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True test of Welfare Working Group will come tomorrow

True test of Welfare Working Group will come tomorrow

The real test of the Welfare Working Group (WWG) will be what it is prepared to consider when it releases its options paper tomorrow, the Green Party said today.

“Tomorrow we will find out whether the WWG is really interested in how to support people out of poverty, or whether its options are the punitive foregone conclusions many fear,” Green Party Work and Income Spokesperson Catherine Delahunty said.

In recent weeks, WWG Chair Paula Rebstock has suggested the paper will canvas a wide range of options designed to support people out of poverty.

“One of the best ways to do this is to support sole parents into education and training,” Ms Delahunty said.

“Many beneficiaries, especially young sole mothers, have broken work and education histories. Often they have been out of the labour market for several years by the time their youngest child is old enough for them to look for work, at which point their lack of experience can be a real barrier to getting a job.

“Providing support for education is a great way to help sole parents continue their own learning, while allowing them to care for their children in the crucial early years.

“The WWG seems to be focussed on moving people into paid work at all costs, but there is little to be gained from shifting parents into minimum wage jobs with long hours and harsh conditions. This incurs high childcare costs and deprives children of important parental care.

“Investing in education for sole parents supports both parents and children for the best long-term outcomes. Many voluntary schemes do this now, but the Government could provide this support across the board.

“We used to have this support in the Training Incentive Allowance (TIA). Social Development Minister Paula Bennett used this herself when she was on the DPB, but she kicked the ladder out behind her when she axed the TIA last year.

“A real test of whether the WWG has explored all the options or simply adopted the Minister’s agenda will be if tomorrow’s paper considers moving back towards a TIA-type system,” Ms Delahunty said.

Ms Delahunty said the current economic climate meant it was the right time to explore long-term options for supporting beneficiaries into work, rather than punitive short-term actions like benefit time limits and further sanctions.

“There simply aren’t enough jobs. Just today we heard from Statistics New Zealand that the number of jobs created in New Zealand in the last quarter is the lowest since 1999.

“Time and again we’ve seen queues of hundreds of people for low-paid jobs in supermarkets and factories. When jobs like this are in such high demand, it’s nigh on impossible for sole parents and people with illnesses, injuries and permanent disabilities to find appropriate work that suits their circumstances.

“There is much the Government could be doing to support these people long term.

“I sincerely hope the WWG’s options paper will explore these options, but if it does not, I look forward to the release of the Alternative Welfare Working Group’s reports to provide some balance in the debate,” Ms Delahunty said.

ENDS

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