Reports from the Grey Power lobby visit to Wellington

The advocacy chair, Jan Pentecost sincerely thanks the decision-makers for meeting with us, the acting national secretary for taking notes and ensuring we were not late for appointments and our National Advisory Group Chairs R. Reid, J. Millar, P. Matcham and D. Marshall for their presence, advice and involvement with this lobby visit

VISIT 1: NZ POST GOVERNMENT RELATIONS OFFICER – Matthew Kenning

ISSUE 1: Bill Paying Services

The meeting was primarily a catch-up with Matthew, but he was also asked about Post Shops. His response was:

There are 242 stores throughout New Zealand that operate bill paying services. The locations of these stores are available on the NZ Post website (see link below).

To find out which stores offer BillPay services in the search function type in your geographic area then click the ‘Pay a Bill and ID application’ tag in the Filter by service section, and information about the relevant stores should be displayed.

NZ POST WEBSITE LINK

  • Bill payment services include:
  • Vehicle registrations, change of ownership, etc (NZTA)
  • Paying power, phone bills, etc
  • Paying council rates
  • Applying for a new IRD number
  • Not all of the agencies have wider bill paying services – Grey Power expressed concern because this disadvantages those who may not be able to travel (and the expense if they can) to another town to make such payments.

ISSUE 2: Bulk Mail

NZ Post offers a 10 percent discount in postage for registered charities with a NZ Post account.

ISSUE 3: Redirection Cards
NZ Post still has redirection cards to notify people of a change of address.

ISSUE 4: Mail Delivery Delays
Especially in Auckland. The effect of Covid-19 on the workforce makes delivery, especially of parcels, problematic.

ISSUE 5: Moving Forward
NZ Post has been advised that in time they will be moving towards a mail service that is ‘commercially sustainable.’

This is concerning because we may expect more price rises – will the digitally disadvantaged be further deprived?

**Action – Matthew will follow up on Auckland service delivery delays.

VISIT 2: OFFICE OF SENIORS DIRECTOR – Diane Turner

ISSUE 1: Older Worker Employment Action Plan (OWEAP and toolkit)

This plan targets those aged 50 and over who are working or who want or need to work.
The purpose of the plan is to ensure that older New Zealanders who want or need to work can find sustainable employment that fulfils their needs and aspirations and the plan supports the Government’s Employment Strategy.

A mature workers toolkit – for employers is also available.

  • The Ministry of Social Development MSD will implement the plan.
  • It is developing a framework for Ministers – to be ready in December.
  • The Minister of Seniors is responsible for the OWEAP and MSD will report to her on its progress.
  • The Selwyn District Council is working with MSD and older workers, over 50’s around setting up businesses (with some funding to support). They are looking at how that may be used by other councils.

**Action – The Seniors’ office will provide notes regarding this for our national magazine.
NB: Grey Power was included in an earlier OWEAP workshop.

ISSUE 2: SuperGold card and Countdown 5 percent Tuesday discount for superannuitants
**Action – it was confirmed that not all Countdown stores do offer this discount and that older people need to check with their local store.

ISSUE 3: Other Discussion Points

Older persons’ housing shortage ideas – older people could home-share; building of more smaller homes suitable for people to down-size to etc.

Digital inclusion – there is a need to extend and expand to wider training providers to supply added on-line and off-line support.

There is a need to commit to and maintain off-line services via phone or hard copy.
Elder abuse – a three-year budget ($3- 6 million) to be spent on strategies to prevent elder abuse.

Research projects – the office is undertaking projects regarding older people with multiple disadvantages in income, housing, health and access to services, and to assess the scale of the 50-65-year-old cohort inequities. The objective is to better support social isolation and physical health.

Policies regarding council housing, MSD wait lists and rent relief including a closer look at accommodation supplements and means testing guidelines were also discussed.

VISIT 3: NZ AGED CARE ASSOCIATION (NZACA) CEO – Simon Wallace and Kathryn Maloney

Issue 1: No countrywide process for family and friends to enter rest homes during Covid

Grey Power’s evidence – Grey Power has received phone calls and emails regarding this. The inconsistent policies are causing/have caused anxiety for families and rest home residents

**Comments from NZACA:

  • Some aged care facilities are still restricting visitors because of concern about the risk of catching Covid – they have to weigh up the health and safety risks and the client’s well-being.
  • If the NZACA receive complaints, they contact the facility manager to provide guidance.
    Lack of staff may mean visitor restrictions.
  • The NZACA advocates for visiting not to be restricted.

