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Home Help In Crisis Parliamentary Questions

#1 User is offline   Ivan 

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Posted 11 November 2004 - 07:49 AM

Parliamentary General Debate - Wednesday 10 November 2004

Sue Bradford - Green Party

Home Care workers

Mr Speaker,

Having just heard that rather self-congratulatory speech from the Hon Minister for Social Development and Employment, Steve Maharey, and his discussion of all the many things the Labour Party will be celebrating at its conference this coming weekend, I hope that he and his colleagues will spare a thought for the situation of one particular group of workers in this country, and the people for whom they provide health care and personal services.

We live in a society where everyone acknowledges the growing number of older people in our community and increasing longevity.

We also live at a time when thankfully much more focus is put on the rights of people with impairments to continue to live independently and in their own home for as long as they can, or want to.

However, there is a big gap between the hopes and expectations of older people and people with serious disabilities and the reality of the workforce which cares for them in an effort to allow their fragile independence to continue.

From the many letters, phone calls and other messages we are receiving from around the country - as I’m sure many other MPs are too - and from the inquiry currently being carried out in the Health Select Committee, it is clear that there is an emerging crisis in the provision of home care services which must be dealt with as a matter or extreme urgency.

Rural Women New Zealand report as of late September that they are turning away an average of 12 clients a day, and that other providers are in a similar position.

In another example, five paraplegics from Burwood are unable to return to their home district in the Manawatu because there are no carers to support them.

Some industry sources say turnover is as high as 90% in some areas, and 40% overall.

Parent and Family Resource warn of a looming meltdown at Christmas, and that home care workers are dangerously overworked to the point where the health and safety of caregivers and patients are dangerously compromised.

As the Minister mentioned earlier, one of the consequences of lower unemployment is that many workers are no longer happy to work as home carers. Is it any wonder when these staff in many cases receive the lowest of wages, are asked to undertake casual hours endlessly, and often have to pay their own transport time and fuel costs out of their already meagre paypackets?

Some staff are working 10 - 14 days at a stretch. Many are expected to be available randomly and on demand, at as little as 30 minutes notice.

Both the Positive Aging Strategy and the New Zealand Disability Strategy have a strong focus on the vision of older people and people with impairments being able to live independently for as much of their lives as possible.

The gap between the Government’s intentions and the reality for patients and caregivers has become a chasm.

I don’t entirely blame the Minister (the Hon Ruth Dyson) for this as I recognise this situation has been brewing for a long time. I also acknowledge that she is working really hard, with her advisors, to try and address the issues.

However, what I am most concerned about today is to engender a sense of urgency in Government, that the situation is already in crisis mode with many people missing out on the care they need and it’s only going to get worse the closer we get to the holiday season when even fewer staff will be available.

There are solutions to the problems around home carers. Some of them lie in what the Minister talked about today in answer to Green Party questions, for example in more quality control and accountability from providers. But the blame cannot to be continue to be laid solely at their door.

Funding should reflect the actual costs of providing care, not just a fixed price which is randomly and vastly variable around the country.

The training institution for caregivers, the Community Support Services ITO, should be enabled to provide its courses at no cost to either workers or employers.

All home care workers should be paid petrol costs and travel time between clients’ homes, not just those lucky enough to work for providers who make allowance for this.

And Government and DHBs should be working closely to ensure that in many more situations providers are enabled to engage staff permanently, rather than on an hour by hour, client by client basis.

All older New Zealanders and all people with impairments who are making a go of it in their own homes deserve a chance to receive the health and personal support they need.

All the workers who provide these services deserve to be valued properly, not just through much improved wages and conditions but also by access to high quality training.

These issues must be addressed now, or we risk a crisis that will become almost unmanageable.

#2 User is offline   karlasmum11111 

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Posted 11 November 2004 - 03:17 PM

hi ivan,
as an attendant carer myself i'd like to point out that this minimum wage ($10.50 per hour for me, assessed at 3 1/2 hours per day does not take into account that in reality my son takes closer to 18 hours per day not the 3 1/2 they assessed, and is again to be 'assessed' next month.Also out of that comes ACC levies, GST and PAYE. So you can imagine what the real rate of pay would be once these were deducted).
I am yet to find anyone that will work for that, especially given the nature of the job, cleaning houses or delivering pamphlets would no doubt be more profitable.
My sons OT suggested this morning that i only check his toileting every 2nd day supposedly to give him more independance, the only purpose to this i think is so that ACC can say i'm doing less for him, which again will cut his care entitlements.
In my opinion a 'carer' should ENSURE a patient is clean post toileting it would be neglectful to do otherwise especially where a child is concerned. To me, checking a child every 2nd day instead of every time so ACC can save money just doesnt cut it. I sincerely hope the elderly are not subject to this type of treatment as it is humiliating enough for them to have to revert to being toileted by others anyway without being put at risk of being left unclean as well.
I hope age concern also approach parliament on behalf of the elderly they need as much help as they can get. If the elderly were to actually GET the in home help they needed there would be far less calls for rest homes and retirement villages.
I'm sure that if a survey was done of the elderly in rest homes a HUGE percentage would not be there voluntarily, most are only there due to a serious lack of in home help.

