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Intensive employment support extended to all

26 October 2006

Intensive employment support extended to all

Social Development and Employment Minister David Benson-Pope has announced new measures to provide intensive employment support to every New Zealander who is receiving a benefit and is able to work.

Mr Benson-Pope today announced the first phase of Working New Zealand: Work-Focused Support, a programme that builds on the government's success in reducing Unemployment Benefit numbers.

"Getting New Zealanders into work is pivotal to the Labour-led Government's economic transformation agenda," Mr Benson-Pope said.

"Since first taking office in 1999, we've reduced Unemployment Benefit numbers from around 160,000 to just over 40,000. We've also made excellent progress in providing stronger support for people with particular barriers to work.

"Labour force participation is at a record high of 68.8 per cent, and unemployment at a record low of 3.6 per cent. This gives us the resources to work intensively with people at different stages of work readiness, while still providing support to people who can't work at all."

Phase one of Working New Zealand: Work-Focused Support will involve:

- extending employment assistance to Independent Youth, Domestic Purposes, Sickness and Invalid's Benefit clients

-setting stronger work expectations for clients in some circumstances

- providing targeted employment initiatives to reduce the high Maori Unemployment Benefit rate

- offering a Job Search Service for all work-ready clients

- continuing to align rules and criteria of different benefits.

Legislation for phase one will be introduced in December.

"Delivering the services that get people working is our absolute priority. This is the work that changes people's lives, and that's what phase one is about," Mr Benson-Pope said.

"Phase two will be about further simplifying the benefit system and reducing the number of benefit categories to better align with our work-focused approach. The government will make final decisions about phase two in 2008."

"This government is committed to ensuring that all people who are on benefit get the right services, right from the start. Working New Zealand is a substantial reform package that will stand the test of time for future generations," he said.

ENDS

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