Concern rises over potential loss of mental health and addiction staff

updated By Mānia Clarke-Mamanu
Community mental health worker at Walsh Trust, Kim Baldwin.

The CEO of not-for-profit addiction service Odyssey is concerned the sector will lose support staff to the aged care, home support and disability services following a recent pay increase by the government for the sector. A community mental health worker, Kim Baldwin is now considering a career change as a result of the increase. 

Baldwin has been working in mental health for 20 years.  She earns $18.86 an hour and is seriously considering her options.

"Where I live there is quite a bit of age care facilities it's up towards north Auckland closer to home. So less travel and at $5 more an hour, at my age I would maybe consider what's available in my local area." 

Odyssey CEO Fiona Trevelyan says the pay deal awarded to age-care and disablity support staff is a blow for the mental health and addiction sector.

"The risk to us is that those staff might look at other positions in the aged-care or disability sectors and do a bit of a comparison and say we can earn more money else where, so we lose competent, experienced staff," said Trevelyan.

Last week the government announced a pay increase to care and support workers in aged care and disability services from $19 to $23.50.  The pay equity settlement stems from a successful union court case against historic gender discrimination. 

"There should be a pay increases across the board.  That's what I see, but especially that type of work because it's complex, secondly it's extensive involving not just the drug addict, but also their whānau," said Tāmaki Makarau MP, Peeni Henare.

Odyssey Māori Cultural Liaison, Ken Kerehoma said, "The majority of drug users are Māori, mums, dads, the elderly and youth.  The government must support this to allow us to extinguish this problem."

The Ministry of Health says they are progressing with legislation to implement pay equity principles for other groups of workers.

"If they increase the funding to the NGOs like ourselves then they will retain experienced workers.  They will also encourage newer workers to come in," said Baldwin.

The pay increase applies from the 1st of July.