Speeches: archive 2009

Monday 23 November 2009

Address to the Breaking the Silence Hui at Wairoa Community Centre

Rau rangatira maa, tenei te mihi ki a koutou i runga i te kaupapa o te ra.
Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

Distinguished guests, greetings to you gathered here for this purpose today. Greetings once, twice, three times to you all.

It's my pleasure to be here today at such an important hui.

Age Concern Wairoa is to be commended for the on-going work they've been doing in this area. I wasn't here at the last hui in 2007, but from what I've learned about the event, it was an informative and moving day. I'm sure today will be just as successful.

When I came into Office a year ago, I decided focusing on three priorities would help me to make the biggest impact in my role as Minister for Senior Citizens.

I chose to focus on the employment of mature workers, changing attitudes about ageing and protecting the rights and interests of older people by raising awareness of elder abuse and neglect.

These priorities do not stand alone. When we value the skills and wisdom of our older workforce, we are viewing ageing as a positive part of life, bringing value to our society. And when we value our older people, we are far less likely to neglect or abuse them.

Who are these "older people" we talk about? They are our parents, our grandparents, our great grandparents, our neighbours, our family friends, and our kaumatua.

They are the people who shaped the world we've inherited.

For some of us though, we need more than reminders to value our older people.

We need to be told clearly and strongly when behaviour is Not OK. And that's what a big part of my role as Minister is – helping to protect the rights and interests of older people by raising awareness of elder abuse and neglect.

So what is abuse?

This is really important to talk about. Elder abuse and neglect can have devastating consequences for older people, and a huge amount of long-term effects on physical and mental health, finances, living arrangements and family/whanau/aiga relationships.

Talking about specific examples matters, because it's too easy for someone to deny or play down a situation. None of us ever want to think badly of those we love most – yet all the stats show the people most likely to abuse or neglect older people are their own family.

If the abuse happens to someone aged under 65, it's most likely to be from a son or daughter.

If the abuse happens to someone aged over 65, it's most likely to be a husband.

Elder Abuse Awareness Day is June 15 every year. This year a document, provided through Age Concern, gave examples of elder abuse.

It's not nice to read. But we need to read it.

We need to understand the many forms abuse and neglect can take so we can recognise those signs, and so we can do something about it. And sometimes, it takes reading about someone else's situation before we can admit that it's happened to us.

Abuse isn't just being pushed, shoved or hit. It's not always physical. It can be deceitful, manipulative, psychological, financial, emotional, verbal, difficult to pin down, and downright nasty.

Abuse is about taking advantage of someone who is vulnerable.

It's keeping an elderly parent with multiple care requirements at home because you don't want to erode their assets – your inheritance – by getting the proper level of care for them.

Abuse might be the son or daughter who turns up at home and needs cash, and guilt-trips a parent into ‘lending' them money – money that comes out of the elderly parent's pension and which means they can't pay the power bill next month.

It's neglect when a grandparent, who lived with the family and helped raise the grandchildren while the parents worked, is left alone and unsupported by her family when they move on.

It's abuse when a son or daughter goes into the house when their parent is in hospital to remove valuable items for "safe keeping" without asking their parent's permission. The parent comes home and thinks they've been robbed – and they have, but by their own family under the pretence of being looked after.

It's not just family members who commit abuse, and it doesn't just happen in the home. Elder abuse occurs in many different settings - including private homes, residential care settings and hospitals.

The Office for Senior Citizens and I have been working with District Health Boards to distribute the It's Not OK booklet. This booklet provides information about exactly what elder abuse is, how to spot it, and what to do about it.

It's really important people in professions such as social work are armed with this information, because we know older people are reluctant to speak out about abuse or neglect when it's happening.

This booklet will also be sent out to residential care providers, residents and their families, and people living in retirement villages.

We're providing information to Work and Income staff on elder abuse and neglect prevention and awareness.

Plus, we're working on ways to beef up New Zealanders' involvement in World Elder Abuse and Neglect Awareness Days in 2010 and 2011.

Working collaboratively will help us continue raising public awareness of the problem. It will help us strengthen the work of the existing elder abuse services, and help us to work with other agencies to improve supports to older people at risk of abuse.

I encourage you here in Wairoa to take a copy of this booklet – or a few copies – and use it to raise awareness within your community of what elder abuse and neglect is, how to recognise the signs, and what to do about it.

Sometimes it's easier to hand a friend or loved one a booklet to read than it is to start a direct conversation. A booklet can even just be left somewhere for them to pick up.

It's really important we get this information out to communities because situations aren't cut and dry.

There are not always bruises or broken bones to see.

This is also why it's so important to keep in touch with older people in our communities. We need to notice when things change with them. We need to support our older friends and family when we suspect they're being mistreated.

So how do we know? The signs and symptoms of abuse can vary, and are not always easy to spot. One of the most common forms of elder abuse is financial abuse.

An older person you know might be suffering this sort of indignity if you notice:

· A failure to meet financial obligations

· Unusual banking withdrawals or ATM activity on behalf of an older person

· Sudden or unexplained difficulty in paying bills

· Not allowed to spend money without agreement of caregiver

· Missing personal belongings.

We all know what symptoms of physical abuse look like – bruises, cuts, fear, depression, repeated falls.

But the symptoms of psychological abuse can be harder to spot.

It's things like sadness, anxiety, withdrawal, waiting for the caregiver to respond to questions, avoiding eye contact, changes in appetite, difficulty sleeping or needing excessive sleep or friends and family not being allowed to visit or talk to the older person.

An older person may become isolated from the community, social services, and even from other family members.

So what else can we do? I reckon we all have to make more of an effort with the older people in our lives.

We need to take the time to keep an eye on our elderly neighbours, to stop and share a few words when we meet on the street. We need to learn about the signs and symptoms of abuse I've just spoken about.

To learn to trust our gut when we feel something's not quite right and then take action.

Call Age Concern; they'll be able to put you on to the right people. Learn how to ask appropriate questions to give people an opening to ask for help, to say that things aren't OK.

And we need to keep talking about it, keep standing up to it, keep saying that's not OK. As we stand up in our communities and have these discussions at hui like this, we also need to take the time to appreciate and celebrate our older people.

We need to take the time to remember all the things they've done for us and for our country over the years.

