Welfare that works warranted

For practical people like me, numbers are comforting.

They can confirm either a problem, or a solution, depending on the context being applied.

So what does it tell you when there are 50,000+ more people on a Jobseeker benefit than there were when National left office five years ago?

Moreover, 34,000 of those are under the age of 25 — an increase of 49% since 2017.

At a time when employers are crying out for workers, it tells me very clearly that we have a huge problem.

It also makes it plainly obvious that Labour’s approach to getting young people off welfare and into work is failing miserably, despite there being 2300 more staff at the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) since 2017.

To clarify, Jobseeker benefits were set up to provide short term support for people deemed fit and able to work. 

So the figures are even worse when more than 13,000 of these under 25-year-olds, have been stuck on benefit for 12 months or more. That’s almost twice as many as when Labour took office.

Statistics also show that if someone under the age of 20 goes onto a benefit they will spend an average of 12 years on welfare.

Whichever way you look at it, the numbers do not lie.

We have a huge waste of young potential going begging and yet another government department failing to deliver.

National’s new Welfare that Works policy focusses on these young Jobseekers.

Launched at our recent annual conference, Employment spokesperson Louise Upston said: “Right across the public service, we are seeing Labour spending more money on bigger bureaucracies that produce worst results. Given MSD’s failure to bring Jobseeker numbers down, despite an extremely tight labour market, it’s clear we need a new approach.”

Our new approach will contract existing services to provide these Jobseekers with a dedicated Job Coach using funding redirected from MSD.

These coaches will assess any barriers they are facing e.g. literacy, learning disabilities, lack of a driver’s licence, key work skills gaps, addiction issues and develop an individual plan to address them.

There will be obligations Jobseekers will have to meet, and sanctions for those failing to follow their plan, but there’s also a $1000 bonus for those who remain in work for at least 12 months or more.

In my electorate travels recently, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to community training and employment service providers.

During those talks I have discovered they are delivering upskilling and employment options with many young people, not on Jobseeker benefits, and therefore not included in official MSD statistics.

So despite the huge numbers already mentioned in this column, just how deep does the iceberg go?

Moreover, if it wasn’t for these local providers, how would these people be helped?

National understands people need support when they face hard times and taxpayers are happy to support them. But there’s an onus on those that are able, to help themselves.

Studies show us that being welfare dependent can lead to a life of isolation, so we want to make sure young people have every opportunity to lead fulfilling lives through work.

And we believe the best people who are able to help them do that are organisations at a community level.

Reversing the numbers under Labour’s watch might take some time, but we’re definitely up for the job.