Launch of the Carers’ Strategy Action PlanSenior Citizens
E aku rangatira, tēnā koutou katoa. Ka nui te honore ki te mihi ki a koutou.
Thank you Brendan for your introduction.
And special welcome to our guest speakers, young carer Lauren Hitchin and Carers New Zealand CEO Laurie Hilsgen.
I would also like to acknowledge my colleagues the Honourable Chester Borrows, Honourable Michael Woodhouse, Honourable Tariana Turia and Hon Ruth Dyson.
We are here today to mark an important new step in advancing the vision of the Carers’ Strategy and carers’ priorities for immediate action.
Nearly half a million – or about one in ten – New Zealanders are providing care to family members, friends or neighbours living with an injury, disability or physical or mental health condition, or addiction.
At some time in our lives, any one of us may be a carer or need someone close to us to support us with our everyday living.
This often happens unexpectedly, for example as the result of an accident or sudden illness.
Care-giving involves a diverse set of skills and attributes.
It often extends beyond tasks like shopping, cooking and cleaning.
It can involve help with deeply personal needs such as washing and dressing; moving and lifting safely; nutrition and hydration; as well as companionship, advocacy, and emotional support.
I think it is also important to remember that carers are a very diverse group.
They come from all walks of life and vary in age, ethnicity, culture and outlook.
Many people view their caring role as a normal part of life and don’t identify themselves as “carers”.
The ageing population means more carers are needed.
The number of New Zealanders aged over 65 is projected to double in the next 20 years to around 1.2 million.
This means the number of New Zealanders who are going to need care will rise as our life expectancy increases.
Most of us are happiest if we can stay independent into our later years, in our own homes, connected to our families and communities – and this government is committed to supporting people to stay at home if they choose.
But, that means a greater demand for carers, and it is likely to be family, whānau and aiga carers who step up to fill that role.
Many young people are carers.
Right now, about ten per cent of school-aged children are carers assisting someone in their household or extended family, on top of their studies.
This could have a big impact on their ability to get a good education, and a job.
Additionally, mid-life carers of older people and older people caring for their partner, or each other, are the fastest growing population of carers in New Zealand: these groups of carers face their own financial, health and life-stage challenges.
Caring has its rewards and challenges.
It can be immensely satisfying to know that you are having a positive impact on someone else’s life.
However, we also know that taking on a caring role can also become heavy cross to bear.
I know sometimes a carer’s own health can suffer, especially when their caring role comes on top of everything else they need to manage – a job, a family, even getting an education.
Many people are isolated in their caring role and can get really exhausted – they need help to manage that.
They need time to look after themselves – they need to be able to take a break, and (like the rest of us) have some personal time, and maintain important personal and social networks.
Caring may also affect one’s ability to stay in, return to, or join paid work – which of course influences a person’s financial situation.
Some carers estimate they spend more than 40 hours - more than a working week – in a caring role.
That’s often on top of the carer’s paid job.
We want to improve this situation for our New Zealand carers.
So how do we care for the carers?
I am pleased to be able to launch the New Zealand Carers’ Strategy Action Plan for 2014 to 2018.
The vision of the Carers’ Strategy is that New Zealand is a society that values people who support others in their everyday living.
The Action Plan sets out what we are going to do to work towards that vision over the next five years.
Carers tell us that the best way to demonstrate that we value their contribution is by offering meaningful, practical support to assist them in their caring role.
Carers also remind us that we need to acknowledge their various roles.
Carers are people first, with other roles too – within the family, extended family and whānau; within the neighbourhood and community; and within the paid and unpaid workforce.
Already, the lead agencies for the Carers’ Strategy (MSD, Health, MBIE and ACC) have identified some priority actions and milestones for 2014 from this Action Plan.
Here are just a few to let you know the sort of things they will be working on.
Carers have said that taking a break is really important, but they often have difficulties in getting the respite they need.
So we are developing a carers resource on respite that will help carers and their families and whānau to develop respite strategies that work for them.
Young carers have told us that they would like to be able to communicate with each other to build mutual support.
So we will help develop a social media platform for young carers.
Carers have also stated that support for their learning and wellbeing is really important.
An initiative that will help here is an interactive newsfeed feature for carers to access information from the CarersNZ website that is tailored to their individual needs - this feed includes links to YouTube and other social media sites.
We are also developing a workplace website concept that employers can use to support carers at work.
And we haven’t forgotten those carers who do not have online access.
We are developing resources that can be delivered face-to-face for whānau and aiga who prefer to learn together face-to-face.
This is really exciting stuff, and I hope you will follow its progress this year on the MSD website, where we will post regular updates.
Carers have the right to live fulfilling lives in their various roles and to participate in the community.
We want to make New Zealand a place that recognises the contribution carers make to the lives of the people they assist, and ensure our carers are respected, valued and supported.
And of course, there is another person in the equation, the one being assisted.
At a government, society and personal level, we need to acknowledge and respect the humanity of each person – the carer and the person being assisted – and the relationship between them.
It follows that if the carer is supported well in their role, the person being assisted will benefit from being in the company of one who is valued, enabled and has choices – just as it is important for the carer that the rights, needs, and choices of the person they assist are recognised and respected.
Caring should be something people do with pride and confidence – with the knowledge that they have viable choices in how they live and run their lives.
This will be the norm if we achieve the vision of the Carers’ Strategy.
To develop the Action Plan for 2014 to 2018 the Government has drawn on international research, as well as the knowledge and experience of Carers New Zealand, the New Zealand Carers Alliance and feedback from consultation with carers to produce the Action Plan for 2014 to 2018.
As well as being the Minister for Senior Citizens, I’m also the Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector, Women’s Affairs, and an Associate Minister of Health.
The Action Plan is a cross-government plan, and we can use expertise from all these portfolios and more.
I will be making the most of my stewardship of these portfolios as we step up support for carers over the next five years.
I am particularly keen to see that information on respite options and learning and wellbeing resources for carers are brought together and made available in user-friendly ways.
You will also see that we have taken on board the request by carers for an Action Plan that delivers meaningful, practical support and doesn’t take the “one size fits all” approach.
No reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa
Now I’d like to invite the Chief Executive of the Ministry of Social Development, Brendan Boyle, to introduce our first speaker.
Speech: Following guest speakers
Thank you so much, Laurie.
I would like to thank Laurie and her organisation, Carers NZ, for the valuable contribution they have made to carers for many years now, and in particular, for the wonderful assistance Laurie and her staff provided as “independent observers” during the recent consultation on the Action Plan.
It gives me great pleasure today to launch the Carers’ Strategy Action Plan for 2014 to 2018. The Action Plan lets you know what we are going to do over the next five years to make the vision of the Carers’ Strategy real.
It’s time we value our carers and provide them with the practical support they need to protect their wellbeing, and recognise their skills.
This Action Plan will help us achieve these goals.
There are copies of the Action Plan at the back of the room and you will also find the website link to a copy of the document online.
Thank you very much for your attention, and thank you all so much for your hard work.
Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.