'Clearly not delivering': Government's youth job scheme Mana in Mahi expanded despite drop-outs

The Government's youth job scheme Mana in Mahi is expanding by 1850 placements, despite about 32 percent of participants dropping out. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Employment Minister Willie Jackson announced on Tuesday that the programme will now be available to 2000 placements.  

The criteria have also changed to include young people not in employment or education. It will also include part-time work for young people with children in their care and people with disabilities. 

A spokesperson said Cabinet agreed on the changes last week. 

While the Prime Minister has hailed the scheme a "success", National's Social Development spokesperson Louise Upston is not convinced. 

Upston told Newshub the scheme is "clearly not delivering" and labelled Tuesday's announcement a "scaled-back" version of what had been announced in 2018.  

She pointed to August last year when the Prime Minister unveiled plans for Mana in Mahi, saying it would start with a 150 person pilot, expanding to 4000 people by 2018. 

Ardern said in a statement on Tuesday that the financial boost for the programme announced in Budget 2019 will help the programme get "well on the way to the goal of 4000 places". 

Upston said that's a "massive disappointment". 

From left to right: Employment Minister Willie Jacksoon, Labour MP Kiri Allan, Mana in Mahi participant Tipene Van Den Anker, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and Whakatane Mayor Tony Bonne.
From left to right: Employment Minister Willie Jacksoon, Labour MP Kiri Allan, Mana in Mahi participant Tipene Van Den Anker, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and Whakatane Mayor Tony Bonne. Photo credit: Supplied

The scheme is getting a $49.9 million boost from the Wellbeing Budget which the Prime Minister said will enable it to be extended to 2000 participants. 

It had previously been funded by Ministry of Social Development baselines. 

The scheme has also faced retention issues. A document on the scheme's progress last month showed that as of June, only 168 of 247 participants had remained in the programme, representing a 32 percent dropout. 

Upston said the announcement was a "massive step backward", and likened the programme to KiwiBuild, in that it has high targets that she believes will not be met. 

"Mana in Mahi could be the Government's next KiwiBuild."

National's Louise Upston at select committee.
National's Louise Upston at select committee. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

The programme sees employers receive a wage subsidy - at the annual Jobseeker Support rate - and support for work-readiness or pre-employment costs. 

It promises participants - who must be 18-24 - at least 30 hours of paid full-time work a week, training for an industry qualification, and things to help get you started, such as new clothes. 

A spokesperson said the programme was expanded to include part-time work for young people with children in their care because that was one of the reasons why people were dropping out.

Jackson said it provides young people get the chance to achieve a formal industry training qualification, such as an apprenticeship, and get paid while they train to do a job. 

So far 161 employers have taken young people through the programme. 

Newshub.

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