No.190 8 August 2003 Essential Information on an Essential Issue

Jolt (noun) a sudden shock
(verb) 1. to jar with a quick or hard blow
2. to disturb the composure of
3. to interfere with roughly, abruptly, and disconcertingly
Merriam-Webster Dictionary

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" This Government came to office with a great deal of scorn for the idea that recipients of the unemployment benefit should be required to look for work and accept any reasonable offer, which is what is usually meant by the term "work test". It carries the clear implication that those who fail the test will lose some or all of their welfare payment, although not even the previous Government imposed that sanction.

Nevertheless, Labour came to power excoriating the supposed "meanness" of the previous regime and engineered the departure of its leading symbol, Christine Rankin, chief executive of Work and Income NZ, which was to undergo a "culture change". Evidently, that is all history now, for a set of initiatives announced by the Minister of Social Welfare, Steve Maharey, this week look not too different from the carrots and sticks that he used to criticise..."

— editorial in The New Zealand Herald 6 August 2003, "Carrot and stick for the jobless"

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" This is one shrewd Government. Cabinet's so-called "Job Jolt" plan suggests that Labour's in-house polling is saying that the electorate perceives this Government, and the minister in particular, as soft on welfare. No more, it seems...

" Making the kind of swinging attack on life-long welfare that Mr Maharey, with Prime Minister Helen Clark, did on Monday is what voters traditionally expect of National or ACT NZ. But NZ Labour, like New Labour in Britain, knows that their belief in welfare as a safety net has become, in the minds of many, welfare as a hammock.

" This week's Jobs Jolt measures might not go as far as political opponents would prefer, but they might nonetheless go far enough to settle the average Kiwi battler, who struggles to make ends meet and deeply resents "welfare bludgers". If so, the Government can add this to its growing list of successes _ reducing welfare dependency is a fraught field for any left-of-centre government. "

— editorial in The Dominion Post 6 August 2003, "Jobs plan a jolt for opposition"

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" The 10-point plan with its $104 million price tag seemed a dramatic new effort to tackle unemployment. Closer scrutiny suggests, however, that this so-called jolt to the dole queue has been over-sold.

" The package attracted predictable publicity which suggested that those on the dole were due for some beneficiary bashing ... Actually, apart from work testing for the older unemployed, such measures expanded or clarified existing rules.

" That does not affect the merits or otherwise of the measures themselves. It does, however, raise the issue of why the Government presented a package that so easily lent itself to accusations of beneficiary bashing. Even more curious is that as recently as May the Government was denying that it planned to work test the older unemployment beneficiaries. The suspicion arises that this package is a response to a perceived public dissatisfaction with the level of welfare dependency and perhaps to impending jobless figures ..."

— editorial in The Christchurch Press 6 August 2003, "Oversold package"

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" What comes first, the job or the shift? It is doubtful even Steve Maharey knows the answer. The Government's Job Jolt scheme announced this week has given everyone in the employment industry a jolt. No one knew it was being prepared by this proudly consultative Government. It reeks of being cobbled together in a rushed attempt to be seen to be doing something in the area of benefits, where it is vulnerable to any party or voter on its right."

— editorial in The Daily News 7 August 2003, "Maharey jobs-hunt scheme looks more like a noise-hunt"

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" The Government's new push to get beneficiaries off the dole and into jobs is common sense. Nobody should expect to live at the taxpayers' expense if they are able to work and a suitable job is available. The so-called Jobs Jolt simply sets out a plan to better achieve that. However, the reality is sometimes different from the plan ...

" What the Government's employment package does not address is an assurance that a job will pay a decent wage. For many workers it is not too difficult picking up a job. The problem is that many jobs are casual and not fulltime. It is an increasing trend to have to juggle more than one part time job to earn a living. It is one thing to get more people off the dole, but a bigger challenge to ensure jobs pay well. The dole will seem less attractive if there is good money to be made working."

