Red Alert

Archive for the ‘senior citizens’ Category

Dignity Campaign

Posted by on October 1st, 2012

Today is international day for older people. Hopefully, we will all make it to that stage in our life. Went to the launch of the Age Concern campaign in Wellington this afternoon. Their campaign is called dignity champions. It is to start a nationwide conversation about treating older people with dignity. I like it. Judy Bailey was the guest speaker and gave a powerful and moving address, featuring the disrespect shown to her mother,during her time in a rest home. She talked about the lack of training and valuing of caregivers and older people. She’s right. It needs to be a priority. Vulnerable people being cared for by overworked and often poorly trained careers who have a highturnover rate, is a disaster waiting to happen. It’s an industry ripe for change. Three champion awards were given out. First was to Hayden Jones of tvnz’s “Good Sorts”. Then to DrJudy McGregor for her report on carers in rest homes. She taught Hayden in his journo training! And then to St John for their attitude in their ambulance ads. I have registered to be a dignity champion. You should too!
Well done Age Concern for this campaign! And also for the best ever expo which I went to this morning in Christchurch. Fantastic fun and information. Best for me was the Papanui High School students working to make it happen – during their school holidays! Great students. Great attitude!

Time to address super costs

Posted by on March 27th, 2012

The Guardian reports that a third of children born this year in the UK will live to be a hundred. Our life expectancy is similar.

And John Key continues to bury his head in the sand and say there is no issue.

Thanks johns

Posted by on November 16th, 2011

LP A2 street poster

Healthy Older New Zealanders a Priority for Labour

Posted by on September 29th, 2011

Today I’m excited to be launching Labour’s Aged Care policy. I started working on this policy the instant it was allocated to me a few months ago and it’s been full-steam ahead since then.

To get an idea of the issues, ideas and concerns surrounding Aged Care I’ve met with people from all across the sector, all across the country. It’s been fascinating. I’ve spoken at Grey Power branch meetings, with the Aged Care Association, the Retirement Villages Association, Age Concern, the Service and Food Workers Union, Career Force, Presbyterian Support, the Human Rights Commission, those in the health sector like Alzheimer’s New Zealand and Arthritis New Zealand plus many members of the public. With that much input you start to build a picture of the sector pretty quickly and the insight of everyone involved has been invaluable.

This insight plus ideas from within the Labour Party have all contributed to the policy I’m proud to be releasing today.

The funding and delivery of aged care in New Zealand faces significant strain as our population is ageing and costs are rising. This requires a comprehensive, well thought out and long-term government plan of action, which this government is showing no signs of creating.

Labour’s plan includes:
• Government-funded training for all aged care staff
• Minimum staffing levels for nurses and caregivers and
• When government finances allow, pay parity between aged carers and their equivalents in the public health system.

Additionally, a Technical Working Party to be set up by Labour will investigate all the recommendations in the ‘What the Future Holds for Older New Zealanders’ report which Labour produced last year with Grey Power and the Greens, and the Auditor General’s Home-based support services for older people report.

The working party will report back on the recommendations by May 2012. It will then be tasked to chart the way for a New Model of Service Delivery, which Labour believes is essential for New Zealand to meet the growing challenges in the aged care sector.

Labour has a strategic and long-term plan for the aged care sector and the values and drive to implement it. Aged care in the future needs to be built on the values of accessibility, dignity and respect for all older New Zealanders, underpinned by transparency and accountability in the way the services are provided.

Update: For the full press release on Labour’s Aged Care policy please use this link.

Tell the Government: Don’t Cut Our Future!

Posted by on April 27th, 2011


t Cut Our Future

Tax cuts or Super?

Posted by on July 27th, 2010

Over at Policy Progress David Choat has written up a few observations on the future affordability of New Zealand Superannuation, based on presentations at the recent Retirement Income Policy and Intergenerational Equity Conference. Choat looks at various projections of the cost of the ‘retirement boom’ and some of the alternative options. He concludes by essentially arguing we have a choice: change our current entitlements or increase taxes to keep them as they are.

That conclusion highlights the folly of the arguments people like Don Brash have been putting forward. Brash argues that current Super entitlements are unaffordable. Fullstop. Brash and his contemporaries in National have spent years arguing that massive tax cuts are affordable and necessary. They’ve conveniently overlooked one of the biggest longterm implications – less money to pay for the baby boomer’s retirement!

