The providers' profile of the disability support workforce in New Zealand

Health Soc Care Community. 2009 Jul;17(4):396-405. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2524.2008.00839.x. Epub 2009 Feb 12.


To understand one of the predominant groups supporting people with disabilities and illness, this study examined the profile of New Zealand paid caregivers, including their training needs. Paid caregivers, also known as healthcare assistants, caregivers and home health aides, work across several long-term care settings, such as residential homes, continuing-care hospitals and also private homes. Their roles include assisting with personal care and household management. New Zealand, similar to other countries, is facing a health workforce shortage. A three-phased design was used: phase I, a survey of all home-based and residential care providers (N = 942, response rate = 45%); phase II, a targeted survey of training needs (n = 107, response = 100%); phase III, four focus groups and 14 interviews with 36 providers, exploring themes arising from phases I and II. Findings on 17,910 paid caregivers revealed a workforce predominantly female (94%), aged between 40 and 50, with 6% over the age of 60. Mean hourly pay NZ$10.90 (minimum wage NZ$10.00 approx. UK3.00 at time of study) and 24 hours per week. The national paid caregiver turnover was 29% residential care and 39% community. Most providers recognised the importance of training, but felt their paid caregivers were not adequately trained. Training was poorly attended; reasons cited were funding, family, secondary employment, staff turnover, low pay and few incentives. The paid caregiver profile described reflects trends also observed in other countries. There is a clear policy direction in New Zealand and other countries to support people with a disability at home, and yet the workforce which is facilitating this vision is itself highly vulnerable. Paid caregivers have minimum pay, are female, work part-time and although it is recognised that training is important for them, they do not attend, so consequently remain untrained.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Disabled Persons*
  • Employment*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New Zealand
  • Social Support*
  • Young Adult