Here in Wairoa, you are well supported by Age Concern. You are taking a stand against elder abuse and neglect, of saying it's not OK.

I commend you for all your hard work, and I urge you to continue to find ways to value and appreciate your region's older people.

Together, we can make sure New Zealand society grows strong and prospers by valuing and respecting those who have given so much, and continue to give us so much.

Thank you.


Friday 16 October 2009

Address to Presbyterian Support New Zealand Dementia Workshop

It's great to be here, and I'd like to thank Presbyterian Support New Zealand Chair Helen Trim for the welcome.

Dementia is a debilitating and cruel illness, affecting memory, thinking, behaviour and emotion, and it's one of the biggest diseases affecting our senior citizens. One of the worst side-effects -- comes not from those who have dementia, but from wider society - that is, the stigma and ignorance around dementia.

I am told that an estimated 40,000 people in NZ have dementia, with more than 12,000 new cases reported every year.

Unfortunately it's a disease that will only grow in scale. By 2050 it is estimated that nearly 150,000 New Zealanders will have dementia - that's greater than the population of Hamilton - and globally, over 100 million people.

The incidence of dementia, as you know, increases with age, with a third of those over 90 years of age having dementia. However, this illness is just not the realm of senior citizens - it affects younger people too. I've heard of people as young as 50 being diagnosed with this disease.

But the sufferers aren't only those with this disease. Families also endure the illness, losing their loved ones slowly and silently.

New Zealand faces a myriad of challenges as it strives to support those with dementia and their families in the decades to come.

Our ageing population means a large increase in the number of those in the "very old" age group - people over 85.

With this anticipated increase in the ageing population, services need to become even more skilled in providing the right care for people living with dementia.

It is clear that the expectations of people have changed. They've told us they want to greater choice, quality and a more personalised service that meets their individual and family needs.

Our carers are also having to manage the changing face of dementia.

While most people with dementia are European and female and this is likely to continue in the future, current projections suggest that as the ethnic profile of our population changes, it will be smaller ethnic populations that will see the most dramatic increases in dementia.

We know that the best way to support people with dementia is through a combination of services and interventions - from their families, organisations providing support in the community, such as Enliven Positive Ageing; and as the illness progresses, homes and hospitals.

In preparing for this meeting, I did a little research on what Presbyterian Support is doing in conjunction with others who provide services for people living with dementia.

I know that Presbyterian Support's Enliven Positive Ageing is an example of what can be done in our communities to assist those with dementia, and workshops like this one are important in sharing innovation and best practice so that we are well prepared for the future.

From a government perspective, we recognise a partnership approach represents the best outcome to addressing the needs of those living with dementia, and we are committed to meeting the needs of dementia sufferers and their families by examining the entire approach to treatment and care.

To succeed, we need to work closer together, both government and non-government organisations to ensure that older people have good choices for the services they require.

I have been told about initiatives that have been implemented at an older person's mental health service, which is working towards Centre of Excellence status, and I'd like to share these with you.

Their journey includes service and team development with educational input at a local, national and international level. This has optimised the patients' journey, increased job satisfaction and led to a more cohesive and energised workforce.

Your National Executive Officer, Katherine Noble, has told me that Presbyterian Support Upper South Island and the Canterbury District Health Board are engaged in a pilot called SupportLink involving the reconfiguration of Older Persons Social Work, Community Support Worker and Day Activity programmes services.

Katherine told me SupportLink is a wrap-around model of care with a holistic approach involving the integration and support of the person with dementia and their carers, assisting them to live safely in their own community environment.

The model is catering for both urban and rural clients with moderate to complex cognitive impairment.

Staff are challenged by their changing roles, often facilitating change in both traditional thinking, and to find creative solutions to client centred community care.

If success is measured in outcomes of reduced carer stress, safe quality time at home, increased socialisation with reduced isolation in preference to relocation to a residential facility then SupportLink is the winner on the day.

Presbyterian Support Northern last year took an opportunity to establish a pilot service that would identify lonely older people who were at risk of being isolated with the aim of assisting them to socially reconnect with their communities.

One year later, the pilot has evolved differently to initial expectations, instead highlighting a much needed service for people with Alzheimer's Disease and other forms of dementia, and their carers.

Presbyterian Support Northern's Enliven service and Alzheimer's New Zealand field workers are working together to identify ways to meet a need for social work and close interaction with those with Dementia and their carers.

The success of these initiatives is a tribute to the hard work and innovation of all those involved.

I know there are many other stories like these in this room and I'm looking forward to hearing about some of the outcomes from your discussions.

Workshops like this one help us to share solutions and learnings so we can get the best possible outcome for everyone affected.

Thank you all for being here and for your ongoing commitment to the wellbeing of older New Zealanders.


Friday 28 August 2009

Speech to New Plymouth Positive Ageing Trust

It's great to be here, and I'd like to thank Mayor Peter Tennent and Jonathan Young MP for their warm welcome and introduction.

We have a lot to thank New Plymouth for. This district has been leading the way for positive ageing in New Zealand for over a decade now.

New Plymouth has also given us John Cunningham.

It was John Cunningham who publicly asked the Hon David Carter, then Minister for Senior Citizens, to find funding at the end of the International Year of Older People to allow work on positive ageing to continue.

That question led to the formation of the Volunteer Community Coordinators, who do an incredible job working with the Office for Senior Citizens.

Their work helps identify what's going on for older people at a community level, and what action is needed.

John is still the VCC for this area, and he was instrumental in bringing the first local council – yes that's your local council – into the Government's Positive Ageing Strategy Action Plan back in 2003.

Since then, 35 other councils have got involved and are now contributing to the latest Action Plan.

You can be proud to have a strong leader like John in your community, proud to have a forward thinking council, and proud of the work you've all done.

As our demographics change, older people's interests will increasingly be the interests of the country.

Today one in eight New Zealanders is aged 65 or older. By the middle of this century that number is projected to increase to one in four.

This Government sees New Zealand's changing demographics not just in terms of challenges, but also in terms of opportunities.

Within my own portfolios, as both the Minister for Senior Citizens and Associate Minister of Local Government, I see huge opportunities for local government, with support from central government, to take the lead on older people's issues.

You're already demonstrating the power of this type of local action here in New Plymouth.

After getting on board with the first Positive Ageing Action plan, you formed the New Plymouth Positive Ageing Trust to ensure that older people in this district are actively involved in promoting positive ageing and planning the best way forward for the people of New Plymouth in the future.

