Tauranga caregivers of their disabled loved ones are cautiously welcoming the Government's changes to carer pay, saying the move is a step in the right direction but warned there was work to do.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter announced on Sunday that spouses and family members would be paid between $20.50 to $25.50 an hour to care for their disabled or ill loved ones.

Tauranga woman Janet Derbyshire said the proposed changes were "a huge relief."

"The details need to be thrashed out, but I'm optimistic."


The current scheme meant the disabled person employed the caregiver and spouses are not entitled to payment to care for their disabled partner. The changes will also extend payment to carers of children under 18.

Her son, Paul, 29, has Down Syndrome. He lived at home, does not work and relies on Derbyshire for transport and life administration.

In between looking after Paul, she worked casually as a relief teacher. Things could get tough for the family, but Derbyshire was staunchly positive.

"It's not awful - it is what it is. It's a difficult reality."

Changes include repealing part of the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act, which banned families from challenging the Government in court on the grounds of discrimination.

Derbyshire said the pay rise honoured the work caregivers put in and praised the repeal.

"It just shows appreciation and it makes me feel way more respected."

Derbyshire believed more people would be able to access pay but said there was still work to do to improve the policy.


She called for the relationship between a caregiver and disabled person to be changed so that a disabled person was not classed as the carer's employer.

She also said calculating pay entitlement was task-based, meaning carers of physically disabled people might receive more money than those with intellectual disabilities as they perform more "tasks".

Cliff Osborne cares for his wife, Mary, who has Huntington's. Photo / George Novak
Cliff Osborne cares for his wife, Mary, who has Huntington's. Photo / George Novak

Tauranga man Cliff Osborne cares for his wife Mary who has Huntington's. He said changes would be a great help to carers, especially those struggling financially.

"My first reaction was: 'Thanks, it's about time.'"

Caring for a family member could be emotionally draining and he hoped to see more support for carers themselves, Osborne said.

"Nurses go home after a shift but carers are there 24/7."

Osborne had concerns about the accessibility of Government support for families and called for a streamlined support system.

"I don't want it to be like it was before, with all the fine print and red tape. The bureaucracy needs to be cut away."

The changes will come into effect in 2020 once legislation has gone through a select committee process which would include public consultation.