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Welfare for the 21st Century - Labour

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Social security under Labour will work harder to include people in society rather than shut them out, says Labour social welfare spokesperson Steve Maharey.

"Welfare must change to meet people's needs in a time of increasing uncertainty, insecurity and rapid change. It is no longer enough to provide a safety net for predictable misfortunes. Too many people have become trapped in that net. We need a flexible system that helps people avoid crises, instead of just giving them reluctant handouts once a crisis has struck."

"New generation welfare must be tailored to individual needs. A Labour government will invest in programmes that make a positive difference to people's lives. We will work in partnership with the community, not just hand over the government's responsibilities to voluntary groups."

"One of our first tasks will be to end the culture of extravagance in Work and Income New Zealand. The department needs a fresh start. We will establish a public service ethic in Winz, with clear direction from the Government on the management style required."

"There will be fundamental changes to the way Winz operates. Staff will be directed to ensure beneficiaries get their full entitlements. Internal reorganisation will restore a clear distinction between Winz' employment and income support functions, because it makes no sense to treat all beneficiaries as job seekers. Labour will break down bureaucratic rigidity in the department and fix weaknesses, such as the lack of a proper complaints resolution process."

"National's meaningless, bullying work-for-dole scheme will go. Labour will concentrate on quality case management and introduce programmes to help school-leavers and single parents get work skills. We will restore a training benefit for 16- and 17-year-olds and trial new abatement regimes and grants to help beneficiaries move into work. But we will recognise that for some people work is difficult or impossible, and they will not be bullied or punished."

"Our Investing in Families policy will build Family Start into a substantial nationwide programme giving home support to families with new babies. Case workers will follow up, ensuring families get the assistance they need. Our Children's Agenda sets out new child welfare developments such as a transparent, independent review system for all child deaths."

"Labour believes welfare is a community project. In government we will develop a partnership agreement with the voluntary social services. It will set out the principles we share and specify the government's commitments and obligations. Voluntary groups will remain free to criticise, but will know their contribution is recognised and valued."

"The difference between Labour and National on welfare is clear. National blames individuals and families for being poor and out of work. They slashed benefits, distorted benefit fraud figures, bullied beneficiaries to look for non-existent jobs and drew up the insulting Code of Social Responsibility. They created an underclass, and they despise their own creation."

"Labour knows welfare is an option very few people want to take. Our policy does not begin with blame. We focus on creating opportunities by removing obstacles to training, gaining qualifications and getting a job. Labour's vision is of an enabling welfare state, building the capacity of individuals, families and communities to participate in the mainstream of New Zealand life."

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