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Turner: Tell the whole story, Minister

Monday, 28 June, 2004

Turner: Tell the whole story, Minister

The halving of the number of young people on the dole touted by Associate Social Development and Employment Minister Rick Barker isn't the whole picture of youth employment, United Future's Judy Turner said today.

At the same time that unemployment for those under 25 has fallen 60%, the number on the sickness benefit has increased by 30% since 2000, from 4236 to 5524. And the number of young people on the invalids benefit, considered to be permanently unable to work, has increased 27%, from 4782 to 6088, Mrs Turner said.

"Although the numbers involved are not as large, the trend is clear, and follows the pattern across all age groups: as the number of active jobseekers falls, the number claiming that they can't work due to health problems rises.

"The increase is being driven by those claiming conditions such as stress and depression, which makes up a quarter of all those under 25 and on the sickness benefit.

"These conditions are difficult for GPs to diagnose, as they have to rely on subjective reporting. Although many people manage these conditions and are still able to work, the Government doesn't require sickness and invalids beneficiaries to seek treatment as a requirement of their benefit.

"If the Minister is so proud of his unemployment figures, then perhaps for his next trick he can explain why young people are suddenly much sicker than they were several years ago," she said.

"I suspect an acute case of shiftlessness."


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