#3 User is offline   Ivan 

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 12:49 PM

The Health Select Committee has now reported on the petitions regarding the wage levels of home care workers. Read the Committee's report at

Read Green MP Sue Kedgley's response to the report at http://www.greens.or...ocs/PR8129.html

#4 User is offline   Ivan 

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Posted 13 December 2004 - 08:56 PM

Don’t wait, save Aged Care now
Sue Bradford & Sue Kedgley , Green Party MPs

7th December 2004

Green MPs Sue Bradford and Sue Kedgley are today challenging the Government in the House to take immediate action to avert the funding crisis in Aged Care.

The Greens are raising the issue on the same day that the New Zealand Nurses’ Organisation and the Service and Food Workers’ Union are launching the ‘Fair Share for Aged Care’ campaign. Just last week the Salvation Army announced they are selling 12 rest homes next year because they cannot afford to run them and tonight the Pahiatua community is meeting to try and head off the imminent closure of the Waireka Home, their local Aged Care facility. Both set backs are being blamed on the 20 per cent shortfall between government funding and the cost of running such facilities.

“These threatened closures show that the Aged Care crisis is rapidly getting worse and that it is simply not an option for the Government to wait until next year’s Budget before they do something about it,” said Ms Bradford, the Green Party’s Social Services Spokesperson.

“The Government must immediately increase funding to community-based rest homes. But a complete overhaul of the way non-commercial Aged Care is funded and operates is what is really needed.”

Green Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley said the lot of workers looking after our senior citizens, both in their own homes and at residential facilities, needs to be urgently addressed.

“It is a huge pay equity issue. Most homecare workers have to pay their own travel costs, so a workforce mostly made up of older women is effectively subsidising the cost of these services directly from their own meagre wages. The Government must demand that District Health Boards meet homecare workers travel costs and increase all Aged Care workers’ pay rates.

“There is a clear disconnection between the Government’s Positive Aging Strategy and the grim reality in the Aged Care sector,” said Ms Kedgley.

Ms Bradford: “I’m not convinced that Labour wants to see care of the elderly end up fully privatised and run for profit, but unless they act soon their neglect is going to lead there by default. They need to make their minds up as to exactly what the State’s role is going to be.”

“The Green Party continues to support the workers, the elderly and people with disabilities and the community service groups in their bid to improve the funding and training arrangements for these essential services.”

#5 User is offline   Ivan 

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Posted 13 December 2004 - 09:02 PM

Questions for Oral Answer - Aged-care and Disability Services—Funding
Parliament, 7th December 2004

4. SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Associate Minister of Health: Does she accept that there is “evidence of chronic underfunding of the aged-care and disability sectors”, as reported by the Health Committee; if so, what is she doing about it?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Associate Minister of Health): Funding of the aged-care and disability sectors has been a longstanding issue. While this Government has injected extra funds into those areas, I accept that the issues are not yet resolved. However, I am committed to continuing to work with the sectors to see that they are resolved.

Sue Bradford: What more is the Minister doing than that in the light of The Salvation Army’s announcement last week it is pulling out of the sector, and given that there is an emergency community meeting taking place in Pahiatua tonight, where its charity-run 56-bed Waireka rest home faces imminent closure?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The Salvation Army announced on Monday, 29 November that it was selling 12 of its residential centres as going concerns, that the residents would not be moved, and that the provisions it is putting in place would mean that all those residents, and indeed future residents, can be confident of the quality of their care.

Steve Chadwick: What has been the rate of increase in Government funding in the aged-care and disability sectors over recent years, and how does that compare with previous years?

Hon RUTH DYSON: In the 4 years from June 2000 to June 2004, disability support services funding, which includes aged-care funding, increased by an average of $73.4 million a year. That is an average of $13.5 million more extra funding per year than was provided in the previous 4 years during the late 1990s.

Sandra Goudie: Why should people such as the Stephens, who are unable to get their son David the secure care that he needs, because of funding issues, or those people in the Hutt Valley who have had their respite-care hours slashed in half, have faith in this Minister to do anything for them when she has sat here on her hands for months while more problem occur?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Unless the member has some extraordinarily new information, David Stephens is satisfactorily housed to both his level of satisfaction and that of his parents.

Barbara Stewart: Does the Government intend to act upon the Health Committee’s recommendation that the aged-care workforce be compensated for travel expenses and travel time; if so, when will this take effect, and if not, why not?

Hon RUTH DYSON: We are still considering the recommendations of the select committee.

Judy Turner: What progress, if any, has the Government made to fulfil the Health Committee’s recommendation to ensure fully funded foundation skills training for sector caregivers, and what is the deadline for funding of this training?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The Government is still considering the recommendations of the select committee.