This is the kind of community-led action the Government wants to support, encourage and even learn from.

When I came into office, one of the many documents that crossed my desk in the first few weeks was a briefing from the Office for Senior Citizens.

It identified what the opportunities and the challenges of my portfolio would be, and outlined the ten goals of the Positive Ageing Strategy.

Based on that, I decided I was going to champion three positive ageing priorities over the next few years.

These were the ones I thought would have the most impact on older people in their day-to-day lives, and the ones I thought we could get the most traction on at this time.

The first was employment of older people – encouraging flexible work options and negotiated retirement plans. Today's older people are different from their grandparents, and even their parents.

We're living longer, and in better health, and doing more.

It is a reality that already greater numbers of older people are opting to stay in the workforce longer, and the benefits, if they choose to do so, are not just economic.

Older people who keep working have more opportunities for social connectedness and often experience greater wellbeing.

It is to New Zealand's detriment if we don't appreciate the wealth and depth of wisdom, experience and know-how that older workers bring to the workplace.

Older people are important members of our society. Their skills, knowledge and experience provide an invaluable resource.

Our ability to tap into the resources older people provide, by enhancing their opportunities to participate in society in the ways that they choose, will be critical for ensuring social and economic development.

So, I want to make sure that in New Zealand, we have the right policies in place to support older people to stay in work if they wish to.

Many older people are caring for someone – their partner, an elderly parent, sometimes even a grandchild. Flexible work arrangements make it possible for them to continue to contribute at work while still meeting their other obligations.

It's worth noting that even though unemployment has been rising, the unemployment rate for older people remains lower than the national average.

I am really impressed with all the work you do in collaboration with the business community, on raising awareness of the effects of an ageing population on the workforce, and promoting the advantages of employing mature job seekers.

This is a prime example of tackling this issue head-on.

It's the type of response I want to acknowledge, encourage, support, and champion.

The second priority I am championing is changing attitudes about ageing.

It's about promoting the contributions older people make to their communities, while encouraging older people to continue to stay involved.

Our contribution and value to society don't end when we stop work – there are many ways we can stay involved and continue to give.

These can include working with groups like the New Plymouth Ageing Trust, other groups like Rotary or Lions, and helping out at local schools.

Being involved, being seen, and having something to give helps change the younger generation's attitude towards what it means to age.

The last priority I'm championing over the next few years is raising awareness about elder abuse and neglect prevention.

This is part of the highly successful It's Not Ok campaign, and targets older people, their families, caregivers, and friends.

It's sad, but true, that most elder abuse is committed by family members.

On Elder Awareness Day this year, back in June, I launched Take the Time: Value Older People. This is a booklet raising awareness about elder abuse and neglect.

It was produced by the Taskforce for Action on Family Violence in conjunction with Age Concern NZ as part of the Its Not OK campaign.

The Government is showing its support by dedicating $1.5 million dollars each year towards funding elder abuse and neglect prevention services, and national co-ordination. In New Plymouth, that funding goes to Te Hauora Pou Heretaunga

These three priorities, when actively promoted, addressed and championed, can have a very real affect on the day-to-day lives of older people.

They will be my personal priorities over the next few years.

But this is not all the Government is doing to support older people – we're aware of the challenges, what needs doing, and also the opportunities.

We've been in Government for nearly a year, and a challenging year at that. But in that time, we've introduced a raft of initiatives designed to make older people's lives better.

We've had to work within tight fiscal restraints, as now is not the time for unaffordable spending promises. It is a time for practical programmes to drive economic growth.

It's about investing wisely for the long-term good of the country. The best thing we can do for older people now and in the future is make this recession as short and as painless as possible.

So what have we done?

We've taken a responsible attitude towards managing New Zealand's economic wealth. We've made the tough, but necessary calls to cut some spending in order to preserve our international credit rating and to keep debt at manageable levels.

We all know borrowing to invest doesn't make smart financial sense, so we've suspended the automatic contributions to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund until we're back in budget surpluses.

We will, however, make a partial contribution in this tax year of $250 million dollars.

None of these financially-wise moves will have any impact on current entitlements.

In fact, we've committed almost $20 million dollars over the next four years to maintaining NZ Superannuation and Veteran's Pension after-tax married rates at a minimum of 66 percent of the average wage, rather than letting them drop back to 65 percent.

In anticipation of an increasingly ageing population, we've kept KiwiSaver, but re-worked it to make it more affordable for all New Zealanders.

As at 30 June 2009, over 1 million New Zealanders were actively saving for their retirement through KiwiSaver.

Encouraging people to take responsibility for their own financial independence while being good stewards of New Zealand's Superannuation Fund means in the future, with on-going support from the Government, older people will be able to maintain their standard of living as they move into retirement.

Health is always a major concern of older people, and this Government has already taken steps to put more money into health where it counts.

We've invested an additional $3 billion dollars in health priorities over the next four years – including $750 million dollars in 2009/2010.

This Government is committed to ensuring this investment is focused on the frontline where services are delivered.

Budget 2009 highlights that affect older people include:

  • $4 million dollars over four years to provide more training for health professionals in rural areas
  • $70 million dollars for up to 800 additional health professionals over four years to increase services for New Zealanders requiring elective surgery
  • $89.5 million dollars over four years to improving quality and supervision in aged residential care facilities and respite care for those being care for by others at home
  • $60 million dollars over four years for hospice and palliative care.
    As a result of that extra funding, hospices average funding level is now 70 per cent met by the taxpayer.

That's more money going into community palliative care, inpatient care, a volunteer support network, day care facilities, bereavement counselling and social work and chaplaincy.

All of these actions will have an impact on the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders and this has long term effects for everyone.

One of the key indicators of an older person's standard of living is whether or not they own their own home, and if that home is warm.

In New Plymouth, you beat the national average on home ownership - 59 per cent of households own the dwelling, compared to 54.5 per cent of households for New Zealand as a whole.

We've also fast-tracked over $120 million dollars of investment into state houses. This is part of the Government's Jobs and Growth plan. We'll up-grade older state houses and build new ones.

Increasing the affordable housing stock will help younger people get into homes earlier, pay them off faster, and have more chance of owning their own home as they retire.

