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Making the Most of Home Support Services

Mar 25, 2011

New Zealand’s growing home and community support industry is calling on the Government to take a series of urgent actions to support the sector, as demand for home-based services increases. 

Today the New Zealand Home Health Association (NZHHA), which represents home support providers, released Making the Most of Home Support Services. The paper outlines New Zealand’s increasing reliance on home-based services for people living with illness, disability and age-related conditions, but paints a picture of an industry that is fragmented, unregulated and chronically under funded.

NZHHA Chief Executive Julie Haggie says government policy promotes care and support closer to home as the preferred economic model, both to address our ageing population and reduce in-patient healthcare costs, but she says more needs to be done to support the sector.

“More than 110,000 New Zealanders receive home support each year at a cost of over $591 million. Our services keep people in their homes and out of hospitals and residential care. That’s a huge economic benefit to this country and also supports the choice of people to live for as long as possible, and to recover from illness or injury, in their homes.

Ms Haggie says over the last 10 years there has been a huge increase in demand for home-based services. This is because more sick, disabled and elderly people are at home rather than in residential care, people are being discharged from hospital earlier, and those with chronic conditions are being encouraged to manage these conditions at home.

“Not only are there more people needing our services, as the population ages, we are also seeing more clients with a range of complex health needs,” says Ms Haggie.

In spite of this, she says there has been no strategic investment in the sector, few controls on quality and no consistency in contract arrangements or payment. And, Ms Haggie says, poor pay and conditions continue to plague the industry.

”Community support workers in our industry generally earn less than $15 dollars an hour. That amounts to 30 percent less, in some cases, than health care assistants or nurse aides working in a hospital. They don’t get penal rates; they’re not paid for doing paperwork and not fully reimbursed for travel time or mileage.”

Ms Haggie says in spite of the obstacles, the home support sector - which comprises a range of providers - has become a valuable and specialised workforce, ready to play a strategic role in meeting New Zealand’s growing healthcare needs.

“We have the workforce, the expertise and willingness to meet increasing future demands but we need support to deliver structured services that are better resourced, more consistent and underpinned by regulations setting minimum standards for safety and quality.”

Making the Most of Home Support Services, which has been circulated to the Minister of Health and key government officials and agencies, calls for:

  • mandatory standards for service providers
  • minimum training requirements
  • standardisation of service specifications and purchasing frameworks
  • better support for workers dealing with complex care needs
  • more realistic payment for services
  • integration of service providers in strategic planning
  • research to measure the economic contribution of home support services
  • analysis of projected future needs.

For more information contact:

Julie Haggie
Chief Executive Officer
New Zealand Home Health Association Inc
PO Box 5344, Wellington
Ph: +64 4 4723196
Mob: 0274 989 126

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