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HRC report causes a stir
A report by the Human Rights Commission about equal employment opportunities for the thousands of care workers in aged residential facilities and at home has created waves in the aged care sector.
The report, which was leaked several weeks prior to its official release, describes the low rate of pay as an “indignity” that “can no longer be condoned”.
It acknowledges many carers are working for barely above the minimum wage and proposes solutions to address the inequitable pay and conditions. Among these is a stepped increase in rates to achieve pay parity between support workers and hospital assistants.
The Government funds aged care through District Health Boards (DHBs), which give money to hospitals and private providers. Martin Taylor, chief executive of the New Zealand Aged Care Association (NZACA), says the Government is not providing enough.
“One of the reasons we have a low wage economy is because the funding that the Government gives is inherently low,” Taylor told ONE News.
It is estimated $140 million a year will plug the gap between private and public providers. However, Prime Minister John Key said it is money the Government cannot afford. “I don’t think we’re in a position to meet that at this point, but we recognise there’s a disparity there,” says Key.
The New Zealand Home Health Association (NZHHA) welcomes the report and also points to an urgent need to look at travel reimbursement, describing travel as “essential to a service that supports people to live at home.”
The NZHHA’s recent newsletter states that current DHB rates include only a fraction of travel reimbursement.
According to the NZHHA, home support providers are having to make decisions to cut training, and then supervision, which they know will further undermine workforce retention and put the quality of services at risk.
The NZHHA suggests a comprehensive review of the pricing and workforce model for home support is needed in the longer term.
“In the short term, we can’t guarantee the sustainability of the services in several regions of New Zealand,” says chief executive, Julie Haggie.
Associate health minister, Jo Goodhew, says the Government will carefully consider the Human Rights Commission’s report on their inquiry into equal employment opportunities in aged care. Goodhew says many of the recommendations in the report are consistent with the current initiatives and directions already set by the Government, including the areas of training, safety standards, consumer information, auditing, and home-based support services.
“The challenge for the Government is how best to balance the many competing demands for additional funding in the aged care sector as the population ages,” says Goodhew.
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