As I am a life member of a gang the Hon Shane Jones possibly considers me something of a Montague. But whether the rose he is offering is called "work for the dole" or "work scheme" the overall thrust smells just as sweet.
I know many organisations consider the proposition to nudge people, especially young people, stuck on the dole into fulltime work as a condition of their benefit payment (albeit "topped up") to be an anathema. However, given a personal development component in the work programme, I'm in support of the outcome he seeks for his "nephs".
Over the past 18 months, with the backing of the Department of Internal Affairs and the Napier City Council, a Hawke's Bay community action youth and drugs team has trialled a pilot week day programme of what we described as "positive activity". The programme was called Tangata Mahi Pai, "people doing good things".
It arose from a concern about what seemed to be evident social alienation and sense of hopelessness among many local young people, often compounded by their use of a range of intoxicants.
Twenty-four people went through the programme. It involved a range of activities from helping to build a marae to running community events.
From those that we have been able to follow through, six were referred to alcohol or drug and mental health service providers, four went into education or training programmes, and eight went into employment. The participant feedback was overwhelmingly positive. They enjoyed "working for their country".
On review we found we were not sufficiently resourced to meet our OSH and work place training obligations and concluded that these types of programmes would best be run through territorial local authorities or similar organisations who had the operational resources and systems to meet modern workplace obligations.
But, the important thing was that the general idea of engaging people in "positive activity" seemed to be of great value.
Another employment readiness project I've recently been involved with is through a civil construction training provider called ATD Services Ltd. They have run five "wheels and tracks" short courses at Waiohiki Marae. The graduates come out with their heavy trades and machine operators licences.
Of the 50 trainees, 48 are now in employment at over $30 an hour.
It seems to me that what Shane Jones is advancing sits between the two programmes I've described.
I said at the beginning there needs to be a personal development component in any such scheme. This might include literacy, numeracy, a driver's licence, opening a KiwiSaver account, and the addressing of possibly neglected issues around dental care, eyesight, sexual health, mental health and addictions.
This is because of the insight shared by the late Justice Sir Clinton Roper who noted in the 1987 Roper Report that many of the young people of the type cited by the minister needed "habilitation", that is they had not been equipped with the primary life skills required for participation in modern day society as a citizen and taxpayer.
• Denis O'Reilly is a life member of the Black Power. He was the seminal government funded "detached youth worker" and vitally involved in the work co-operative movement of the 1970's and 1980's and went on to become chief executive of the group employment liaison service in the former Department of Labour and a director of the New Zealand Employment Service, a forerunner of WINZ.