Warm-up New Zealand will receive $323 million dollars over four years for a campaign to fit homes with insulation and clean heating devices such as heat pumps and approved wood burners.

Warmer homes are healthier homes and once again this will have an impact on people's health as they age.

As a government we are trying to address some of the challenges that New Zealand faces with an ageing population.

How do we maintain accessible and appropriate healthcare for all when more and more people are likely to need it?

How do we plan for retirement with an ageing population and decreasing workforce to support it?

How do we keep older people engaged in the community and recognise their on-going contributions?

How do we address elder abuse and neglect when older people can be reluctant to speak out?

None of these challenges have easy answers, but by working together and focusing on the opportunities we do have, I believe we can find long-term solutions that work for the whole country.

We would do well to remember those opportunities whenever we can, so we can ask ourselves, are we taking advantage of what we can do?

Are we working well with local councils to promote positive ageing initiatives?

Are we supporting employers to hire older workers who want to continue working?

Are we supporting those people who wish to stay in the workforce longer?

Are we promoting a range of suitable housing options for older people?

Every October 1, New Zealand, along with many other countries around the world, celebrates the United Nations International Day of Older Persons.

The International Day provides a focus for us to concentrate on the huge contribution older people make to society in every walk of life; as grandparents, friends and as mentors to the younger generation.

You have been celebrating the International Day, here in New Plymouth, for a decade and you are leaders in this field.

I would like to think every community was doing the kind of things that you are doing here, so older people know how much they are valued.

I believe in New Plymouth you are making the most of those opportunities, and you are making a real difference in the lives of older people.

I applaud you for your work, for the leadership of people like John Cunningham, who, like all good leaders, isn't working alone.

And I applaud you for the out-standing work your council has done.

I encourage you to continue to come up with ideas, create action plans, and put initiatives into action.

I want to hear about what you're doing, and how it's working, so we at central government can learn from you.

And we'll continue to listen to your concerns and put in place the types of policies and programmes needed to support the great work that's being done.


Friday 26 June 2009

Speech to Grey Power Blenheim

In my role as Minister for Senior Citizens, I have met with several Grey Power groups up and down the country.

Each group has a different regional flavour, with different concerns.

This gives me a good sense of what's going on in New Zealand at the community-level.

It's also an opportunity for me to meet the local volunteer community co-ordinator for the Office of Senior Citizens – many of whom are involved with Grey Power.

As you are all well aware, Marlborough's Volunteer Community Co-ordinator Dennis Paget is a member of Grey Power and I really appreciate all the hard work he's put into his role.

His membership with Grey Power gives him insight to the issues that matter for older people.

Between being VCC, Vice President and Treasurer of Marlborough Grey Power, he's certainly a busy man.

I haven't even mentioned the work he did on the Board of Grey Power NZ Federation, or the NZ Order of Merit he received for his work with older people.

Dennis is a man who hasn't let age slow him down in the slightest.

This doesn't surprise me. New Zealand's population may be ageing, but it doesn't mean that they aren't playing their part in society.

Today's older people are different from older people of our parents' and grandparents' generations.

Turning 50 used to mean you were old, now many people in their 60s feel like they're just starting to get into their stride.

This is a wonderful thing for New Zealand, and it's something we would do well to tap into – just like we're tapping into Dennis's enthusiasm and expertise as a VCC.

He's just one of 49 VCCs around the country working on behalf of the Office of Senior Citizens, and by extension, on my behalf.

This link between VCCs and me is something a little special – it means I have access to in-depth community knowledge and wisdom. It also means local older people have a way to access their Minister.

For example, Dennis has been part of recent research on services for older people for the Ministry of Social Development.

I'm looking forward to meeting up with him and other VCCs again when some preliminary results are presented in early July.

The VCCs represent an excellent example of older people participating in the community.

It's this participation that I want to encourage.

Older people have seen many things come and go, and built up a wealth of knowledge and experience.

It is to New Zealand's detriment if we just ignore all of this, or let it go to waste.

One area I'm particularly interested in is encouraging older people to mentor younger people – showing them the ropes of living you might say.

It's tough to bring up a family, especially when both parents have to work.

Many of the skills that we take for granted - like being able to make a meal from scratch, making jam or preserves, growing vegetables, balancing a budget or even sewing and darning – have been lost to our younger generations.

These skills can make a world of difference for younger people struggling to get by.

The Ministry of Social Development has set up a programme called SAGES to connect older and younger people.

SAGES is based on the successful SuperGran model.

SuperGran had its initial success in Lower Hutt, passing on practical and useful advice from one generation to the next, and now has nine branches nationally.

The SAGES programme operates in 17 areas throughout New Zealand to recruit and train SAGES – or mentors – and match them with families.

And it's not just the families that benefit from SAGES. Mentors benefit too.

For example, one SAGE, Martha, was matched with a single mother of four.

Martha focused on building up the mother's self-esteem by concentrating on her strengths, and pointing out her successes and achievements.

Martha says she saw a positive change in her client and has also learnt not to take my own life for granted. She said that being a mentor had given her a real boost.

I have spoken about these programmes before when I have met with other groups.

And I will continue to raise awareness about their value as I meet other groups around the country.

They are wonderful examples of the way that older people can help younger people.

So if you have some spare time, and you'd like to share some of your wealth of experience and knowledge with a local family, I'd encourage you to contact your local SAGES group and get involved.

This morning when I was speaking to the Marlborough Older Persons Forum, we talked about the need for older people to know their rights and entitlements.

I must take this opportunity to congratulate all of you on the major role Grey Power played in developing the Marlborough Positive Ageing Accord.

It is through this document that positive ageing initiatives are having a very real impact in the Marlborough community and information is getting out to people.

It's important that we – both government and non-government organisations – do what we can to get information on entitlements and rights out to older people.

Older people are entitled to respect and this also includes having adequate legal protection.

Extra protection for people setting up enduring powers of attorney has been addressed through the 2007 amendments to the Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act 1988.

This helps to ensure they will be well looked after when they can no longer look after themselves,

I am seeking a further amendment to this Act that will make it easier for couples seeking to appoint each other as their attorney.

It has been raised with me that the cost of setting this up can be an expensive exercise.

I understand the costs range from $300 up to $1000 per person depending on where you go.

The amendment I am proposing will mean that while couples will still need to be advised independently, they will be able to use the same law firm for that advice and the witnessing of their enduring powers of attorney. This will help lower the cost.

