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Intellectual Disability Sector on Verge of Crisis

Intellectual Disability Sector on Verge of Crisis - Report
Wednesday 21 May 2008

Intellectually disabled New Zealanders and their families could face a precarious future, a new report revealed today.

The National Residential Intellectual Disability Providers Group (NRID) is a national organisation comprising intellectual disability providers who support approximately 6,500 New Zealanders with an intellectual disability.

The Deloittes Review, commissioned by NRID, has shown that the intellectual disability sector could be on the verge of a crisis, due to poor funding, high staff turnover and an ageing workforce, and increasing costs.

Chris Harris, Deputy Chair of NRID, says New Zealanders with intellectual disability will suffer as a result.

"Intellectual disability residential services have been facing increasing difficulties for a number of years.

"If these organisations do not have proper funding in the future, they won't be able to deliver their services effectively – this could result in significant harm to service users and their families," he says.

"The dedicated staff working within these organisations would not be prepared to put people with intellectual disabilities at risk, so if these trends continue, the only outcome would be to shut their services down."

The report reveals that the Ministry of Health has failed to deliver a pricing model that addresses the real concerns about current and future sustainable service delivery.

Mr Harris says the proposed Ministry contract increases are insufficient for many providers to cover their rising costs.

"Any organisation faced with the dilemma of high staff turnover and rapidly increasing staff and utility costs, would be considered as facing bankruptcy.

"Should the New Zealand public lose these services it will be, in many cases, irreversible and at a significant social cost."

The staff turnover rate for the disability sector is at least 25 percent, and is highest amongst younger staff. Workers are seeing pay rates rapidly declining relative to the minimum wage rate and comparable workforce sectors, such as DHB healthcare assistants and corrections officers.

"If the Government and the Ministry of Health turn a blind eye to this situation, the consequences for service users, families and the reputation of New Zealand as a progressive country meeting the needs of disabled persons, will be damaged irrevocably."

ENDS

Background information

Key findings within the report highlight that:

• Ministry of Health contract increases do not cover the true costs of service provision

• Sleepover payment at minimum wage level will make the sector in its current form financially unviable

• Sector pay rates are declining relative to comparable Health and Corrections equivalents

• Staff turnover is unacceptably high

• The sector is staffed significantly by older staff, and younger staff members do not stay

• Inconsistencies in contract price increases are common and the transparent pricing model progress is slow

• Ministry officials assume the continued provision of services by the sector means it is robust, which is not the case. The Ministry is not in touch with the precarious nature of the sector's financial situation.

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