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Youth Unemployment—Human Rights Commission Report

Wednesday 14 September 2011 Hansard source (external site)

Ardern8. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) Link to this
to the Minister for Social Development and Employment

Does she agree with the report by the Human Rights Commission released in June entitled Tracking Equality at Work that “unless action is taken urgently, the youth situation will become unsustainable, representing a threat to social cohesion”?

BennettHon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment) Link to this

To date I have found very few reports from the Human Rights Commission that I entirely agree with. I do, however, agree with the report where it states: “over 3,000 employers, employees and job seekers broadly said they enjoyed their work, cared about the people they worked with, were proud of the services and products they delivered and loved the challenges of working life. For many, work defines them and was a critical aspect of self-identity and self-esteem, not just a pay cheque.”

ArdernJacinda Ardern Link to this

How many young people will move into employment, education, or training through the Government’s welfare reform for 16 and 17-year-olds, and does this figure take into account that roughly 50 percent of independent youth benefit recipients, the main target of her reforms, are already in education and training?

BennettHon PAULA BENNETT Link to this

What the member has not understood about our reforms for that age group is that we are actually looking at those who are not in education, employment, or training. That is anywhere between 8,500 and 13,500, and that was a major part of the announcement we made—we connect them. We changed the law so that we can actually get that information from education and from schools, and we then connect those young people, through a transition service, into a provider that will wrap a service around them and get them into training or education. The part the member talks about was a small but significant part, but the bigger part is around those young people—up to 13,000—who are not in education or employment.

ArdernJacinda Ardern Link to this

What proportion of her $20 million to $25 million Securing a Brighter Future package will go towards the establishment and administration of the benefit card system and what proportion will go towards the Youth Transitions Service network, which currently covers only half of all school-leavers?

BennettHon PAULA BENNETT Link to this

Again, the member has kind of got it wrong. She is lumping everything together into the payment card and for that small number who are on a benefit. There are a small number, under our package, who were on a benefit, but a much bigger number are not on a benefit but are on a fast track there unless we intervene. This side of the House is committed to intervening, to intervening properly, and to making sure we wrap a service around those young people that sees them connected into something more, and more into education and training. For years, under the previous Government, we have seen one in five young people leaving school illiterate in what they can take forward. We are determined to do better by them.

ArdernJacinda Ardern Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I understand entirely that there were two parts to the Government’s package, but we were given only one figure for that package. That is why I explicitly asked the Minister what proportion of the $20 million to $25 million was for the benefit card and what proportion was for the transition service.

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

The member may repeat her question, just to make sure there is no misunderstanding.

ArdernJacinda Ardern Link to this

What proportion of her $20 million to $25 million Securing a Brighter Future package will go towards the establishment and administration of the benefit card system, and what proportion will go towards the Youth Transitions Service network, which currently covers only half of all school-leavers?

BennettHon PAULA BENNETT Link to this

A very small proportion.

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

I did not hear the Minister.

BennettHon PAULA BENNETT Link to this

A very small proportion.

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

I thank the Minister.

ArdernJacinda Ardern Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

The Minister’s answer was “A very small proportion.”

ArdernJacinda Ardern Link to this

I was asking of either package—

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

It would be helpful if the Minister indicated to which of the two components her answer refers.

BennettHon PAULA BENNETT Link to this

The member, to my understanding, was asking—[ Interruption]

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

I want to hear the answer. I apologise to the Minister. I have specifically asked the Minister to provide the House with more information, and there is no way it will hear that information if the Hon Shane Jones keeps up such successfully loud interjections.

MallardHon Trevor Mallard Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Straight after you admonished one of my colleagues, the senior Government whip yelled out to the point where I am having trouble hearing the Minister—who has the mike.

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

I accept that my right ear is—I will not use the language I would normally used to describe it at the moment—not functioning well. Members will notice that it is not because I have a crick in my neck that I am listening like this; it is because this ear is the only one working. I warn Government members that if they take advantage of that, I will come down on them heavily.

BennettHon PAULA BENNETT Link to this

As I was explaining, a very small proportion of the $22 million to $25 million that is part of that package would be going to any administration. The fundamental part of that package is around the support we give to non-government organisations. We will be funding them to work with these young people. We are taking the current funding under the Youth Transitions Service and extending it further, and that is what the cost is for.

ArdernJacinda Ardern Link to this

Does she believe that young people are eager to take up employment opportunities where work exists; if not, how does she explain that in 2008 there were roughly only 200 young people on an unemployment benefit long term but that on her watch that number is now eight times higher?

BennettHon PAULA BENNETT Link to this

And in January 2010 we saw that number at about 23,500 young people who were on an unemployment benefit. I am pleased that the member is acknowledging how important it is for those young people, because that is now down to fewer than 16,000 young people. So we have seen over 7,000 young people come off that benefit and into work. Have we got more work to do? Absolutely. But is what we are currently doing working? The proof is in those numbers and the number who are getting into work.