Small changes like this that can make the world of difference in an older person's life.

I would like to switch tack now and talk about the recent Budget.

Budget 2009 had some important announcements for older people.

I want to make sure that everyone knows what they are, so they can take full advantage.

The first thing I want to mention is budget funding is secure to ensure that the after-tax married rates of Superannuation and Veteran's Pension are maintained at a minimum of 66 per cent of the average after-tax wage.

Your organisation and Age Concern New Zealand have asked me to emphasise that the 66 per cent relates to the rate of Superannuation and Veteran's Pension for a married couple

And I will certainly do this when I refer to New Zealand Super.

More than half a million New Zealanders will benefit from this decision.

This commitment is ongoing and it will lift superannuation payments in years to come.

This decision reflects the Government's commitment to maintaining New Zealand Superannuation levels.

The second decision in Budget 2009 that has the potential to improve older people's lives is the $323 million we've committed to fitting homes with insulation.

A large number of New Zealand homes are cold and damp because they are inadequately insulated.

This scheme is designed to reduce health risks from living in cold, damp homes and to provide energy efficiency gains.

Older people tend to have fixed incomes, and the increased cost of heating homes in winter can be difficult to manage within a fixed budget.

Nobody likes the idea of older people fore-going warmth to save money – especially when it can end up costing their health.

This budget announcement has the potential to make a real difference for many older people by making their homes warmer and cheaper to heat in winter.

As part of this major investment in household energy, more than 180,000 New Zealand homes will have access to grants for insulation and clean heating over the next four years.

Grants can be used not just for installing insulation, but also for buying and installing heat pumps or approved wood burners.

I encourage Grey Power to check into this information, and get it out to your members. Let them know what they're entitled to, and encourage them to apply for it.

This is important.

Despite the fact that older people have paid their taxes and made their contribution to society over many years, they can be reluctant to apply to Government for things that they're eligible for.

This isn't just about insulation – it could also be help with housing costs, like an accommodation supplement, rates rebate, special needs grants and temporary additional support.

These are entitlements available to older people and they're designed to make their lives better.

I want to make sure that everyone who's eligible gets what they're entitled to.

Budget 2009 also included a $50 million boost for hospice care, and an additional $3 billion investment in health priorities over the next four years.

Again, this is funding with the potential to improve the quality of older people's lives.

Some of that funding is going towards improving quality and supervision in aged residential care facilities, and improving the quality and supervision of respite care for those being cared for by others at home.

The hospice funding fulfils the Government's election commitment to meet a funding shortfall for hospices hit by falling levels of fund raising, increasing demand and rising costs.

It was a difficult budget to put together for New Zealand, given the necessity to tighten our belts and retain the country's international credit rating.

But it still had these positive initiatives for older people.

And there's no doubt New Zealand is getting older.

As I mentioned in my address to the Older People's Forum this morning, in Marlborough alone, the number of people aged over 65 has increased by 47% between 1991 and 2006.

This Government values our older population.

As a Government, we'll continue to show our support for older people by maintaining Superannuation levels, encouraging older people to apply for their entitlements, and boosting health funding in areas of need, like hospice care.

As a community group, you can help support us by making sure your members are aware of their entitlements and by encouraging them to apply.

Thank you for all your hard work, and your continuing commitment to New Zealand.


Thursday 11 June 2009

Address to Auckland CDEM Group Forum at Mt. Smart Stadium

Introduction

The challenge of building resilient communities is one that you are all facing. This is an excellent opportunity, not only to hear from the speakers, but to learn from each other throughout the day.

Today we will talk about the best way to develop resilient communities. But before we get onto the main topics of my address, I would like to thank all involved in civil defence emergency management.

I appreciate the difficult roles you have and the demanding responsibilities.

I am grateful for your willingness to serve your community, and I know that the community appreciates what civil defence can do for them.

Many of you have been through real emergency situations, like last year's National Storm Event, as well as some of the smaller events that occur on a regular basis.

These highlight the important role you play and the positive effect you and your organisations have on your communities in difficult and challenging times.

Civil Defence and Local Government

You will be aware that I am also the Associate Minister of Local Government.

I have had a background and interest in local government and communities for many years. Being involved in the community has always been really satisfying.

There are many synergies between my two portfolios of Civil Defence and Local Government.

This comes from the way in which we expect civil defence to be delivered, with primary responsibility being held at the local level.

Civil defence aims to provide for communities and their wellbeing. It is delivered through the local government mechanisms. I am very keen to make sure that these connections are well understood.

The new Auckland

The synergies between the two portfolios are even more apparent at the moment, with the changes underway in Auckland governance.

As Associate Minister of Local Government, I have been deeply involved in this issue since the Royal Commission presented us with its report.

As the Minister for Civil Defence, I am committed to making sure that civil defence emergency management in Auckland benefits from any changes made.

Civil defence emergency management is critical for a city the size of Auckland.

Expectations of the public in the face of an emergency will be uncompromising, and the planning and readiness must be up to the challenge. For this reason, I have spoken to the Minister of Local Government and to the Auckland Transition Authority about the need to keep a structure in place throughout the transition period, and will continue to emphasise the importance of this through the months to come.

The size and diverse nature of Auckland society are part of the city's uniqueness.

The diversity and complexity of agencies and infrastructure contributing towards its safety and well-being presents challenges for those who must plan to address emergencies.

Co-operation and collaboration are essential for managing the complex civil defence emergency management environment.

This is probably highlighted in Auckland more than any other New Zealand region.

The final structure of the civil defence emergency management functions within the Auckland Council will be determined by the Auckland Transition Agency.

Nothing is pre-determined, but there are a few general comments that can be made.

Arrangements in the new Auckland Council have to be, and will be, in accordance with the requirements for civil defence emergency management Groups under the CDEM Act 2002.

A single unitary council can provide the environment for the objectives of the Act to be realised more effectively for the delivery of civil defence. The structure of civil defence emergency management functions within the Auckland Council could be based around the concept of centralised planning and co-ordination and de-centralised implementation through geographic zones.

The cleaner, uncluttered unitary authority can allow the bottom-up approach that best serves civil defence objectives and the empowerment of communities and individuals to take responsibility for themselves. But again, the final structure will be developed by the Auckland Transition Agency.

