South Island social service agencies move to living wage

7:31 pm on 23 July 2020

Over 90 percent of the health and social services that work with the South Island Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency have agreed to pay their staff a living wage.

A mother holds a baby next to a bottle of milk.

File photo. Photo: 123RF

Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu has funded the 38 agencies it works with to pay its 100 Whānau Ora navigators a living wage of $22.10.

There has been a massive increase in whānau seeking Whānau Ora support and the agency's chair Tā Mark Solomon said they wanted to recognise the value of the work navigators were doing in a "complex and demanding environment."

"Major epidemics in this century have raised income inequality and hurt the employment prospects of people on lower wages, while scarcely affecting those with advanced degrees.

"We see it as a fundamental tenet of Whānau Ora to ensure the Covid-19 pandemic does not have similar distributional consequences on the Whānau Ora Navigators," Tā Mark said.

Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu pouārahi Helen Leahy said a lot of navigators were working for not-for-profit organisations where wages were low.

However, since they had been provided with the money to pay a living wage, Leahy said there had been a massive uptake from the groups they worked with.

"We've had 90 percent have already signed up - some of them have said 'look, we've paid more than the living wage for quite some time', others are saying 'we are far more generous than that' but for those last 10 percent, we're working with each of those agencies to encourage them to ensure that we can get these contracts out the door so that navigators are able to have the security and the confidence of being paid at a rate that enables them to have a basic quality of life."

She said they would also be providing financial support for navigators to get professional development.

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