Issue 2: The underfunding and chronic nursing shortages by Government to bring our nurses to pay parity with DHB nurses

Background – critical Government underfunding of the aged residential care services and the failure of Budget 2022 to deliver desperately needed funding for the aged care sector will see the continuation of closures of facilities:

  • 15,000 additional aged care beds are required before 2030, but the sector is at breaking point with the closure of facilities resulting in the loss of around 800 beds in the last six months alone.
  • Budget 2022 offered no financial provision to address the issue of pay parity, with DHB nurses currently earning anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000 a year more than Aged Care nurses. The pay levels are currently set by the Government and a chronic shortage of aged care nurses is at the crux of the funding issue. ‘The Tipping Point report’ released in April showed 35 percent of the 17 sector leaders polled would be forced to make closures in the next six months if the Government did not provide additional funding. That could represent the loss of 7,827 beds.
  • The Government’s failure to address the $425m deficit across the system of aged residential care in New Zealand shows neglect for New Zealand’s ageing population and their wellbeing.
  • The sector is in crisis and almost at the point of no return where much-needed aged care services will disappear and our older people will bear the brunt of Government underfunding (from Aged Care Matters, media fact sheet May 4 2022).

NB: Grey Power is working on the pay parity issues with carers and nurses’ unions and is part of The Coalition on Fair Pay for Aged Care Nurses.

NZACA comments to Grey Power:

  • Grey Power needs to be more publicly vocal about the shortage of 1100 nurses and the loss of 800 beds.
  • Grey Power was informed of the names of facilities now closing due to severe staffing shortages, others not taking any more residents, that rural facilities are the worst impacted and that some clients are now being ‘parked in hospitals’ or in hospitals away from their town because there is nowhere else for them to go. The Aged Care Association has surveyed where the closures are and would send the report to the President.
  • Reference was made to the voting capacity of older persons.
  • The Minister of Health has failed to deliver on his commitment on pay parity for over two years claiming there was no more in the budget.
  • There is no incentive for nurses working in aged care facilities to stay because of the huge pay disparity. Why stay as a sole nurse often on night shift when a hospital with high staffing and doctors has work available.
  • In 2018 the wage disparity was $10-$15k pa and now it is $20-$30k also NZ nurses are moving offshore.
  • The government is not funding carers sufficiently either.

**Action – Grey Power to investigate the demographics of older persons voting and strongly consider this in its election 2023 advocacy.
Narratives are very powerful as part of Grey Power lobbying in the public arena.
Update: the Federation has sent out two media releases which have been followed up by media outlets including Radio NZ.

VISIT 4: HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION (HRC) – Rachel O’Connor

Issue: Te Tiriti of Waitangi and how Grey Power can approach this with due respect and informed awareness

  • HRC suggested small educational/informational-based steps via our national magazine and reaching out to various iwi organisations with time to reflect on how we can move forward in this area of human rights.
  • A representative of the HRC to speak to our national AGM as one way to raise awareness.

VISIT 5: AGED CARE COMMISSIONER (newly appointed) – Carolyn Cooper

Purpose – As a Deputy Health and Disability Commissioner, the Aged Care Commissioner is a statutory decision-maker on complaints and formal investigations about older people’s health and disability services, and whether their rights have been breached under the Code.

The Aged Care Commissioner will:

  • Provide strategic oversight and stronger sector leadership to drive quality improvement.
  • Report on thematic improvements in the aged care sector (e.g., analysis of emerging issues)
  • Provide enhanced advocacy on behalf of consumers and their whanau and support the Government’s commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi.  (Terms of reference)

**Action – Grey Power must keep a watching brief and advocate for this to happen, as an additional pressure point on government to deliver.

Carolyn has a professional background in nursing, ACC, Public Hospital management roles in several hospitals as CEO and executive roles, management roles with BUPA and engagement in the Australian Royal Commission on BUPA.