I want to see New Zealand Superannuation remain as it is, a universal entitlement from the age of 65. But John Key’s promise to resign rather than cut it looks pretty hollow given his total lack of a plan for how to pay for it. In 10-15 years time when the crunch comes, Key will be off sunning himself in Hawaii while future generations work out how to plug the massive hole he and his crew have left us with.

Latest stats prove Bill English wrong

Posted by on May 26th, 2010

Bill English made the wrong decision to cut contributions to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund (commonly referred to as the Cullen Fund). He had an opportunity to fix that mistake in this year’s Budget. He didn’t take it. In fact he’s even gone back on his promise to resume contributions once the Crown accounts move back into surplus. He’d rather leave the cupboard bare for future generations.

The latest population projections released by Statistics New Zealand clearly show just how short-sighted that decision is. The share of workers aged 65 and over is projected to grow from 12 percent in 2006 to 21 percent in 2061. More than double the number of people will be claiming NZ Super, not to mention the extra costs in healthcare. Instead of preparing for that huge demographic shift, John Key and Bill English have prioritised tax cuts that disproportionately go to those on the highest incomes.

English claims that he would be borrowing to make contributions to the fund. But he seems very happy to borrow to pay for tax cuts. In fact had he continued to contribute to the fund over the past year, he’d have made the Crown a tidy little profit. Since Budget 2009 the Super Fund has increased by $3.6 billion, and in the nine months to 31 March it gained $891 million more than Treasury forecast on its investment portfolio.

We all need to face some cold hard realities here. The ‘retirement boom’ will really start to kick in over the next 10-15 years. Absent significant changes, we can’t afford it. Those enjoying tax cuts today may get a rude shock in another decade when the then government has to make a tough decision between cutting entitlements or significantly increasing taxes to pay for them. No doubt by then our smiling and waving PM will have skipped off to Hawaii leaving that particular mess for someone else to sort out…

Aged Care Inquiry

Posted by on May 13th, 2010

As some of you will know, Grey Power, Labour and the Greens are running a series of public meetings around New Zealand about aged care. My colleague Hon Winnie Laban has tried to get the Health Select Committee to undertake an inquiry into this issue, but has been blocked by government members.

If anyone needed an explanation as to why Winnie and Sue Kedgley are pushing this, they only need to read the article on the front page of the Dominion Post. It tells the story of the couple in their 80s with a range of health problems who have had their one hour a week home help cut via a telephone interview. It is a heartbreaking story to read, and is being repeated all around New Zealand. Ruth Dyson has been raising case after case in Parliament where hours have been cut to frail and vulnerable people, and Tony Ryall has refused to accept responsibility.

I think the best quote in the article comes from 87 year old Frank Woodfield

I think the government is cutting back in the wrong places on people who do have needs.

Rather than wash his hands of the issue, blame the DHB and block a select committee inquiry, it is time for Tony Ryall to do the right thing, take some responsibility and support our elderly to give their lives some dignity and respect.

Peter Harris on NZ Super

Posted by on May 13th, 2010

Peter Harris has done an interesting guest post over at Policy Progress on New Zealand Superannuation. Peter puts forward a compelling argument that the Brash Taskforce was wrong to argue that NZ Super is overly generous. He draws on data that shows average post-tax pensions in OECD countries to be about 70% of earnings after tax. Here in NZ it is 42%, making us the 5th lowest in the OECD.

Peter argues that the universal nature of New Zealand Superannuation makes it more equitable than equivalent arrangements in Australia, where differentials in earnings during someone’s working life are replicated in their retirement.

In defending the universal nature of NZ Super, he quotes Michael Cullen, who argued that providing basic income security in retirement is both the least and the most citizens should expect from the state. In other words it is the state’s role to ensure pensioners don’t live in poverty, but it is not the state’s role to ensure that their earnings in retirement reflect their earnings during their working lives.

Peter’s final comment focuses the debate not on whether the scheme is generous or affordable, but how we should pay for it:

By any standard, New Zealand Superannuation is affordable and sustainable. A programme that costs at peak no more than 10% of GDP is both. The legitimate question is whether that is the priority that the citizens want. Debate that by all means, and debate how it is to be funded, but please, as a matter of analytical rigour, do not prejudice the path of that debate by making the assertion that our scheme is “generous”.

