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Unemployed not vegetating on benefits

Unemployed not vegetating on benefits

Registered job seekers were not being left to vegetate on benefits, contrary to unsubstantiated and highly inaccurate comments by the Act Party, Associate Minister of Social Services and Employment Rick Barker said.

“Act rural affairs spokesman Gerry Eckhoff and social welfare colleague Muriel Newman claim orchardists are becoming increasingly frustrated with the fitness of workers sent their way by Work and Income.

“They claim many fruit pickers cannot last one day in an orchard and blame the Government saying that if it hadn’t scrapped work-for-the-dole initiatives, these people would still have the drive to work.

“Mr Eckhoff and Dr Newman then drive the boot in further, beating up on beneficiaries in an effort to gain votes and deflect attention away from the scandals swirling around Act.

“Do they sincerely expect the public to believe the unsubstantiated nonsense they spout?

“I know where my money is and here’s why.

“Job seeker numbers in Nelson and the Tasman District are currently at record lows. Since December, 900 people have come off the register and this is largely attributable to seasonal work.

“Long before the fruit season begins, job seekers are advised that unless they have alternative work or can produce a medical certificate proving their unsuitability for this type of work, they will be referred to a seasonal vacancy

“As work expectations are set early on, many job seekers actually find their own placements. Three people without pre-arranged placements were recently taken on as full-time orchard staff after starting out as temporary apple baggers.

“If a problem does occur with people referred by Work and Income, orchardists are encouraged to contact the department so it can assist where possible.

“Work and Income also provides intensive support programmes for clients with employment barriers to help prepare them for the workforce.

“Since September 31 last year, a total of 2,310 people have come off the Hawke’s Bay unemployment register, including those placed in seasonal work. “Since July 1 last year a total of 850 registered job seekers have also had their benefits stopped at one time after failing to meet Work and Income’s work-test provisions. So much for the Government being ‘soft on beneficiaries’.

“The Hawke’s Bay branch of the New Zealand Fruitgrowers Federation also reports that apart from some recent wet weather, they are unaware of any major labour shortages.

“Work and Income even provides a free bus service for seasonal workers around Napier and Hastings, which is in high demand during the day.

“Act claims that without the reintroduction of work-for-the dole schemes, beneficiaries would run rampant, further burdening the taxpayer.

“Of course, this is ignoring the fact that unemployment is currently at its lowest level in 15 years – 4.9 per cent.

“Fortunately, Act is not in Government because work for work schemes are a waste of time.

“Work and Income’s own evaluation of work testing schemes introduced before 1999 showed that clients who received no support at all from the department were more likely to find work than those press-ganged into make work schemes.

“The drop in unemployment is proof that the welfare system is working because more people are working.

“I strongly suggest Mr Eckhoff and Dr Newman look up the meaning of ‘in Parliament’ and ‘out of Parliament’ before opening their mouths on seasonal work matters they clearly have no clue about.”

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