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Funding Urgent For Intellectual Disability Sector

May 21, 2008
For Immediate Use

Funding Increase Urgently Needed For Intellectual Disability Sector

A report issued today provides further proof that workers supporting intellectually disabled New Zealanders, who live in community houses, are under-paid and the sector urgently needs more funding.

The report by Deloittes was commissioned by the National Residential Intellectual Disability Providers Group (NRID) made up of intellectual disability providers.

“We’ve repeatedly said that workers providing support for the intellectually disabled are under-paid and have inadequate working conditions,” say Richard Wagstaff, National Secretary of the PSA, which represents 2500 workers in the disability sector.

“The Deloittes report is further proof of the urgent need to increase funding for the sector so we can improve community support workers’ pay and conditions,” says Richard Wagstaff.

Deloittes have found that:
• the sector can’t afford to pay its workers the adult minimum wage of $12 an hour for working ‘sleepover’ shifts.’
• pay rates for workers in the sector are falling in comparison to those doing similar work in public hospitals and prisons.
• staff turnover in the sector is “unacceptably high”
• the sector is staffed significantly by older workers and younger workers do not stay
• Ministry of Health contract increases do not cover the true costs of service provision.

“Deloittes has found that the disability sector is so under funded it can’t afford to pay its workers the minimum adult wage of $12 an hour for working sleepover shifts,” says Richard Wagstaff.

Currently these workers get the equivalent of $5.80 an hour for working ‘sleepover shifts’, less than half the adult minimum wage.

‘Sleepover shifts’ involve working from 11pm to 7am at a community house. The workers are allowed to sleep during the shift but are required to assist the intellectually disabled residents when they need help. The PSA says they should be paid at least the minimum adult wage of $12 for these shifts and is taking the case to the Employment Authority. Deloittes says the sector does not receive enough funding to pay $12 an hour for these shifts.

“The PSA issued a job evaluation last month that showed the top pay rate for a community support workers is $17,500 a year less than a corrections officer,” says Richard Wagstaff.

“This is despite the fact the evaluation showed the work of both jobs was of similar size and value.”

The evaluation also showed that the top rate for a health/therapy assistant was $7400 more than a community support worker even though their jobs are of similar size and value.

“This pay gap is unfair and unsustainable,” says Richard Wagstaff. “That’s because it’s contributing to a staff turnover rate, in the disability sector, that Deloittes say is unacceptably high.”

The PSA agrees with disability service providers that the sector is on the verge of crisis due to a lack of funding and high staff turnover. The providers are saying that unless funding is increased they will have to start shutting down the community houses that are home to thousands of intellectually disabled New Zealanders.

“We can’t allow that to happen,” says Richard Wagstaff. “Funding for the disability sector has to be increased and we must ensure that the money is used to boost the pay and conditions for the workers in the sector,” says Richard Wagstaff.


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