Established in November 2004, the NZ Carers Alliance is a consortium of more than 40 national not for profits striving for better support and recognition for New Zealand's 420,000 family carers. At its first meeting in 2004 there was a call for a Carers' Strategy, and in April 2008 the Alliance achieved this goal when the then Labour government launched the first ever New Zealand Carers' Strategy and Five Year Action Plan.
Currently the Carers' Strategy is being updated; many of the Alliance's participating organisations have been instrumental in this process providing feedback from their members and regional branches.
In another move to raise recognition of family caring, Carers NZ and the Carers Alliance created the We Care! online social awareness campaign http://www.wecare.org.nz/ Here, Carers NZ and the Alliance encourage all politicians, including the Prime Minster, John Key, to take steps to better value carers. The success of the campaign is shown with the fact that more than 600 carers and supporters have sent emails directly to John Key with their own personal messages of support. Media items, press releases, and announcements of interest to carers are also archived at We Care!
The popular Facebook page www.facebook.com/wecarenz complements the We Care! website and gives carers and their supporters a space to share and comment on news and government policies that affect them. Currently, more than 15,000 people ‘Like' the We Care! page, a substantial community we intend to grow in the upcoming election year so carers can have a united voice across all political parties.
When the Government announced the new Funded Family Care scheme, the Alliance was vocal in its response citing the payment would create more problems than it solves. The Alliance was dissatisfied that only 1,600 carers of disabled family members who have very high support needs would be paid the minimum wage for up to 40 hours per week, and that their disabled family member In effect would be their ‘employer'. We are also concerned that the new policy discriminates against spouses.
The Alliance hopes that over time the scheme will be extended to include payment for spouses, as well as a broader number of family members who provide ongoing care. Going forward the Alliance will continue to lobby government to ensure carer issues are kept in the forefront of the political arena.
Its other work areas of priority are to identify and recommend improvements to the Carer Support Subsidy so that it can be used by carers as fully and effectively as possible, as well as continuing to lobbying for a fair and accessible approach to continence throughout New Zealand.
During 2014 the Carers Alliance will be working to raise awareness of family caregiving across society. We will keep you informed of new developments for carers in the coming months.
Current participants in the NZ Carers Alliance include:
@ Heart, Access to Medicines Coalition, Age Concern NZ, Allergy NZ, Alzheimers NZ, ANZMES (Associated NZ ME Society), Aotearoa Maori Whanau Carers Network, Arthritis NZ, Autism NZ, BALANCE NZ, Cancer Society of NZ, Carers NZ, CCS Disability Action, Cerebral Palsy Society of NZ, Complex Care Group, Cystic Fibrosis Association of NZ, DHB Mental Health Family Advisors, Diabetes NZ, Epilepsy NZ, Federation of Disability Information Centres, Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, Hospice NZ, IHC, Integrated Neurological Rehabilitation Foundation (iNRF), Kidney Kids, Lysosomal Diseases NZ, MS Society, Muscular Dystrophy Association of NZ, Neurological Alliance, NZ Continence Association, NZ Down Syndrome Association, NZ Organisation for Rare Disorders, NZ Spinal Trust, Parent to Parent, Parents of Vision Impaired NZ Inc, Parkinsons NZ, Phobic Trust of NZ Inc, Rescare NZ, Retina NZ Inc, SAMS, Supporting Families in Mental Illness NZ, Stroke Foundation, The Angelman Network, TOA Pacific, Young Carers NZ.