28 May 2012

'Funding boost needed' to fix aged care pay rates

7:11 pm on 28 May 2012

Aged care providers say poor pay rates in the private sector cannot be remedied without a major funding boost from the Government.

The Human Rights Commission has released a report calling on the Government to deal with the inequity, which it says is a breach of human rights for the 48,000 people, mostly women, who are employed in the private sector.

The report, Caring Counts, says carers in residential facilities or providing home care earn on average $14.50 an hour while healthcare assistants doing similar work in hospitals can earn $3 to $5 an hour more.

Aged Care Association chief executive Martin Taylor says rest homes pass on any funding increases to workers, but the gap has only got wider.

He says funding increases have not even kept pace with inflation in the past three years.

Mr Taylor says a cross-party agreement is needed so that whatever party is in power when the Government's books come into surplus will fix the pay gap.

Government can't afford it, says PM

Prime Minister John Key says the Government does not intend to make any policy changes to allow private rest homes to charge residents more.

Mr Key said on Monday contracts that private rest homes have with district health boards restrict how much they can charge for their services, and this in turn limits how much they can pay staff.

However, Mr Key says the Government will not be raising that limit - nor does it have any extra money for wages.

"If there was to be a substantial increase in the pay of caregivers - and I think we all accept they're a very needy group, they do great work - that's going to cost the Government about $140 million. And at the moment, we just don't have that cash."

Associate Minister for Health Jo Goodhew says the Government has increased funding for the aged care sector by 4% each year it has been in power and any further rise will have to wait until the Government's books returns to surplus.

Ms Goodhew disagrees with statements in the commission's report that refer to aged care work as modern day slavery and exploitation.

Home care workers disadvantaged - association

The Home Health Association, which represents organisations that provide care for elderly people living in their homes, backs the Human Rights Commission's call for pay parity.

The association says workers who drive their own car to a house to provide care are reimbursed at less than half the recommended IRD rate and get no compensation for travel time, while staff directly employed by a DHB use company cars and do not pay for petrol.

The association says a lack of funding for running costs, staff training and wages is threatening to shut down the providers it represents.