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Just pay for homecare workers

5 October 2004

Just pay for homecare workers

Homecare workers are being exploited through contracting arrangements which focus on driving down costs rather than ensuring the quality of care they provide, their union says.

PSA National Secretary Richard Wagstaff delivered the Association’s submission to Parliament’s Health Select Committee today. The PSA represents homecare workers who support people to live in their own homes and staff who assist people with disabilities to live in supported independent living in the community.

Richard Wagstaff told the Select Committee that three key issues for homecare workers urgently needed to be resolved.

“As New Zealand’s population ages and previously institutionalised people are encouraged to live in the community, the demand for home-based care so people can stay in their own homes is growing rapidly. Caregivers have been one of the fastest growing group of employees in recent years.

“The PSA says that the wages, training and status of homecare workers need to be urgently addressed.

“Wages and conditions for caregivers have barely moved in the last seven years from an already unacceptably low base. There is an urgent need for the government to properly resource the homecare sector.

“Last year as part of focus group interviews, our members told us some of the ways low pay and poor conditions were impacting on them. For example: some were working 60 hours plus per week in order to earn a living income travel to and between clients homes is not counted as work time and travel costs are not paid. This can add an hour of unpaid work time to caregivers days because casualised homecare workers are required to be available to work at very short notice (thirty-minutes is not uncommon) they cannot take on additional work which might make them more financially secure, and homecare workers have no guarantee of the number of hours they will be asked to work or their expected income. This makes getting a mortgage, or even filling the supermarket trolley, an impossibility.

“Our research also revealed that homecare workers currently perform a range of tasks that are considered ‘professional’. These include managing medical conditions such as seizures and dispensing medications, liasing with families and organising recreational activities for clients, and, regularly, taking sole charge for groups of dependent adults. Often when performing these activities, caregivers are working alongside or replacing professionals who are paid a much higher rate of pay for similar work.

“Caregivers feel they are being exploited because they have a high level of commitment to their clients and the care they receive. It is unacceptable that this level of exploitation should continue.

“The PSA supports both of the two petitions being considered by the select committee which call on the government to increase homecare workers pay and to recognise caregiver qualifications.”

ENDS

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