— editorial in Marlborough Express 6 August 2003, "Good in theory"

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" No matter what the spin — and there was plenty of that — the Government's latest assault on the country's dole queues contains elements which are, as some critics have already pointed out, harsh and punitive. For there is an iron fist in the velvet glove of the "offers" Employment Minister Steve Maharey says the state is putting up. It is the ultimate sanction of no work, no money. If you don't see things our way — don't leave town, for example — we will cut you off. It's draconian stuff, sure to appeal to those who think you must be too lazy to work if you are unemployed ...

" Of course, there are always some who abuse the welfare net, and presumably they are in for some "enhanced" attention from agencies such as Work and Income. But take the case of the older worker, made redundant, and who can't get another job because he or she is told they're over-age, despite having all the skills in the world. What's the Government doing about employers who freely and openly indulge in age discrimination? It can help with retraining, where that is needed. But there are plenty of reasons why people are declared surplus which have nothing to do with their skills, and therefore for whom retraining is not relevant ...

" The legendary Gisborne surfie who over the years has fought off all attempts to get him into work may well exist, if not in the rumoured widespread numbers. Nobody will be too upset if his carefree days are brought to an end by tougher state policies. After all, those are our taxes that are paying for his benefit. But it would be wrong to generalise from the particular. Most people are not work-shy. Quite the contrary — they desperately want to work, and the last thing they need is some state-sharpened axe dangled over their head. "

— editorial in Manawatu Standard 6 August 2003, "Iron fist in the velvet glove"

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" Wow. Where did that come from? Labour's "Job Jolt" package wasn't simply announced on Monday, it was dumped from on high. No warning. We didn't even know it was the issue of the day. That's because it isn't.

" There is every reason to be suspicious of Labour's motivation for supposedly getting tough on beneficiaries now, and the statement from Social Services Minister Steve Maharey of waiting until the labour market was robust enough doesn't quite cut it. After all, this Government already has initiatives in place. Now this, a $105-million jolt. We're not only suspicious, we're confused.

" And these measures certainly sound tough, especially coming from a party of the left. Work testing for beneficiaries aged 55 to 59; requiring unemployed people to shift towns to get work; cutting off benefits to those who are deemed free loaders. But the extension in age testing is really the only thing new here. People's benefits can be cut off now. They can be made to shift now.

" So, maybe not new initiatives, but does Job Jolt mean this Government wants more use to be made of existing ones? Does it want the 10-year unemployed person with a drug dependency to be cast free? To what, a life of crime? And uproot the family from school and support networks for a job for one of them, and no guarantees on how long it will last? Or is this simply political posturing, off the back of Labour's own polling, as suggested by National? "

— editorial in The Timaru Herald 6 August 2003 "Job plan a jolt"

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joltmaharey.jpg - 10192 Bytes The government has unveiled a $104.5 million jobs package which it says will tackle skill shortages and get more New Zealanders off benefits and into work. The package contains ten initiatives, which the government is collectively marketing as the "Jobs Jolt".

The announcement has indeed come as a sudden shock to many beneficiaries ... but even opposition parties have been caught completely off-guard, and community groups say they have been "ambushed" by these announcements.

There has been widespread criticism that this "tough love" package is a political ploy to cut the ground from under right-wing political parties who had recently been gaining electoral credibility on welfare issues. And the style of parts of the latest announcements seem more reminiscent of the punitive measures undertaken by former Winz boss Christine Rankin ... rather than the "social development" policy focus that has been promoted up until now by Minister Steve Maharey.

  • The "Jobs Jolt" package will:

    — threaten to cut benefits for jobless people who move to remote areas with little prospects for paid work.

    — require unemployed people aged 55-59 to be active and available for work.

    — make those who lose potential jobs through a positive drugs test undergo drug and alcohol education.

    — contract intensive specialists to focus one-on-one with those people who have been without work for eight or more years.

    — intensify employment programmes for solo parents

    — link industries with labour and skill shortages, while giving training to long-term joblessness.

    — introduce employment coaching for skilled and work-ready jobless people.

    — put a greater Winz presence in eight remote areas, in order to promote better links between local job seekers and employers.

