Family carers are welcoming the Government’s announcement to look at legislative and social policy changes to make improvements to paid family care.

Minister of Social Development Carmel Sepuloni announced this week that the Government will develop the new Carers’ Strategy Action Plan 2019 – 2023 together with the Carers Alliance.

“We know that making a commitment to caregiving can have a major impact on a person’s life and their family, including poorer mental and physical health, loss of social connectedness, negative impacts on financial circumstances and paid employment, and concerns about the future of the person being cared for,” says Sepuloni.

“The contribution made by carers represents significant economic and social value to New Zealand society. The Action Plan is part of the Government’s commitment to recognising this contribution and supporting the people who provide it.”

Plans for a new action plan follow Health Minister Dr David Clark’s announcement last week that the Government intends to repeal Part 4A of the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act 2000 in order to make the Funded Family Care policy “kinder and fairer”.

Acting Associate Health Minister James Shaw describes the Funded Family Care policy as “a nightmare for the families involved”.

“Over the next couple of months the Government will run targeted consultation with affected families and stakeholders on the key issues within Funded Family Care. Consultation will cover issues of eligibility, pay rates for carers, the employment relationship, and the type of care covered,” says Shaw.

Co-chairs of the Carers Alliance, Catherine Hall and Janine Stewart agree paid family care is a big issue in New Zealand and overdue for scrutiny and progress. They welcome the overhaul.

“Two thirds of New Zealand’s 420,000+ family carers are women and almost 90% are of workforce age. Making the choice to care can have significant economic impacts for these carers who often struggle to continue in paid work,” says Hall.

“Currently the choice to care is often a choice to be poor and to be unable to save for retirement or contribute to Kiwisaver. Having payment options that are fair is sensible in an ageing society so New Zealanders can continue to make the choice to care.”

Hall and Stewart say over recent years carers have felt discriminated against and unappreciated for the work they do, which Infometrics has conservatively valued at $10 billion a year.

A number of court cases have affirmed the important role of carers and the discriminatory barriers they have faced in relation to paid family care.

Sepuloni says the refreshed Carers’ Strategy Action Plan will be bold and ensure that existing supports are fit-for-purpose and fair to carers.

Carers can have their say and participate in developing the new Action Plan by completing an online survey which will be open until 31 October. There will also be targeted engagement with younger, older, Pacific and Maori carers who have difficulty accessing appropriate services and supports. Public consultation will follow next year.

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