For me that last comment is the critical one. How are we going to pay for it? Over the next 10-20 years the number of people over the age of 65 will roughly double while the number in the workforce will stay about the same (although it goes without saying that as we live longer more and more people are likely to continue working, thus paying PAYE tax, beyond the age of 65).

National cut contributions to the NZ Super Fund last year and has yet to demonstrate how it will make up the shortfall. Both John Key and Bill English are playing the short game on NZ Super – they’re kicking it to touch for a future generation to deal with.

It’s a demographic challenge

Posted by on May 2nd, 2010

A few weeks ago I did a post on the home ownership dream that promoted quite a lot of discussion and over 100 comments. It was prompted by some of the reading and research that I’ve been doing on intergenerational equity. I’m currently reading a book by David Willetts called The Pinch, subtitled “How the baby boomers took their children’s future – and why they should give it back”. The title is a bit provocative, but the book is well researched and presents a whole heap of data to back up Willetts’ arguments.

One possible explanation he puts forward for the rising cost of housing is simply demographic. Throughout our lives we accumulate wealth. In our older years we spend it, or we pass it down to the next generation. But an equitable transition of wealth between generations assumes an equitable distribution of the population amongst age groups, which clearly doesn’t exist. The baby boomers aren’t to blame for the fact that they’re currently controlling a disproportionate share of the world’s wealth, if you want to blame anyone; blame Hitler.

It’s not just housing either. A similar argument can be made about employment. For example, let’s assume than within an organisation there are a certain number of senior managers, a certain number of middle-managers, a certain number of entry-level jobs etc. We all start somewhere, usually at the entry-level, and then we progress throughout our careers. But a smaller generational cohort following a larger one is likely to find some congestion at the top. The boomers have reached the top and still have about a decade to go before retirement. And given we are living longer and many don’t want to retire at 65 anyway, it could be a lot longer.

Fast forward another decade and that’s when the baby boom pinch will really start to be felt. With half a million extra New Zealanders over the age of 65 while the workforce remains about the same size, it’s clear the govt of the day is going to face some real challenges. The cost of NZ Super will roughly double, not to mention the cost of healthcare and other social services such as aged care. If we’re to argue that each generation has a responsibility to care for those who came before and those who come after (elderly and children), where does that leave a generation disproportionately smaller?

Very poor optics Mr Joyce

Posted by on March 15th, 2010

It has not been the best week for Steven Joyce. Both his pronouncements on limiting access to student loans and reviewing the Super Gold card have seen him run an issue up the flagpole only to have to run it down again in very short order.

It seems that it all got the better of him on a visit to New Plymouth on Friday. The Taranaki Daily News has reported some very odd behaviour at the official opening of the Bell Block By-Pass. It sounds like a big local event with New Plymouth Mayor Peter Tennant in attendance along with former MP and Regional Councillor Roger Maxwell. The Daily News reports

But Mr Tennent was not long into his speech when Mr Joyce’s press secretary approached the minister and handed him a note. Mr Joyce then continually texted on his cellphone while Mr Tennent, then Mr Maxwell, spoke. And then, when it was the turn of New Zealand Transport Agency regional director Jenny Chetwynd to speak, Mr Joyce left his seat and walked behind a nearby bush so he could talk on his phone.

Apparently when the National cabinet are discussing their plans Mr Joyce is the first to raise the “optics” of a situation, ie how it will look to the public. I would say that texting at a public event is not good optics. Hiding behind a bush is also not good optics.

He was still behind the bush when all the speeches had finished, which forced organisers to postpone a ribbon-cutting ceremony for several minutes. When Mr Joyce wandered back out into the open, the remainder of the official opening continued without any further delays. After ceremonially cutting a ribbon and declaring the bypass open, he was then taken for a drive down the new section of highway in a big truck driven by New Plymouth MP Jonathan Young – and even then he was texting during most of his time in the cabin.

For the record, delaying a ribbon cutting ceremony because you are behind a bush talking on your cellphone is really poor optics, not to mention just plain discourteous. I am not sure about the optics of texting when Jonathan Young is driving “a big truck”, but it probably pays to keep half an eye on the road!

Now all of this took place on Friday. What was happening on Friday? Ah yes. That was just about the point that the review of the SuperGold card was turning into a rapidly descending flag. It would be fascinating to know who was on the other end of the phone, but I am guessing his first name was probably John.