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Communities suffer while Government under spends

New Zealand Communities suffer from lack of services while Government under spends

Organisations, such as mental health providers, primary care providers and Maori health providers, are struggling to deliver vital services to New Zealand communities at the same time as the government has announced a bumper surplus and under spending in health.

Organisations in the Tangata Whenua, community and voluntary sector are contracted by the Government to provide health and welfare services to the community but are increasingly unable to attract and retain health professionals including nurses and social workers.

The Government recently announced a better than expected economic performance, with a $8.7 billion operating surplus for the 2006/2007 financial year The final figure is more than $2 billion higher than forecast on budget night 2006 and included a cash surplus of $2.6 billion - $900 million higher than was expected as recently as the May Budget.

Dave Henderson, National Coordinator of the Association of NGOs of Aotearoa (ANGOA) says reports that health under spent by $500 million has been achieved at the same time that community agencies have had their funding held static for many years.

“There has been a lack of support to develop and grow community responses to the provision of mental health and addiction support, in particular,” he says.

Ros Rice, Executive Officer of the New Zealand Council of Social Services says: “It is almost impossible to keep up with state funded professional pay scales because the increases are not reflected in contracts with government funders.”

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Marion Blake, CEO of Platform, which represents sector organisations providing community based mental health services across New Zealand, says local and regional pricing and purchasing inequities still exist.

“The sector still does not routinely receive the cost of living adjustments that are passed on by the District Health Boards. Payments for services are also not made on time,” she says.

Jo Lake, National Executive Officer of Presbyterian Support New Zealand says it is an unfortunate irony that the recent pay increase offered to nurses employed in the District Health Boards is undermining the sector’s ability to maintain a professional workforce.

“While we support improvement of pay for nurses, it continues to pit sector organisations against Government sector in attracting and retaining qualified staff. However, it is a one-sided competition as sector organisations are not getting the pay increase reflected in their contracts,” Jo Lake says.

Kevin Haunui, General Manager of the Funding Information Service, says New Zealand society depends on organisations in the Tangata Whenua, community and voluntary sector – all of whom are looking after people in our local communities who would otherwise be left to fend for themselves.

“The Sector is everywhere, doing essential work that otherwise wouldn’t get done. Many key services would not be delivered if it wasn’t for voluntary organisations,” Kevin Haunui says.

Chris Clarke, Chair of Healthcare Aotearoa, a national network of community-owned primary healthcare services, says wider community service providers, particularly Maori and Youth providers, are struggling to retain their nursing staff.

“There is a trend around staff gaining community expertise and training in the Sector and then moving to take up employment with District Health Boards and private hospitals because they can offer better salaries.

“This is not sustainable for the sector or for our communities,” Chris Clarke says.


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