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Synod to lobby Govt on family care

The Anglican Church is pressing the Government to lift its support for family carers.

Brian Thomas   |  11 May 2010

The Anglican Church is pressing the Government to lift its support for family carers.

This follows a moving presentation to General Synod by the Rev Dr Tim Harris (Nelson) on the plight of carers and the inadequacy of government help for them.

The church intends to take its concern directly to ministers of the Crown. At the same time, it will ask the Anglican Social Justice Commissioner to devise a programme for dioceses and hui amorangi to encourage policy change at the highest level.

In an explanatory note to Synod, Dr Harris outlined significant changes to care support over the past three decades.

Prior to the 1980s, such care was a government responsibility, he said. The Government then tried to move responsibility to the community, with the promise of greater resourcing.

However, “since the 1980s the responsibility has fallen almost completely to family carers – and in many cases sole carers,” Dr Harris said.

“Not only has there been a notable failure to re-allocate resources and real support to community-based family carers; it has been a determined policy to restrict financial support to professional carers and occasional respite carers. No support is offered directly to family carers.”

Govt policy 'shameful'

Calling the Government’s policy “shameful,” Dr Harris pointed out that Aotearoa New Zealand has fallen well behind the UK and Australia in its support for carers.

New Zealand policy is also inconsistent, he said. Accident victims, for example, receive significant support and provisions that aren’t available to those afflicted by a birth condition.

“Carers are a significant group within our community, and make an enormous contribution that would come at significant expense if provided through non-family avenues,” Dr Harris said.

“This is especially true of fulltime carers, whose acceptance of such responsibilities means they are usually unable to gain employment themselves.”

Dr Harris shared with Synod his own family situation, where his wife Fiona is a fulltime carer for their son. “Fulltime care needs to be understood as a 24/7 reality,” he said.

“It frequently requires active care for 16 to 18 hours a day, seven days a week… The neglect of care for the carers in our community is a matter of social justice for which we all must take responsibility.”

Dr Harris’s appeal was strongly supported from the floor of Synod, which commended a special report by the National Health Committee: “How Should We Care for the Carers, Now and Into the Future? Manaaki Tangata.

Synod also encouraged parishes to engage with the “We Care” initiative of the NZ Carers Alliance.

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