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New Zealand: Major Changes to Funded Family Care Policy Announced

(Aug. 13, 2019) On July 7, 2019, the New Zealand government announced several changes to the existing system for paying people who provide health and/or disability services to family members, known as the Funded Family Care policy.

The current funding arrangements for Funded Family Care are contained in the Funded Family Care Notice 2013, which was issued under section 88 of the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act 2000 and forms part of a family care policy made under part 4A of that Act. Part 4A was inserted in 2013 by the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Amendment Act 2013. Part 4A

provides that the Ministry of Health and District Health Boards have family care policies allowing persons to be paid for providing health and/or disability services to family members. It also limits the ability for complaints to be made to the Human Rights Commission and the Courts regarding breaches of the Human Rights Act 1993 relating to family care policies.

The 2013 Notice

sets out the terms and conditions on which eligible adult disabled people are allocated Ministry of Health funding to employ certain family carers for the delivery of personal care and household management services.

An initial allocation of NZ$92 million (about US$60.9 million) over four years was provided in 2013 to fund the policy.

The 2013 amending legislation, policy, and funding allocation were introduced in response to the 2012 Court of Appeal decision in Ministry of Health v Atkinson & Ors [2012] NZCA 184, in which the Court

upheld the decisions of the Human Rights Review Tribunal and the High Court that the Ministry of Health’s policy of not paying family carers of adults with disabilities is unjustified discrimination on the basis of family status, which is prohibited under Sections 5 and 19 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (NZBORA).

The policy was initially welcomed by many as a step in the right direction but has been criticized by family carers as unfair and impractical in several respects. In September 2018, the government announced that it was in the process of consulting and deciding on potential changes to the system, stating that

[t]here have been consistent calls for Part 4A to be repealed because it is discriminatory. In particular, Part 4A has been inconsistent with human rights legislation because it denies families the right to complain about breaches of their human rights relating to family care policies[.]

The changes to the policy announced in July 2019, which are expected to take effect in 2020 following the passage of relevant legislation, are

  • repeal of Part 4A of the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act 2000
  • change to eligibility to allow:
    • spouses and partners to provide Funded Family Care to people with high or very high support needs
    • children and young people under the age of 18 with high or very high needs to receive Funded Family Care from resident parents or family members (who are over 18)
  • removing the requirement for an employment relationship between a disabled person and their resident family member under the Ministry of Health’s Funded Family Care policy
  • raise pay rates for funded family carers under the Ministry of Health’s Funded Family Care policy, to be consistent with the rates received by care and support workers.

The pay rates for family carers will increase from the minimum wage (currently NZ$17.70 per hour (about US$11.70)) to a rate of between NZ$20.50 and NZ$25.50 (about US$13.56 to US$16.87), on the basis of qualifications and experience. These are the same rates that currently apply following a 2017 pay equity settlement between the government and care and support workers in New Zealand’s aged and disability residential care and home and community support services.