  • Minister of Social Development and Employment Steve Maharey says that peoples' lives are best improved through work and community participation. He says that the package recognises that with low unemployment and labour shortages, the New Zealand economy needs as many working-age people as possible to be active in the labour market. Maharey: "Given economic and employment growth, we have an opportunity now to implement new initiatives which will help meet industry needs for labour and support into work more of those presently unemployed. Assuming robust economic growth, the Jobs Jolt initiatives should make a significant contribution to employment growth and skill shortages over the next three years. "

    Maharey expects that most of these initiatives will pay for themselves ... as the government will recover as much as $91 million in reduced benefit payments.

    Source — Press release Steve Maharey 4 August 2003 "Jobs Jolt will get more New Zealanders into work"

  • How many people will be helped by this package? Maharey predicts that it will assist 22,000 people into paid employment over the next three years. (This compares to employment figures growing by an average of 44,000 jobs a year since the Labour-led government has been in office).

  • While it has been quite specific about the number of jobs it expects to create with this package, and how much it expects to save on benefit payments ... the "Jobs Jolt" announcements give no specific indication on how many new staff will need to be added to Winz and similar agencies in order to deliver the results.

  • Who knew this package was coming? The government did confidential briefings for senior politicians and government department leaders about two weeks ago. Beneficiaries groups, however, say they were not consulted over the package before its release. Peoples Advocacy Society President Mike Dixon-McIver: "It's been sprung on us and, as advocates, our input in now meaningless..."

    Green MP Sue Bradford, herself a former beneficiaries advocate, remarked in Parliament, last Thursday: "Since it came to power, Labour has made a justifiably big deal about its willingness to consult with community groups about the issues which affect them and the people they serve. After 4 years of an NGO/government consultation process, of regular meetings between MSD and beneficiary groups, and between the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs and public officials, all that nice talk has been rendered meaningless by Maharey's latest effort..."

  • Members of the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs confirm that there was no mention of the "Jobs Jolt" package at their three-monthly "partnership" meeting held with government officials, and with Ministers Maharey and Anderton, only six weeks ago.

    Support for the Mayors Taskforce is one of the ten elements of the "Jobs Jolt" package, with the establishment of a $500,000 annual "Flexible Employment Fund" which will be money that the Winz Regional Commissioners can call on to develop initiatives in co-operation with Taskforce Mayors.

    But this latest announcement actually makes funding for the Mayors less flexible than before. The money replaces an existing Mayors Taskforce allocation in the "Transition to Work Contestable Fund" (which ended in June this year). The "Jobs Jolt" money will now be more closely tied to the government's "Youth Transitions Strategy" which is aligned with the government's goal of ensuring work and training options are available for 15-19 year olds.

  • Ruapehu District Mayor Sue Morris told the Waikato Times that parts of the "Jobs Jolt" package runs counter the achievements of some the Mayors Taskforce initiatives. Mrs Morris warns that the plans to make job seekers move could drain spare labour from her district when it was needed in the medium- and long-term in agriculture and forestry.

    South Waikato Mayor Gordon Blake says the government should invest in business development in smaller regions rather than push people to move. His district has seen job losses in recent years in the forestry industry. Blake: "We have a good infrastructure here already, help us to use it..."

    The "Jobs Jolt" package, however, has been applauded by Otorohanga Mayor Eric Tait, who says Otorohanga is desperate for labourers and semi-skilled workers. Tait: "I think it's about time the Government got hard."

    In the Hauraki district, Mayor Basil Morrison doubts Maharey's announcement would have much effect. Morrison: "We are not in an out-of-the-way area. Job opportunities in our district are still pretty good. We have more of a problem with people looking for employees..."

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    We give an essential summary of the "Jobs Jolt" government announcement made on 4th August 2003.


  • The government believes that people receiving the Unemployment Benefit have clear obligations to be available for work and to take reasonable steps to find employment. The "Jobs Jolt" package includes three components which will reinforce these requirements:

    — It clarifies the situation for clients who lose potential employment due to a positive drug test. Clients in this position may be required to participate in a drug and alcohol education programme or complete another job seeker development activity.

