The Alliance Party says decisions to cut home help services for the elderly are an indictment on the National Government.
Alliance Party co-leader Kay Murray says it is a disgraceful situation that basic home help services to the elderly in Otago and Southland are being cut due to inadequate funding.
The Otago and Southland district health boards confirmed yesterday that housework help for the elderly will be cut, to save about $4 million a year.
1500 people in Otago and 500 Southlanders will receive letters telling them the service is to be discontinued.
Ms Murray rejected the attitude that there was a lack of money for such services.
“We are now in the position in Dunedin where the wellbeing of our elderly people has been downgraded to an optional luxury, and optional luxuries such as a rugby stadium get handouts of millions from central Government.”
“The Government conjured up $15 million for the stadium, which would pay for almost four years of home help services for the frail elderly. The priorities are dreadfully wrong.”
Ms Murray says that with unemployment at its highest for years, at nearly 170 000 New Zealanders out of work, there was an easy solution – pay unemployed care workers a decent wage to provide home help for the elderly.
She asked what local National list MP Michael Woodhouse was doing to represent his elderly voters at the Government level.
“Elderly people have obviously found the services useful and necessary up to now, and the idea that a full assessment of elderly people’s needs can be made via a phone interview seems like a return to the worst days of the 1990s under National’s callous rule.”
“We are in a position thanks to the free market policies of successive National and Labour Government’s where many families have to have two working adults to survive, many employed on irregular hours or shift work, many in casual jobs.”
These most vulnerable families would be hard pressed to be able to support elderly family members, she says.
Ms Murray says the Government’s ongoing mania for tax cuts was threatening the social fabric of New Zealand by starving vital basic services of funding.
“New Zealanders have to realize that tax cuts are directly connected to situations like this – their elderly relatives being unable to access home help because of budget cuts.”
Ms Murray says the Alliance would like to see funding for health ring fenced at an appropriate percentage of GDP, guaranteeing a first class public health system.