She described the role as a navigation journey but it’s about quality improvements in the sector and support. It is not just a complaint agency. She is developing links with other agencies and building up her support staff.

She wanted to improve the complaint process, develop early resolution options, and develop better IT systems to support the role. Her budget permits wider advocacy for older people around early intervention and, she is looking at home and community supports.

This was the main issue discussed with the commissioner.

Grey Power is still hearing about reductions in hours of care – many older people have had their one hour per week reduced usually to 45 minutes per fortnight (this is the most common issue).

Also, re-assessments, often to reduce client care hours are carried out by providers’ employees which raises the conflict-of-interest issue.

Different carers arrive each time and if there is no notice of carers arrival time, or when home help is not turning up there can be very little prior warning to clients.

Lack of carer training, along with the withdrawal of shopping assistance: A member has asked: Are older people to starve? Plus, insufficient travel time between jobs along with the denial of domestic assistance (some clients who need help with domestic chores are being denied this because they are told they must qualify for personal cares first) are all further concerns.

GREY POWER’S COMMENT:

There is no assurance from the Government and their Ministry of Health responses that there will be any action. And we have been unable to get a response to our requests for an appointment from the Minister of Health’s office.

We believe this situation has reached crisis point now – older people are suffering; the potential for fatalities and accidents is very real.

The future for older people requiring home support care is tenuous especially given the increasing number in this cohort and with the loss of rest home beds what will happen to us older people when we must leave our homes?

**Action – the Aged Care Commissioner questioned how many of those receiving home care are now having to receive aged care at public hospitals, and how many have not received their assessed hours and importantly, when will they get them back?

In addition, she is also seeking data on how many people have been assessed as requiring health and disability services but are not receiving them at all because in these cases her role is to step in.

She is an advocate for people living where they want to live, be that at home with carer support or in an aged care facility and supports Grey Power’s case.

VISIT SIX: OPPOSITION HEALTH SPOKESPERSON National Party – Hon Dr Shane Reti

Issue 1: Health reforms

Grey Power informed Dr Reti of its policy as per its submission on Pae Ora (Healthy Futures):

Grey Power supports, in principle, the purpose of the reforms i.e., to:

  • Protect, promote, and improve the health of all New Zealanders and achieve equity by reducing health disparities among New Zealand’s population groups and to build towards pae ora (healthy futures) for all New Zealanders.
  • Grey Power hopes that the new health structures will ameliorate the current fragmented, inconsistent, incompetent and unfair health system that currently affects our older people.
  • Grey Power after perusing the regulatory impact statement / assessment – supplementary analysis report1, is unable to evaluate whether the structural changes will achieve the reform purposes because it is unaware of specific policy priorities.

Grey Power indicated to Dr Reti that it recognises the need for and welcomes a change to the public health system but cannot as yet envisage how older people in general will benefit greatly by the Government’s reform of the health sector. It has concerns in a number of areas around the seeming lack of priority, notably in mental wellbeing, chronic conditions, carer support and disability matters.

Carer Support – He said he had raised his opposition in the house via the Better Later Life Strategy and this was voted down along with his aged residential care SOP. He agreed about the significant disparity between nurses pay in DHB’s and in residential nursing care and the impact this has had on morale and employment movement from residential care facilities to the hospital sector. This in turn affects the level and quality of care provided for older people in residential care facilities.

Furthermore, Dr Reti expressed his dismay that the government had had five years to resolve the issue of the Support Workers Pay Equity Bill, which was being rushed through the House later on in the day of Grey Power’s visit without the due process of public submissions and select committee input.

He also noted the strong public rallying by the E tū, PSA and Nurses’ Organisation and other stakeholders and whilst acknowledging Grey Power’s support efforts in this area encouraged Grey Power to be even more strident publicly as an important older persons’ stake holder in the public domain.

Issue 2: An annual free health check and eye check

Grey Power informed Dr Reti that, in the 2019 budget, older people had been promised an annual free health check and eye check, but this was removed in 2020.

Issue 3: General practitioners’ fees

The 2019 budget announced from 1 Dec 2019 that no one with a community service card would pay more than $18.50 for a doctor’s visit, but this has been increasing by 50c a year on the 1st July.