    — It also seeks to more consistently apply the existing policy for clients who choose to relocate to remote areas where there are limited employment opportunities. Clients may be breaching their obligations with such a move and may find themselves work tested and their eligibility for a benefit affected.

    — It will streamline and automate Winz operational systems that are used to contact and potentially sanction clients who breach work test obligations.

    Cost: No specific costs stated in this initiative.


  • To meet the growing demand for skilled workers, the work test exemption currently available to people aged 55-59 years on Unemployment Benefits will be removed. This initiative will also provide greater support to older job seekers by reducing case management ratios to one case manager per 160-170 older job seekers. Clients will receive more active and job-focussed assistance, including training in workplace skills such as computer literacy.

    Older job seekers will also be helped to overcome their personal barriers to employment. They may be referred to specialised providers with expertise in assisting older clients. Work may also be undertaken with employers to promote the benefits of hiring older job seekers.

    Target: 6,640 people each year.

    Cost: $600,000 in 2003/4, then $3.8 million per year.


  • Sole parents will receive extra help to enter and remain in the workforce with regional employment programmes that recognise family commitments. This initiative will help sole parents with parenting and childcare issues while maintaining their motivation to become independent. It will include piloting services that will involve liaison between clients, their case managers and employers to resolve potential problems that may arise from moving into work.

    Target: 5,000 people over three years.

    Cost: $7.8 million over three years.


  • Employment specialists will be contracted to work one-on-one with people who are long-term unemployed who have been out of the workforce for eight years or longer. The intention is to help long-term clients identify and address their specific barriers to employment, while also helping Winz develop a better understanding of the reasons behind long-term unemployment. This initiative will also provide case managers with access to extra skills and resources to successfully tackle the difficult issues that very long-term unemployed clients often face.

    Target: 4,200 people over three years.

    Cost: $4.5 million over three years.


  • One—on-one employment coaching will be offered to specific groups of job seekers to address their employment barriers, increase their value to employers and improve their chances of moving into sustainable and higher quality employment. Complementing existing case management, this employment coaching will target older job seekers, people with disabilities, those who have been made redundant and others for whom group programmes may be unsuitable.

    Winz will contract with specialist providers who will assess the needs and work potential of these clients and help them to set suitable work goals. Clients will receive follow-up help with motivation, job seeking skills and job applications and once in work, they will receive up to six months of additional support. Employment coaching will be offered primarily to skilled and work ready clients.

    Target: 4,000 people over three years.

    Cost: $3 million over three years.


  • This initiative is designed to increase face-to-face employment services in areas where Winz has a limited presence in isolated rural areas, and will work to develop untapped job opportunities. It will operate by providing a more intensive and directed service than is usually able to be provided. Winz will assess the needs of local industries and employers and ensure they have information on wage subsidies and other assistance. Work brokers will co-ordinate relevant training for clients and, once clients are in work, provide follow-up assistance such as job subsidies, in-work support and ongoing training as required.

    Target: services to be provided for 8 remote areas.

    Cost: each area funded for $120,000 each year, or $3 million over three years.


  • A pilot programme will be established within each Winz region to enhance case management for people on Sickness and Invalids Benefits. Case managers will work more closely with these people to help them set goals for their future and develop individual plans addressing their strengths, needs, barriers and key issues.

    People with disabilities, who want to work, will benefit from the expansion of a Job Club pilot. The current Job Club trial, operated by Workbridge, provides resources and support to job seekers with disabilities who are near work readiness. This initiative may see more providers recruited for the programme, and will encourage the establishment of Job Clubs for clients with similar disabilities. It will also see further linkage to and promotion of other support services, such as Supported Employment programmes.

    A fund is also being established for other innovative employment initiatives for people on Invalids and long-term Sickness Benefits who want to enter the workforce. This initiative will also continue the existing employABLE programmes.

    Target: 6,000 people over three years.

    Cost: $5.9 million in 2003/4, then $8 million per year.


