The PM is promising “progress” and Sepuloni is reporting it on the welfare front – but doubts are raised by her benefits data

The PM’s first speech of the year, delivered to Labour MPs in New Plymouth at their annual caucus retreat, largely focused on Covid-19 and the Omicron variant, according to RNZ.

Jacinda Ardern insisted the government has and is continuing to prepare for an Omicron outbreak in the community.

“But it will not be without its challenges, though, we are facing a trickier enemy given it keeps evolving.”

Despite the challenges thrown up by the pandemic, Ardern said, the government must continue to make progress in other areas.

Does this include progress in dismantling our democratic structures in favour of so-called Treaty-based and provocatively race-based co-governance arrangements?

Perhaps, but RNZ said: 

Its attention will be on keeping the economy “humming”, progressing health reforms, lifting children out of poverty, as well as having a sharp focus on climate change and mental health, Ardern said.

The government is also looking to expand its trade arrangements, with Ardern participating in EU trade talks over summer.

“Our eye is on the prize with EU this year. I was in talks even over summer, so that’s an agreement that I know will continue to make a difference for exporters and will be a big focus.”

Work on the EU trade deal will work alongside the government’s plan to re-open the borders, Ardern said.

There will be an increased amount of international travel for the government and exporters in 2022, she said.

 You won’t find a copy of the speech on The Beehive website, however, because (presumably) it was a party political speech delivered by Ardern as party leader, not as the nation’s PM.

But the website does contain an announcement from the PM dealing with Covid-19.

Key points:

  • Northland is to move to Orange
  • The rest of New Zealand stays at Orange in preparedness for Omicron
  • All of New Zealand would move into Red in the event of Omicron community outbreak – there will be no use of lockdowns
  • Government planning is well advanced – new case management, close contact definition and testing rules that are fit for purpose for Omicron are being finalised, and include plans to support business continuity

The one other new statement on The Beehive website appears to record progress of the sort Ardern promises on the social policy front.

“Appears” is the critical word here because blogger Lindsay Mitchell has challenged some of the information dished up by  Social Development and Employment Minister Carmel Sepuloni.

The minister was eager to tell us “the Government’s strong focus on supporting more people into work” had showed up in the latest benefit figures.

They show a year-on-year fall of around 21,300 people receiving a main benefit in the December 2021 quarter, Sepuloni enthused.

“Our response to COVID has helped to create a resilient labour market which in turn has ensured our economy remains strong. Protecting jobs and livelihoods, and supporting more jobseekers into work will continue to be a key priority of the Government,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

“Despite the challenges of the pandemic, it’s encouraging to see more people are moving from benefit into work. The 2021 December quarter was the highest number of exits into work for a December quarter since electronic records began in 1996.

“Over numerous Budgets we’ve invested heavily in work focused frontline case management, and these figures show that our Government’s investment is beginning to deliver results.

“A high point continues to be the success that front line work focused case management is having connecting people to work that have been on benefit for longer periods.

And then she told us:

“People on a benefit for 1-2 years and four years or more getting into work increased by 96.9 percent and 93.2 percent respectively. Those on a benefit for 2-4 years saw the year-on-year exit into work rise by 129.8 per cent.

“We know that the longer you are on a benefit the harder it is finding employment, but by focusing on this group we are starting to make inroads.”

That’s where Lindsay Mitchell comes in, calling for more background information from the ministry on one of the minister’s claims

She seized on the statement that …

“People on a benefit for 1-2 years and four years or more getting into work increased by 96.9 percent and 93.2 percent respectively. Those on a benefit for 2-4 years saw the year-on-year exit into work rise by 129.8 per cent.”

That level of data depth isn’t publicly available, Mitchell contends.

The only data she can immediately access shows that in the December 2020 quarter, 26,992 people left a benefit for work. In the December 2021 quarter the figure increased to 27,423 – or 431 individuals.

That’s a 1.6% increase between the two quarters.

For three duration of dependency groups (1-2, 2-4 and 4+ years) to show an average increase of “getting into work” of 106.6 percent their absolute numbers must be very small.

Looked at another way, it appears the vast majority of people on benefits who left for work in the Dec 21 quarter had been on welfare for less than a year.

Latest from the Beehive

Quarterly benefit numbers show highest number of exits into work

The Government’s strong focus on supporting more people into work is reflected in benefit figures released today which show a year-on-year fall of around 21,300 people receiving a main benefit in the December 2021 quarter, Minister for Social Development and Employment Carmel Sepuloni said.

Northland to move to Orange, NZ prepared for Omicron 

Northland will move to Orange at 11:59pm tonight, 20 January 2022, while the rest of New Zealand will remain at Orange as the Government prepares for Omicron to enter the community.

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