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Welfare reform will fail without job creation policies

14 August 2011

Welfare reform will fail without job creation policies

Welfare changes announced today will do little to help disengaged young people unless accompanied by meaningful job creation policies and increased training opportunities, the Green Party said today.

“We share the goal of supporting young people off benefits and into work, but youth unemployment is at crisis levels, and no amount of information sharing between agencies will help vulnerable young people if the opportunities are not there for them,” Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei said.

“John Key has today announced changes that would make funding for service providers helping youth in transition dependent on outcomes, like young people not being on benefits when they reach 18.

“Without meaningful job creation and training schemes, such changes create perverse incentives to minimise benefit numbers without ensuring that the alternative is better for the person concerned.

“We have already seen this happen with the new requirement to re-apply for the unemployment benefit after 12 months. Thousands are no longer on a benefit – but nor are they in work. They have fallen through the cracks, and this could be the result for many more young people if these changes go ahead.”

Mrs Turei supported moves towards comprehensive case management and support for 16 and 17 year old receiving benefits, but expressed concern that current Work and Income systems did not provide this.

“John Key talks of 'intensive case-management and mentoring support'. At present, people see a different case manager every time they visit Work and Income, and have to start from scratch explaining their circumstances to a new person,” said Mrs Turei.

“Without fundamental changes at Work and Income, it will be difficult to achieve the results Mr Key is expecting, and we cannot just rely on private providers. Privatising the welfare system is not the answer.”

Mrs Turei said she was also concerned that moves to require teen parents to be in some form of education or training would not ensure the best outcomes for their children.

“We do need policies that help sole parents into education and training, but this must happen with the best interests of children in mind,” Mrs Turei said.

“Requiring teen parents to be in education or training despite the needs of the child, such as breastfeeding and maternal bonding, has the potential to damage the connection between parent and child that we know is so crucial during the early years.

“John Key has not indicated how old children would be when this requirement kicks in. If it includes very young babies, it risks putting children at serious risk of increased poverty and deprivation. Sole parents need support and encouragement, not threats of financial penalties.

“Sole parents who wish to upskill are better served by comprehensive study support made available when it is best for parent and child.
Reinstating the Training Incentive allowance for degree-level course would be a better step towards helping sole parents to retrain than forcing them into education when their children are babies.”

Authorised by Metiria Turei and Russel Norman, Parliament Buildings, Wellington


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