  • A discretionary fund to assist young people through the transition from school to work will be established as part of the government's commitment to the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs. The fund will be used for one-year initiatives to help meet the target of ensuring all 15-19 year olds enter appropriate education, training or work when they leave school. The programme provides an opportunity for strong linkages between central and local government, enabling joint contributions to partnership initiatives that benefit local young people and their communities.

    Cost: $1.5 million over three years.


  • This initiative will fund the national and regional co-ordination of Winz to improve its responsiveness to genuine skill and labour shortages throughout the country. A National Co-ordinator will oversee the immediate development of industry partnerships, and help ensure job seekers secure sustainable employment. Programmes will focus on training targeted to meet industry-identified skill and labour shortages, and may include on-the-job training, work experience or pre-employment training. This supports and extends existing employment industry partnerships and complements the wage subsidy programme.

    Target: 500 people next year, rising to 1,000 each year for following two years.

    Cost: $10.75 million over three years.


  • Employment opportunities in the information and communication technology (ICT) industry will be developed and promoted to long term unemployed clients in three communities. The Community Employment Group (an agency of the Department of Labour) will co-ordinate the Cyber Communities programme that aims to increase communities ability to access, participate in and efficiently use ICT. The programme will provide a range of training, work experience and employment opportunities in three communities for long-term unemployed people interested in ICT.

    ICT support co-ordinators will be appointed to operate the programme at a local level and ensure training is linked in with relevant ICT training institutions. A National Cyber Co-ordinator will be appointed to oversee the development of training for technology planners working with community groups and communities, and the development of networks between the communities involved with the programme.

    Target: 140 people over three years.

    Cost: $2.5 million over three years.

    Source — Hon Steve Maharey announcement "Jobs Jolt will get more New Zealanders into work" available on the Beehive website at www.beehive.govt.nz/ViewDocument.cfm?DocumentID=17461
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  • katherinerich.jpg - 9251 Bytes National Party MP Katherine Rich says the "Jobs Jolt" is an acknowledgement of her own party's concerns. Rich: "Steve Maharey's trying to pretend he's taking a tougher line, when all he's doing is acknowledging National's concerns that there are far too many people trapped on welfare. Treasury projections show that welfare numbers are going to increase significantly over the next few years. Nothing is this package is going to allay community concerns that too many people are struggling on welfare ..."

    Rich describes the package as a "waffle fest" that is short on detail and lacks commitment to delivering results. She points to what she calls woolly and undefined aspects of the programmes that lack bite: "The government pretends to take a tougher line but stops half way with comments like "clarification for clients" who fail drug test — what does that mean? Do they keep getting a benefit or not? It says Invalid and Sickness Beneficiaries will be assisted to retain links with the workforce "if they wish to" — if they are able to work they should be expected to try for jobs."

    Source — Press release national Party 5 August 2003; "Jobs announcement weak waffle"; Press release national Party 5 August 2003 "Jobs Joke of 10 "not so new" programmes"

  • newman02.jpg - 5557 Bytes Act MP Muriel Newman sees the "Jobs Jolt" as an attempt to pre-empt the inevitable criticism Maharey will get from the rise in unemployment which is expected in the next Household Labour Force Survey. Newman: "True to form, Mr Maharey is attempting to distract attention from the negative unemployment statistics. Recent information that shows that the number of people who have been registered unemployed over four years has risen 61 percent — to more than 17,000 — since he became Minister. Equally alarming, the number of Sickness Beneficiaries has breached 40,000 for the first time in New Zealand history. The Minister has single-handedly reversed declining Sickness Benefit numbers by removing it from the Community Wage, making it a standalone benefit once again."
    Source — Press release Act Party 5 August 2003 "Maharey's chickens home to roost" by Muriel Newman

  • bradford02.jpg - 5068 Bytes Green Party MP Sue Bradford believes the "Jobs Jolt" has brought a screeching halt to four years of the government "boasting about their achievements for ordinary workers and low-income people". Bradford calls the policy announcements "a massive lurch to the right" which unfairly blames and punishes beneficiaries. She accuses Maharey of pandering to right-wing parties, all of whom have had rising profiles this year with their welfare policies.

