Beneficiary no-shows face inquiry

NICCI MCDOUGALL
Last updated 05:00 06/08/2014

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A government agency is investigating southern beneficiaries who took cash to work in Christchurch, but haven't shown up.

The 3K to Christchurch scheme offered Work and Income clients living outside quake-stricken Christchurch a one-off payment of $3000 to relocate and take up fulltime work.

However, 12 people throughout the country, including two in the southern region, were being investigated because they had taken the $3000 but not shown up to work.

A ministry spokesman said a person must have a confirmed fulltime job offer (30 hours a week or more) in the Christchurch area to receive the $3000 and be ready and willing to move there.

People who had not shown up needed a good and sufficient reason or they would be required to repay the grant. They would also be subject to a 13-week voluntary unemployment stand down if they reapplied for the benefit.

Ministry of Social Development figures show 157 people throughout the country had so far made the move, with most coming from the southern, Nelson, Wellington and Bay of Plenty regions. There had been 24 from Southland.

The southern area includes Balclutha, Dunedin, Invercargill, Oamaru and Timaru.

As of this week none of the 157 had reapplied for a benefit.

If there was evidence of fraud the ministry would look to pursue debt, which could lead to a prosecution, the spokesman said.

For the people who had shown up, it was a win-win scheme for beneficiaries and the Canterbury region as it rebuilt.

Social development minister Paula Bennett said most of the jobseekers had been employed in construction and almost all of the new workers from throughout the country had found their own accommodation.

The Government had so far invested $471,000 in the scheme since it started on July 1.

Southland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Sarah Hannan said the scheme was positive for Christchurch and would not have a huge impact on Southland, which traditionally had a low unemployment rate.

The chamber had been focusing on trying to create more jobs to keep people in Southland and attract people to the region.

Southland businesses were also contributing towards the Christchurch rebuild.

A Venture Southland report, issued earlier this year, says more than 200 Southland businesses had committed to the Venture Southland-led Canterbury South initiative. It provided southern labour and services in Christchurch, but allowed businesses to remain based in the south. 

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- The Southland Times

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