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Govt Aware Of Home Help Concerns, Says Minister

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Jonathan Coleman
Jonathan Coleman

Wellington, Sept 2 NZPA - The Government will continue to address concerns about rising costs and a diminishing level of care in the home support sector, says Associate Health Minister Jonathan Coleman.

He opened a three-day conference hosted by the New Zealand Home Health Association (NZHHA) in Auckland today in the face of claims that the home help sector is in trouble.

NZHHA chief executive Julie Haggie said the question of how to fund increasing demands for home-based services, much of which involves caring for the elderly, was a significant one for the industry and government.

The association's businesses were stretched to breaking point, and several had gone out of business, she said.

"Our member organisations are doing their best to find innovative solutions, but sustainable funding models are needed to allow providers to maintain their current level of safe service and to cater for increasing demands."

Low pay rates for home support workers was threatening and frustrating the industry, and those workers were being asked to deliver increasingly complex care, Ms Haggie said.

Dr Coleman said tough economic times were putting a strain on government spending, and while the health budget was increasing, getting the best possible value for money was vital in a sector with an ageing population and where increasingly better services were expected.

"The increasing demand for your services due to an ageing population is obviously one of the biggest issues your sector faces over the next 10 to 20 years," he said.

About 580,000 New Zealanders were now aged 65 or older, but by 2030 that was projected to rise to over a million.

Dr Coleman said the concerns about the home support workforce and pay were being addressed. Home support funding, which had been geared towards improving support worker wages and conditions, had grown by about 30 percent in the past five years and the Ministry of Health was investing about $4 million in 2010/11 -- up from $2.2 million in 2009/10 -- in workforce development initiatives, he said.

The NZHHA wants a single mandated standard for the sector to protect clients from substandard care, and while there are voluntary standards within the sector, the association, Standards New Zealand, ACC, and the Ministry of Health has established a joint initiative to undertake a review of that.

Dr Coleman also touched on recent concerns from the public about district health boards cutting the funding of home support services, but said the general spend from DHBs in that area was in fact growing and would increase again throughout the 2010/2011 financial year.

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