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CAB welcomes scrapping of work for the dole

15 October 2000

Press release from New Zealand Association for Citizens Advice Bureaux Inc.

For immediate release

Citizens Advice Bureau welcomes scrapping of work for the dole

One of New Zealand's largest volunteer organisations has given the thumbs-up to the Government's plan to scrap the controversial work for the dole scheme.

In a submission to Parliament's Social Services Select Committee the New Zealand Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux welcomed the Bill that would see the Community Work scheme abolished and the return of the unemployment and sickness benefits.

"The removal of compulsory voluntary work for work-tested beneficiaries is essential and will restore the value of voluntary work," said Nick Toonen, Chief Executive Officer of the New Zealand Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux today.

Many community organisations boycotted the Community Work scheme when it was introduced in 1998. It forced job seekers to do voluntary work in an attempt to improve their job prospects at a time when there were not many real jobs available.

"When the Community Work or 'work for the dole' scheme was introduced in 1998, we opposed it on the grounds that forcing people to do voluntary work is a basic contradiction in terms. We are relieved to see this issue is being addressed in this Bill," Nick Toonen said.

The work for the dole scheme was a reason for the breakdown in the relationship between the Department of Work and Income and community organisations. The Citizens Advice Bureau has recommended that the Department work closely and consult with community organisations to ensure the provisions in the Bill are implemented successfully and that the Department's service to job seekers is improved.

"This Bill will see community organisations offering more volunteer work for job seekers. The Citizens Advice Bureau will lend our support to the Department of Work and Income to ensure a range of good volunteering options are provided to job seekers to help equip them with appropriate skills and experiences," Nick Toonen said.

"We also welcome the Bill's intentions to simplify the benefit system and sanction regime, and to improve the one-on-one service that the Department of Work & Income should be providing job seekers.

"Our submission is based on the collective experience of clients who have used the services of our 91 bureaux over the past year, and of the bureau workers who have provided that service," Nick Toonen said.

"People benefit in a number of ways from volunteer work. Volunteers give an enormous amount to their communities but in return they get a great deal back. This is because they are offered the opportunity in a supportive environment to develop a range of skills and experience that contribute to confidence and self esteem. These include accessing and using information; communicating with people from many ethnic groups, ages, and backgrounds; computer skills; and writing reports, press releases, leaflets and other promotional material. These are all skills that employers are looking for and many of our volunteers go on to paid employment after working at a bureau.

"The passing of this Bill has great significance as we lead up to the International Year of Volunteers, especially for an organisation such as ours that has over 2,700 volunteers. There is no doubt in our minds that the reason people have benefited from volunteering for Citizens Advice Bureau is because they have chosen to do so. It is the commitment and goodwill of our volunteers that keeps our service alive and handling over half a million enquiries each year."

ends

For more information contact Nick Toonen, Chief Executive Officer, 021 135 6085 or Glenda McCallum, Communications Officer, 04 382 8759 (business hours)


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