Politicians share policies on elderly care

But what are they doing for older people? Are they in touch with the issues affecting an ageing population, and are they listening to what is required? Mahurangi Matters approached the seven main political parties with members in Parliament and asked them, “Why should older people vote for you?” The responses varied from swift and specific to last-minute and vague, or even non-existent; here are the edited highlights, in alphabetical order …


ACT PARTY
Beth Houlbrooke, list candidate

Housing affordability — Many people are reviewing their accommodation arrangements and looking to downsize or buy into retirement villages. The current very high cost of housing means that there is little change left over to boost retirement funds. ACT wants to address the crippling shortage of housing by:

• Removing large cities from the Resource Management Act, and creating separate urban development legislation, prioritising land supply and reducing red tape for developers.

• Incentivising councils to consent more land for development and build more infrastructure, by sharing a portion of GST levied on construction.

• Getting councils out of the building standards process, replacing council building inspections and compliance with a mandatory private insurance regime for buildings.

Sustainable Super — it is a fact that we are all living longer, more active lives. The present super arrangement is simply unsustainable. The only fair way to address this is to raise the age of entitlement, incrementally, over time, to 67. ACT proposes to do this from 2020, by adding two months per annum to the age of entitlement, stopping in 2032. This is far fairer and more affordable than National’s current policy to ‘suddenly’ lift it in 2037 to 67 years of age.

Red tape and regulation — In my experience, baby boomers are aghast at changes to legislation that seem to do nothing more than create more jobs for bureaucrats, insurance companies, lawyers, and consultants. Most seem to be unproductive and interfering with ordinary citizens just trying to go about their lives, especially for volunteers, many of whom are in this age bracket. A licence for this, a consent for that, a traffic management plan, a health and safety plan – for the most minor of projects – all adds to costs and delays. It can make doing things for your community just all-too-hard. ACT is the only party that is committed to slashing red tape and regulation.
 

THE GREEN PARTY
Barry Coates MP, spokesperson for Senior Citizens

The Green Party believes that older New Zealanders should be supported to live with dignity. Our country has a world-leading superannuation system that has virtually eliminated poverty among older people, but it is being undermined by the run down of public services. The Greens will defend NZ Super and ensure that it is supported by more funding for health care, a stronger aged care system, purpose-built affordable housing and better transport choices.

Our system of aged care is failing too many of our senior citizens. The Green Party is working with the Labour Party and Grey Power on an inquiry into aged care, including nine public meetings across New Zealand. We have been listening to people’s experiences with aged care and looking for ways the system can be improved. These meetings have identified too many cases of neglect, abuse or a poor standard of care.

There is an urgent need for an Aged Care Commissioner to champion the cause of aged care, and to investigate cases of neglect or abuse. This role should support accountability for rest homes and home care providers, including an accessible rating system, with feedback from patients.

There needs to be adequate funding for health care. Government funding has not kept pace with the growing numbers of people needing care. This means the DHBs don’t have enough money to deliver aged care and 9 per cent of people are denied access to specialist care because they are on waiting lists or do not meet the criteria.

We also need affordable and purpose-built housing for those who don’t own their own home and as a transition between living at home and a rest home. It is important that these are available locally, in small towns and rural areas, not just in bigger cities.

Our older citizens deserve better. They have rights to aged care as patients, and they have rights to dignity as valued members of our society.
 

LABOUR PARTY
Marja Lubeck, Rodney candidate

The obvious first comment I would make is that no matter what age, there are some statistics we currently hold in New Zealand, that just need to change: 40,000 people homeless, 300,000 children living in poverty and the highest youth suicide in the developed world.

Many older people may be concerned that they themselves or their kids, or grandkids, will never be able to own their own home.

They may be concerned about the lack of access to healthcare and they may be one of 500,000 people in NZ that cannot afford to see a doctor, or one of those on long hospital waiting lists, one of 60,000 people per year being turned away for elective surgery (such as knee and hip replacements).

They may be concerned about their kids or grandkids being one of 90,000 young people not in education or training. They may themselves be worried about what the future holds job-wise, the increasing automation putting jobs at risk. What opportunities are there to (re)train?

