Family members will be paid to look after their disabled adult relatives after the Government set aside $23 million for carer payments in this year's Budget.
The funding comes after a protracted court battle which culminated with the Court of Appeal ruling that carers who look after disabled adult family members should be entitled to pay for their work.
Health Minister Tony Ryall today announced $92m would be spent over four years on payments to family members who care for about 1600 disabled adults with high and very high needs.
Legislation to implement the new policy, which is estimated to cost $23m a year, will be introduced today.
"Disabled adults who meet the eligibility criteria will be able to choose whether they employ a family carer or continue to use a contracted provider," Mr Ryall said.
Mr Ryall said society expected parents to care for and support their dependent children - but the Court of Appeal had ruled the 'social contract' did not extend to continuing care for adult children with lifelong disabilities.
He said the Government recognised the important role of families in providing care and support to their disabled family members.
"This new policy is a significant investment in family care and will give more disabled people and their families more choice and control in the support they receive."
The spending comes in addition to an extra $100m which has already been allocated to disability support services over the next four years.
A total of $1.1 billion will be spent on disability services this year - accounting for 7.5 per cent of the $14.7b allocated to health in this year's Budget.
Total health spending is up $406m on last year's Budget, which includes $191m in savings and re-prioritised spending from elsewhere in the health budget.
The extra funding includes $18.2m for a new mothers and babies initiative, which Mr Ryall is expected to announce the details of shortly.
It also includes $4.3m over four years to raise awareness of prostate cancer and ensure men have better access to information about the disease.
Mr Ryall said about 3000 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer each year, with about 600 dying from the disease.
He said a new prostate cancer awareness campaign would lead to better survival rates.
The funding would be used to develop information and resources for men, their families and GPs.
It would also be used to develop clinical standards and guidelines for prostate cancer which would lead to improved diagnosis, treatment and care.
Mr Ryall said health spending this year was its highest ever, with the sector receiving a third of all new operating funding in this year's Budget.
He said careful financial management and savings at district health boards (DHBs) had allowed the Government to invest in new health initiatives.
"While many developed countries around the world are freezing or even reducing health funding, this Government is committed to protecting and growing our public health services."
Of the new spending, some $250m will go straight to DHBs to take account of inflation and population increases.
The spending will also go towards new initiatives, announced before today's Budget, including including $21.3m to fight rheumatic fever and $35.5m to fight diabetes and heart disease.
Another $48m will go towards more elective surgery; $25m will be used to increase screening for diseases such as breast cancer; and $7.3m will fund 20 extra medical students, in addition to 120 new places already funded by the Government.
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