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Govt Slashes Aid For Long-Term Unemployed

ACT Employment Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman today accused the Government of abandoning the country's growing numbers of long term unemployed.

"Employment Minister Steve Maharey has presided over a rapid rise in the number of people out of work for more than two years. There are now over 56,500 people who have been jobless for two years or more, compared with about 44,000 when the present Government was elected.

"I would have thought that the Minister would be putting increased resources into getting these people productive and into the workforce - but he's doing the opposite.

"Answers to Parliamentary questions, which I just received despite asking for them before Christmas, show that the numbers of long term unemployed placed on subsidised work schemes have been slashed by more than 75 percent in the first two years of this Government.

"The figures show that the number of placements in the Job Connection programme has fallen from 1251 in November 1999 to 488 in November 2001 and the number on the Job Plus programme - targeting the six-month-plus unemployed - has fallen from 15,518 to 3537 in the same period.

"Clearly the funding previously devoted to these programmes has been diverted elsewhere. The people who have been out of work the whole time Steve Maharey has been Minister are patently not a priority for him. He's more interested in look-good, sound-good, no good publicity-seeking initiatives which don't create jobs but which personally show him in a favourable light.

"The Minister and this Government clearly don't care if people become permanently trapped in a vicious cycle of dependency. As a country we just can't afford to have able men and women sitting around. Unless something is done there is a clear risk of increasing social problems such as domestic strife and increased crime.

"ACT is committed to putting emphasis on engaging the long term unemployed in 40 hour-a-week job seeking and training schemes. Unless there are Government-led changes which genuinely assist those who have difficulty finding a place in the workforce, then we as country will continue to see long-term unemployed numbers rise," Dr Newman said.


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