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Approach supports sick & invalid back to work

28 April 2004 Media Statement

New approach supports sickness and invalids beneficiaries back to work

A prototype service showing the new way sickness and invalids’ beneficiaries will be supported back in to the workforce was launched today by Social Development and Employment Minister Steve Maharey.

The new initiatives have been developed as part of the nationwide roll-out of a new Sickness and Invalids’ Benefits Strategy which builds on additional support for these clients introduced as part of the Jobs Jolt package last August.

The government is investing $20 million over three years in the strategy, which will be supplemented in October. I will be seeking to supplement this with reprioritised subsidised work assistance funding from the Ministry of Social Development’s baseline.

In Auckland this evening Steve Maharey launched the fully-developed Manukau ‘concept site’ which showcases the new approach which will be progressively rolled out across the country. Sickness and invalids’ beneficiaries in the Manukau region are the first to trial the new service which provides both health and employment assistance.

“Work is fundamental to people’s self worth and independence and the government wants to ensure all New Zealanders have an equal opportunity to get and keep paid employment. Work and Income is now resourced to step up the support it can provide to people experiencing ill health or a disability to achieve this goal.

“The new way of working will move towards adopting an actuarial approach to the case management of these clients. The government will invest in the cost of surgical or primary health treatment and trade that against the cost of on-going benefit payments the client would have otherwise received.

“Manukau is very much the showcase for the new active way we will be working with sickness and invalids’ beneficiaries. We have reconfigured our services to provide:
- more active case management of clients by lowering from 300 to 160 the number of beneficiaries a case manager will support;
- better support for employers to retain staff experiencing illness or disability, as well as support to take on a new employee; and
- a range of one-on-one support ranging from career planning advice through to health treatment where it can be shown that these will enable clients to take on paid work.

“To date health interventions have only been piloted in Manukau and we will review the results of this approach in October prior to determining whether it should be rolled out nationwide.

“There is a pilot site in each of the Work and Income regions bringing additional services to 15,000 Sickness and Invalids beneficiaries now. Each region is trialling new ways of working with clients and employers and their experiences will inform the development of a new case management model. All clients on these benefits will receive enhanced services within three years.

“The number of people experiencing ill health or disability and needing income assistance is growing across the OECD as well as in New Zealand. The government’s determination to trial new services around the country is a world-leading piece of work which we hope will make a major difference.

“It is also a wake-up call to other political parties to clearly state what they would do to address the needs of the growing number of people experiencing ill health or disability. All too often opposition spokespeople have trumpeted slogans rather than solutions and sought to shame and blame people who genuinely want to work but face real barriers,” Steve Maharey said.

ENDS

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