Support For Community Wage From Former Auckland City Missioner - Richard Buttle

  • Peter McCardle
Associate Minister of Social Services, Work and Income (Work and Income)

"I am delighted that Richard Buttle, one of the most experienced people in the welfare sector, is an enthusiastic supporter of the Community Wage changes", Associate Social Services Minister Peter McCardle said today.

Mr Buttle retired earlier this year from his position as Auckland City Missioner. He has written to the Minister to express his backing for the Community Wage, and the accompanying changes which will lead to more active promotion of work skills and training for people who have been a long time out of the workforce (see attached letter).

Commenting further today, Mr Buttle said " I have no problem with requiring people on a benefit to become active again, and to restore their work skills. There is nothing vindictive about it. I believe it is not unfair or unreasonable, so long as they do not impinge on the health and welfare of any dependent children, and I understand there will be protections in that regard.

"In my experience there are a number of people who are abusing the welfare system, and need an incentive and positive inducement to find self respect and responsibility," Mr Buttle said.

Mr McCardle said his experience of working closely for many years with the unemployed led him to the conclusion that many have given up looking for work, which has in part prompted the change in Government policy.

The Minister said it is absurd for Labour to claim there is no community support for the policy, and to have some of the media swallow that false claim unquestioningly. There is clearly opposition, largely based on not knowing the facts, but there is also wide support from many groups working with the unemployed, as well as Councils and schools which see the potential and will realise the benefits on both sides.

"The rules surrounding Community Work or training are not new, and are similar to those which have been in position for years on other work programmes such as Community Taskforce. Sometimes it is necessary to direct some people into positive and constructive activities which they will benefit from.

"The potential penalties which are part of the Community Wage changes will, I expect, ONLY be used in rare cases but are essential to have as backup. And they will be there because they work, and will be a successful prompt. But many of the unemployed do not need to be urged to do something positive to improve their lives, and there will be no necessity for any penalties to be invoked," Mr McCardle said.

" Rules, and last-resort penalties, have been in place in current employment programmes for years. Obligating someone to take part in an activity - if it that is appropriate and would help them - is also nothing new and has been part of Community Taskforce since 1991, as well as part of a range of other employment assistance programmes since last year.

"I suggest the media examine our record in that regard, rather than merely publicise and repeat ludicrous and often melodramatic claims from the Labour party," Mr McCardle concluded.