1 May 2018: The Government announced in January 2018 that the Better Public Services programme would not continue in this form. These pages have been archived.
Nicole is a Nelson case manager who has been trialling the new approach with clients. She remembers how it feels to be sitting on the other side of the desk at Work and Income.
“I was there once. I know what it is like to feed my kids on cabbage and rice, or send them to school with just homegrown grapefruit in their lunchbox. I know how it feels to look at people with good jobs, that it all just seems impossibly far away.”
Nicole says there are huge barriers for people in that position: “Even if life is hard, a lot of them are used to it – and that’s a big barrier. And then you start thinking about people judging you, not knowing what you can do, organising care for the kids, transport if you can’t drive – and it gets too big for you.”
Nicole’s role is proactive and solution focused. Every client needs a different approach. Building rapport and gaining trust is important.
One woman, who hadn’t worked in years, told Nicole that she had no strengths to bring to a workplace. Yet Nicole saw potential in the woman’s warm personality and experience with her own grandchildren. It took time, but Nicole encouraged the woman to consider childcare as an option, to gain a first aid certificate and hand out her CV at the local pool where she took her grandchildren. Several job offers followed and she now has permanent employment in a working family with three kids. It is her first job in two decades.
Not everyone is thrilled to have Nicole’s help. One client, a man who’d just come out of jail, told her bluntly that he wasn’t interested in finding work or in having her as a case manager.
“Well,” Nicole told him politely but firmly, “work is where we’re heading and until you’re there you’re not getting rid of me – ever.”
Soon after, a job at the local sawmill caught his attention. It was physical, but he was fit. “He was really excited about it,” says Nicole. “He didn’t get that job, but it was a turning point. We were on the same team after that and we started to really work together.”
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