The changes to Auckland's governance provide an opportunity to give civil defence emergency management the focus it needs in New Zealand's biggest city.

The new arrangements for Auckland civil defence emergency management will set a benchmark against which other Groups are going to judge the effectiveness of their arrangements.

We must get it right!

I want to assure those of you involved in civil defence emergency management that I appreciate the contributions that you have put into the wider Auckland region over the years.

The changes underway are not being made because there was anything wrong with your focus or your effort.

New governance arrangements for the city mean that management of CDEM will have to evolve. A new structure will give new benefits.

Think of it as an opportunity to leverage Auckland's strength and the skilled and experienced civil defence emergency management professionals.

It is an opportunity to provide those of you who work in the region with the best structure to plan and deliver civil defence emergency management across the region.

I am confident that when the revised arrangements are developed and implemented, they will not only work well for communities across all four Rs, but will also strengthen co-ordination and accountability and improve effectiveness.

Engaging with others

As you all know, civil defence emergencies can hit communities at any time.

Our approach to civil defence emergency management is to work together to generate greater degrees of resilience in communities, so that they are better able to cope with whatever is thrown at them.

As we all know, the vision of the National CDEM Strategy is for a resilient New Zealand – communities understanding and managing their hazards. That it is your vision for Auckland as well, to have a resilient Auckland region.

One thing I think we could do more is engaging with the service clubs, church groups and other community organisations.

Over the last few decades, I have been personally involved in several community organisations, including my community health committee, Lions Clubs, school committee, and my local rugby club.

These groups and others like them in the community could play a key role in getting their members engaged with civil defence emergency management, and raise their own personal preparedness.

Some of them could be valuable in providing local community leadership, some discipline and organisation, and for helping people to get their lives back on an even keel after a disaster.

I encourage you all to engage with these community groups, particularly if you are a member, and get them involved in civil defence.

Coordination and logistics

Another focus for me as Minister of Civil Defence is ensuring that we have coordination mechanisms in place to cope with the huge logistics tasks that are likely to crop up in response to and in recovery from an event.

I am heartened to hear that the Auckland CDEM Group has good practices and procedures in place for managing local logistics, which have stood up well in recent events.

The supporting agencies and the lifelines group deserve a lot of credit for their planning work for essential services.

Auckland has a lot of interdependencies with its neighbours in Northland. As a Northlander, I am impressed by the way the lifeline agencies work with each other and with Auckland councils in developing their local plans and arrangements.

But I also know that the two national-level civil defence exercises held over the last two years, Exercise Capital Quake in Wellington and Exercise Ruaumoko in Auckland, highlighted the need for far better coordination of the demand and supply of support across agencies.

This is one of my key priorities. The team is working on it but there is much more to be done.

The Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management has a number of projects underway, including the planning for the Wellington earthquake scenario and how to tackle the challenge of coordinating logistics in Auckland in a disaster.

Exercises are an invaluable way to test yourselves and increase your preparedness for the real thing, and I encourage all of you here, particularly those who have a role to play in the logistics area, to learn from the experience.

Closing Remarks

Most of you in this room have a formal involvement in civil defence - I trust your local arrangements and I trust your abilities.

However, all New Zealanders have a responsibility to be prepared. We need to continue working to involve more individuals, families and community organisations in civil defence.

I am impressed by the steps that have already been taken here in Auckland, and around the country, to engage with the community.

I encourage you to keep up the good work and never stop looking for new ways to involve our people in civil defence.

Thank you for your efforts and your commitment.


Thursday 11 June 2009

Opening of AUT University North Shore Campus AF Lecture Theatre building

Hon John Carter invited to stand in for Rt Hon John Key

Acknowledgements

  • Vice Chancellor Derek McCormack
  • Professor Max Abbot, Dean, Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences and Pro Vice Chancellor North Shore
  • Dr Arnold Wilson, Awataha Marae
  • Deputy Mayor North Shore City Council Julia Parfitt
John at AUT North ShoreJohn at AUT North Shore
John Carter with Sir Paul Reeves, Prof. Max Abbott and Derek McCormack

I am pleased to represent the new Government on this occasion and delighted that the Prime Minister asked me to speak today.

It is a pleasure to be here to formally open this great facility

The three lecture theatres can accommodate 500 students in total.

This magnificent foyer area we are in and the courtyard (Awataha Plaza), are a tribute to AUT University's commitment to creating world class facilities at all your campuses.

I understand this is part of a continuing capital works programme on this campus.

If this is a guide to the quality of future facilities then the needs of all who work and study here will be well looked after.

And I know AUT certainly needs it with domestic student numbers up on last year.

I understand you have had to accommodate 1000 more students this year across both campuses.

Larger lecture theatres of the kind we see here will be even more critical to help AUT cope with future growth.

I understand the smart technology you are using here allows for both of the large lecture theatres to be linked by video.

This means classes can be even bigger when required and link into your satellite campuses around the country.

This is part of the new online/remote teaching we are seeing in this digital age.

What is also smart is the versatility that has been built into this structure, thanks to the ingenuity of your designers, engineers and builders, RTA Studio, BECA, NDY and Fletcher Construction.

This gives AUT the ability to attract exhibitions and conferences which are valuable both in terms of your profile and broadening your revenue base.

It also provides a purpose-built venue for the North Shore community to access.

AUT is a university that practices what it preaches.

At a time when you are educating your students about the environmental challenges we face, it is important to walk the talk.

This facility incorporates the latest in eco-friendly design including rain water harvesting for toilets, a mixture of mechanical and natural ventilation, and the use of recycled material.

We all have to be conscious about our environmental footprint and the leadership of educational institutions like yours is important.

I am sure all here today - educators, students and businesses – appreciate the importance of your ongoing capital works programme.

The National-led Government commends your foresight and perseverance in taking these complex projects from the planning board to the reality we see here today.

Without a doubt, if we are to support the highest quality university education and research that this country needs, then we must have facilities of this standard – world class and best practice.

In these tough economic times we also need our institutions to be responsible for effective capital asset management. This project is a good example.

I also appreciate the opportunity to be here on behalf of the people of Northland whom I represent. We are your people.

For some time AUT has been committed to increasing its engagement in Northland on a number of fronts. There are a number of recent initiatives.

I note that AUT has established a project called He Ra Whakamarama - Hosting Maori on campus.

