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‘Tough love’ coming for local jobseekers

The government’s announcement that benefit sanctions will become stricter from June this year could impact hundreds of people in Wairarapa currently receiving support.

At his keynote speech at the National Party’s recent annual conference, Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said that the “free ride” is over for beneficiaries.

“Currently people are not – as standard practice – required to have a plan to obtain employment until they’ve spent 12 months on a benefit,” Luxon said.

“That is far too late.”

According to the Ministry of Social Development’s [MSD’s] latest figures, 3405 people in Wairarapa received some type of beneficiary as of December last year.

This includes 1482 people receiving jobseeker support, 648 people receiving sole parent support, 1191 people receiving supported living payments, and 84 people receiving ‘other main benefits’.

Social Development Minister Louise Upston has indicated that young people on a jobseekers benefit will begin receiving “work check-ins” after having been on the list for six months.

Sanctions being ramped up could mean a recipient’s benefit being reduced or cut if they don’t comply with conditions like attending job interviews or training.

Out of the 1482 receiving jobseeker support in Wairarapa, 696 have been on the list for under one year and 795 for over a year.

Of those receiving jobseeker support, 321 are between 18 and 24 years old.

Upston has said that the sanctions will not be directed at those on a supported living payment, which includes those with permanent disabilities.

Luxon confirmed the check-ins won’t apply to those receiving a sole parent or supported living payment.

Labour’s social development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni has said the move to ramp up sanctions is unfair and that recent research suggests sanctions are problematic.

“People deserve to be supported into meaningful, long-term employment, and sanctions will not do this.”

All three Wairarapa councils participate in the Mayor’s Taskforce for Jobs [MTFJ] Community Employment Programme, with Masterton District Council being the most recent to join in November last year.

MTFJ chair Max Baxter said that so far this financial year, 48 young people have secured jobs through the programme across Wairarapa.

“We are working hard with local councils, local businesses and community organisations to reach more youth across the region,” he said.

Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age, originally hailing from Wellington. She is interested in social issues and writes about the local arts and culture scene.

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