The controversial Funded Family Care (FFC) policy is facing fresh criticism after the release of a discussion paper commissioned by Carers New Zealand and the NZ Carers Alliance.

The researchers canvassed views on payment to family carers for home and community support type activities such as domestic assistance and personal cares.

Of the 36 people interviewed and the 406 who replied to an online survey, the majority felt that government approaches to payment of family carers and current payment systems were unfair, discriminatory and need immediate remediation.

“Informants were vehement and frequently used terms such as ‘disgusting’, ‘discrimination’, ‘nonsense’ and, ‘appalling’,” reads the report.

“Carers are impatient after years of battling. They and their families require fairness and leadership across government. We urgently need to see progress with paid family care,” noted one carer.

The Ministry of Health’s Funded Family Care (FFC) policy attracted the most criticism. The researchers found there to be low uptake of the FFC, making families sceptical about the government’s commitment to paying families for care.

Questions of legality were raised. People feel that the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act 2000 disregarded the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Human Rights legislation.

It was also felt that pay rates were inequitable, the number of hours paid is unfair, and it is discriminatory that it is limited to those caring only for disabled adults, and that a spouse or partner can’t be paid like other family members. Further, assessment systems were found to be inconsistent, inaccurate and unfair.

Although Minister of Health Dr David Clark has asked the Ministry to consider how the FFC policy might be changed, the sector isn’t prepared to wait much longer. The paper shares an overwhelming cry for urgent change to current carer payment schemes and policies, to make them fairer and align better with relevant legislation and strategies.

This is reflected by Laurie Hilsgen of Carers Alliance, in INsite earlier this year.

“The whole system needs a reboot and we’re hoping the government, which pledged to do so pre-election, will follow through and deliver swiftly a better fairer FFC (since the money is already allowed for by Treasury) … and starts a sensible dialogue with families of all ages and situations about payment for those who make the decision to care for someone who needs significant levels of support.”

The paper has been shared with ministers who are now discussing a way forward.

Upon reading the report, associate health minister Julie Anne Genter has indicated that Funded Family Care was not working and that she hoped to make an announcement soon.

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