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Family carer payments will be capped, says Minister

Published: 10:28AM Wednesday June 13, 2012 Source: Fairfax

Health Minister Tony Ryall says there will be a cap on payments to family members caring for their disabled relatives to ensure the Government can afford the new policy forced by the courts.

Up to 50,000 families who care for disabled adult children at home will be eligible for payments after the Government yesterday abandoned a long-running defence of a policy declared discriminatory by successive courts.

Health Minister Tony Ryall yesterday said the Government would not appeal against last month's Court of Appeal ruling in favour of nine families who have spent a decade locked in a legal battle to be paid for caring for their severely disabled adult children.

The Government will now put in place a new policy to remove the discrimination.

Ryall this morning said the cost of the new policy - which has been estimated at anywhere between $17 million and $593 million - would depend on how many people entered into the regime.

"There has to be a cap because there is limited funds," he told Radio New Zealand.

"It is how we move those funds to support people in this way is what we are going to spend the next six months working on."

Ryall has warned the new rules would have to be "affordable" and current entitlements could change to help pay for the new policy.

About 10,000 people aged 18 and over receive services in their homes from caregivers paid for by the ministry and about 30,000 families currently receive some home-based assistance from the Health Ministry.

Another 20,000 could be eligible.

The families could now seek compensation at a remedies hearing before the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

Ryall said the new policy was not about everybody who was caring for a disabled person being paid the minimum wage.

"This is an entitlement to receive Ministry of Health support you are assessed as needing."

While the nine families were entitled to retrospective payments, others would not be.

"Because by the time they put in a claim or action at the Human Rights Commission, we'd have changed the policy.

"They would have got what they wanted, which is a new policy that addresses the discrimination that the courts have identified."

The Government may have to look at how it spent its existing resources in the health sector to accommodate the extra cost of the policy, he said.

"But that wouldn't be our first preference."