The Government has promised to build more affordable housing and is mindful that many of these homes will be required to meet the needs of an ageing population, said Associate Minister of Health Jenny Salesa at the Home and Community Health Association’s Homespace forum in Wellington.

Salesa, who is also Minister of Building and Construction and Associate Minister of Housing and Urban Development, stressed that she does not have the written agreement of the Minister of Housing Phil Twyford on this policy.

But she said that Twyford, Seniors Minister Tracey Martin and herself all acknowledged that “the Government should ensure that we have homes for our elder folks”.

There had already been discussions on what proportion of new state houses should be made available for senior citizens, she said.

Before the election, Labour promised to build at least 1,000 new state houses a year and also aims to build 10,000 new homes annually under the KiwiBuild scheme.

“As we are building these affordable homes and as we are building Housing New Zealand state homes in the future, [my hope is] that we would be ensuring that we also have some houses that are accessible for disability-supported clients and also for our seniors, especially on the level.”

Accommodation on flat land was crucial for these groups, particularly as a lot more apartment-style social housing was built, she added.

Salesa told the 70 delegates at the conference that she was making the comments because she was aware that this was something “I will probably be held accountable for by this sector in the future”.

The Minister also spoke about improving equity in aged care, saying it is another key focus of the Government.

A team from the Ministry of Health and DHBs is working on identifying a national framework for home support that “will put older people at the centre [and be] integrated with existing health and social supports that a person might need”.

A number of sector workshops have already been held this year to identify future models of care in home and community support, she said.

“Consultation was held around the country in different DHBs, including Māori and Pasifika stakeholders, and I’m eager to see what work results from this.”

Salesa said she recognised the challenge that the home and community sector had faced in the past year in implementing the pay equity and in-between-travel (IBT) settlements.

Increasing wages and improving access to training would lead to a more skilled workforce and lower staff turnover, she said.

However, she was also aware of current skills shortages in the aged sector and, with an ageing population, said this was something the Government needed “to look at and tackle”.

“We can’t address this challenge on our own, it’s something that we need to address, together, with you.”

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