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Tearing down employment barriers for disabled

Hon Steve Maharey
Minister of Social Services and Employment
Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)
Minister for Community and Voluntary Sector
MP for Palmerston North

Embargoed until 10.30am, 9 March 2000

09 March 2000

Tearing down employment barriers for people with disabilities

The new Government has committed itself to removing the barriers to employment faced by people with disabilities, Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey told a conference on supported employment in Christchurch this morning.

Mr Maharey told the Association of Supported Employment in New Zealand conference that the Government would be working across the board on issues related to people with disabilities. The Minister said he would be working closely with New Zealand's first Minister for Disability Issues, Ruth Dyson, to ensure that the Government was active on employment issues for the disabled.

"The Government is committed to eradicating the barriers people with disabilities face which prevent them from fully participating in society. I know that very often it is difficult for the disabled to find employment.

"In partnership with voluntary sector agencies, and with people with disabilities, the Government plans an active strategy to assist the disabled into work.

"In the past, employment for people with disabilities has revolved around sheltered workshops. While these services play an important role there is a danger that they can isolate people with disabilities, prevent on-going skill development and can be exploitive of the workers.

"The Disabled Persons Employment Promotion Act was passed in 1960. There have been a number of reviews of the act recently resulting in little change. We are committed to ensuring that a modern legislative framework is passed through this Parliament.

"I am also investigating how WINZ can improve the services it provides to job seekers with disabilities. I have already directed the department to suspend the work capacity testing programme because we do not believe people on the Invalids Benefit should have to work in order to receive income support. Legislation to formally end the programme will be passed later this year.

"This Government will provide the support people with disabilities need to participating in mainstream employment wherever possible. The good work being done by service providers and voluntary workers provides us with a strong base to build from", Mr Maharey said.

ENDS

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