ARRC Services Agreement for 2017-18

By Simon Wallace, Chief Executive, NZACA

While most of members I have spoken to about the ARRC Services Agreement have been supportive of the increases, some have questioned me as to why we settled for a 1.8% increase – particularly in an election year when advocacy for a sustainable investment in the aged residential care sector is ever more critical.

Let me assure you that our focus is working with the current and future governments to secure a sustainable investment in aged care into the future and in this changing landscape which current policy and funding is failing.

It is important to recognise and acknowledge the investment that the Government has made in the sector to address the historic inequities that have existed for many years.  The $2 billion over five years to lift caregiver wages is the largest ever pay settlement in the country’s history.   

We have worked very hard to negotiate the 1.8% increase and whilst we’d like to have secured more, given the recent chain of events, we do consider it to be a reasonable increase for the forthcoming year – and a lot better than the average of less than 1% we’ve seen in the past three years. 

It is still too early to tell whether this, combined with the caregiver pay equity increase, will cover all wage increases and other costs, especially for our smaller providers, many of which we know are struggling.

On top of the 1.8% annual increase, we’ve received the additional $1 million for ambulance funding as relief for the high cost of non-emergency transport for our members that we have been pushing for.

This all demonstrates that the Government is starting to listen and to understand the historical funding shortfall in the age residential care sector. Our paper presented earlier this year demonstrated clearly the increasing gulf between the costs and funding based on the Aged Care Price Index, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and minimum wage.

And with the Government’s investment in the ARRC model review, there is a clear willingness to work further on developing solutions to the wider issues.

Yes, the review is overdue and underscores how little recognition the sector has been given by successive governments.

 With the review we have an important opportunity for an in-depth exploration of the wider issues challenging the sector from delivery of specialist medical services such as palliative and bariatric care, interRAI, training and development and technology and innovation.

It’s up to us to demonstrate to government our willingness to work as a positive and expert partner in leading aged care in New Zealand.