16 Jun 2019

Fears carers' strike may put disabled people at risk

1:16 pm on 16 June 2019

An advocate for disabled people is concerned those dependent on daily care may be left to fend for themselves during today's day-long strike by staff who support adults with intellectual disabilities to live in their own homes.

Young doctor giving helping hands for elderly woman

Photo: 123RF

About 1000 IDEA Services' staff will go on strike for 12 hours today amid concerns about safety, workloads and job security.

The staff, primarily residential care and support workers, are particularly concerned about a plan by IDEA that would require staff to start working at numerous different sites.

The Disabled Persons' Assembly provides a voice for disabled people and Wendy Neilson has been an advocate for 40 years.

She said although she supported the strike, many disabled people relied on support for personal hygiene and to eat, and could not cope without care even for one day.

"It could have a very dramatic effect on some people who are very dependent," Ms Neilson said.

"If family can't help, what happens? That person could just be left in a compromising situation where they could soil themselves or not even get fed. It can get as dramatic as that."

She said IDEA Services' staff need better pay and working conditions for the difficult and important job they do.

E tū industrial advocate Alastair Duncan said moving staff around "willy nilly" would create additional safety risks for staff, who needed to work with clients they did not know.

He said it was estimated 40 percent of IDEA Services' workers were assaulted each year.

IDEA Services chief operating officer Joan Cowan said the company was working hard to ensure safety during the strike.

"Wherever possible we are using the same people to cover shifts so that there are as few new faces as possible."

She said IDEA Services was committed to achieving a collective agreement for support workers.

The strikers

About a dozen people with banners and pamphlets were out in force in Wellington this morning.

One of them - Kirstie Read - said she wanted better pay and safety.

"Since they've cut out the senior support worker role - and they don't pay for that anymore - we're sort of required in a way to still upkeep that but no one's really accountable in the houses anymore."

Workers were particularly concerned about a plan requiring them to work at different sites.

Ms Read said that would not work because the carers and disabled people needed to have a good rapport and routine.

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