Issue 4: The cost of repeat prescriptions

Grey Power hears that people who order repeat prescriptions are being charged $19 via access to a nurse, or online requests.

Dr Reti noted our concerns but re-emphasised the wider health reforms and the visit concluded with his remarks that if he were in government his focus would be to rebuild the workforce and rebuild workforce morale. He also indicated that as a potential incoming government time is needed to assess where the work needs to be focused and he did not envisage any big structural changes initially.

VISIT 7: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) Skills and Employment Policy Manager – Hayden Fenwick

Issue: ACC’s explanation of why some older person’s accidents are classified as age-related and are therefore not an accident

Grey Power was advised that accident and age-related issues fall into three broad areas – ACC, Health and Welfare and that it’s not as clear as it might otherwise be for the public. He explained that accident and illness related issues are tightly defined. Whilst initially an older person’s doctor consultation may be covered by ACC, on-going health support becomes a health and welfare issue.

Those working past 65 who have an accident in the workplace are generally supported by the ACC process. ACC provides ‘no fault,’ two-year financial support, but its focus is primarily around a combination of medical and financial support to those in the workforce.

It is not about age discrimination but the complicated division of ACC, Health and Welfare.

It would be good if ACC covered everyone but the complexities to achieve this have not been solved.

Retirees have an income which ‘currently’ places them under Health and Welfare support.
Grey Power was referred to the comprehensive ACC website which only supports those digitally able. The need for the digitally disadvantaged to have access to hard copy documentation was discussed along with the Government’s older persons strategy ‘Better Later Life’ policy commitment to support this.

Hayden undertook to make enquiries on how there may be an informational hard copy pamphlet that would better explain the ACC’s role and how seniors fitted within that.

VISIT 8: SENIORS AND ASSOCIATE HEALTH MINISTER – Hon Minister Ayesha Verrall

Grey Power told the Minister of Grey Power’s extreme concern for those who are suffering because of lack of adequate home support and residential care, (please refer above to the
report re the visit to Dr Reti) and asked how many older persons who could not be placed in residential care due to reported closure of over 800 residential beds were occupying
hospital beds. The Minister did not know this figure and asked her advisors that this be provided.

The need to raise mileage rates for care workers especially in rural areas where travelling to a short appointment could cost more in petrol than the payment for the service provided was mentioned and the Minister indicated she was aware of this and it was part of the negotiations.

A Health NZ spokesperson invited Grey Power, as a stakeholder, to be involved in improving the care model for older people and we agreed.

Grey Power was also informed that this year’s budget provided increased support for ambulance, paramedics, Pharmac and the health system which is still playing catchup on ‘historic underfunding’.

A ministerial advisor at the meeting mentioned that about half the DHBs had restorative care contracts and the Minister directed him to report back to her on what would happen under Health NZ.

Discussion occurred regarding the complaint’s process under the new health system – a more simplified national approach to this is still being developed.

Grey Power informed the Minister that it appears that this government does not care about our older persons and their issues.

VISIT 9: CO-LEADER OF THE GREENS PARTY – Hon James Shaw

Issue: Climate change and older New Zealanders – the draft national adaptation plan
The discussion centred on the plan and Grey Power stressed older persons’ anxiety on this and it was focused on ways to minimise the disruption and reinforce the sense of place by maintaining a community focus.

Grey Power stated that technology planning should be more enabling of older people and referenced a Grey Power working document, around risks to seniors physically, economically and their well-being. The principles of equity in the social and economic sphere must underpin all government policies and the manner in which they are implemented.

Grey Power informed the Minister that it is developing its own climate change policy with focus on our seniors and adaptation and was seeking guidance. The Minister’s office would readily support Grey Power.

The Minister referred to over 74,000 homes at risk due to sea levels rising and land sinking. In essence, he said, we have options of do nothing, accommodate change (and a focus on those at risk on coastal or flood plains), defend or move-relocate.

The Greens want communities to choose for themselves based on good data, however, all have costs and each community should make the decisions that best suit them. The Greens are putting up a climate change bill next year to help codify a process in law.

Transport was mentioned and the Minister talked about shared car programs overseas rather than owning a car; there is a potential trial in Auckland (out of California) of ‘social leasing.

