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Disability Support Job Same Value As Corrections

April 1, 2008
For Immediate Use
Disability Support Job Same Size And Value As Corrections Officers

An independent job evaluation has shown that the work done by community support workers – supporting people with intellectual disabilities who live in community houses – is similar in size and value to the work done by corrections officers working in prisons.

“Yet the national average top pay rate for a community support worker is $17,500 a year less than a corrections officer,” says Richard Wagstaff, National Secretary of the PSA, which commissioned the job evaulation.“This evaluation provides proof that community support workers, who support thousands of intellectually disabled New Zealanders to lead fufilling lives, are hugely underpaid.”

The job evaluation by, Janice Burns of Top Drawer Consultants, compared the work done by community support workers with corrections officers and health/therapy assistants, who work in public hospitals and assist physiotherapists, occupational therapists and other health workers.

It compared the knowledge, skills, emotional and physical demands and levels of responsibility, required to do all three jobs. The evaulation found that the jobs are of substantially similar size and value.

“This finding is significant,” says Richard Wagstaff. “It shows that community support workers are not being fairly rewarded for the work they do.”

A nationwide survey of community support workers shows that their average pay rates are significantly lower than corrections officers and health assistants.

The national average top pay rate for community support workers is $16.20 an hour or $33,696 a year.
Health assistants pay increases after 5 years to $39,908 with a top pay rate of $41,109, $7413 more than CSWs. A 22% pay gap.
Corrections officers pay rises with internal training to $51,257, $17,551 more than CSWs. A 52% pay gap.

“The fact that community support workers are earning thousands of dollars a year less than corrections officers and therapy assistants, when their job is of similar size and value, is totally unacceptable,” says Richard Wagstaff.

The PSA represents 2,500 community support workers. They work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, providing medical care, personal care, meals and activity programmes for people with intellectual disabilities living in community houses. The houses are funded by the government and run by non profit organisations and private companies.

“The Government and the organisations running the community houses can not afford to ignore the findings of this job evaluation,” says Richard Wagstaff. “That’s because the low pay and poor working conditions make it extremely hard for the disability sector to retain and attract staff.”

Staff turnover in community houses is 30% overall and 50% in the first year of employment.

“The problem that community support workers face is that low pay is determined by the level of funding available not the skills, knowledge, demands and level of responsibility that the job requires,” says Richard Waghstaff

The PSA will be using the results of the job evaulation to continue its campaign to improve the pay rates and working conditions of community support workers.

“The union will focus initially on closing the pay gap between community support workers and therapy assistants, “ says Richard Wagstaff.“We will then be looking at how we can bridge the larger gap between the pay rates for community support workers and corrections officers.”


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