This project focuses on secondary schools through a number of programmes run by AUT's recruitment team and Maori liaison team.

This includes many of the schools in the Northland region and include scholarships offered to Màori who attend secondary or area schools in the Northland District to help them take up opportunities to study at AUT.

I am particularly excited by another AUT project which focuses on health services in the region.

AUT's Oral Health team has on a number of occasions provided free oral health care to local communities and sets up placement opportunities for oral health students.

The concept has grown to include other professions such as nursing, occupational therapists and physiotherapists.

It's certainly a win-win for AUT students who need on-the-ground training and our communities which need access to health services.

You will be well aware that health is a big issue in my electorate because our people feature poorly in many national health statistics.

One big issue for us is the shortage of health professionals. Tackling this would go a long way to improving the situation.

This Government is also working on this by introducing voluntary bonding schemes for graduates working in the health profession.

This will help to reduce the debt of graduates working in areas of skill shortages and keep them in New Zealand.

Finally, to everyone at AUT.

We are a new Government in a changing world.

You may be nearly a decade old, you are new in your vision as a university in a changing world.

We face the challenges together as a people and as a nation.

Thank you for the opportunity to play a part in opening this new facility.


16 February 2009

Address to Presbyterian Support New Zealand Dementia Workshop

It's great to be here, and I'd like to thank Presbyterian Support New Zealand Chair Helen Trim for the welcome.

Dementia is a debilitating and cruel illness, affecting memory, thinking, behaviour and emotion, and it's one of the biggest diseases affecting our senior citizens. One of the worst side-effects comes not from those who have dementia, but from wider society – that is, the stigma and ignorance around dementia.

I am told that an estimated 40,000 people in NZ have dementia, with more than 12,000 new cases reported every year.

Unfortunately it's a disease that will only grow in scale. By 2050 it is estimated that nearly 150,000 New Zealanders will have dementia – that's greater than the population of Hamilton – and globally, over 100 million people.

The incidence of dementia, as you know, increases with age, with a third of those over 90 years of age having dementia. However, this illness is just not the realm of senior citizens – it affects younger people too. I've heard of people as young as 50 being diagnosed with this disease.

But the sufferers aren't only those with this disease. Families also endure the illness, losing their loved ones slowly and silently.

New Zealand faces a myriad of challenges as it strives to support those with dementia and their families in the decades to come.

Our ageing population means a large increase in the number of those in the "very old" age group - people over 85.

With this anticipated increase in the ageing population, services need to become even more skilled in providing the right care for people living with dementia.

It is clear that the expectations of people have changed. They've told us they want to greater choice, quality and a more personalised service that meets their individual and family needs.

Our carers are also having to manage the changing face of dementia.

While most people with dementia are European and female and this is likely to continue in the future, current projections suggest that as the ethnic profile of our population changes, it will be smaller ethnic populations that will see the most dramatic increases in dementia.

We know that the best way to support people with dementia is through a combination of services and interventions – from their families, organisations providing support in the community, such as Enliven Positive Ageing; and as the illness progresses, homes and hospitals.

In preparing for this meeting, I did a little research on what Presbyterian Support is doing in conjunction with others who provide services for people living with dementia.

I know that Presbyterian Support's Enliven Positive Ageing is an example of what can be done in our communities to assist those with dementia, and workshops like this one are important in sharing innovation and best practice so that we are well prepared for the future.

From a government perspective, we recognise a partnership approach represents the best outcome to addressing the needs of those living with dementia, and we are committed to meeting the needs of dementia sufferers and their families by examining the entire approach to treatment and care.

To succeed, we need to work closer together, both government and non-government organisations to ensure that older people have good choices for the services they require.

I have been told about initiatives that have been implemented at an older person's mental health service, which is working towards Centre of Excellence status, and I'd like to share these with you.

Their journey includes service and team development with educational input at a local, national and international level. This has optimised the patients' journey, increased job satisfaction and led to a more cohesive and energised workforce.

Your National Executive Officer, Katherine Noble, has told me that Presbyterian Support Upper South Island and the Canterbury District Health Board are engaged in a pilot called SupportLink involving the reconfiguration of Older Persons Social Work, Community Support Worker and Day Activity programmes services.

Katherine told me SupportLink is a wrap-around model of care with a holistic approach involving the integration and support of the person with dementia and their carers, assisting them to live safely in their own community environment.

The model is catering for both urban and rural clients with moderate to complex cognitive impairment.

Staff are challenged by their changing roles, often facilitating change in both traditional thinking, and to find creative solutions to client centred community care.

If success is measured in outcomes of reduced carer stress, safe quality time at home, increased socialisation with reduced isolation in preference to relocation to a residential facility then SupportLink is the winner on the day.

Presbyterian Support Northern last year took an opportunity to establish a pilot service that would identify lonely older people who were at risk of being isolated with the aim of assisting them to socially reconnect with their communities.

One year later, the pilot has evolved differently to initial expectations, instead highlighting a much needed service for people with Alzheimer's Disease and other forms of dementia, and their carers.

Presbyterian Support Northern's Enliven service and Alzheimer's New Zealand field workers are working together to identify ways to meet a need for social work and close interaction with those with Dementia and their carers.

The success of these initiatives is a tribute to the hard work and innovation of all those involved.

I know there are many other stories like these in this room and I'm looking forward to hearing about some of the outcomes from your discussions.

Workshops like this one help us to share solutions and learnings so we can get the best possible outcome for everyone affected.

Thank you all for being here and for your ongoing commitment to the wellbeing of older New Zealanders.


20 April 2009

Speech to Grey Power Federation AGM : Nurtured, utilised and appreciated

Senior Citizens Minister John Carter's address to the Grey Power Federation AGM at Marton, April 20.

It is my pleasure to be here with you in Marton today. Thank you for inviting me to speak, and special thanks to Violet McCowatt for her warm welcome.

This is my fourth opportunity to interact with Grey Power in the last month. I always enjoy meeting with you and hearing what you are doing as an organisation, and I like to hear what concerns you have. You do a great service looking after the interests of many older people, and you can be proud of the role you play in New Zealand society. With the backing of more than 90,000 members around the country, there is no doubt that you provide a strong and vibrant voice for older New Zealanders.

