Has all of the additional $71 million of funding made available in Budget 2005 to district health boards to pay for contracted providers of residential aged-care services been ring-fenced to be used for this purpose only; if not, why not?
No, it has not, because the $71 million was allocated to do more than meet the price increases of the providers that the member refers to.
Could the Minister have ring-fenced or specified in the Crown funding agreements where the extra money from Budget 2005 that was intended for aged care could or could not be spent; if so, why did he not do that, in order to ensure that the money intended for residential aged-care was actually used by the district health boards for that purpose?
At Budget time it was made clear that the money was to be broken into two lots. From memory, $38.5 million was to go to that purpose. But funding for the health of older people in the residential sector is broader than the prices for private providers; it includes, for example, volume increases as well as price increases, and it includes, for example, assessment, treatment, and rehabilitation. On top of the $71 million, but not mentioned by the member, was further funding from this Government for the Holidays Act catch-up.
Is it not true, though, that the Minister did promise $71 million of new money for rest homes before the election, but now, after the election, the rest home sector is actually receiving a considerably reduced amount; if that is true, how honest is that?
It is far from true, because the $71 million did not come out immediately before the election; it came out in the May Budget. That is not all. This Government decided to put some Holidays Act money into that sector, as well. That is not all. My immediate predecessor, the Associate Minister of Health Ruth Dyson, put a further $16 million into that sector. That is not all. Money went into home-based support services, as well. In fact, if members want to add all of it up, they will find that the total comes to more than $100 million over the last 12 months. A party that has tax cuts on its mind cannot spend that sort of money on the health of older New Zealanders.
What undertakings has the Government made to address the pressures in residential aged-care?
Quite apart from the more than $100 million that has been announced in the last 12 months from this Government, this Government has an agreement with the party whence came the principal question, New Zealand First. That agreement says we will address the issue of elder care further, as a matter of priority, in the 2006 Budget. That means that because this Government does not have tax cuts on its mind, it can deal to the pressures that exist in the health system, including, in this case, the health of our older New Zealanders.
Has the Minister had any indication from contracted providers as to whether they intend to use any part of the additional money to address the issue of caregiver wages; if not, does he have any plans to rectify the current wages and conditions of both residential and home-based caregivers?
That is an excellent question. I think that in the residential aged-care sector we will see the additional money flow through to workers all right, for the simple reason that if these wages are not increased, there will not be enough people working in the industry. In the home-based support sector we have another problem, which is that we do not have, in my view, a fair travel policy for those folk who move from one home to another. I have made it a condition of any district health board signing any contract with any home-based support service industry that it has a fair travel policy. The details as to what is meant by “fair travel policy” are only weeks from being resolved.
When the Minister made his pre-election promise of $71 million of new money for rest home care, why did he keep secret that $32 million of that money was actually long-overdue back pay that the sector was owed as of right?
Quite apart from the fact that the member obviously did not listen to my answer to his first question—
One of the reasons why the answer may not have been heard before is the level of noise in the Chamber. I would ask members—who of course may interject on answers—to please keep the noise at a more orderly level. Thank you. Would the Minister now please respond.
I refer the member to my press statement on Budget night 2005 and I will quote him a sentence: “It’’—the $71 million—“comprises $38.4 million to cover the cost of growing demand and inflation, as well as an additional $32.5 million.” We made no mistake that the $32.5 million would be used, in part or in whole, to catch up the district health board sector.
Does the Minister agree that the money intended to boost residential aged-care funding needs to be ring-fenced by some mechanism to ensure that the promises made in this year’s Budget in respect of aged care are kept; if not, will he be making further funding available to make sure the aged-care sector receives the money it was promised in May?