    Bradford: "I'm beginning to ask myself whether Steve Maharey and Peter Hughes are driving Labour's welfare reforms, or whether the real drivers are the ghosts of Jenny Shipley and Christine Rankin, as personified in 2003 by Katherine Rich, Don Brash and Muriel Newman."

  • Bradford says the "Jobs Jolt" package does have positive initiatives, including putting more resources into job support, training and a greater focus on matching unemployed people with jobs. Bradford: "I would go out of my way to commend any government which increased job placement support and training options for mature unemployed. However, to extend the whole blaming and sanctioning apparatus of the State on to people aged 55 years and over is callous."

    "Mature aged people are one of the most highly motivated and at the same time one of the most disadvantaged groups of unemployed people. I don't think that the Minister can begin to comprehend the humiliation involved, nor the anxiety of people who are plunged into despair at this attack on their dignity and self-esteem at a stage of their lives when society owes them a lot more than sanctions and punishment for daring to be out of work through no fault of their own ..."

    Source — Press release Green Party 5 August 2003 "Labour's lurch to the right on benefits alarming"

  • Employers and Manufacturers Association (Northern) chief executive Alasdair Thompson says that targeting the long-term unemployed was consistent with what his Association has been seeking. Thompson: " Even though we have low unemployment of about 5%, there are a number of people on that list who must be brought up to scratch with vocational skills."

    He warns there must be some leniency when considering suspending a person's benefit if they refuse to move to an area where there is a job for them: "Where people are mobile, I think it's an excellent idea. For them to stay in areas where there are no jobs, and expect everybody else to support them … I don't think society owes them that opportunity."

    Source — New Zealand Herald 5 August 2003 "Employers praise govt's jobs jolt" by Paula Oliver

  • ctulogo.gif - 3160 Bytes The Council of Trade Unions believes the "Jobs Jolt" initiatives for sole parent beneficiaries will only work if it actively supports people into real sustainable work, rather than penalising those on benefits. Secretary Carol Beaumont says the enhanced case management of sole parents must not operate as a work-test which fails to recognise the valuable unpaid caring work done by sole parents. Beaumont: "It also needs to take into account their concentration in low-paid, casual work, and the need for better family-friendly workplaces and childcare."
    Source — Press release NZ Council of Trade Unions 4 August 2003 "'Jolt' must deliver real jobs"

  • Kevin Hackwell of the Downtown Community Ministry says the government has failed to remove the "real barrier" hindering people on the dole who are looking for work: huge tax claw-backs. Hackwell points out that some people lose 93c on the dollar through the loss of their accommodation supplement and having to pay secondary tax on any income they earn while on a benefit. He says these benefit abatement rates act as a major disincentive to people who would like to get paid work.

    Hackwell also says that the intention to make beneficiaries shift to bigger towns in order to find work did not make sense as many had moved to remote areas to escape poverty. He believes that if Winz paid beneficiaries their correct entitlements, many would not have to move to remote areas in search of a cheaper lifestyle.

    Source — The Dominion Post 5 August 2003 "Jobs Jolt nothing new say advocacy groups" by Leanne Bell

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    NO-GO ... OR NO DOLE

  • Following on from the "Jobs Jolt" announcements, Winz Regional Commissioners are drawing up lists of "no-go areas" for people on the dole. The Commissioners have been told to identify geographical areas where jobs are scarce and where people are unlikely to find work. Unemployed people who are living in, or moving to, a no-go area may risk failing their work-test because there is no work for them to find. The boundaries of these no-go areas are expected to change depending on labour conditions.

    Single beneficiaries get $165.65 a week on the dole, and married couples without children get $269.40. They may be eligible for extra assistance, including the accommodation supplement if they live in qualifying urban areas. The initiative seems to be aimed at beneficiaries who have moved to areas where housing is cheap, even though jobs are scarce, in the face of rising living costs in cities.