Sue Kedgley: Is the Minister aware that if travel time from job to job, and vehicle costs, are included, home-care workers get paid on average only $5.11 an hour, and why is a Labour Government allowing a situation to continue where about 20,000 mostly female workers are being paid significantly less than the adult minimum wage, and are effectively subsidising the cost of home-based care from their own meagre Third World wages?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Yes, I am aware of that information but only because surveys of the workforce were instigated under the Quality and Safety Project. Prior to that we had no such information.

Sue Bradford: What is the Minister’s response to the Fair Share for Aged Care joint union campaign that is being launched in Wellington today, and what steps will she be taking to ensure that issues like staff turnover of up to 80 percent and a great disparity between hospital and residential-care wages are met before the industry simply collapses altogether?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I welcome the input of unions, as I always have.

Sue Bradford: Is the Minister concerned that the increasing reluctance of the community sector to provide residential care will leave the industry solely in the hands of private sector companies, which in some cases are more interested in capital gains from property than in the welfare of residents and staff, and what is her Government doing to stop the wholesale privatisation of this sector?

Hon RUTH DYSON: No I am not, because I am confident that the standards that are required in the contract will ensure that regardless of the provider of the service, the appropriate level of care will be received by the residents.

Sandra Goudie: I seek leave to table a press release dated 1 December 2004, “Hutt Valley families feel the strain of care cuts.”

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that press release. Is there any objection? There is.

Sandra Goudie: I seek leave to table “No place to turn for Kimberley resident”, a press release regarding David Stephens.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that. Is there any objection? There is.

Sandra Goudie: I seek leave to table a letter from Mr and Mrs Stephens to the Hon Ruth Dyson, expressing incredible concern about the placement of their son.

Leave granted.

#6 User is offline   hukildaspida 

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Posted 19 June 2012 - 11:12 PM

Disability carers face training woes

Last updated 05:00 17/06/2012

They are expected to administer potent drugs to New Zealand's most vulnerable, but disability caregivers say they are lacking the qualifications and confidence needed for their demanding roles.

Bill Lewis* of Wellington is fearful residents will die on his watch. He became a caregiver 20 years ago and enjoys working with the "blokes" in his care. "They are like family."

He works for a large national disability provider, caring for six high-needs patients for up to 17 hours at a time, including an overnight shift that he works alone.

"Two of the people I care for are prone to seizures, I sleep with one eye open all the time."

Lewis, in his 60s, works 56 hours a week, even though he's technically employed part-time. No nurses are employed on site.

His main concern is the powerful sedative he is expected to administer to a patient suffering a seizure.

"I have a first aid certificate renewed every two years after a six-hour refresher course. With that I am required to administer potent medications, including psychotropic drugs and stesolid."

Stesolid is administered to patients in major epileptic seizure to calm the muscles, so as to minimise damage. The drug is administered anally while the patient is seizuring.

"My training consisted of watching a half-hour video. I was shocked, the tube used to administer the mediciation is sharp and can perforate the bowel," he told the Sunday Star-Times. "When someone's in a seizure, they're jerking in all sorts of directions. It's not fair, I won't administer it unless someone's dying."

Lewis said he complained to managment but felt like he was not listened to.

Patients were living longer and had more complex needs, but companies were keeping costs low by employing unqualified staff, he said.

"I'm retiring soon because it's physically demanding. It's mainly women who run the house, and I am concerned."

A nurse adviser was employed to take charge of more complex medical scenarios, but there was just one in charge of nearly 20 units, with up to 120 residents. "I don't think it's safe, management have pushed the boundaries."

A recently released report into aged care by Equal Opportunities Commissioner Judy McGregor found wages and treatment of caregivers were in many cases exploitative.

The disability sector was no different, workers and union representatives say.

Lewis earns an average $11.39 an hour – a daytime hourly wage of $16, and an overnight wage of $6, after a court decision to allow carers to continue to be paid for sleepovers.

The average rest home carer earned $14.50 an hour, $1 above minimum wage. A number of those were qualified nurses who turned to caregiving after the economic recession.

But unlike aged care, which was run by private companies with the help of state funding, disability providers were not seeking returns on investment, Service and Food Workers Union co-ordinator Alistair Duncan said. "To be fair, most disability support providers are like the IHC, a state-funded multimillion-dollar provider and well-organised. But the workforce is not fully regulated."

The Public Service Association says disability carers have been undervalued and are still among the lowest paid in the country.

Last month the Government committed $144 million over four-years for the disability support budget, including $132m in new spending.

The money will go towards addressing pay equality, but is realistically a "small catch up" on years of underfunding, PSA national secretary Richard Wagstaff said after the budget announcement. "These workers are almost all women, and their low wages reflect the pay gap between men and women."

Auckland University of Technology management lecturer Katherine Ravenswood says the issue of equality goes beyond pay and society was starting to realise traditional views of care work were based on gender sterotypes.

*Name changed to protect his job.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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