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Sleepover (Wages Settlement) Bill
Te Ururoa Flavell, MP for Waiariki
Tuesday 27 September 2011
The Maori Party is proud to support this bill; as an important recognition of the vital work that is done in supporting some of our most vulnerable people.
As a bottom line it will ensure that people will continue to receive quality care overnight, while at the same time helping to ensure a better future for those who work sleepovers.
The Bill arises out of the finding of the Court of Appeal that sleepovers in disability support services are "work" for the purposes of the Minimum Wage Act; and that the minimum wage should be payable for each and every hour that sleepovers are worked.
While this is a recent decision, the issue of how we appropriately recognise the value of the support offered by those who work sleepovers dates back of course many years.
While many of us sleep through the night these compassionate, committed caregivers are on hand, to look after those who need it the most.
It is not easy work and it often really demanding.
Mr Speaker, I come to this bill with a deeply personal understanding of the issue through having had the privilege and the responsibility of caring for my late sister, Hine.
In our worldview, we are influenced and inspired by fundamental values we know as kaupapa tuku iho.
These are values such as manaakitanga – a generosity of spirit towards others; whanaungatanga – the care and welfare of whanau; kaitiakitanga – the care and protection of our most precious resource – in this case our people.
I saw these values being demonstrated in our own home – in the protection and care of Hine. Towards the last few years of her life, my sister battled with the effects of a stroke, and lived with what the health professionals might call compromised health.
My wife, Erana, took on the responsibility of her day to day care and support.
While my intentions were to help out, to all extents and purposes it was my wife that was there for Hine, during the long nights, when she was unwell or when her needs seemed uppermost in all of our minds.
And so I do understand just how important the work of carers is, in allowing people to live the independent lives that they might not otherwise be able to.
And we fully support the commitment for those who work the sleepover shifts to be paid at the minimum wage rather than a $34 shift allowance. We place these people with immense responsibility – to care for the people they look after and deal with any problems that arise – and we should pay them accordingly.
In preparing for this debate, we approached a number of key stakeholders in the disability support for their advice and guidance on this bill – and we thank them all for responding under this situation of urgency.
One of the insights we gained was from Tania Kingi, the Group Manager of Te Roopu Waiora who told us that she was in favour of the decision to pay kaimahi with support payments because it is the fair and just thing to do – they should never have been underpaid in the first place.
But she raised a point which I thought was really interesting and I would be keen to hear the views of others on this issue – even if we understand it is such a truncated process; reducing the select committee process into only a few days.
I want to quote directly from the comment of Ms Kingi:
“Another reason that paying real wage for sleepover support workers is important is the different needs to the different part of the disability sector. The needs of a tetraplegic are as different to the needs of a paraplegic as the needs of an able-bodied person are to a paraplegic; yet that difference is not recognised.
I can remember a particular case where a tetraplegic man was not getting adequate care because the funding was not in place for him to pay for two four-hour shift-workers. Instead he was forced to hire one person for an eight hour shift.
What happened? The worker kept falling asleep and the man was not being rolled over during the night which resulted in breathing difficulty. Proper funding is important”.
I thought that was a really interesting comment – and wondered whether the higher wages that will be paid to those taking on the sleepover role, will also take into account a different rate of pay for different needs.
Another view put forward by Ms Kingi was that we need to consider whether the cost of extra wages will come at the expense of whanau involvement.
And that brings us to another very significant issue – that is of being able to recognise the important work that family carers do as carers of their loved ones; and whether the Government will be prepared to resource that appropriately.
The Ministry of Health has a view that whanau are not eligible for caregiver payment, and I really think we need to take a critical look at this policy if we are really committed to Whanau Ora.
It would seem to me entirely contradictory that on one hand we are wanting to reduce the reliance on the state and increase whanau self-determination and independence; and yet on the other we refuse to give them the resources they need to do the job.
In a Whanau Ora world we need to both respect and resource appropriately our Maori and Pasifika whanau who have a cultural obligation to care for their own; and are doing so and have done so forever without being resourced.
Finally Mr Speaker, I want to congratulate the Minister of Health, and also my colleague, the Minister of Disability Issues, Tariana Turia, for the brave step forward they have made today, in bringing this bill to the House.
From what I have accrued from my reading around this bill, the approximate $150million settlement between IHC, the Government and unions will benefit some 3700 disability support workers.
The incremental movement, from 50 percent of the minimum wage – about $60 a sleepover gradually increasing to the full minimum wage by July 2013 – will allow both Government and the providers sufficient lead in time to allocate the appropriate resources– and we agree with the Ministers that this represents steady progress to bridge the gap in the sleep to full recompense.
We are pleased to support this bill.