Job seekers required to attend seminar after six months on benefit

Social Development and Employment Minister Louise Upston. Photo: RNZ
Social Development and Employment Minister Louise Upston. Photo: RNZ
A work check-in requirement for those on the jobseeker benefit starts today.

Anyone who is considered 'work-ready' will have to attend a seminar after six months, to assess how their job search is going.

The change is part of a wider "reset" of the welfare system.

Social Development and Employment Minister Louise Upston said it was a new requirement from the coalition to make the welfare system more proactive.

If someone misses a seminar without a good reason they could have their benefit stopped or reduced.

It would not be compulsory for those with a health condition or disability.

When announcing the wider changes to benefits in February, Upston said the group check-ins would be the first step of additional monitoring of the benefit system and would apply to people MSD had less visibility of - those who did not already have a dedicated case manager.

On Monday, she said about 190,000 people currently receive Jobseeker support, and 53,000 of these people have employment case managers at any given time.

"I'm concerned the other 137,000 job seekers can go many months without talking to MSD about how they are progressing, with some not having to check back in until they reapply for their benefit 12 months later.

"Our government is changing this. The work check-ins at six months build on the new Kōrero Mahi - Let's talk work seminars that job seekers now attend within two weeks of their benefit starting to plan next steps for finding work.

"They are a precursor to the coalition government's plan to introduce mandatory reapplication for Jobseeker Support benefits every six months."

Job seekers currently needed to reapply for support every year.

"These interventions will help get job seekers back on their feet quickly. MSD will make sure their profiles and CVs are up to date, offer interview tips, and direct them to job websites and vacancies or further training."

The check-ins were expected to cost about $1.2 million a year, funded through MSD baselines.

The announcement of benefit sanctions was met with criticism by opposition parties and welfare advocates.

Other additional measures to be rolled out included community-provided job coaching, needs assessments, a traffic light system, new non-financial sanctions, and action being taken for those who repeatedly failed to comply with their work obligations.

RNZ has reported people looking for a job were likely to face more competition than they would have in years.

The number of job applicants per advertisement is almost three times as high as it was in 2019.

"This government believes those who can work, should work, because having a job is the best way for people to lift themselves and their families out of hardship," Upston said.