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BUDGET 2001: Making work pay

24 May 2001

Making work pay

Giving beneficiaries the skills and opportunity to move permanently off welfare into real paying jobs is the focus of a $44.7 million budget package, says Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey.

"The welfare system is full of anomalies that lock people out of the workforce because the financial gains of being in work often do not stack up. The Government is working to shift the emphasis on to lifting people's capacity to get a job and to making sure that being in work will always pay.

"Budget 2001 begins the process of removing some of the barriers to paid employment.

"Lack of information about the support available to beneficiaries to move into jobs, and uncertainty about the security of their new income is a major barrier to moving from welfare and into work. Changes funded in Budget 2001 include [all figures over four years]:
- $2.2 million to streamline the administration of Family Support by the Department of Work and Income [DWI] to ensure that beneficiaries do not lose due entitlements when they take up employment opportunities;
- $300,000 to extend assistance via the New Employment Transition Grant to couples who have dependent children. The Grant provides support for new workers not yet eligible for employer-paid leave when they are absent from work due to sickness [themselves, their partner or child] or because of a breakdown in child care arrangements;
- a new $725,000 information campaign by DWI and Inland Revenue to inform beneficiaries of the transition-to-work and in-work assistance for which they are eligible and which is currently under-utilised;
- $2 million to increase to $500 a year the support which can be provided by the Work Start Grant to cover the costs of shifting to take up a new job or buying work-related safety equipment, and to bridge the gap between a new worker's last benefit payment and first pay packet.

Improving opportunities

"The Government wants to evolve our welfare system into one which actively and positively works with beneficiaries to boost their skills. Budget initiatives include [figures over four years unless specified]:
- $3.6 million through the Adult Literacy Strategy to provide basic literacy assistance for up to 2,000 job seekers;
- $4 million in 2001-02 for improved transition-to-work and in-work support for people with disabilities. A review of vocational services is due to be reported to the Government later this year;
- $3 million for a pilot programme, to run in 2002 and 2003, providing tailored assistance to Sickness and Invalids Benefit recipients to encourage them to participate in paid work and community-based activities;
- a $1.2 million Early Intervention Home Visit Pilot programme, starting this August, to give 4,500 new domestic purposes beneficiaries in six communities the option of a discussion at home about employment options, financial assistance and relationship issues; and,
- $20.2 million to provide continued support to assist people in work or training to access subsidised childcare, and out-of-school care [OSCAR] during school holidays, up to a maximum of 37 hours per week. $360,000 is also provided in 2001-02 to continue development assistance for OSCAR providers identified as potentially viable.

"Support worth $7.2 million over four years is also provided to the Community Employment Group to develop community-based employment initiatives by harnessing the skills of community leaders and the long-term unemployed to work on social development programmes. [Refer to the Building Stronger Communities statement, issued with Minister Tariana Turia.]

"$3.6 million is to be spent backing social entrepreneurs; $1.6 million to support small business development amongst Pacific women and $2 million for an Ecoworks programme which will assist community organisations to develop new waste management, eco-tourism and habitat protection initiatives," Steve Maharey said.


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