Dealing with barriers to employment

Reading around the web today, I came across a Ministry of Social Development working paper on the barriers to employment for long-term beneficiaries. There’s plenty to unpack, but one quote stood out to me.

A comprehensive understanding of the employment barriers faced by long-term beneficiaries requires attention to personal, family, community and institutional factors, as well as their interactions. A comprehensive approach to addressing these barriers requires a mix of services and individualised case management.

Attention to personal, family, community and institutional factors. A mix of services and individualised case management. That’s what it takes to help long-term beneficiaries find long-term employment. They’re not easy things, but they’re simple enough to grasp. We need a good understanding of a range of factors that affect long-term unemployed people, and a personalised approach to overcoming these things.

So how does that leave us with a government bent on pushing as many beneficiaries off the dole as they possibly can, as fast as they can. with no follow-up as to their positions and outcomes anywhere down the track. I know that we don’t have that data, because it has been requested by researchers and nothing is available. OIA requests mean that if that data existed, they would have to at least say it was withheld for whatever reason. The data just doesn’t exist.

People are not being assisted off the dole into stable suitable employment. They’re forced to take whatever jobs comes along, whether they can practically work it or not, whether it’s short- or long-term, there are no choices and no logic to it.

It;s a scheme that’s really designed to get people off the benefit, not to keep them off. Forced to take whatever job around, people start and then find that, unsurprisingly, they aren’t fit for the job, and within their 90 days they’re off again, back to the benefit. Or they’re punished so often, and made to jump through so many hoops that they drop off, only to have to sign up again when things get really desperate.

The way forward is to understand the things that stop beneficiaries from working, and to work through those things in a way that is best for the beneficiary – whether that’s continuing income support while they raise their children, or a skills course that readies them for work, or family therapy, or a grant to get them work clothes – the permutations of help needed are endless, but we could step up and make it work for people. Instead? Well, let’s not compare the possible with the real. It gets depressing.

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