They might be owning businesses that would welcome a more flexible tax system, or are hurting from unfair competition from bad employers. They may believe it is more fair that multinationals pay their fair share of tax. They may not want the superannuation age raised beyond 65.

They may want our rivers and lakes swimmable again. They might be fed up with the congestion on our roads … and if they live in Rodney, believe that Hill Street intersection and Penlink should happen sooner rather than later. There are many more really good points in our policies, whether you’re a young, young at heart or older voter.


MAORI PARTY
Erena Temara, senior executive assistant to Marama Fox

Unfortunately, we are unable to complete the inquiry … we have at least a two-week turnaround period. The current information online is available at maoriparty.org/policies


NATIONAL PARTY
Mark Mitchell MP

National is committed to ensuring older New Zealanders have the security, wellbeing and respect they deserve. Supporting older New Zealanders to live longer, healthier, and increasingly independent lives remains a priority for this Government.

Our top priorities include a healthcare system flexible enough to meet people’s changing needs. A key aspect of our commitment is growing health services, with Budget 2017 investing a record $16.8 billion in 2017/18.

The Government’s recent announcement of a $2 billion pay equity settlement, to be delivered over five years, will help to ensure we have a higher paid, more skilled and engaged workforce caring for around 110,000 of New Zealand’s most vulnerable. This dedicated and predominantly female workforce is receiving a pay rise of between 15 and 50 per cent. Another significant issue for seniors is the serious and growing problem of elder abuse. Our new Elder Abuse Response Service (EARS) puts the victims of elder abuse first. The cornerstone of EARS is a free and confidential 24/7 helpline, 0800 32 668 65. Registered nurses will advise anyone who needs information or support about elder abuse. In addition to longstanding providers like Age Concern receiving a funding increase, 18 new organisations will be involved, including 10 Age Concern branches being funded for the first time.

National believes seniors have a vital role at the heart of our communities, providing an all-important link between days gone by and New Zealand’s future. They guide, serve, and contribute in so many ways beyond what can be measured in dollars or by statistics. Other examples of investment by the Government in areas that matter to seniors include:

  • raising the married rate of superannuation by $160 or 36 per cent since 2008
  • investing $30 million in a falls prevention programme led by ACC
  • giving all seniors an extra $13 per week as part of Budget 2017’s Family Incomes Package and supporting the 15,000 older people receiving the accommodation supplement with a $29 per week increase
  • improving communication and advocacy for seniors through the SuperSeniors website SuperSeniors Champions, a group of articulate role models led by Sir Peter Snell
  •   •  expanding the SuperGold Card scheme for off-peak travel


NEW ZEALAND FIRST
Winston Peters MP, leader

New Zealand First wants all seniors to stay independent as long as they can. They have paid taxes all their lives and are entitled to services to help them stay in their own homes.

Seniors make a huge contribution to the nation, and many are working past the age of eligibility for superannuation. Their years of work experience are valuable, mentoring others and passing on skills, they put in many thousands of hours as volunteers, and they are active in caring for grandchildren, and supporting their children to get ahead in an increasingly competitive world.

Too many older New Zealanders miss out on healthcare under the heavy demand on the health system, which has worsened as immigration has poured over 73,000 net into NZ each year. None of the public services have been boosted in line with this population growth.

NZ First’s Affordable Healthcare Bill, voted down by National in 2015, would have provided those aged 65-plus a rebate off health insurance premiums. NZ First’s SuperGold Health Check Bill, also voted down by National in 2015, would have given seniors three free GP visits a year.

Superannuation and its future is a huge concern for all retirees, but NZ First will demand the universal non-means test super eligibility age stays at 65. Labour and National have both flip-flopped on this.

National has now decided to raise the age to 67. NZ Super is affordable and will remain so as long as we increase productivity. We must also restart contributions to the NZ Superannuation Fund which National has stopped – meaning $17 billion has been lost, reducing the nest egg that was supposed to cushion increased demand for super.

Another concern is that New Zealand is far too generous, we give immigrants full super at 65 after they have been here only 10 years. NZ First’s NZ Superannuation (Fair Residency) Bill will require a person to have lived in the country for 25 years.
 

Response was not received from United Future.


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