Under an arrangement between opticians and the Government,
beneficiaries and pensioners in the South will pay less for
spectacles from next month.
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said people getting
a hardship grant would spend less on glasses and other
optical services as a result of a new preferred supplier
arrangement with opticians.
The ministry lent about $8.7 million each year to people to
buy glasses and other optical services through hardship
grants that had to be repaid, Mrs Bennett said.
The average grant to beneficiaries, pensioners and low-income
people for optical services was more than $500.
The new arrangement offered a discounted price and would
''shrink'' both the debt the beneficiary had to repay and the
taxpayer bill. Savings would total about $21 million over
five years, she said.
A ministry spokeswoman said the negotiated discounted price
varied from supplier to supplier and was commercially
Clients receiving funding assistance for optical services
would now pay ''considerably less'' than the current average.
The arrangement would be introduced to the lower South Island
next month and the rest of New Zealand by the end of June.
The ministry has negotiated an inclusive price for an eye
test, lenses, frames, a fitting service and repairs. All new
eyewear would be covered by a two-year warranty.
The suppliers in the South included Visique, Specsavers and
Eye Pro Marketing.
If people continued to use their current supplier for their
ongoing eye care, they would need to use their own resources.
Clients would need to make an appointment with the relevant
ministry before seeing an optometrist or optician.
Age Concern Otago communication manager Niall Shepherd said
the arrangement was ''wonderful''.
''Eye care, like dental care and any other medical care, is a
significant expense and anything that helps with that expense
has got to be a good thing.''
Mr Shepherd hoped the preferred suppliers were spread across
Otago so people in rural areas did not have to travel too far
to get the discounted services.
Ministry procurement project manager Lynley Speers said the
ministry was working to ensure as much coverage across New
Zealand as possible. Until then, people with access to a
hardship assistance grant could use their local supplier in
the areas or they could travel to the nearest preferred