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Talking Tough Not Enough

Talking Tough Not Enough

ACT New Zealand Social Welfare Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman today called on Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey to do more than just talk tough if he wants to fix the looming long-term unemployment problems.

"Since becoming Government, Labour has undermined the welfare system, axing Work for the Dole, scrapping work-testing for the DPB, and re-establishing the Sickness Benefit as standalone," Dr Newman said.

"On top of that, the Department of Work and Income has put its energy into helping those unemployed who are easily-placed, and not yet entrenched in welfare dependency. This Government is now talking tough, but that is not enough. To be effective, fundamental changes to our welfare system need to be made.

"In order to help people into jobs and ensure they are not left on the scrapheap, overseas experience shows that welfare programmes should mirror the workforce - requiring beneficiaries to attend 40-hour weeks of work, training or organised job search; docking benefits for those who arrive for work late, or don't turn up at all - all the while giving participants the habits and skills of the workplace.

"Work programmes are currently voluntary - beneficiaries do not have to stick with a job, or show up at all. There are now hundreds of employers around the country who cannot find workers for basic skilled jobs such as cleaning, horticulture or forestry.

"The Household Labour Force Survey will be released later this week, and will show that unemployment figures have worsened, thanks largely to fundamental changes to the welfare system - driven by Beneficiary Union demands - that the Minister has made.

"If Mr Maharey is to prevent a blow-out in unemployment numbers, he must urgently reform our welfare system. Initiatives to move the long-term unemployed into work - like time limits to create a sense of urgency and prevent people stagnating on benefits, and 40-hour work weeks - are what are needed to help unemployed families and communities, as well as taxpayers," Dr Newman said.

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