20 Jan 2020

Parent welcomes changes to Funded Family Care

10:12 am on 20 January 2020

Higher pay rates and better recognition of their hard work will be a boon for families who care for members who are intellectually disabled, fulltime carer Cliff Robinson says.

Cliff Robinson, the parent of two adult children with intellectual disabilities has fought for a decent wage for fulltime parent caregivers over the last 15 years.  The pay increase for caregivers gas gone up drastically but exclude people in his situation.

Cliff Robinson says it has been a nonsense that intellectually disabled people needed to be the employers of their caregivers. Photo: RNZ/ Brad White

The government plans to formally introduce changes to Funded Family Care next month.

The scheme has been widely criticised for requiring intellectually disabled New Zealanders to be the employers of the family members who take care of them.

Last year, the government signalled changes to Funded Family Care, removing that requirement, expanding eligibility to include spouses and partners and lifting pay rates from the minimum wage up to a maximum of $25.50 an hour.

Now they've spelled out when the legislation will be introduced in the House ... and how long they expect it will take to pass.

Robinson, who has been a fulltime carer for his two adult children for nearly 50 years, told Morning Report all good things come to those who wait.

"It puts it on a decent employment basis. To have your handicapped child as your employer was nonsense right from the start.

"I could never understand Minister [Tony] Ryall in the National government allowing this to happen - it was just nonsense."

He said he sometimes doubted that the living wage he and others had sought for years would ever be introduced. He had been forced to support his children on the domestic purposes benefit for 30 years before qualifying for national super and that was "no fun at all".

"So this extra money in my back pocket will help compensate for those very lean years."

He said he should qualify for the top bracket of payments after 50 years as a carer.

"This makes a big difference. It's no fun being poor and it's lovely to have a few bob in your back pocket ... and in my dotage I'll have a few bob to do the things I like doing."

Most importantly, carers would also receive much needed recognition for the value of their work. It was a very difficult job raising intellectually disabled people, requiring a lot of patience.

He said the Ministry of Health should be generous in its interpretation of the rules for payments and "do the right thing for parents". As an example, he was unhappy that currently he is paid for an hour and a half daily to look after a daughter who cannot cross the road by herself, cannot cook or do anything much to look after herself.

"We've got to keep a very close eye. Parents have to go down and give submissions at the select committee hearings to make sure that the changes that occur are in our benefit."

He praised Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa for the way she was managing the issue, saying she was making "a great deal of progress".

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