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Beneficiaries face squeeze

MELISSA KINEALY
Last updated 05:00 22/10/2010
WELFARE
JASON DORDAY
CHALLENGING TIMES: Iosis chief executive Ruby Duncan is concerned about rising stress levels because of welfare system changes.
WELFARE
JASON DORDAY
WRONG FOCUS: Iosis service delivery manager Marion Spicer says most people on benefits do want to work.

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STRESSED-OUT beneficiaries will find life much tougher once changes to the welfare system kick in.

That's the view of Manukau community groups who see unfriendly work hours, lack of career paths, low-paid jobs and limited childcare options as just some of the factors that will make life even more difficult for those on a tight budget.

The Social Development Ministry recently launched the Future Focus welfare reforms making changes for those who receive domestic purposes or unemployment benefits.

Work-testing for 4500 single parents on the domestic purposes benefit whose youngest child is six years old started on September 27.

Changes to the unemployment benefit will also see beneficiaries undertake comprehensive work assessments. They'll need to re-apply for their benefits after 12 months and will be subject to benefit cuts.

Iosis – Family Solutions offers support services in Manurewa and its chief executive Ruby Duncan says she and her staff are worried primarily about the impact of the changes on parents on the DPB.

"For lots of parents what they hear is this: When my youngest turns six, I have to get a job or else I'm losing my benefit.

"But I don't know how they would ever actually cut somebody's benefit in half when they've got children at home.

"The attitude of this whole Future Focus bill is that beneficiaries don't really want to work and that we'll just have to push them."

Both she and service delivery manager Marion Spicer say most people on benefits do want to work but even getting to an appointment or job can be a hurdle if you don't have a car or can't take a bus.

People react badly when they are backed into a corner and going to an interview after many years of not working can be absolutely terrifying, Mrs Spicer says.

The government's whole focus on work is misdirected, senior policy analyst Alan Johnson says.

He works out of the Salvation Army's social policy and parliament unit in Manukau and sees the campaign as a "malicious attempt to divide those on benefits from the rest of us".

The lack of career paths available for getting people into work worries him.

Trying to place people on benefits into "junk jobs" with unfriendly work hours makes it near impossible for them to organise family life around work, he says.

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Mrs Duncan believes her organisation will be doing a lot more advocacy work to help people understand and manage the system.

And Mrs Spicer fears for the impact on young people.

"The young generation we have now are not dreaming careers," she says.

"I think people get lost in poverty. They have no time horizon and nothing beyond the poverty."

- Manukau Courier

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