Work Assessments for the Disabled and People with Medical Conditions: Misguided or Just Plain Mean?

Work and Income’s latest brainchild – work assessments for the disabled and people with medical conditions – is a perfect illustration of this government’s dogged determination to spend public money where it is least needed and starve funding from anything vaguely worthwhile. Continue reading

Please Don’t Appeal the Employment Court’s Aged Care Worker Gender Pay Decision

There is no excuse for the appalling wages paid to workers in the aged care and disability sectors. It is blatant discrimination against the – mainly – women who do the work and the people they work with; the elderly and people with disabilities.

At the very least care workers deserve to receive the living wage of $18.40 per hour. But in the long term they should receive a wage commensurate with more male dominated sectors requiring similar skills such as justice and mental health. Continue reading

The Devil is in the Detail of the Family Carers Bill

The disability sector finally thought that the Government would deliver on its promised backdown over paying family carers of adult disabled people. The National-­led Government announced, as part of Budget 2013, $23 million a year to pay family carers of high ­needs disabled adults.

This was initially welcomed by carers, their support networks, and the wider disability community. The announcement followed the Government’s decision not to appeal the Atkinson Case, so­-named after the family carer of a disabled person who first took the Government to the Human Rights Commission nearly 10 years ago over this issue.

From where I sit as a disabled person, Finance Minister Bill English and Health Minister Tony Ryall had seemingly made one of the few more positive announcements from the Budget. However, as the old saying goes, the devil is in the detail. Continue reading

IHC sleepover staff not slumber party attendees

The Alliance Party today called on IHC to stop treating its sleepover staff like slumber party attendees by paying them a full hourly rate for each hour worked.

“We believe that IHC by refusing to pay workers the minimum wage for sleepovers is treating its support staff doing this like slumber party attendees who merely do so to give clients some social company at night. This is not the case as they perform crucial work which helps support clients in their homes at night,” says Alliance Party Disabilities spokesperson Chris Ford.

That is why the Alliance Party is supporting this coming week’s sleepover ban by IHC-based Service and Food Workers Union (SFWU) members. The plan to escalate ongoing industrial action in this way, while regrettable, was also a sign that workers are at their wits end with the intransigent attitude of IHC management.

“In saying this, we realise the significant funding pressures being faced by IHC. However, we support statements made by the SFWU which hold that IHC should be passing the government funding increase granted last year onto workers,” said Mr Ford.

The party feels that the refusal to grant IHC support workers a cost of living based pay increase is another insult at a time when a proposed GST increase will push ordinary family budgets to stretching point. Any pay increase will assist in staff retention and recruitment as well. These are both significant problems in the disability support sector which while having limited effect on management, places horrendous pressure on workers with unacceptable staff/resident ratios meaning that staff have to work long hours to ensure that the care and support needs of residents are not compromised.

“We acknowledge the funding issues which bedevil the disability sector but at the same time IHC needs to put both its staff and client’s needs first. This is the case as without staff, services which enable people with intellectual disabilities and their families to live quality lives in the community could not be delivered. IHC needs to involve the union in any further push for greater funding which will ensure that the organisation can meet its obligations.”

The Alliance Party noted its commitment to increase disability support funding so that all workers within the disability support workforce would be able to enjoy fair wages and conditions.

Government must not cut equity funding for disabled students

The Alliance Party says the National Government must not make proposed cuts to equity funding for disabled tertiary students.
Alliance Party Disabilities spokesperson Chris Ford says the cuts could badly affect the disability information and support services currently available in many of our tertiary institutions.
Mr Ford, who is also a mature student who lives with disability, believes that any funding cut will harm disabled students access to tertiary education.
He says without this funding, there would not be the staffing or resources to support disabled students in what can be a challenging learning environment.
“If equity funding is cut, then support staff numbers in disability support offices, such as that at Otago University, could have to be reduced. Also the ability to purchase and maintain specialist equipment, for example, large screen readers for blind and vision impaired students, could be severely impacted.”
Mr Ford says other ramifications could include a reduction in the number of hours worked by New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) interpreters who support Deaf students in tertiary education.
The Alliance Party believes that all of this could cost the country and disabled people dearly as the participation rate of disabled people in tertiary education is already lower than that of other disadvantaged groups such as Maori and Pacific Islanders.
The Alliance says that tertiary education should be available to all New Zealanders including disabled people.
“If the funding cuts go ahead, then the already low participation rate could decline even further. We would also like to point out that the National Government is in the process of tightening ACC and benefit eligibility as well and these moves will impact severely on disabled people.”
Mr Ford says this policy, amongst others, will undercut the ability of government to shift disabled people off welfare and into work.
“If disability support is not available at the tertiary level, then how are disabled people going to be able to train or retrain successfully? This is another example of National’s self-defeating approach.”
The Alliance will fight to stop or reverse any funding cuts and noted its commitment to free tertiary education with no fees, no loans and liveable benefit and student allowance levels funded through progressive taxation.

Proposed GST rise will hurt bulk funded social services

The Alliance Party says a rise in GST would impact on bulk-funded organizations in the disability, elderly and social services sector.

Alliance Party co leader Kay Murray says these organizations have to pay GST on their total funding, but cannot claim most of the GST component back because the majority of their costs are staff wages.

“Staff wages are exempt from GST, so the proposed increase in GST will represent a funding cut to these services of close to 3%.”

Ms Murray says the majority of these organizations are Not for Profit.

Unless extra funding is provided, they will be disadvantaged by a rise in GST.

She says that some organizations, particularly in the disability sector, have not seen an increase in funding for existing services for close to a decade.

“What will a rise in GST mean for their workforce who are among the lowest paid in the country? Will they see a further decline in their wages and conditions? Will they be hit twice, once through the decline in their own spending power, and again through the decline in the spending power of their employers?”

The Alliance opposes any rise in GST and supports phasing out GST to be replaced with a progressive tax system that includes a “Robin Hood” tax on financial transactions and capital gains taxes on property excluding the family home.