Employment - The New DealYouth Affairs
Wynyard Room, Downtown Convention Centre, Auckland
Your Worship the Mayor, Youth Councillors, Councillors, ladies and gentlemen, good evening.
It is great to be here in Auckland to see the induction of new youth councillors. I came here around this time last year and I was so impressed I just had to come back.
I was impressed for many reasons, but there are two in particular. Firstly, the vision of Auckland City Council is obvious in its ongoing commitment to the Youth Council. If people are serious about delivering services for young people, some listening has to happen first. It's great that Auckland City recognises the value of youth participating in decision making. I hope you are prepared to hear what these young adults say.
Secondly, I am impressed by the commitment and dedication that you as youth councillors show. It is exciting when organisations like the City Council demonstrate their commitment to youth, but if youth don't respond and get fully involved it becomes pointless.
In your new roles you have the potential to achieve a lot for the youth of Auckland. And you will gain a lot yourself too.
I want to talk to you tonight about a couple of important new things that the Coalition Government is doing for young people.
Today in Manukau I announced that the Ministry of Youth Affairs will shortly get its first ever increase in funding. That's quite a feat. The Ministry has been running since 1990 and under previous Governments has only had decreases in its budget. Now the New Zealand First/National Government has put its money where its mouth is.
With the new funding the Ministry is going to do 2 main things. It will create a youth development fund. The fund will allow six to seven community projects to work with vulnerable young people and help them to turn their lives around.
The projects will have a youth development focus and will aim to help people with problems such as mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse and behavioural problems. We will do this work with the Department of Internal Affairs.
The Ministry of Youth Affairs will also establish a national resource centre to collect research, information and resources relating to the prevention of youth suicide.
This new work will cost just over $2 million.
Last month the Minister of Health and I announced that there had been a slight decrease in the number of young people committing suicide. This is encouraging, but we can't be complacent. That is why we are working to bring the rate down even further. And that is why the Government already supports over 45 different types of initiatives that can help keep young people safe.
Both these projects are focussing on the positive - helping youth to turn their lives around. They are about providing help before the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff is needed.
Many youth issues have underlying causes that we must be prepared to explore.
One of those is poverty.
And while researchers acknowledge that poverty contributes to youth being at risk, many others do not. As we approach the year 2000 we can celebrate our successes and anticipate our future.
I think we should also be honest about the challenges some of our communities face. It is time to debate what poverty means in the New Zealand context. How do we define it? And will we tolerate it?
I know there are no easy answers but with some guts and tenacity we can find new innovative, kiwi ways of doing things.
One good example of kiwi tenacity is the new Employment Strategy.
Last week the Employment Minister, Peter McCardle, announced the introduction of the Community Wage. A new deal for the unemployed.
Young people make up about 15% of the New Zealand population, yet they account for a staggering 34% of those who are unemployed.
I hope that none of you have to suffer unemployment. However, if you do, things are going to be different from the past.
Our new Community Wage scheme offers a way out of unemployment and supports people in a much more positive way than previously.
We are aiming to break the vicious circle of 'No job, no experience - no experience, no job'.
The new Community Wage will turn a negative payment into a positive payment. Now, rather than simply picking up a benefit, job seekers will have to work in the community for about 20 hours a week.
So how is this going to work?
The four different agencies that currently deal with job seekers will be integrated. From 1 October this year, job seekers will have one place to visit that will help them get back to work and provide support.
There will be more flexibility in the way that we use our resources. If a method of helping people back to work is successful, then there will be greater flexibility to move additional resources into delivering things that work.
We are also going to move the management and resources of employment programmes from central government to regional bases. It makes much more sense for the mix of services required to be decided within the community in which they will be delivered.
And, as I mentioned earlier we are going to introduce a Community Wage to replace the Unemployment Benefit.
The Community Wage will keep job seekers connected to the workplace and community, to maintain motivation, and prevent loss of confidence, skills and self esteem. It is positive and it can work. In fact, it needs to.
For young people unemployment is a curse, and the old benefit system was of very little assistance. I heard of a young guy who had left school and went straight on to the dole for six years. In that time he lost all sense of self esteem and motivation. There was nothing to give him the boost he needed to get into work.
The new Community Wage will stop this. It means people will no longer be able to simply leave school and end up on the dole. If you are unemployed, then you are going to have to work for your wage.
In the UK a similar scheme that is being set up has been called the new deal for young people.
I think that is a good way to put it. The new Community Wage is about a deal. It is about a deal between yourself and your community. But even more importantly it is about a deal with yourself to get back to work.
Just like all deals there will be a contract. Once you sign-on as a job seeker you will enter a contract to actively seek paid work, and to be available for any appropriate community work that is provided.
I think that this is a fair and good deal for young job seekers.
Finally, looking around the room it is clear that you have all got a bright future ahead of you.
As youth councillors you will play an important role in helping those who are not so well off, and also in promoting the positive contribution that most young people are making to New Zealand society.
There is some exciting work going on in the Ministry of Youth Affairs - including the development of a New Zealand Youth Policy. We are also looking at the needs of young men - to help them make safer choices. So it would be great to keep in touch. I'll give you my email address!
As young influential people it is important for you to speak out on behalf of your peers. Do something about the things you think need improving and promote the good things that youth are doing.
Often you will hear people say that you are important because you are the leaders of tomorrow.
You are the leaders of today, of the here and now.