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Axing scheme won't help anyone get ahead

Bob Simcock National Social Services Spokesperson

20 February 2001

Axing scheme won't help anyone get ahead

The official axing of the work-for-the-dole scheme will do nothing to lift the sights of a group of long-term unemployed who can work but won't, National's Social Services spokesperson Bob Simcock said today.

"Mr Maharey believes that able-bodied people who have drawn a benefit for years and have no intention of working should be propped up by the State without any obligations or questions. But the majority of New Zealanders disagree."

Mr Simcock's comments come as Parliament debates the committee stages of the Social Security Amendment Bill.

"Mandatory community work was aimed primarily at the long-term unemployed who might have lost motivation and confidence. Work-for-the-dole was all about 'reciprocal obligations' where beneficiaries were encouraged to try at the very least. Through sanctions, jobseekers were effectively treated like workers as they faced minor penalties for minor non-compliance.

"Maharey's new regime takes away all incentives to work. Inevitably, the numbers of long-term unemployed will grow as expectations are lowered and sanctions are removed.

"We all know that the majority of beneficiaries want to work, but without a doubt there is also a percentage who have no intention of working. This is shown in areas like Hawkes Bay where many thousands of seasonal workers have to be imported despite 7.4% regional unemployment. Forestry pruning contractors on the East Coast can not get workers, even though unskilled workers can easily earn $100 a day and more.

"Around 30,000 people and 4,000 organisations participated in the work-for-the-dole scheme, and there are a tonne of success stories. The operators of employment initiatives and many of his own DWI staff are crying out for stronger accountability for 'freeloaders'. What they are getting is less.

"But Mr Maharey is not interested in listening. This Government is determined to make it easier for people to take the system for a ride," Mr Simcock said.

Ends

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