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Government Announces Carer Strategy

Government Announces Carer Strategy

Media Release
12 April, 2007

Charities Support Government Focus on Family Carers

National charities have welcomed the Government’s announcement that it will develop a Carers Strategy for the 15% of New Zealanders who provide care for sick or disabled family members.

Non-profit Carers NZ established a coalition of 39 national charities two years ago to call for a Carers Strategy.

Carers NZ and the NZ Carers Alliance are hosting a two-day Summit at Te Papa, where today Government Minister Ruth Dyson will grant their wish, pledging the Government’s commitment to a Carers Strategy, and announcing a public consultation process to be coordinated in partnership with the Alliance.
Several hundred family carers from across the country, health professionals, government representatives, and non-profits will attend the event.

Carers NZ director, Laurie Hilsgen, says a review of existing policy and legislation confirmed what Alliance non-profits already knew: that the focus of New Zealand health service delivery is on the person needing support, without adequate regard for the needs of the wider family and those in 24/7 caring roles.

“There are good reasons why New Zealand also needs to care for its carers. The population is ageing, more of us are living for longer in the community as we grow older, and modern medicine is allowing us to better manage conditions and disabilities that once caused early mortality.”

“These trends mean that New Zealand is relying more on family carers to provide unpaid care for loved ones.”
While caring is a traditional family value, making the choice to care can have lifetime consequences, she says.

“Often carers are unable to fully participate in the workforce. They do not receive nationally consistent training to undertake basic home health tasks. There is inadequate recognition of the needs of children and young people in caring roles. There is also a need to better understand that caring can impact your own physical and mental wellbeing, and is an independent early mortality risk for older carers.”

A recent survey by Carers NZ found that over 90% of the 120 carers who responded had experienced depression, and said their caring commitments were a major contributing cause.
Legislation to achieve thoughtful support for carers is in place in the United Kingdom, where a strategy was championed by Prime Minister Tony Blair in 1999. Blair’s father had a stroke when he was a child, and the experience influenced his support for progressive family care policies in the UK. In February the British government announced a review of the 1999 Carers Strategy, and new government measures to deliver improved services and support to carers. Australia is also progressive for carers, with legislation and services in place nationally and in all states; services for carers include access to free counselling, and programs for young carers.

Baroness Jill Pitkeathley, Carers UK’s early champion for policy and legislation in Britain, and Joan Hughes, CEO of Carers Australia, will be keynote speakers at the Te Papa Summit, along with Gail Hunt of the US National Alliance for Caregiving, and Jenny Frank, the UK program manager for the government-led Young Carers Initiative.

The Caring for the Carers Summit was opened this morning by Sir Paul Reeves, who announced the formation of the Aotearoa Maori Whanau Carers Network, a new national support network for Maori caregivers. Its interim convenor is Druis Barrett, a past president of the Maori Women’s Welfare League.

Carers Alliance participants are all national non-profits which collectively support tens of thousands of families. Chairman John Forman says ensuring support for family carers is a crucial investment for New Zealand.

“Our social fabric is woven from the principles that will underpin the Carers Strategy. Helping families cope with trauma, be it for a short time or for a lifetime, is something New Zealand prides itself on.”

“The Carers Strategy is a missing piece of public policy. We hope it will be supported by every political party and health agency, because sickness, injury, and disability don’t discriminate. We can all expect to have caring experiences during our lives.”

Carers Alliance non-profits will work with the Ministry of Social Development to organise a menu of ways New Zealand families and organisations can have a say in the Carers Strategy. This will begin in a few months, says Mr Forman.


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