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Personal care support in crisis in Northland

Personal care support in crisis in Northland

Home and personal care support for the sick, disabled and elderly in Northland is in crisis as a direct result of the disastrous Holidays Act, says Northland MP John Carter.

"Companies which provide these vital services are being dealt a crushing blow by a triple-whammy in the Act and are in danger of folding unless they get more funding.

"On one hand they have to pay time and a half to staff who work on a public holiday, but they are not being funded for the higher wages bill. They are funded only for the normal hours they bill, not for time and a half.

"On top of that, they have to provide staff a paid day off in lieu, but they are funded only for hours worked by replacement staff, not for the time in lieu.

"And, if that isn't enough, they have to deal with the bereavement leave provisions in the Act. And that could well be the straw that breaks their backs," Mr Carter says.

"Because a lot of personal carers in Northland are Maori, the bereavement leave provisions are a significant problem for home-based support providers.

"The Act says you can have three days off for the death of a close relative. Well, in Maoridom, the cousin or family friend who is brought up in your home is regarded as a brother or sister, so the people regarded as close relatives could quadruple.

"You can also take three days for the funeral of your mother or grandparent, but some people in these extended families could claim a couple of mothers and four sets of grandparents.

One provider, Home Support North, has 1300 clients serviced by 500 part-time staff, 23 per cent of whom are Maori.

"Providers like this can bill the DHB for the hours worked by people covering for those on bereavement leave, but they cannot bill for bereavement leave, or the time and a half, or the lieu day. That leaves them out of pocket.

Home Support North Charitable Trust CEO Leanne McLiver says the industry is in crisis.

"At the moment we have people waiting for care and it is going to get harder.

"If we are not funded for these extra entitlements, our ability to care for these people will be affected".

There are approximately 3500 people in Northland who depend on help in their homes on a daily basis. They are serviced by about 1000 part-time staff.

"I urge the Labour Government to urgently consider a review of the funding for home support providers before it is too late," Mr Carter says.

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