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Benson-Pope: PATHS partnership launched in South

Hon David Benson Pope, MP
Minister for Social Development and Employment
Member of Parliament for Dunedin South

15 December 2005 Speech Notes

PATHS partnership launched in the South
Christchurch Netball Centre (455 Hagley Ave) 10am

Good morning. It’s my very great pleasure to welcome you here to the launch of Canterbury PATHS.

Welcome to (Work and Income/MSD reps, DHB reps, Partnership Health and MERHC reps; tbc)

This is the fourth PATHS partnership launched between Work and Income and a District Health Board.

More will follow as we roll-out this successful service.
In the four regions where it’s already running, PATHS is helping people with ill health or disability back into the workforce.

It’s producing wonderful stories about lives that are simply transformed. Let me tell you a few.

One client – I’ll call him Mike – had to leave his job after experiencing a series of heart attacks brought on by stress. After a year out of work and on Sickness Benefit, Mike was keen to return to the workplace. But he faced a problem.

Employers were worried that history might repeat itself, and that the stress of work might cause him more heart trouble. The result? Mike stayed on benefit, and out of work.

Then Mike was referred to PATHS. PATHS co-ordinators from Work and Income and the District Health Board worked with Mike and his GP to get a good picture of his situation.

Assessments showed that Mike was managing his health issues well, and that he could work for 30 or more hours a week, so long as he stayed out of highly stressful situations.

After that positive assessment, a PATHS Work Broker was brought in, to work with employers and help Mike find the job he wanted. Eventually, the Work Broker found a supervisory position that was close to Mike’s home, and in the industry he’d worked in before. Mike’s now back at work, earning a living, and enjoying his life.

The second story is about a woman I’ll call Sue, an Invalid’s Benefit client for nine years. Sue lives with Cerebral Palsy. She was frustrated by her condition, and especially frustrated at not being able to find work. Then her Work and Income case manager referred her to PATHS.

The PATHS Health Co-ordinator and Sue’s GP did a joint assessment of how they could help Sue go back to work. The assessment showed that, like Mike, Sue was managing her condition well, although she did need some extra support to return to the workforce. She also needed a job where she could negotiate the hours to suit her disability needs.

Sue’s PATHS Work Broker organised intensive job coaching, arranged for Sue to attend employment workshops, and found her a position at a local restaurant. The employer was happy to set the hours that would suit Sue’s needs. Once Sue had started her job, her Work Broker went with her to help her settle in. Like Mike, Sue has achieved her goal: she’s in the paid workforce.

Just a few years ago, we wouldn’t have heard stories like these. Work and Income’s focus for Sickness and Invalid’s Benefit clients was on making sure they got their full and correct entitlements, but not on giving employment support as well.

Today, we’ve moved from the idea that people on Sickness and Invalid’s Benefits aren’t able to work. We realise that many people with ill health or a disability want to work, and can work with the right support.

We’ve taken on new ideas, and we’ve started a New Service for Sickness and Invalid’s Benefit clients that provides employment support as well as entitlements.

The New Service is a whole mix of initiatives, like enhanced case management, career coaching, skills training, and support for employers.

And PATHS – the most innovative of all the New Service initiatives.

In a nutshell, PATHS provides the medical treatment that will enable a person with ill health or a disability to return to work. It draws together medical services, mental health and drug and alcohol services and social support services as required. The result is a tailor-made package for each person.

Sometimes surgery will help a person return to work. Sometimes counselling is needed, or a health management plan. Often, it’s more than one medical treatment, with other support drawn in as well.

As Mike’s and Sue’s stories show, we get the best results when we cover all the bases. And we cover all the bases by developing strong, co-operative partnerships.

Partnership is the absolute foundation of PATHS. Agencies and organisations working together can mobilise and maximise the resources of each to achieve so much more than they would alone.

Here in Canterbury, the “big four” PATHS partners are Work and Income, the District Health Board, the Mental Health Education Resource Centre, and Partnership Health, representing Primary Health Organisations.

I understand that PHOs will also be involved in frontline delivery of Canterbury PATHS, a unique feature that fits the needs of your region.

The development of the New Service for Sickness and Invalid’s Benefit clients is in part a response to the growing number of people relying on a benefit for income because of ill health or a disability.

New Zealand isn’t alone in this growth. Worldwide, it’s the single biggest issue in welfare. Where New Zealand does stand out is in the work we’re doing to halt the increase.

New Zealand today is a very different place to when the Labour Government first took office six years ago. Some of the biggest changes are in the economy and in employment.

Over two million New Zealanders are working. At 3.4%, our unemployment rate is the lowest in the OECD. The number of people on the Unemployment Benefit fell by 16,000 - 5% - in the year to September 2005. Overall, 22% fewer New Zealanders are receiving any kind of benefit than five years ago, and we’ve enjoyed sustained economic growth over that time.

The dent we’ve made in unemployment figures means we can put more time and resources into groups who haven’t traditionally received employment support; groups like Sickness and Invalid’s Benefit clients.

These are people who want to work. They want real jobs, with real prospects and pay. At the same time, employers are starting to look beyond the traditional workforce for their new workers.

This new focus on what people can do, and not what they can't, is paying off. We’re seeing increasing numbers of working-age clients leaving Sickness and Invalid’s benefit to go into work.

We’re seeing an increase in declared earnings, meaning more clients are working and more are earning. We’re very encouraged by these results, and we’re putting an extra investment of $127 million into the New Service over the next four years.

Today’s launch is one more step in Government’s programme to make sure employers have the skilled workers they need, and to open up employment opportunities to more New Zealanders.

Canterbury PATHS holds great potential for people, for business, for our economy, and for our community. Congratulations to everyone involved in getting PATHS going here in the south, and all the best for your partnership.

Thank you.

ENDS

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