Over 25,000 care and support workers throughout New Zealand provide essential, life-critical services within our communities every day.

This includes ACC’s most vulnerable clients, allowing them to recover and remain in the comfort of their own homes with their injuries ACC is currently not providing appropriate funding to pay for the wages of care and support workers, and unless this is addressed urgently it will soon lead to significant job losses.

By contrast the Ministry of Health and New Zealand’s District Health Boards committed weeks ago to continue funding the workforce at pre-Covid-19 levels to ensure its ongoing integrity and sustainability.

“If ACC doesn’t fund this essential work, these silent heroes will lose their jobs. This is short sighted, because once lockdown ends demand will increase and they will be needed once more, says Melissa Woolley, Assistant National Secretary of the Public Service Association.

“If these support workers lose their jobs or have hours cut at a time like this they may not come back – this could be devastating for the sector for the long term,” says Kirsty McCully, Director at E tÅ« union.

A long term ACC client who wishes to remain anonymous says she cannot function without her care and support worker.

“My caregiver is extremely important in allowing me to continue functioning as normally as possible, and the trust I have with my caregiver has been built up over approximately 18 years,” she says.

“The government’s Covid-19 lockdown resulted in my caregiver being unable to carry out my caregiving support, and ACC took the position of not providing a continuation of payment to my support worker throughout that period. ACC’s position on this has placed me under considerable stress.”

Provider companies say they do not want to cut paid hours for staff, but without continued ACC funding have already been forced to start doing so.

“This workforce is highly skilled and will be hard to replace. It takes many years to build up the skills and qualifications required to do the job well,” says Josephine Gagan, Chief Executive of NZ Health Care Group.

“Maintaining a skilled workforce requires ongoing investment. It’s not something you can just turn off and on again.”

Natarsha Dixon is an Auckland based care and support worker with nine years’ experience, and a member of E tÅ«.

“I am worried that us support workers are about to have our hours cut when we are essential workers, and when there is such a strong need for the work we do,” she says.

“I really worry for our clients who will ultimately be the ones missing out.”

Provider companies, unions and clients urge ACC Minister Iain Lees-Galloway and ACC Chief Executive Scott Pickering to intervene and ensure care and support workers continue to be paid their guaranteed hours, so New Zealand’s most vulnerable people can continue to be looked after in the weeks and months to come.