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Collins wrong on unemployment

6 September 2005

Collins wrong on unemployment

Judith Collins' bizarre attack on the integrity of Work and Income staff is further proof she's not coping with the demands of the welfare portfolio, Social Development and Employment Minister Steve Maharey said.

"I'm concerned that someone who wants to be a Cabinet Minister would so carelessly politicise the work of public servants," Steve Maharey said. "Politicians from all sides usually agree that Work and Income case managers do exceptional work in what is a difficult job.

"Ms Collins' accusation that the government is somehow distorting unemployment benefit numbers by transferring people to sickness benefits is tired, untrue and shows that she still hasn't gotten on top of her portfolio."

Steve Maharey said there were a number of indisputable facts Judith Collins needed to come to grips with:

- Indisputable fact # 1 - The unemployment rate is calculated independently by Statistics New Zealand and must conform to the International Labour Organisation's guidelines

- Indisputable fact # 2 - New Zealand has the lowest unemployment rate in the OECD at 3.7 per cent

- Indisputable fact # 3 - There are 273,000 more New Zealanders in jobs than there were when the government took office - that's 1,000 more people in work every week under Labour

- Indisputable fact # 4 - The total number of working age New Zealanders on benefits has fallen by 80,000 since Labour was elected - this figure takes into account the growth in sickness and invalid's benefits.

- Indisputable fact # 5 - There are nearly 100,000 fewer people on the unemployment benefit than there were in 1999

- Indisputable fact # 6 - The OECD says that the Labour-led government's implementation of policies like Jobs Jolt have contributed to the rapid fall in unemployment - they call this New Zealand's 'Jobs Miracle'

- Indisputable fact # 7 - Less than 7 per cent of those moving off the Unemployment Benefit since 1999 have gone onto the sickness Benefit

"Judith Collins needs to understand that people on benefits get sick just like anyone else.

"There is no way for case managers to simply transfer people onto a sickness benefit - a medical certificate signed by an independent GP is required before anyone gets the sickness or invalids benefit.

"I have been personally assured by the Ministry of Social Development Chief Executive that case managers are maintaining high professional standards when assessing all benefit applications.

"This is Judith Collins' typical approach. She's making wild allegations based on no evidence about an issue that she does not understand."

ENDS

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