Alliance Party Co-Leader and spokesperson for disability issues Kay Murray has congratulated Health Minister David Cunliffe on his announcement that a further $91.375 million in funding will be made available over the next five years to improve wages and conditions for disability support and to increase access to services.
Ms Murray says that it is heartening to read the minister considers support workers “a vital component of what government does to enhance the full participation of disabled people.”
“It’s just a pity it’s taken the government a full nine years to come to this conclusion, during which time support staff have endured wages and conditions that have made them one of the lowest paid sectors of the workforce, she said.
Given the high regard the minister says he has for disability support workers and his desire to improve their wages and working conditions, Ms Murray asks if this means that the government will respect the Employment Relations Authority’s recent decision that the minimum wage should be paid to disability support workers required to do sleepovers as part of their job? The Alliance believes that if Mr Cunliffe is to be taken seriously, he should provide the organisations involved with the necessary to funding to pay their staff appropriately rather than encouraging them to appeal the decision.
“Unlike the Labour Party who seems to have had an epiphany only four days out from a general election in which they are still behind in the polls, the Alliance Party has always recognised the value of support workers in both the disability and aged care sectors. The party would introduce a minimum wage of $17 per hour and encourage collective bargaining to ensure conditions are improved across each sector. Also the Alliance would adequately fund service providers and provide safeguards to ensure that increased funding is used to directly benefit the people who use their services and the staff that support them,” Ms Murray says.
“Disabled people and their families/whanau and support workers/networks should vote Alliance on Saturday to ensure that their needs begin to move towards the top of the policy queue, so that the New Zealand Disability Strategy becomes a reality rather than a simple statement of intent.”