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Govt funding is causing unfair wages in aged care

14 March 2005

Inadequate Government funding is causing unfair wages in aged care

The continued Government underfunding for aged care services is the reason why New Zealand caregivers’ wages are so low, according to the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services (NZCCSS).

Commenting at the start of Caregivers Week, NZCCSS Vice President Gillian Bremner is calling for an immediate and significant increase in funding by the Government to enable aged care service providers to increase wages for caregivers and nurses.

The imminent price increase of around 3 percent in residential care, while very welcome, is funding that was due last July and for many providers has already been spent. A significant funding boost is necessary to ensure the long term sustainability of the sector and get away from a hand to mouth approach.

“Continued exploitation by Government of the commitment of care workers to their residents and clients and the Government’s disregard for the risks for the care of older New Zealanders is unacceptable,” Mrs Bremner says.

The Government has acknowledged the funding problem but has not taken adequate steps to deal with a deepening crisis situation. Funds have been provided to cover the 20 percent wage increases for nursing staff working for District Health Boards (DHBs) but the Government is not funding similar increases for nursing staff who work in the religious and welfare organisations and other agencies which provide all the aged care services. Similarly, caregivers who work for DHBs receive significantly higher wages than those who work in aged care services.

Mrs Bremner says there is already a big problem finding staff for rest homes, home support work and day care and the huge difference in pay between those working for DHBs and those working in aged care will make the situation even more desperate.

“Our care workers undertake critically important physical and emotional work, and require increasingly high skill levels, yet Government underfunding means that they receive a lower wage than someone picking apples. Similarly, there is currently no provision in Government funding to recognise the costs of training staff to appropriate levels of qualification."

In aged residential care alone, more than two thousand rest home beds operated by religious and welfare organisations have been lost or are up for sale. Christian social service organisations with long traditions of care and commitment to the needs of poor and vulnerable face difficult decisions about continuing to provide services when the prices they are paid for services by Government in no way reflect the realities of the costs of operating those services.

“We need to honour, value and support older people by ensuring they can access services that enable them to have control over their lives. NZCCSS is concerned that older people in some communities may be left without services in the future. This is because, as acknowledged by the Government, the subsidy is insufficient to cover the cost of the services required. And many community agencies can no longer afford to make up the funding shortfall”, Mrs Bremner says.

ENDS

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