Blanket reforms set refugees up to fail

Press Release – New Zealand Labour Party

Revelations that Work and Income is sending generic letters to refugees threatening their benefits –in a language they can’t even read– beggars belief, says Labours Social Development spokesperson Jacinda Ardern.31 August 2013

Blanket reforms set refugees up to fail

Revelations that Work and Income is sending generic letters to refugees threatening their benefits –in a language they can’t even read– beggar’s belief, says Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Jacinda Ardern.

“I was astounded to read a letter from Work and Income to a young mother from Burma, which said that she must enrol in a Limited Service Volunteer course, often referred to as a military style boot camp, or risk having her benefit cut. Not only was the suggestion in the letter completely wrong, it was written in a language she simply couldn’t understand.

“These blanket style letters in no way fulfil our obligations to the refugee community or the many other vulnerable people who are having exactly the same experience,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“The job market is tough at the moment and for those grappling with English as a second language the challenge is an uphill battle. Mass mail outs from Work and Income make matters worse. Under this government we are seeing the individual circumstances of refugees put into the ‘too hard basket’.

“I have seen first hand how desperate refugees are to learn English and find work to support themselves. But instead of supporting them to do that, this Government has cut second languages courses.
“The Government has an obligation to give refugees a fair go when they settle in New Zealand. This includes providing translations of key correspondence and translators for dealings with Work and Income.
“Despite talk of ‘tailored support’ many refugees are struggling to communicate with case managers and are being denied adequate translation services.

“Refugees, many of whom have fled war torn countries are entitled to specialised government support – that’s a part of the moral obligation we take on as a country when we agree to offer settlement in New Zealand.

“The Government isn’t meeting its end of the deal and gaps in our refugee support services are fast becoming gaping holes.

“It is in all of our interests for migrants to succeed upon settlement. The Minister needs to reinstate ESOL funding and review the way Work and Income is communicating its refugee services,” Jacinda Ardern said.

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