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New Fund To Support Regional Job Initiatives

New Fund Established To Support Regional Job Initiatives

A new $3.8m fund is to be established to enable Work and Income Regional Commissioners to trial innovative programmes supporting beneficiaries to make the successful transition to paid work, Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey announced today.

Mr Maharey is in Nelson today meeting with employers, local government and community representatives to review the progress of DWI's regional job plan for the region which was launched last December. Regionalisation and a focus on employment were the key recommendation of Don Hunn's review of DWI commissioned by the new Government to bring a significant change in the Department’s approach, culture and results. In the Nelson region significant employment growth has been achieved by devolving decision making power away from Wellington and into the hands of Regional Commissioner Mike Smith and his staff.

Mr Maharey said there were some exciting new proposals being developed in the regions which the new fund will now be able to support.

"The new Government's approach to welfare refocusses DWI on assisting beneficiaries to move off welfare and into real paying jobs and away from the make-work schemes of the past. Funding worth $1.6m next financial year (rising to $2.2m in 2002/03) was set aside in last Thursday's Budget to support a more flexible, regionally driven approach to making work pay for beneficiaries.

"In many ways, the Nelson region shows the value of regionalising employment programmes. The region's job seeker register - which leads the country at present having dropped 42% between November 1999 and April 2001 - is a testament to the work the Department has been doing boosting the skills and capacity of job seekers in Nelson and on the Coast for a return to work.

"The contestable fund will be available to Department of Work and Income (DWI) Regional Commissioners from 1 July. Successful initiatives will demonstrate that they:

- focus on moving people into paid work who would otherwise be unlikely to get work on their own;

- will be for a fixed period

- can be monitored and evaluated; and,

- cannot be funded through an existing funding mechanism.

“The Government hopes we will see proposals that reflect and respond to local conditions. In Nelson, for example, we could see a further refinement of DWI's work to meet the needs of the seasonal labour market. In Northland I hope we might see proposals focused on the core long-term unemployed population the Department deals with on a day-to-day basis.

“DWI Regional Commissioners will be asked to submit bids for the new money. This will encourage more innovation within the regions and focus them on achieving a truly results-focused approach to helping get these people into work.

"One key component of the new fund will be a formal evaluation of each initiative because we want to be able to learn the lessons of success in one region and apply it across the country as appropriate," Steve Maharey said.


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