Hardship assistance

Costs covered and eligibility criteria

Special Needs Grants

What costs are covered?

Special Needs Grants are one-off payments made to those who have immediate or emergency needs and who have no other way of paying to meet those needs. Most Special Needs Grants are non-recoverable. Recoverable Special Needs Grants have to be repaid to Work and Income.

Who can receive this assistance?

Special Needs Grants are available both to people who are receiving a main benefit and to people who are not.

As well as lump-sum payments to meet a range of specific expenses, Special Needs Grants include re-establishment grants targeted at particular groups of clients. Clients who may be eligible for re-establishment grants include:

Residency, income and cash asset tests apply.

Recoverable Assistance PaymentsTop

What costs are covered?

Recoverable Assistance Payments were introduced in 1996 to replace most recoverable Special Needs Grants for people not receiving a benefit.

These payments provide non-taxable, interest-free recoverable financial assistance to non-beneficiaries. The aim is to enable them to meet essential immediate needs for specific items and services.

Clients may have access to Recoverable Assistance Payments up to a maximum value of six weeks’ worth of an Invalid’s Benefit or the maximum amount allowed for specific cost categories.

Who may receive a Recoverable Assistance Payment?

Any low-income earner may apply for a Recoverable Assistance Payment for immediate and essential expenses.

When approving a Recoverable Assistance Payment, Work and Income staff must:

Income, asset and residency tests

To receive a Recoverable Assistance Payment, a client must:

Income and asset limits, and the maximum payment amounts available, vary according to the age and circumstances of the applicant (see table HA.1). In exceptional circumstances, a client may be granted a payment if their cash assets exceed the limit shown in this table.

table HA.1: Income limits, cash asset limits and maximum payments for
Recoverable Assistance Payments (applicable from 1 April 2012)

Client category Cash asset limit1 Income limit1,2 Maximum payment1,2
Single person 16–17 years $1,025.11 $24,347.96 $1,243.92
Single person 18 years or over $1,025.11 $27,983.80 $1,537.14
Married couple with or without children $1,708.10 $40,644.24 $2,561.88
Sole parent with one child $1,708.10 $33,956.52 $2,019.30
Sole parent with two or more children $1,708.10 $35,744.96 $2,019.30


  1. The asset limits, income limits and maximum payments are applicable from 1 April 2012.
  2. The income limits and maximum payments shown are gross of income tax.

The maximum Recoverable Assistance Payments apply for a number of purposes. The maximum payments applicable from 1 April 2012 are shown in table HA.2.

table HA.2: Maximum Recoverable Assistance Payments for specific purposes (applicable from 1 April 2012)

Payment purpose Status1 Maximum payment2
Ambulance subscription fees   $200.00
Attendance at funerals and tangihanga   $200.00
Beds, chairs and tables   $200.00
Bonds and rent   $600.00
Car repairs   $400.00
Car seats and safety helmets   $200.00
Clothing Single client without children $150.00
Married without children $300.00
Single or married with children $400.00
Dentures, glasses, contact lenses and hearing aids   $1,000.00
Driver licences Renewals Client aged under 75 years $43.90
Client aged 75 or over $18.70
Client aged 75 or over who requires an On-Road Safety Test $60.50
New Learner licence $96.10
Restricted licence $137.00
Full licence $111.70
Reinstatement of driver’s licence $66.40
Electricity, gas or water   $200.00
Fire, loss or burglary   $1,000.00
Other emergency payments   $200.00
School costs   $200.00
School stationery   $200.00
School uniforms (for each dependent child)   $300.00
Telephone installation   $200.00
Tenancy tribunal fees   $20.44
Travel for stranded persons   $200.00
Washing machines and fridges   $400.00


  1. ‘Married’ includes people who are married, living as married or in a civil union.
  2. The maximum payments shown are applicable from 1 April 2012.

Benefit advancesTop

What costs are covered?

Benefit advances of up to six weeks’ worth of the main benefit received are available to all recipients of a main benefit.

Advance payments of main benefits enable benefit recipients to meet one-off needs that:

The advance is recovered: