Results matter, not location

The Herald reported:

Beneficiary advocates are angry that an Australian company has emerged as the big winner in an experiment that will pay contractors up to $12,000 to help a sole parent or a person with mental health issues into paid work.

How terrible. A company wins a contract to help people into work.

Perth-company Advanced Personnel Management (APM) has won pilot contracts for people with mental health conditions in Auckland, Waikato, Christchurch and Southland, and for sole parents in the Bay of Plenty, Wellington, Nelson and Canterbury – more than any local agency in the Work and Income tender.

So why is this?

APM’s website describes the company as “the largest private sector provider of Australian Government funded vocational rehabilitation services and disability employment services”. It says New Zealand operations started in 2012 with vocational rehabilitation contracts with the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC).

Because they already have significant experience in this area.

Beneficiary Advocacy Federation co-ordinator Kay Brereton said the contracts should have gone to more local agencies such as the West Auckland Living Skills Homes (Walsh Trust), which won one of the mental health contracts, and the Kawerau Job Centre, which won a sole-parent contract.

So they also won contracts, but the whinge is that this Australian company won some also. I’m in favour of having lots of companies win contracts, and then judge them on results.

Strive Community Trust chief executive Sharon Wilson-Davis said she did not bid for the contracts and allowed an existing sole-parent contract to end late last year because she felt it would be impossible to achieve the work placements required to earn fees under the new pilots.

“A lot of these people certainly want to work but sometimes you are better off to get them into further training,” she said.

“Otherwise if you push them into these low-paying jobs, then when those jobs go they are back in the same place.”

Glad they are not one of the companies, with an attitude that it is better to remain out of work entirely, than take up a low paying job which might not last forever.

After the outward signs of success collapsed around her, Misty Leong was comforted by her teenage son.

When her husband left, she had to give up her successful real estate business to look after her daughter who was just 2, her son, and her own elderly mother.

It was 2009, in the early panic of the global financial crisis, and no one was buying houses anyway. Ms Leong went bankrupt. Her $1.8 million property was lost.

“I lost my health, money, property, everything,” she says. “But my son, he says: ‘Mum, you are still strong.”‘

Born in China 46 years ago and brought up in Macau, Ms Leong came to New Zealand in 1989. She worked as a waitress, then in a factory, but quickly opened her own takeaway bar in Forrest Hill on Auckland’s North Shore.

Later she and her husband and a partner started a gardening and home service business, and from there Ms Leong moved into real estate with Century 21 in 2002.

When it all collapsed, she was bereft. “I had no food, no income, no anything. My husband left me with all the business debts and didn’t help me with the children at all,” she says.

Sounds an awful situation. To go from being a business owner with significant assets to bankrupt would be a terrible blow.

She got the domestic purposes benefit. She never stopped looking for a job but had no luck.

But then …

Her break came when Work and Income referred her in February last year to In-Work NZ, the country’s biggest private contractor of welfare-to-work programmes. Within two months she landed a checkout job at Devonport’s New World supermarket. It was only 16 hours a week at first, but in July her hours increased to 22 and the in-work tax credit of an extra $60 a week, paid to single adults working at least 20 hours a week or couples working 30 hours between them, allowed her to move off the benefit.

Still a long way from where she was, but what a great work ethic to not turn your nose up at working in a supermarket.

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