Up to 20,000 families may soon be paid to care for their disabled family members at home, but the Government has warned that a new scheme to pay carers will have to be "affordable" in tough economic times.
Health Minister Tony Ryall announced yesterday the ministry was giving up its long legal battle with families who cared for their adult, disabled children at home.
The ministry would not appeal the Court of Appeal's ruling that family members caring for disabled children were eligible for financial support.
That followed a Human Rights Review Tribunal decision that the ministry's policy of paying only carers who were not related to the patient was discriminatory.
One of the nine parents who took on the Government, Jean Burnett, said the backdown was a huge relief.
But she was disappointed she had to fight for so long to be paid to care for her son Stuart, 46, who had severe cerebral palsy.
"They've been fighting unnecessarily. It was so unfair. I'm a sole parent, my son needs 24-hour care.
How on earth could I work?"
Mr Ryall said the ministry would form a new policy which would see home-based carers paid for their work from early next year.
"We have the challenge of balancing the interests of the person being cared for, of the families and the taxpayers. We will address the discrimination, but it has to be affordable."
The ministry initially estimated that paying parents to care for disabled relatives would cost between $17 million and $500 million.
Mr Ryall said the Government could not afford the higher estimate.
"We simply can't have an open-ended situation."
He said there was a possibility that family members could earn $18 an hour. But he could not rule out changes to the allowances currently in place.
At present, 30,000 families received some form of ministry support.
Under the new policy, up to 20,000 more family members could become eligible for funding.
The Human Rights Review Tribunal will now decide what remedies the nine families who challenged the Government will receive.
Mr Ryall felt the policy change was a sufficient remedy.By Isaac Davison @Isaac_Davison Email Isaac