And I say 'older' because while you only have to be aged 50 to be a member of Grey Power, we all know that 50 is not old. Not anymore. 50 is the new 40, or maybe even the new 35. Many of us feel like we're just getting into our stride when we reach 50, and some of us do our best work in our 60s.

I'm 58 and still playing rugby and taking part in half marathons. Although I should also tell you that my mother, who's 84, recently beat me in a walking race.

In the next two decades, more and more Kiwis will hit 60 and our older population – currently one in ten over 60 – will likely double by the year 2028. You represent a growing proportion of New Zealanders, so Grey Power's opportunity to positively influence this country, will only continue to grow.

I recently read an article in the Marlborough Express that brought home the value of older people to me. It said that New Zealanders might not have realised it yet, but the baby boom generation's skills will be needed until they can no longer be given. The generations that follow the baby boomers have too few people to provide all the skills and services or the tax base that will be needed.

So on one hand, you can see that the shift that is happening in demographics presents a challenge to our country. Older people have different needs and we must carefully consider the policies and services that are required to address these needs. Responsibility for this falls to government at all levels – central, regional and local.

On the other hand we do ourselves a great disservice, both as people and as a country, if we only consider the ageing of New Zealand's population in terms of the challenge. We do ourselves a disservice if we forget that it is also an asset, and something to be utilised, nurtured and appreciated.

You know this. You know that just because you reach a certain age it doesn't mean that the skills, knowledge and the experience that you have built up over the years are no longer valuable. It is to our detriment and our country's detriment, if we fail to understand the value of these years of knowledge and experience, or to appreciate and tap into this resource.

So how do we do this?

How do we shape a society that respects, values and appreciates its older people?

Government has a role to play – at all levels. We need to promote positive ageing goals like good attitudes to ageing, flexible work options and opportunities to keep people engaged in their community.

But for this to happen it's not just about Government taking action, it's also about older people taking responsibility for making it happen. It's up to older people to lead by example. They can promote flexible work options within their own business enterprises, pursue new technologies, show that they view their own ageing in a positive way and keep on being involved in their communities.

I realise I'm preaching to the converted here in many ways – just by being a member of Grey Power, you are involved in your community. You already lead the way by looking after the interests of the people you represent. But can you do more, or can you do things differently? Can you encourage more older people to get involved? What other steps can you take to make sure that older people are truly valued and appreciated?

So how do we as a society learn to look at older people and see not "'old” but "'wisdom”?

One programme that we currently have running through the Ministry of Social Development is working on this. Called Sages, this programme is about connecting older people with good practical talents to younger people who need to develop skills in managing a home, cooking plain healthy food, budgeting and being a good parent. The Ministry contracts 17 non-government organisations to deliver this programme so that older volunteers can be recruited and trained as mentors and then matched with families who need this support.

Some of these families may have little or no contact with older people. When an older volunteer comes into their home and teaches them living skills, they are not just learning how to cook, or budget but they are getting to see the wisdom and experience of their elders in action.

The success of these programmes relies not just on Government funding but on the volunteers who share their time and their wealth of a life times' experience. It relies on you, the older people, stepping up and leading the way and being a role model for younger families.

Similar programmes are also running in schools around the country where older people, unsung heroes, are just getting on with the job of helping children with their reading, coaching sports and going with them on school trips. Today many children don't have grandparents close by and they don't have the opportunity to have positive relationships with older people. Access to older volunteers in the school environment teaches them so much about life, history, and the ways of other cultures. This helps them to appreciate and respect their elders.

I'm proud to say that my mother is a ‘Gran in school'. I'm sure that the children she spends time with are learning from her, but I can equally say that she gets a lot back from the children. She gets a real thrill from working with the children and it enriches her life.

I know that not all older people are in a position to be an active volunteer – many are still working full-time, or are caring for a partner or family member. But if you can encourage other older people, both inside and outside of your organisation, to take the lead and to contribute some of their time to help others, you will be greatly contributing to change some of the negative attitudes to ageing.

Kiwis have always been known as hard working people, and it's no surprise to see that we have the highest rate of older people participating in the labour market than any other OECD country. It is well known that older people who keep working have more opportunities to be socially connected and that they feel better about life.

There is research that shows while some abilities decline after 70, the important skills, like being able to plan and communicate peaks when you get to your 50s and 60s. This research goes a long way to refuting age stereotyping.

As a country, if we want to take advantage of the value that older workers can offer, it's important that we continue to encourage employers to support older people who want to work by offering flexible work arrangements. This means consulting employees who are considering retirement, offering meaningful part-time employment, and providing older people with opportunities to learn new skills. In this way, we can keep older workers in the workplace longer.

It is small actions that count – like Genesis Energy's practice of pairing older engineers with younger maintenance people. When two people are out working on a job, the older worker shares knowledge and experience with the younger worker, and the younger worker does the more physically demanding aspects of the job. Working together like this is a win-win situation for everyone.

We need to support this way of working because it is a great example of how you can recognises older peoples' wealth of experience. It shows that with a little thought and creativity there are ways to tap into it and use it to its best advantage. It's something I will be promoting whenever I am engaging with people in industry. To be fair, some employers can see this and are already implementing flexible work practices and hiring and retaining older workers, but we have to remain vigilant to see this continues to happen.

Another way that this Government is supporting older people who want to continue to work is the recent introduction the 90-day voluntary trial work period. This encourages employers in small businesses to take a chance on employing someone they may not have previously considered – like an older person returning to work. It gives an older person the chance to prove that they have skills and knowledge to offer the workplace.

It is a good time to be growing older, and the age at which we considered "old" seems to be shifting further and further toward the century mark.

You may be aware that one of my jobs as Minister for Senior Citizens is sending birthday cards to people who are turning 100 or older. At the moment, I'm sending around 40 cards each month. Some years ago, I had a conversation with Mr Jim Bolger who told me he was sending 3 cards per week and that by 2050 this would be 100 per week. (I think he thought he would still be Prime Minister.)

As New Zealand's demographics shift more towards an increasingly older population, we need to make sure that we are not just focused on meeting the challenges that this brings. We need to look at how to be creative in the way we see older people, and take the opportunities that this presents.

As an organisation, you already do valuable work representing older people. But you have an opportunity too, to join in the creative thinking so that we have a society that values and appreciates its older citizens.

I'll be interested to hear your ideas.

Thank you.

 

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