Paid Family Care Needs Urgent Focus
An Alliance of almost 50 national not for profits supporting New Zealand’s 420,000+ family carers of elderly, ill, and disabled loved ones have encouraged the Government to act on calls for a fairer payment system for carers.
Two thirds of carers are women of working age who often leave paid employment to provide intensive 24/7 care for a vulnerable person.
Long-term caring impacts a carer’s ability to save for retirement, contribute to KiwiSaver, and fully participate in paid work, and is a growing concern with more support provided by families in an ageing society, says Carers Alliance Co-Chair Janine Stewart.
She says the Alliance has met with Ministers to emphasise the urgency of dealing fairly with carers who are doing their best to cope with work demands, high living costs, and caring.
“More than a third of New Zealand’s carers live in Auckland where the economic realities of housing, commuting, and everyday costs make it difficult to give up work to care. We were pleased to hear that the Government is taking seriously the need for fair policies that recognise the importance and value of family caregiving.”
The Carers Alliance is helping to ensure a voice for carers in the Government’s third five-year Carers’ Strategy Action Plan, which covers the period from 2019 to 2024. It is important that paid family care be addressed in the new Action Plan, along with workable supports in areas like respite, says Stewart.
High numbers of women providing family care make it a crucial women’s issue, says Carers NZ CEO Laurie Hilsgen. Carers NZ has devoted its annual awareness campaign (https://she-cares.org) to the economic realities of women in caregiving roles, joining the Alliance in the call for better fairer paid family care policies for all ages.
An Infometrics analysis of the last Census found that family carers are less able than other New Zealanders to participate in paid work, or to work in better paying jobs that utilise their experience and qualifications. Family carers earn on average 10% less than non-caring New Zealanders and are more likely than the rest of society to work part-time. Infometrics found that the conservative annual value of their unpaid work is at least $10 billion.
The Carers Alliance and Carers NZ say it’s important for carers to see tangible progress over the payment issue after many years of human rights and court action. Most recently 76 year old Auckland carer Diane Moody took her disabled son Shane to court for failing to be a good employer. The case highlights a flaw in the current Funded Family Care policy which requires disabled people with high support needs to act as the employers of their family carers, who are often parents.
Access criteria for FFC are so tight that only a few hundred disabled people who are highly vulnerable qualify, with no option but to employ their family carers, says Stewart.
“There are a range of flaws in the current paid family care policy and we are pleased the Government is considering ways to address the problems. It can’t come too soon, because carers have had to fight so hard for progress, and deserve to be treated better.”