A mother’s successful appeal against a Funded Family Care funding decision may have implications for other family carers.

The Herald outlined how 76-year-old Diane Moody won her appeal against a Ministry of Health decision to pay her for 17 hours each week for caring for her disabled 51-year-old son, instead of the full-time funding which she felt she was entitled.

The payment was for personal care and household management tasks relating to her son’s care, but not for his constant supervision.

The High Court upheld the Ministry’s decision last year, but the Court of Appeal this week overturned that decision saying a “serious error” had been made. It described the Ministry’s application of the policy as too “narrow”.

The decision has implications for the future of the Funded Family Care policy, especially as the contentious policy is not popular with the new Government. Prior to election, all three coalition partners said they did not support the policy in its current form.

Funded Family Care was launched three years ago to provide allocated Ministry of Health funding to pay family carers for caring for disabled adults.

In its early days the scheme was described as “flawed and unfair” by the New Zealand Carers’ Alliance as it would pit disabled people against their loved ones by introducing an employer dimension into family relationships.

Another criticism was that the policy would see only the most highly disabled to qualify, but in order to get the funding they must do very many things that would be automatically outside of the capabilities of the severely disabled, such as understanding employer obligations.

Last year Carers NZ said it had “wasted no time” contacting key Ministers to review the policy and give family carers a fairer deal.

Carers NZ chief executive Laurie Hilsgen was pleased with the Court of Appeal’s decision.

“Congratulations to Diane Moody for winning her case, and in remembrance of the other carers who have fought so long to achieve rights and recognition for the work of families and whanau. We salute them,” said Hilsgen.

Various alternative solutions have been proposed in the past, including the suggestion that family carers should be paid directly by the Government as independent contractors. Others have suggested a broad social insurance scheme that we all contribute to, and are beneficiaries of if we or someone we care about has significant ongoing support needs.

To read Laurie Hilsgen’s opinion piece on why the Government needs to urgently review its policies related to carers, click here.

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