    Minister Steve Maharey says that while moving to rural areas might make for a cheaper lifestyle for some beneficiaries, they can only sustain this because they are depending on the State to support them. Given there are labour shortages elsewhere in the country, Maharey says the government expects more of these people: "If a person has said time and time again "I want a job here in this hamlet where I live with five other people and I want to be a brain surgeon" then we're going to say no ..."

  • Green MP Sue Bradford warns that the new "no-go areas" signal a return to the tough policies of the previous Labour government in the 1980s.

    Bradford: "Unemployed and beneficiary groups around Aotearoa fought a long hard battle in the early to mid 80s to get recognition of the injustice shown particularly to Maori people returning to their home districts and then being denied the unemployment benefit. After a long struggle which included, memorably, the first occupation of the Kaitaia Social Welfare Department in 1985, the Remote Areas clause was overturned. It is now pitiful that a Labour Minister in a government supposedly more sympathetic than their 1980s predecessors sees fit to turn back this particular clock."

    Source — The Dominion Post 6 August 2003 "No-go areas planned for the unemployed" by Tracy Watkins; Speech to Parliament 6 August 2003 Sue Bradford "Work and Income — Employment /Unemployment"

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  • The reintroduction of work testing for people over 55 years who are on unemployment benefits will affect about 8,300 people. Over 55s have been allowed a "transition to retirement" benefit that exempted them from being available for work. The government says it is removing that exemption in order to meet the growing shortage of skilled workers.

    Winz says that older workers are now in demand and that it is important to keep them in the workforce. Auckland regional commissioner Barry Fisk says that when the 55 years exemption was put in place, the retirement age was 60 years. With the retirement age now at 65 years, it makes sense to push back the work testing age as well.

  • The government says it is promoting the introduction of work testing for the 55 — 59 year age group as part of its "Positive Aging Strategy". But Age Concern chief Garth Taylor says it seems cynical to make changes to benefits and hide behind the strategy.

    Taylor: "Mr Maharey's announcement of the decision to move to more active case management of older workers to enable increased support and job focused assistance is a step in the right direction. However it is disappointing to see the low priority that has been placed on undertaking work with employers to promote the benefits of hiring older job seekers. By focusing on the personal skills of the job seeker, without an equal focus on shifting the ageist attitudes of employers, Mr Maharey is sending all the wrong signals and their attempt at supporting positive ageing is doomed to fail. "

    Roger Tweedy of the Work and Age Trust agrees. He says attitudes still need changing, especially among employers who "wrote off" the years of service left in mature staff while complaining that younger workers never stayed long enough.

    Garth Taylor has a suggestion: "Perhaps there is an opportunity for Work and Income to employ some of those older, long term unemployed as case managers who will fully understand the discrimination in the workplace that is faced by those over the age of 55? This would fulfil part of government's stated actions in the Positive Ageing Strategy ..."

    Source — New Zealand Herald 6 August 2003 "Mature workers coveted say officials" by Mathew Dearnaley; NZOOM.COM 4 August 2003 ""Jobs Jolt" to hit older workers" from TVNZ One News; Press Release Age Concern 6 August 2003 "Older Workers Case Management" by Garth Taylor

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    " Steve Maharey is making a big mistake, turning back the clock to the anti-beneficiary policies of the 1990s. The whole punitive approach is socially divisive and will have a greater impact on society than Labour realises."

    Sue Bradford, Green Party employment spokesperson

    " Mr Maharey has prevented New Zealand from taking advantage of strong employment growth over the past three years. Now, with slower growth looming, the Maharey chickens are coming home to roost."

    Muriel Newman, Act Party social welfare spokesman

    " This is a public relations exercise and unfortunately it won't encourage more people going off welfare and back into work. The government is feeling the pressure on this issue but no one's going to be fooled by the waffle. What this does confirm is that Labour isn't capable of implementing the major changes needed to address the burgeoning welfare state ..."

    Katherine Rich, National Party social services spokesperson

    " While supporting the move to work testing those aged 55-59, United Future would want to see this done with case managers taking into account the needs of the age group. It's got to be real. We're not going to have them digging ditches and the like. Too often with the bureaucracy we've had that kind of foolishness in the past.

