The Chairman of the NZ Carers Alliance, John Forman, said it will do nothing other than pit disabled people against their closest loved ones, by introducing an employer dimension into family relationships.
"It takes no account of the fact that the 1600 carers who qualify are in many cases also the disabled person's parent - putting the decision-making on the shoulders of a person who may be severely or profoundly disabled. In addition, there are so many service and compliance layers that it will cost a fortune to monitor," John Forman said.
"In its announcement the Government makes much of the fact that it consulted with experts to craft this policy. The feedback we provided was ignored, and the result is the Funded Family Care payment is a dog's breakfast. It's not nice, it's not right, and it won't work," he said.
John Forman said the best that could be said of the scheme is that there are 1600 carers who will be paid the minimum wage for some of their work. However, he said it was a ‘cheap and dirty' response to a major social policy issue, and a raw deal for carers and those they support. He said a more workable solution would have been for family carers to be paid directly by the Government as independent contractors. This would have been far more practical, and respectful of people with disabilities and their families, he said.
Released without fanfare late yesterday by the Government, the new Funded Family Care scheme will see high-needs disabled people having to employ their parents or other close family members, as well as oversee compliance tasks such as ACC levies and Kiwisaver contributions.
The scheme comes into effect in a few days, but the Government has been secretive about details about how it will work, perhaps knowing it would get an unfavourable response from carers and their advocates, said John Forman said.
Family carers, who support New Zealand's ill, elderly, and disabled loved ones at home, had hoped for better following a long-running human rights battle to recognise their unpaid work.
Last year the Government agreed to take the issue out of the courts and work with affected parties to find a solution. Following a public consultation, it announced that it would pay 1600 parents of disabled adults who have high support needs the minimum wage for up to 40 hours per week, injecting $92 million over four years into the new payment.
It then passed urgent legislation to close down the possibility of payment challenges from other carers excluded from the new policy, such as spouses, carers of older people, and parents of disabled children. The move angered many and has put the Government under the international human rights spotlight, while in New Zealand the Law Society and others claim it has breached the Bill of Rights.
The NZ Carers Alliance is a coalition of 45 not-for-profit organisations, which was formed to advocate for the rights of family carers.
For more information about the NZ Carers Alliance, go to http://www.carers.net.nz/home.
Information about the Funded Family Care implementation can be found at http://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/services-and-support/disability-services/funded-family-care#getffc
For a carer's take on the new scheme and its many pitfalls, see http://autismandoughtisms.wordpress.com/2013/09/26/whats-so-very-very-wrong-with-funded-family-care/