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ACT driving blind on Pathways to Employment scheme

ACT driving blind on Pathways to Arts and Cultural Employment scheme

Act social welfare spokesperson Muriel Newman's recent claim that the Pathways to Arts and Cultural Employment (PACE) scheme "is offering more people the opportunity not to work" clearly shows the blind course of her argument, Associate Social Services and Employment Minister Rick Barker said.

"First, and most fundamentally, PACE is not a separate unemployment scheme, as suggested by Dr Newman. It is a resource pack and the 2149 people currently in Work and Income's PACE membership group were already on the unemployment register.

"Second, and I really hope Dr Newman has both ears open for this one, between November 2001 and September this year, 562 people in the PACE membership group were placed in paid employment, with nearly one third of those (182) taking up work in the arts field."

"The remaining 380 people in the PACE membership group also took up paid work in other areas, allowing them to get off the unemployment register while they continued to seek work in the arts."

"If anything, Dr Newman's latest petty attack on the PACE programme has done the Government a huge favour by highlighting that the scheme is working. The pathway to a career in the arts is not as clear-cut as someone wanting to become a builder or electrician, but why should artists be denied the chance to excel in their chosen field?"

"Dr Newman points out that the most popular categories in the programme are musician, artist craftsperson, film and television production staff and graphic designers. Film, music and design play a valuable role in our creative sector one of three key areas highlighted in the Government's Growth and Innovation Strategy.

"Is Dr Newman prepared to tell the highly skilled local staff who have helped on the Lord of the Rings film trilogy that the work they do is not real and valued and therefore they should not expect assistance from Work and Income should they need it?

"Is Dr Newman prepared to tell the musicians, lighting and sound engineers, publicists and record company executives involved in the recent and very successful World Series showcase of New Zealand music that they should find something better to do with their time?

"Once again, so that Muriel Newman understands, PACE allows artists already receiving an unemployment benefit to register "arts" as their first job choice then liaise with Work and Income case managers to concentrate on identifying and strengthening the skills they need to develop professionally in order to find full-time jobs.

"This is exactly the same courtesy offered to all clients on the New Zealand unemployment register so why should artists be treated any differently?" Mr Barker said.

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