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ACC punishing low paid home support workers

Joint media release
PSA/Healthcare of NZ
November 10, 2009
For Immediate Use

ACC punishing low paid home support workers

The Public Service Association and Healthcare of New Zealand say home support workers supporting ACC clients in rural areas will be hardest hit by the ACC cutting funding for their travel allowance.

The Public Service Association is the union representing home support workers and Healthcare of New Zealand employs thousands of these frontline health workers.

Currently home support workers are reimbursed for their travel costs if they have to drive more than 20km to assist an ACC claimant recovering from an accident. ACC is cutting funding and now expects them to pay for the first 20km they drive to get to the homes of people on accident compensation.

“It’s unacceptable ACC expects workers on as little as $14.14 an hour, who’re already having to meet part of their work-related travel costs, to pay an even bigger slice of a cost they incur in doing their job,” says Richard Wagstaff.

“These are some of the lowest paid workers in this sector. The ACC funding cut could equate to a cut of $17.50 per day, or 19% of the total income of a home support worker, working seven hours a day,” says Richard Wagstaff.

“This comes at a time when we are entering into negotiations with the PSA around a collective employment agreement for hundreds of our support workers. As part of our good faith bargaining process we have had to be completely transparent about our position,” says Ken Douglas, chair of the Healthcare of New Zealand board workforce committee.

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“Our position as an employer of thousands of support workers, is seriously jeopardised by these cuts. Our staff provide vital frontline health services so that the people they support maintain their independence and live in their own homes, and in rural communities distances travelled between one client to the next, can be extensive.”

“For example, a support worker who is based in Nelson may drive 29 kilometers (km) to support a client based on a farm. The worker is only paid half their hourly rate for the 1.5 hours driving time, and will not be paid any mileage for the first 20km i.e. they will only be reimbursed for 38 of the 58km journey.”

“It’s unreasonable to expect low paid staff to travel long distances, using their own cars without being paid for travel time or petrol, in order to do their job,” says Richard Wagstaff.

The home health sector is greatly concerned about the impact that this cut will have on rural communities, who already struggle to maintain services to support their community’s health needs.

“We are concerned at how this will impact our future ability to attract and retain quality staff, and as a result potentially face the undesirable situation of having to limit services, rather than compromise the quality of our services. In the end, it is those needing support in rural communities that would be the hardest hit,” says Ken Douglas.

“The proposed cuts go against the Government’s explicit commitment to the provision of ‘better, more convenient’ frontline health services. As the population ages and there is growing demand on the shrinking health dollar, it makes absolutely no sense to hinder the very services that care for people at home, rather than the vastly more expensive residential or hospital care facilities,” says Ken Douglas.

Travel allowance cuts are one of several reductions introduced by ACC on the home health sector. Others include: cuts to public holiday supplements for workers who support ACC’s non-serious injury clients; changes to pay rates for workers carrying our personal care and household management for ACC’s serious injury clients; and cuts to sleepover pay rates.

Healthcare of New Zealand
Healthcare of New Zealand provides a broad range of home and community-based services where age, disability, illness or accidents make such support necessary. Our services are wide-ranging, from helping with domestic tasks and personal care in the home, to specialised nursing services for more complex health needs, through to residential facilities and other community support options for people with disabilities.

Our organisation has grown rapidly from its inception in 1988 and today we employ over 6,500 part- and full-time staff across the country. We provide support to more than 17,000 people living in their own homes, specialist community homes or with family/whānau, making us the one of the largest providers of health and disability support services in New Zealand.


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