Coronavirus: Ministry of Social Development hiring to manage COVID-19 demand

The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) is looking to employ up to 600 new staff to manage the high number of Kiwis needing support during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Carmel Sepuloni, Minister for Social Development and Disability Issues, spoke to Newshub Nation on Saturday about the $50 billion allocated to recovering from the pandemic in Thursday's Budget.

She says MSD has to be "nimble" in its approach.

"These are unprecedented times, and it requires unprecedented actions. And so, we will continue to monitor what is happening to ensure that we can support New Zealanders. But with the Budget, our primary focus has been on upskilling, training jobs, employment, and making sure New Zealanders are looked after."

Sepuloni says to manage the next wave of beneficiaries coming in, MSD will be looking to employ more staff.

"We did get the money to do that to expand employment services, to expand focuses with respect to initiatives like Mana in Mahi, to also expand our internal offerings in terms of our work focus and also front-line case management," she says.

"That is the reality that we are going to have to beef up the support that we have to cater to the needs of New Zealanders who have lost jobs or find themselves unemployed because of COVID-19."

She says MSD is looking to employ between 550 and 600 people to help on the frontline.

Many of the Kiwis applying for assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic have never been on the benefit before and many earned "comparatively higher incomes than most who seek support", MSD said in a statement. Sepuloni told Newshub Nation many will struggle with the limited income.

"The reality is that the benefit is very difficult to live on, and we've always known that. That's why we made income adequacy part of the terms of reference for the Welfare Expert Advisory Group, and we have been incrementally making changes to try and improve that situation. But we do know it is difficult for New Zealanders to live off a benefit, and that's why there are still changes that will need to be made moving forward."

Finance Minister Grant Robertson told Newshub Nation the Government is very focused on keeping and getting people back into work.

"We continue to face a series of decisions every single day about how to support New Zealanders through this recovery, and obviously, you know, the thing that I'm most focused on here is ensuring we keep as many New Zealanders in work as possible, that we make sure that we're supporting the creation of new jobs, giving them training opportunities, making sure that, actually, every New Zealander gets that shot at work that is decent and well-paid."

He says the Government is ready for when the eight new weeks of wage subsidy runs out.

"We've shown, I think, through this whole process that we've been flexible, that we've been prepared to shift and change our programmes as necessary. We've put that eight week extension in place because there are a number of businesses in areas like hospitality and retail and tourism who even under level 2 aren't able to operate anything like their normal level. We’ll continue to monitor where those businesses are at, where the economy's at, what alert level that we're at and make our further decisions on whether there'll be any more extensions."

The Government has committed $6.9 billion for the extension of the wage subsidy scheme.