Disabled struggle as job funds dry up

KATE CHAPMAN
Last updated 08:22 25/03/2013

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The government is being unreasonable in forcing disabled people to look for work while a fund to help them into jobs has dried up, the Greens say.

Beneficiaries, including many with disabilities, face tougher work requirements under the Government's welfare reforms.

But funding for a programme to help disabled people find work has run out after it was opened up to the private sector.

Mainstream, with an annual budget of $3.54 million, was set up to help people with disabilities find work in the public service. It originally paid 50 per cent of a person's salary but was extended to 80 per cent in 2011.

In July last year it was also opened up to the private sector.

Since then demand has skyrocketed, the fund has run out, and no applications will be accepted until the beginning of the new financial year.

Green MP Mojo Mathers said funding should be urgently reinstated.

"This Government has taken a punitive approach to those on a benefit instead of focusing on getting those who want to work into employment by increasing funding for programmes such as the Mainstream one."

The programme's budget has not increased in the last three years.

It was $4.16m in 2009-10 and $3.85m in 2008-09.

Ms Mathers said that was akin to a cut.

"Disabled people face systematic barriers to employment. This programme is an important way of assisting those with disabilities into the workforce, when properly funded."

Work and Income national commissioner Carl Crafar said the programme had not been cut and funding rates had not changed since the 2010-11 financial year.

"Changes have increased the demand for placements and this has led to the fund being fully allocated for the current financial year. New applications are expected to be available early in the new fiscal year, from July."

Applications were stopped last October.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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