Welfare reforms helping thousands get ahead

  • Paula Bennett
Housing Social Development

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett is delighted over 62,700 people went off benefit and into work in the first nine months of 2013 alone.

“It’s not easy taking the plunge into work, but we’re seeing an average of over 7,000 people a month going off welfare into work,” Mrs Bennett said.

“People are stepping up and building better futures, and it’s important we recognise just how significant the move off welfare is for them and their families.”

In July this year the most significant welfare reforms in decades came into effect, with the Government taking a new active work-focused approach that is making a real difference for New Zealanders.

With intensive support from her Work Focused Case Manager, a sole parent in the Waikato region recently found work in the electricity sector after five years on benefit, and is thrilled to be doing a job she enjoys.

She is just one of over 3,000 sole parents who came off benefit and into work since the reforms were introduced.

An Auckland jobseeker was struggling to find work after being unexpectedly made redundant, despite having experience and good qualifications.

After attending job interview seminars organised by Work and Income, she was matched to an employer who was impressed by her confidence and enthusiasm, and was soon offered a full-time position with a finance company.

Another client who had been on benefit since 2011 was shutting himself out of the job market through his drug use.

With new obligations for Work and Income clients to be work ready and drug free, he was told he’d need to kick his habit or face having his benefit cut. He stepped up and stopped using, and after passing a drug test landed a full-time carpentry job.

Feedback from clients shows they appreciate having a dedicated Case Manager focused on supporting them into work by looking at their interests and skills and asking them – many for the first time – what they can do, not what they can’t.

By making use of incentives like the Work Bonus payment and Working for Families, people are finding they are better off in work financially, and that their families are benefiting too.

In Nelson a jobseeker in her mid-twenties was able to secure work in a supermarket after working with her case manager to address and understand anxiety issues that were preventing her from getting employed. A family member was hugely impressed with this effort and told his own case manager that he would be next to get off the benefit.

“Every week thousands of people are proving to themselves and their families they are capable, and have the motivation, to go off welfare and into work,” Mrs Bennett said.

“For a lot of them it’s tough, but we are right there alongside them offering the right support and incentives to help them get ahead.”