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Art-For-Dole Scheme Traps More In Dependency

With its soft approach to welfare, the Government is in danger of trapping a whole new type of beneficiary in the welfare trap, ACT Employment Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman said today.

"Figures released in response to my Official Information Act requests show that nearly 800 people registered for the PACE - dole for artists - scheme in its first month-and-a-half of operation to the end of 2001.

"In addition, the number of people not in PACE, but on the dole and citing arts and culture as their first employment preference has risen from about 5000 at the end of October to 6000 at December 31.

"I repeat my earlier criticism that the guidelines for qualification under this scheme appear incredibly broad. I believe Steve Maharey's plan gives scope for widespread abuse. We may now see a flood of opportunists classifying themselves as artists - simply to obtain or stay on the dole. Such abuse would denigrate the efforts of those genuinely committed to the arts.

"The official departmental papers I have received regarding the set-up of the PACE scheme show that this has been pushed through on ideological grounds, with no detailed background work and no detailed costings done on the possible ramifications.

"It appears that the case manager, on whom responsibility for frontline management of this scheme is entrusted, doesn't even have to make any value judgement about whether a person seeking to get dole under the PACE plan actually has talent.

"I have no wish to decry people who want to make their living through the arts. New Zealand would be a much poorer place without the talent of people like Peter Jackson.

"But this Government is, through its actions, giving increasing numbers of people disincentives to work. It is telling people that the state will always be there to provide for them - and that is a dangerous thing.

"Not everybody is going to be a Peter Jackson and it would be a shame if large numbers of people get seduced into a life of welfare dependency pursuing an art or craft they are not good enough at - when there are other occupations they could take up which would give them a successful and happy lifestyle.

"I call on the Government to urgently review this scheme before yet more New Zealanders are blighted by its soft approach to welfare," Dr Newman said.


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