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Photo shows Leo Gallagher who is one of the workers at Te Whangai.
A programme that is helping more Work and Income clients find jobs was recognised today by State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie.
In partnership with Te Whangai Trust and employers like Fonterra and NZ Steel, Work and Income has helped over 400 clients find meaningful and sustainable jobs by training them in various useful skills.
"This is what happens when public services are designed and delivered around the needs of New Zealanders and not around organisational boundaries. This is another of the growing number of examples of government agencies working with other organisations and coming up with innovative solutions to deliver truly better public services for New Zealanders," Mr Rennie said.
Based in Miranda in Northern Waikato, the programme gives clients, who range in age from 17-63 and are new to the workforce or with low qualifications, the opportunity to gain knowledge and work experience. Using the Te Whangai Native Plant Nursery as a learning platform, it helps clients develop life and work skills in a safe, disciplined work environment. Varied jobs include picking and planting seedlings, looking after grown plants, managing orders, dispatching and constant on-the-job learning. Since 2007, the programme has worked with over 360 people through their 26-week programme and over 1600 people through their daily programmes.
Established as a charitable trust, Te Whangai has evolved into a Work & Life Skills Self Development Centre. It addresses social and environmental issues by utilising the skills and talents of unemployed and at risk youth. Many of its employees are long-term unemployed or have limited physical disability. About 80% have drug and alcohol addiction, and mild mental health issues.
Adrienne Dalton, who founded Te Whangai with her husband Gary, believes the outdoor learning environment acts as a valuable tool to help employees build life skills. "The learning has to be hands-on in order to develop skills, life strategies, and problem-solving abilities," Mrs Dalton says.
"Our missionistocreate a sustainable, ecological, social and educational enterprise that supports and trains disadvantaged people who find it challenging to enter the labour market. By empowering them to change habits, they break the generational cycle of poverty and thus create a better life for themselves and future generations. And the government cannot do this alone. The community needs to do its part as well," she said.
'It's invaluable having the experience'
"I went to a seminar at Waiuku Community Link with Gary and Adrienne, and was accepted just like that," says Leo Gallagher, 55. "It's great to be working, and it was also a physically demanding job, which has the added advantage of getting you fit. It's invaluable to experience having a job, to show other employers how keen you are to work and get out there," Leo said.
Helping vulnerable Youth
In another programme, Te Whangai worked with Trust Waikato, NZ Police, the Department of Corrections, the courts and community organisations, to help a group of high risk youth re-offenders participate in a six-month Hi Road Programme. It introduced youth to their potential in a nurturing environment, away from the pressures of their daily life to learn new skills. Te Whangai built in numeracy and literacy development as part of the daily programme. 73% of these youths have not re-offended since participating in the programme.
Work and Income is a service provided by the Ministry of Social Development.
Media Enquiries: Janryll Fernandez 021 472 598, SSC Communications