Liam Butler interviews Jono Naylor MP on older job seekers
Jono Naylor you have recently welcomed that there is a lower number of people on benefits and have stated that "there is however still more work to be done therefore we are continuing to help people into work by making available, childcare assistance, training, workplace support, and access to health and disability support services" How are you improving access to health and disability support services for older job seekers?
Hon Jono Naylor: Older workers make a valuable contribution to our workforce offering knowledge, skills and experience. We need to ensure that there are a range of choices and opportunities to meet the diverse needs of older people in New Zealand as they are our skilled workers, volunteers, caregivers, mentors and leaders
Since National took office in 2008 the number of 54-65 year olds participating in our economy has increased by 5.8 per cent and the number of over 65’s in employment has risen by 7.1 per cent. More older people than ever before are contributing their expertise to our economy. With future population trends showing around 23 per cent of our total population will be aged 65 or over in 20 years, it is important we continue to provide opportunity for older people in the workforce.
Older New Zealanders are actively seeking or staying in paid work, often in changed roles – perhaps moving to part-time or less physically demanding work. This Government extended the right to request flexible working arrangements to all workers from their first day on the job. This means older people can request varied work hours that suit their capacity and allow for time out should health issues occur.
When health care is needed by older workers we want them to get the right support and services. We know how important elective surgery access is and that’s why Budget 2015 invests $98.5 million to provide more New Zealanders with timely elective surgery, and to improve the prevention and treatment of orthopaedic conditions.
The number of patients receiving elective surgery has increased from 118,000 in 2007/08 to 162,000 in 2013/14. That’s a 37 per cent increase. We want to maintain this momentum and continue to deliver year-on-year increases in elective surgery. These surgeries help people in work by reducing pain and improving quality of life.
An additional $50 million is also being invested over three years to support extra orthopaedic and general surgeries, and to create early intervention orthopaedic teams. This includes:
• $30 million to lift surgery for people with a range of orthopaedic conditions (such as hip, knee, shoulder and spinal conditions);
• $14 million for extra general surgeries (including hernia, vein and gall stone operations);
• $6 million to create community based multi-disciplinary early intervention teams for diagnosis and management of orthopaedic conditions, helping to improve patients’ quality of life and avoid unnecessary hospital visits.
Further to this ACC provides vocational rehabilitation to older workers who cannot return to their usual work after an injury. This includes support like a graduated return to work programme, physical exercise programme, modified equipment, job search techniques and work trials.
Financial assistance is available for the purchase and repair of hearing aids, something that is a great help to older job seekers who may otherwise find they are disadvantaged. Between 1 July 2012 and 30 April 2013, 9,562 people received a hearing aid subsidy for one or two hearing aids. Approximately 77 per cent were aged 65 or over.
People who go to the doctor frequently may be eligible for a High Use Health Card. This card provides access to lower fees for prescription medicines and casual doctor visits. In May 2013 approximately 26,000 people had a High Use Health Card, of which 55 per cent were aged 65 or over.
As a Government, we want an environment where older people can live life as healthy, independent, connected and respected members of our communities. It’s our elderly that built our economy and our society, and they will continue to contribute to our communities and our nation’s prosperity during their later years.