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No lolly scramble funds for home care providers

PRESS RELEASE

29 August 2005

For immediate release


No new funding for cash-strapped home care providers in pre-election lolly scramble


There are no pre-election sweetners on the horizon for the home health care sector which is in a state of crisis due to pitifully low wage rates and workers having to fund their own travel costs and time.

Last month Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) launched a petition calling for the reimbursement of travel costs for the country’s 30,000 home care workers. The petition, which will be presented to Parliament after the election, is drawing strong support around the country.

However there is no sign of home health care benefiting from the pre-election lolly scramble.

Instead the Government has responded to increasing pressure to fund home support workers’ travel costs by stating that the $15.5 million allocated to the sector in the May 2005 Budget will now only be paid out to home care providers if they have an approved “fair” travel policy in place.

Graeme Titcombe, president of the New Zealand Home Health Association Inc has labelled this a “smoke and mirrors” proposal, which attempts to deflect criticism for the non-funding of travel away from the Government and on to the providers.

RWNZ agrees.

“If the extra Budget funding is required to be spent on travel reimbursement, it will not be available for wage increases and holiday pay. The current average wage of $9.80 will fail to attract new staff and the 39% annual turnover will worsen,” says RWNZ National President, Sherill Dackers.

$15.5 million falls far short of what is required to address the industry’s near state of collapse. A Ministry of Health study has shown reimbursement of travel costs would require around $18.6 million, while to bring in pay parity with DHB Aides, on equivalent pay scales, would require an additional $100 million.

“Workers are being exploited while the safety and wellbeing of elderly and vulnerable people is put at risk,” says Sherrill Dackers. “Thousands of referrals a year are being turned down by home health companies who cannot attract the staff to provide the services people are entitled to receive.”

RWNZ is also disappointed that none of the $15.5 million from the May Budget has yet been received by home health providers, as officials work on the parameters of the “fair” travel policy and how it could be implemented.

ENDS

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