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Time for New Social Contract

MEDIA RELEASE, 24 December, 2010

Time To Rethink ‘Social Contract’

The Government’s concept of a ‘social contract’ that commits families to years of intensive caring for ill, disabled, and elderly loved ones is old-fashioned and does not reflect modern life, says Carers NZ.


The national peak body representing New Zealand’s 420,000+ carers says everyone can expect to give or receive family support during their lives.  But when significant, ongoing care is needed, there are limits to what ‘natural supports’ spouses, parents, and other family and whanau carers should be expected to provide.


Carers NZ CEO Laurie Hilsgen says it is not up to government alone to decide what constitutes its social contract with families, and what levels of natural support are fair.


“It has to be a partnership we all contribute to and agree on: families, government, the community, and employers.”


“Today we are living longer at home with significant health and disability needs.  Pharmaceuticals and advanced medicine have lengthened our lives, but they have also lengthened the commitment carers make for loved ones with high needs.  As a society we have to rethink our approach to community based care, and ask whether it is fair to exploit family carers as a free or cheap source of labour, often for years and years.”


Carers NZ made its comments in response to the Government’s announcement that it will appeal last week’s Family Caregivers decision, which mirrors a previous Human Rights Review Tribunal case which found that not recognising parents or immediate family members as paid caregivers is discriminatory and unjust.


Carers NZ says the Government is wasting money and time on court battles, when addressing the significant caring issues raised by the nine families involved in the High Court case would be a better investment.


“It feels as though the Government thinks it is buying time by lodging appeal after appeal about these issues, when in fact it is causing misery for the nine families and many others by not acting decisively with progressive policy to support family carers.”


Carers NZ is the Secretariat for the NZ Carers Alliance, a coalition of more than 40 national not for profits which support families with health and disability needs.  The carer movement is preparing to launch its We Care! national awareness campaign, which will call for genuine progress for family caregivers.  Ms Hilsgen says the campaign will be directed at the Prime Minister, John Key, as caring affects every New Zealand family, employers, and the economy.


“Mr Key has described carers as unsung heroes.  We are relying on his leadership to ensure his Government genuinely supports carers, and values their contributions to family life and society.”

CONTACT Laurie Hilsgen, 021 702 922 Info@carers.net.nz

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