The NZ Carers Alliance is celebrating its 10th anniversary and planning new ways to support New Zealand's family caregivers.
There are more than 45 national not for profit participants in the Carers Alliance, but the coalition began with significantly fewer at its inaugural meeting, held at Parliament in 2004, says John Forman, executive director of the NZ Organisation for Rare Disorders and chair of the Alliance since its formation.
"We got going properly in 2005, calling for a Carers' Strategy for New Zealand and engaging with Ruth Dyson, who then held the disability portfolio for the Labour Government of the time. She agreed to support us and we achieved this major outcome for carers in 2008, when the Strategy was launched with its first five year Action Plan."
A similar goal took more than 12 years to achieve in the United Kingdom.
New Zealand's effort was supported by Baroness Jill Pitkeathley, who had recommended that Carers NZ establish a Carers Alliance as a framework for unified lobbying for policy progress for carers. This approach worked well in the UK, the only country with a similar not for profit Alliance for carers.
The Carers Alliance is governed by a Terms of Reference and an executive of NFP members.
The full Alliance meets at least annually to assess Carers' Strategy progress and to discuss areas where collaborative lobbying might improve outcomes for carers outside of Strategy actions. In recent years these have included work towards a fair payment policy for carers, and improvements to the Carer Support Subsidy to ensure carers can have adequate respite breaks. The Carers Alliance has also taken an interest in national continence policy, arguing that in a small country allocation of services and resources such as continence products should be consistent across regions.
John Forman says the Alliance will consider a push for New Zealand's first recognition and support legislation for family carers at its 10th anniversary meeting, being held this week.
A review paper has been developed examining legislation for carers in the United Kingdom and Australia, and assessing whether similar approaches would work in New Zealand.
Discussion with political party leaders about the need for carer recognition and support legislation will begin after the anniversary meeting, he says.
"The Carers Alliance has been a successful coalition, allowing not for profits to achieve more in unity than they could working as individual organisations. The Alliance model has been emulated by other networks as a pragmatic way to pursue political, legislative, and service progress in areas of common interest."
"We now look forward to our next phase of development as we work towards legislation for New Zealand's carers."
The current National-led Government has supported the Carers' Strategy with its 2013 introduction of a second five year Action Plan, implementing progress for carers in a range of areas including information, support for employers and working age carers, respite, and young carers.
Carers NZ acts as ongoing Secretariat for the NZ Carers Alliance.
The Carers Alliance thanks the IHC Foundation for its support during its 10th anniversary year.