On 28th August, the clock starts for caregivers working in New Zealand on temporary migrant work visas. Regardless of how long they have been here, three years from that date they will have to uproot their lives in New Zealand and return to their home countries for a one-year stand-down period, before they are eligible to apply for another visa to work here.

New Zealand Aged Care Association (NZACA) chief executive Simon Wallace met with Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse and Associate Health Minister Nicky Wagner last week to discuss how the changes will affect the aged care workforce.

For temporary migrant visa workers to escape the stand-down period, they must earn more than $41,538 and work in an occupation classified as ANZSCO Level 1-3. While most caregivers will now satisfy the income requirement, their job is classified as Level 4, which means they are still subject to the stand-down periods.

“The ANZSCO classification system is completely outdated – not just for our sector,” says Wallace. He says it is in need of urgent review.

Wallace reported that Minister Woodhouse was “unwavering” on the stand-down period, but focused on reviewing the ANZSCO skills classification system in what has been described as ‘Phase 2’ of the immigration policy overhaul.

Changing the ANZSCO system will involve cooperation with Australia, as the system spans the skills classification across both countries.

A change to level 3 would mean many caregivers on migrant work visas would be exempt from the stand-down period.

The Ministry has indicated to INsite that Phase 2 will be completed by the end of the year.

The Ministers have challenged the aged care industry to devise an over-arching strategy for its workforce, as it has done in other sectors.

However, Wallace says this isn’t straightforward as it would involve reaching agreement with many different parties including NZACA, Care Association New Zealand, Careerforce, Health Workforce NZ, Nursing Council, Home & Community Care Association and others.

Wallace is pleased to report that although despite the unfavourable immigration settings for aged care providers, the sector is making good progress with the Government on immigration issues. The NZACA has established a board relationship with the immigration ministry, with better access to its people, both at an operational and higher management level.

“They finally get aged care,” he says.

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