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Aged care sector facing crisis

Friday, 6 August 2004

Aged care sector facing crisis

A decade of under-funding in aged residential and homecare support services has left the aged care sector facing a crisis of survival. This key message emerged from the NZ Council of Christian Social Services’ (NZCCSS) Conference in Auckland which ended today.

The two-day conference brought together managers and executives from the aged care social services of the six main Christian denominations in NZ (Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian and Salvation Army) well as others involved in the aged care sector.

Christian social services are among the main providers of aged residential care and home support services in NZ. At the conference speakers and presenters focused on the rapid change in the sector, particularly the move away from residential care in rest homes toward support services for people in their own homes. Case studies of innovative services that are responsive to the needs of consumers, both in residential care and in community-based services, were examined. These highlighted both the opportunities which the changing environment offers and also the risks, particularly for low income and high needs consumers, if the transition process is not well planned and coordinated from a government and district health board level.

NZCCSS Executive Officer, Paula Skilling, in her closing address called on members to focus on the three “R’s” of aged care: Reverence, Revving it up, & Resourcing. Reverence lies at the centre of Christian concern for the dignity and respect for older people in NZ. “Revving it up” means taking on the challenge of a changing environment and engaging with issues in the sector in an innovative and proactive way. Christian social services are at the forefront of new ways of providing care and support for older people. But reverence and revving it up alone will not be enough if the resources are insufficient.

Religious and welfare-based service providers are struggling to continue providing services faced with rising costs, higher expectations from recipients of services, compliance with new legislative standards and certification. Recruiting and retaining staff is reaching crisis point when wages and conditions are below comparable work in other sectors.

The aged care sector is funded almost entirely through government subsidies for people in care. Independent reviews of pricing have demonstrated that these subsidies are inadequate. Current levels of funding mean that the level of service cannot be maintained and that many religious and welfare organisations face difficult choices. If Christian social services cannot continue to care for the elderly, there is a serious risk that those with low incomes and high needs will not be adequately cared for.


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