    Judy Turner, United Future Party social services spokeswoman

    " I wasn't expecting it, but it sounds like there's a lot of merit in a lot of this stuff. It's not inconsistent with what Dr Brash has been calling for...

    Alasdair Thompson, Employers and Manufacturers Association

    "I don't think there is any doubt about it being a lurch to the right ... and it probably won't do the government any harm, however. They have been alarmed by the degree of purchase that Katherine Rich and National have got with their revamped welfare policies. I think the last National Business Review poll came as a bit of a shock — it was down 5 points, a big "jolt". And the polls that we don't see, the party polling, may have indicated that things are even worse. I think this has been an indication to Labour that things were getting a little bit out of control in terms of the touchy-feely social liberal great leap forward stuff ...

    Chris Trotter, political commentator

    "Enhanced case management, which gets a further plug in the "Jobs Jolt" package, involves encouraging beneficiaries to "plan and set goals". Beneficiary advocates and welfare reformers appearing before the select committee both argued against this approach. Motivated recipients will take any opportunity going and resent being `case-managed' while others who prefer the steady unearned income from a benefit resent attempts to "case-manage" them off their "entitlements". Perhaps even worse than this stalemate with existing caseloads is that nothing is being done to discourage new entrants."

    " A benefit lifestyle, on a steady income, with a case manager who "gets alongside you" might be more attractive than working. Working for a low wage is definitely less lucrative than living on a DPB package. Labour have talked a lot about "making work pay" but this won't happen for most while we have low economic growth. The talk is more to do with slogan pinching from their "Third Way" darlings...

    Lindsay Mitchell, Research Fellow for the Institute for Liberal Values

    "What the labour market is asking for is a good jolt of caffeine. What it is getting is largely milk and water. This week's Jobs Jolt announcement does have a bit of coffee flavouring in the form of a warning that unspecified changes will be made to some benefits "to ensure beneficiaries capable of work are active in their search for employment". There is also a little sugar in a promise to train unemployed people "to meet industry-identified skill and labour shortages". But most of the new policy consists of watery plans to hire more work brokers, case managers and employment coaches to coax the unemployed into jobs...

    Jim Eagles, New Zealand Herald Business Editor

    "Why weren't advocacy groups consulted about "Jobs Jolt". We end up picking up the pieces.

    Kevin Hackwell, the Downtown Community Ministry

    "The government is reviving old ghosts with its so-called "Jobs Jolt". Such a move has been unsuccessful in the past and will not necessarily increase employment this time. Penalising the unemployed does not help to create jobs.

    Paul Blair, Unemployment and Beneficiaries Union, Rotorua

    "These [remote areas] reforms are enacted to supposedly address the government's concern about 4,200 people that they have identified as long-term unemployed: these people represent 0.2% of the population. The reforms will not only affect beneficiaries but also will tend to lower wages and reduce job security for those in well-paid full-time employment."

    Patrick Danahey, Universal Income Trust

    "The placing of more onerous work test requirements on mature job seekers is unhelpful at best and at worst may actually increase the barriers and stress experienced by these job seekers. "

    Garth Taylor, chief executive of Age Concern

    "Seeing will be believing in respect to the positive outcomes … when the real problems are outside beneficiaries' control."

    Mike Dixon-McIver, Peoples Advocacy Society

    "Nearly all the measures contained in the scheme existed already. It's window dressing. It's not real. It's a cynical analysis that Labour is not going to lose a lot of support by appearing hard on beneficiaries and it might pick up some of the more right wing support. It's straightforward politics that is not going to alter the reality for people who are having a tough time finding work. I doubt that is going to be seriously implemented. A year from now I don't think we are going see stories about 56 and 57-year-olds having their benefit cut off because it just won't play very well for the Government."

    Stephen Ruth, The People's Centre

    "The government should put more time and effort into changing employers' perceptions of the value of older job seekers, rather than taking a stick to them. "

    Dave Henry, National President of Age Concern

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