Tania Colling's 10-year job search

By Imran Ali

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Tania Collings
Tania Collings

Solo mum Tania Collings is still looking for a paid job in Whangarei, more than a decade after leaving school.

The 31-year old was among more than 18,000 Northlanders receiving all forms of benefit from the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) in the last quarter of 2013, that figure an increase of 881 compared with the year's third quarter.

More people received the jobseeker support payment, previously known as the unemployment benefit, than any other benefit during both quarters.

Ms Collings, who receives about $200 a week in solo parent support for her 10-year-old son, had been on various benefits since the age of 18. In that time she had done training courses but they didn't lead to work.

"I know of a lot of people who are struggling to find work and it's not fun," Ms Collings said.

"For now, part-time work really suits me and I am ready for any work, be it in the kitchen, mowing lawns, running errands or posting mail for businesses."

MSD figures show 18,493 Northlanders received all forms of benefit at the end of 2013, with 8120 of them on the jobseeker benefit, 4755 on solo parent support, 4682 on supported living or sickness benefit, and 936 on other benefits. There were 8473 in Whangarei, 8153 in the Far North and 1867 in Kaipara.

Nationally, 321,869 people received all forms of benefit in the last quarter of 2013.

In comparison, 17,612 Northlanders were on benefits at the end of September last year. Whangarei topped the list with 8035, 7750 in the Far North and 1827 in Kaipara.

More females collected benefits than males in both quarters.

The national figure for the September quarter was 304,394.

The number of people on jobseeker support typically increased in the December quarter, an MSD spokesperson said.

"Generally, more people come on to benefit when courses finish at the end of the year and fewer go off benefit into work at that time as companies often reduce hiring over the holiday period," he said.

Jobseeker numbers are expected to reduce again over the next few months, which will be reflected in the next quarterly figures.

Whangarei Citizens Advice Bureau co-ordinator Moea Armstrong said beneficiary advocates had been "flat out" recently.

Last year's welfare reforms were mostly a "name change", but advocates at the bureau had noticed it was becoming increasingly difficult for people on sickness and invalid welfare to access the things they were entitled to, she said.

Are you on a benefit? We like to hear your story. Email us at reporters@northernadvocate.co.nz.

- Northern Advocate

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