Many people on low incomes own substandard cars but 90% of incoming cars are electric fleet cars, in 3-5 years they would be readily available on the market and at more affordable prices. In fact, 1 in 5 cars would in time cost about $15-$20k.

Grey Power responded that even that price is a challenge for many seniors and the trickledown effect would be a long time coming. The Greens are also exploring possibly trading in an old inefficient car and paying off a newer hybrid or electric vehicle over ten years, and the uptake of E-Bikes is another option to reduce emissions (referencing Copenhagen’s success in that area).

Grey Power was also to meet the Green’s older persons’ spokesperson but he was isolating because of Covid.

VISIT 10: AGE CONCERN CEO – Karen Billings-Jensen

This was Grey Power’s first meeting with the newly appointed CEO Karen Billings-Jensen. There was a mutual willingness to work more closely in the future. Whilst Grey Power is a volunteer organisation and Age Concern is partially funded by government contracts, the wider structures are similar in some ways re: having associations spread across the country. Age Concern have highly trained and funded staff to support the CEO role with essential research, policy development and publicity.

Increasing engagement with Maori was a mutual topic and the need to go slowly around building relationships, finding common ground and working with local iwi providers.
Age Concern has significant access to seniors’ data and gerontology information from universities.

Grey Power does not have that same ‘ready’ capacity as yet for our matters.
The future of cash and digital money and working with the Reserve bank was discussed.
Age Concern is launching a new logo at a launch event and our National Vice President will attend.

VISIT 11: MINISTER OF SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT AND EMPLOYMENT – Hon Carmel Sepuloni

Issue 1: The accommodation supplement

A review of the cash threshold for the accommodation supplement due to the housing crisis was discussed. Grey Power believes that the current threshold of $8,200 is too low.

The minister is looking at this and it may be part of budget considerations for 2023. She recognised that in some cases people hold cash back for a funeral and the cash threshold does not take this into consideration.

The accommodation supplement may also be reviewed eg, who gets it, how accessible is it, is it right for some people and how we make the changes. The Minister noted the need for flexibility around accommodation supplements and would raise this also with the Minister of Seniors and the Retirement Commissioner.

Issue 2: Housing and down-sizing

Grey Power pointed out that it was difficult for some older people to downsize as very few smaller houses were being built and many could not afford to split the property due to council costs and associated charges. This defeats the purpose of selling off the house to build a smaller one on the land they have.

Grey Power recommended that low interest loans over two years could be an incentive to downsize to help with costs. The Minister said she would take this to the Minister for Housing and asked that Grey Power also contact Minister Woods on this.

Issue 3: Banking hubs

With reference to banking hubs and their future; the Minister suggested that we talk to the Banker’s Association and Minister of Finance. The Government would like to see hubs extended but this is on the bank’s terms.

The Minister also offered to write articles for the Grey Power Quarterly magazine.

VISIT 12: RETIREMENT COMMISSIONER – Jane Wrightson and Michelle Reyers

Jane Wrightson was a last-minute apology due to Covid isolation.

The Retirement Villages Associations White Paper was discussed and there will be work programmes later this year re drafting a Terms of Reference and a Consultation process and that there had been a very recent reshuffle of cabinet ministers. They have a stakeholder meeting with Minister Woods on August 3rd. She stated it had been a long process to get to this stage, and a legislative review, and that the Code of practice will be looked at at that same time.

Grey Power mentioned issues around the length of time before money is released after moving out of a licence-to-occupy and a mandatory 28 days be instituted. The payment of village maintenance fees still being charged after the occupant leaves needs to cease
In addition, usually residents’ complaints are dealt with by the village statutory manager who is paid for by the village owner; consequently, some residents feel there is a conflict of interest.

Some lawyers also require more education in retirement village agreements etc. This would help would-be residents to make more informed decisions and standardised contracts with less documentation are also necessary.

Greater clarity around moving from one level of care to the next level was discussed because some villages promise services but which are not there when or if required.

Other options eg, co-living and intergenerational living were canvassed as was the issue of retirees who have never owned a home. The retirement commission is exploring alternative models of housing and retirement income. Some villages do have a potential rental aspect and Grey Power was referred to the ANZ 2021 Survey on rental options in retirement villages.

Report authors, Federation secretary and president.

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