Waitaki Training losing funding; will close

Waitaki Training on Thames St in Oamaru is due to close next year. Photo by Andrew Ashton.
Waitaki Training on Thames St in Oamaru is due to close next year. Photo by Andrew Ashton.
A change to the Government's tertiary education funding policy is being blamed for the closure of an Oamaru training and job-placement service run by CCS Disability Action (CCS), with the loss of five jobs.

Waitaki Training, a service of CCS Disability Action, has provided training, job placement and employment support to Waitaki people for the past 20 years, but CCS Disability Action southern regional manager Joy Gunn said the service would close early next year and five part-time staff would be laid off as a result.

Mrs Gunn said funding for the service over the past few years had come primarily from the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) for training programmes for people who required new skills before re-entering or entering the workforce.

However, the announcement in September by Tertiary Education Minister Stephen Joyce that Foundation Focused Training Opportunities (FFTO) funding would be removed from current providers had ''sounded a death knell for Waitaki Training'', she said.

She said the service was advised it would not receive Youth Guarantee funding from January 2014, and that, combined with the minister's September announcement, meant the service could no longer survive.

''Funding from TEC contributed to around 60% of our income for Waitaki Training. The impact of the reduction on a small service in a small town is nothing less than a body blow.

''This year it means almost a third of our funding is gone. Next year, that funding would be reduced by the full 60%.

''Frankly, we have been shocked by the cut and what it means not only for us but for Oamaru.''

Options had been considered to keep the service open, but none were satisfactory, she said.

''If we continued to provide services in Oamaru with only funding from the Ministry of Social Development (MSD), these would be subsidised from our reserves, which are intended to support our disability services now and into the future.

''We cannot allow disabled people to be disadvantaged so we can prop up training and employment services for beneficiaries and school leavers which we believe Government should be supporting.''

A spokesman for Mr Joyce said the changes announced in September were about ensuring there were more effective education and training programmes to help beneficiaries and young people get into work.

TEC and MSD had been in contact with all providers affected by the changes, including Waitaki Training, to provide them their indicative funding allocations for 2014 and discuss any concerns providers had. ''I understand that prior to the Government's announcement to reprioritise FFTO funding, Waitaki Training made the decision not to apply for 2014 Youth Guarantee funding.

''I also understand that after the changes to FFTO were announced in September, Waitaki Training was offered Training for Work funding by MSD but decided not to take that up,'' he said.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said the decision would have a negative impact on the district, and added he intended to raise the issue with local MP Jacqui Dean as well as with the Government.

He added he understood how difficult that decision would have been for CCS.

''I have worked closely with many of the current clients there and I personally know how much some of them gained from their time with Waitaki Training. There will be a gap which must be filled as soon as possible to ensure our young people get the assistance they need.''

He said a suitable service needed to be ''up and running'' again as soon as possible.

''It is most disappointing to hear that we will be losing this service and I feel for the people who are affected - both for the staff as well as the students who benefit from the training. While the FFTO training was not giving the desired result, the Government has not served us well through the lack of information in what might replace it.''

- andrew.ashton@odt.co.nz

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