the Exchange area,” Mr Tibble said.

While the move would have its challenges, the service centre would still be central for clients, while being away from the major construction zone around the new hospital site, he said.

“I believe the new space will be awesome, and that both staff and clients will enjoy it more.”