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Changes to community employment assistance deliver

20 September 2004 Media Statement

Changes to community employment assistance delivery

The government is changing the way its community employment assistance is delivered to better meet current employment and labour market demands and to ensure clearer accountability, Social Development and Employment Minister Steve Maharey announced today.

"Current labour market conditions - 4% unemployment and issues emerging around labour shortages rather than job creation - do not lessen the need for a government role," he said. "We cannot afford to have individuals and groups marginalised or with limited capacity to become involved in the workforce.

"However, changed roles for government departments in recent years have meant a number of agencies have been working in the community employment assistance area. At present there is not enough coordination of the funding and delivery agencies, or proper knowledge of what is happening in local and regional labour markets.

"These changed roles were highlighted by some recent grant decisions that have led to investigations. In some cases it has been obvious that the organisation has been struggling in the new environment. In other cases poor processes have been followed.

"As with all public spending, we must ensure that we have the right programmes being delivered by the right agencies so that we've got clear accountability and we get the results we want.

"The government has decided that our current investment in community employment will continue, but it will be delivered in new ways to ensure it more effectively meets the labour market outcomes the government, businesses and the community are wanting."

The government will have three core roles in community employment going forward:

- Assistance to develop and create employment opportunities at the local level, targeting labour market need to improve the focus of existing grant assistance

- Coordination and engagement to get faster and more effective responses to employment issues at the local level, and

- A knowledge role to improve the quality of local labour market information and to pass it on for national policy and local use.

Steve Maharey said this will mean a change to grant programmes and departmental responsibilities.

"The Ministry of Social Development will be the lead agency for local assistance and engagement. It has the regional structure needed to support this, and it fits MSD's strategic direction of sustainable employment.

"The knowledge role will sit with the Department of Labour, again fitting with its new strategic direction of labour market outcomes.

"As a consequence, the Community Employment Group within the Department of Labour will be disestablished."

From Wednesday all CEG staff and functions will move to a Transitional Management Unit. Run out of the DoL and reporting to the chief executive, the Transitional Unit will administer any ongoing and new grants and provide continuity for staff and communities as MSD establishes the capability required. Current CEG grants funding will transfer to MSD by 31 March 2005.

The Ministry of Social Development and the Department of Labour will be working closely on the change management process to ensure that current CEG staff are retained in jobs that utilise their skills and experience.

"After 14 years of CEG and 20 years since its predecessors were established, the delivery of community employment assistance needs to be refoccused and this gives us a great opportunity to do so," Steve Maharey said.

"Widespread consultation will take place with stakeholders, including the Mayors' Taskforce for Jobs.

"The changes will improve the delivery and coordination of government services to community groups. Through this change process and afterwards, the programmes that work will continue. The total investment made by the government is not lessening. It is being reshaped to ensure it delivers better results all round."

ENDS

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