Being paid the normal hourly rate, instead of minimum wage, while driving between clients "is going to be huge" for community support workers across the region.
With funding confirmed in Budget 2021, home and community support workers will soon be paid their normal hourly rate while driving from one client to another.
Until now, this essential health workforce was only paid the minimum wage for "in-between" travel time. Before 2015 they didn't get a cent. Now there's $81.82 million locked in to fund travel for work over the next four years.
Public Service Association (PSA) Bay of Plenty delegate Donna Wealleans has campaigned for the funds for years and said the money couldn't come at a better time, as the ageing population is only growing.
"We are getting more high-need complex care coming into the community because there are no facilities for them. We need to look after our support workers and give them training because the ageing population could double in the next five years."
Bay of Plenty's population tends to be older than the national average, with 27.1 per cent of the DHB region's population being above 60 years of age.
In the Lakes DHB area, 23.3 per cent of the population was above 60 years of age.
Although work isn't solely focused on the elderly, with some clients in their twenties, support workers can do anything from shopping to physiotherapy, meal prep and showering.
Wealleans said the improved funding would impact clients most, as it meant support workers weren't rushing from job to job.
"That's going to take the pressure off the support worker, which was putting pressure on the client, basically, that's going to be huge."
Wealleans has been a support worker for 10 years after helping her 101-year-old neighbour. She said it was rewarding, but being paid $23.80 an hour meant many people were probably not doing it for the money.
"It's really rewarding, keeping people independent in their own heart. And, you know, putting a smile on their face, because sometimes we're the only people they see each day."
Visionwest supports about 1800 clients in the Bay of Plenty and Lakes area and employs about 360 support workers to do this work.
Health and community services head Murray Penman supported the Government initiative, as a consequence was the ability to retain and recruit staff.
"We are pleased that work is currently being undertaken by the Government, in partnership with providers and unions, that will help alleviate funding pressures on the industry which have resulted from the need to provide in-home healthcare in an environment of ever-increasing complexity."
A spokeswoman for NZ Health Group, one of the largest providers nationally, said care support workers helped the strain on hospitals.
"The demand for more hospital beds means more people have needed to be cared for at home. Today a person with unstable diabetes, oxygen therapy, wound dressings or special tube feeding no longer needs to be looked after in the hospital but can easily be supported in the comfort of their own home with the support from specialist nursing staff and carers who are trained and qualified in these areas.
"However, the funding has not kept pace with the increased complexity of the people we care for in the community."
Public Service Association assistant national secretary Melissa Woolley congratulated union members for remaining determined through thick and thin.
"This is a great start which fixes some issues for workers. However, the Government still urgently needs to implement a shift model with guaranteed hours to provide secure work and secure pay.
"Support workers essentially have slightly prettier versions of zero-hour contracts. This must change."