Speech to Workbridge "OK Day" Celebrations

  • Peter McCardle
Associate Minister of Health

Williams & Adams Gallery
Wellington Festival & Convention Centre
Wellington Town Hall, Wakefield Street
WELLINGTON

Mary Schnackenberg, Chairperson Workbridge, Pauline Winter CEO, Parliamentary Colleagues, special guests.

It is a pleasure to play a part in this special function to celebrate the transferral of responsibility for the purchasing of
employment placement services from Social Welfare to the Department of Labour; as indicated by Mary, this is a
development viewed very positively by the sector, and by Workbridge; it is also I can tell you viewed as positive, by the
Department and by the Government. I believe it continues to place our policy amongst progressive nations.

The significance of this occasion is greater than the seemingly simple step of the transferral of responsibility for Workbridge
contracts from Welfare to Employment, and its importance is reflected in the large cross-party attendance with all parties
and 14 or so MPs here tonight.

For those who have been involved in anyway in bringing responsibility for open employment assistance into the mainstream,
I want to recognise your contribution. For those who may not have been involved, it has not been a short or simple process,
but a process that has taken some years, a lot of debate, but has been won due to the determination and enthusiasm of many
committed organisations and individuals.

For many of us who have seen the changes to the ways in which we have assisted our jobseekers who have significant
physical or intellectual disabilities, over the last 15 years or so, the new era that commences today, is a real step forward.

Like others, I well recall the approach of the early to mid 80's when we had the Rehab League, but when jobseekers with
significant disabilities did not receive from the then Employment and VG Service, the degree of assistance and service
needed to help many achieve their employment aspirations.

We subsequently saw the creation of Workbridge, and there has been little dispute that the focussed and specialised help
provided by Mary, Pauline and their Workbridge team, has seen a big improvement in services to this sector.

Today's transfer of the responsibility for contracting with Workbridge takes support for open employment out of the Welfare
stream, to where it should be, the mainstream Employment Department.

This is a significant philosophical shift, and recognises that jobseekers with physical and intellectual disabilities are
jobseekers whose ambitions for employment, and a career, are little different to other jobseekers, that they ought to be
viewed and treated as such, while recognising that a skilled organisation such as Workbridge ought to be resourced to
provide the depth of assistance needed to get results in today's competitive job market.

I personally welcome the responsibility for purchasing open employment from Workbridge, from my perspective and the
Department's, we view it as right and proper that this falls within the mainstream Employment responsibilities; this decision
will have positives not just for the jobseekers and for Workbridge, but is viewed positively by the Department and the
Employment Service.

NZES and Workbridge will be better able to work together to ensure there is no duplication of services, our respective
staffing and other resources will better knit together to focus on the one result that we are all focussed on the best possible
quality outcomes for our job-seekers.

Today we therefore celebrate a positive and welcome development in the delivery of better services to jobseekers with
disabilities, I look forward along with my Department to working with Workbridge to getting more jobseekers with
disabilities into open employment, and congratulate all those involved in actually bringing the delivery of services to this
sector, home to mainstream employment.