Support workers who provide care and support for elderly and disabled people in Hawkes Bay say they want to continue helping vulnerable people with housework, and they need more time and resources to do so.
Hawkes Bay DHB announced this week it would cut over 600 elderly people off from support with household chores, and sent a letter to affected clients telling them it would be good for their health if they do the work themselves.
The DHB has since apologised for the letters being sent out, and admits many of those affected are physically unable to do housework without help.
"We are pleased they apologised, but those letters should never have been sent in the first place," says Kerry Davies, National Secretary of the Public Service Association.
"Our members are already worked off their feet trying to do as much as they can to help clients in the short time slot they have allocated with them. The solution to that is to increase funding and allocate more resources to help staff and clients get the job done."
Home care companies are contracted by DHBs to provide services to elderly and disabled New Zealanders and many of their employees complain they do not get enough hours a week.
Despite struggling to get enough hours, support workers are still expected to perform large amounts of work and meet extreme demands in the limited time allocated to them.
A support worker and PSA member who does not wish to be named says she helps some clients in her own time for free.
"It hurts us as much as it hurts our clients if we can’t give them the support they need in the time we have," he says.
"I am the only person they see outside of limited contact with family who live in other cities. They are great guys and I care."
The PSA believes examples like this indicate that DHBs, home support companies and central government must work together with support workers and their unions to fix the situation.
"It is not good enough either for those receiving support or those providing it when home support workers feel compelled to work for free to help those in need," she says.
"Workers in the caring professions have for a long time had their kindness and dedication taken advantage of. The voices of staff and clients must be taken seriously, and our union is determined to ensure this happens."