Regional | Benefit

Wage subsidy programme essential to Manurewa Marae effort

The government is hailing the success of the Mana in Mahi programme, an initiative run by the Ministry of Social Development designed to help people on a benefit into new careers by paying wage subsidies to participating employers.

Manurewa Marae is one of the workplaces that has taken on the programme.

Mana in Mahi began in 2018, with 5,000 people signed up for the programme. Some 44 percent are Māori or Pacific, and 64 percent are aged under 24 years.

Manurewa Marae chief executive Tash Kemp says the marae saw this as an opportunity to empower whānau.

"It's created a form of employment and a form of meaningful employment for our whānau that are a part of Mana in Mahi, where they feel they're contributing back to our community and in a time of need of a pandemic of Covid-19 where we've really needed the support for our whānau."

"It's definitely been the backbone of our support services during Covid."

'Prevention tool'

National spokesperson Louise Upston says, while National fully supports the initiative, it is doing little to reduce long-term dependency.

“It makes no sense that more young people are stuck on the Jobseeker benefit long-term when businesses are crying out for workers. Currently, more than 13,000 18 to 24-year-olds have spent longer than one year on the Jobseeker benefit."

But according to Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni, Mana in Mahi is not just about long-term welfare dependency.

"What we are doing with Mana in Mahi is not only providing support for people that are on benefit, and perhaps disadvantaged in the labour market, but for people that are disadvantaged in the labour market and not on a benefit. It is a prevention tool."

One key aspect of the programme is the upskilling of participants. Tasha Kemp says the foodbank provides a whole range of things staff can learn.

Working with community

"When you're doing anywhere between 300 to 500 kai packs in a week, you've got to bring kai in,  you've got to logistically set it all up. You've got an administration arm that's connected to that Mana in Mahi as well. They have to roll out a whole distribution."

Tua Pukeiti is a Mana in Mahi worker working at the marae foodbank. He says working at the flax roots of the community is one of the advantages.

"Coming to the marae, you're working closely with the whānau and the community, our community in South Auckland."