Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Key signals a focus on welfare beneficiaries return to work - but where are the jobs says Goff...

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 17:  Labour Pa...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
PM John Key signals the future of welfare delivery in NZ  -  focus on a return to work - but where are the jobs says Goff.? Over 700 jobs are being lost every week.

Changes to the way welfare is delivered are on the government's agenda this year, with the focus on getting beneficiaries back into work.

Prime Minister John Key signalled the government's intentions in his statement to parliament yesterday, saying having more than 220,000 children in benefit-reliant households was not good enough.

While his comments about the future of the public service gained most attention, Key also focused on welfare in his scene-setting statement on parliament's first day.

"New Zealand should be proud to be a country with a social welfare system that looks after its most vulnerable citizens and that supports people when they can't find work, are ill or aren't able to work," he said.

"But we should be ashamed that others remain on a benefit for years even though work is available to them."

Key said the government was waiting for the final report of the Welfare Working Group and anticipated changes in three main areas.

The first would be changes to better support beneficiaries with children back into paid employment "and to ensure they are fulfilling their responsibilities to their children", he said.

The second would be new approaches to better support sickness and invalid beneficiaries into work, and the third would be new approaches that ensured young people had the skills to avoid the benefit system.

The bottom line was "if you can work, you should work".

Key's commitment to a leaner, more efficient public service was a clear signal that there will be more mergers and staff cuts this year and it drew a response from the Public Service Association (PSA).

"Three years ago John Key promised there would be no wholesale restructuring of the public sector, no cuts to public services and that tax cuts would not come at their expense," said PSA national secretary Richard Wagstaff.

"The National government has done all of the above. It's time it admitted it's not working."

Labour MP Grant Robertson, who was Labour's state services spokesman until last week's reshuffle, said wholesale changes often didn't deliver the benefits some people thought were going to be achieved.

"We have already seen 2000 jobs go in the public sector and that is starting to have an impact on the kind of services that are going to be offered," he said.

"Further cuts mean further reductions in the quality of services."

Roberston said it was very difficult to deliver more at less cost, as Key was promising.

"The public sector has been pared back significantly, there are fewer people working in it than there was even in 1990," he said.

"We're in a position now where I believe the quality of service is in danger."

Labour leader Phil Goff asks where the jobs are.

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