Beneficiaries going straight to get jobs

DEENA COSTER
Last updated 05:00 23/01/2014

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Taranaki beneficiaries are keeping themselves clean as they try to put their best foot forward to get a job.

According to Work and Income's latest figures, there have been no pre-employment drug test failures in Taranaki.

In July last year, the Government announced a series of reforms to get more people off welfare and into work.

One of the changes included the requirement of beneficiaries to pass a drug test if an employer or training provider asks for one as part of the job application process.

"The aim is that people change their behaviour so that they can meet their obligations," Work and Income spokeswoman Liz Jones said. "This is about getting people into work,"

The number of drug tests conducted was not available.

About 40 per cent of the jobs listed with Work and Income require applicants to pass a drug test.

If a Work and Income client fails a pre-employment drug test their benefit can either be reduced or stopped for up to 13 weeks.

They will also be supported to access drug treatment if they are considered to have dependency issues.

Taranaki beneficiary advocate Alex Ballantyne said he was not aware of any cases in the province where people were having issues accessing or keeping benefits because of the new drug testing requirement. "It hasn't been an issue here thank goodness."

Drug Free Aotearoa counsellor Darren Hulton said drug testing in workplaces was already common place.

Mr Hulton said targeting beneficiaries was not the best way to tackle New Zealand's drug problem and more needed to be done at a societal level.

"Drug and associated problems continue to spike regardless of the efforts to date," he said.

At the end of December, 15,365 people across Work and Income's Taranaki service centre were on a benefit, 655 less than at the end of 2012. The centre covers a large part of the central North Island.

Whanganui has the highest welfare numbers with 5338 people, followed by New Plymouth on 3578. The number of people on benefits in Hawera was 1471, while Stratford has 830 and Waitara 1034. Other areas included in the service centre figures are Marton, Taihape, Taumarunui and Te Kuiti.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said more than 17,000 New Zealanders came off welfare in the past 12 months. Currently 321,869 people still receive a benefit of some kind in New Zealand. "This is a significant decrease and proof that the welfare reforms implemented by this Government are making a huge difference for New Zealanders."

BENEFIT NUMBERS

Hawera – 1471

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New Plymouth – 3578

Stratford – 830

Waitara – 1034

Source: Ministry of Social Development

- Taranaki Daily News

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