Parents are struggling, and some are considering quitting their jobs as they look for a way to support children with additional needs and juggle work commitments during lockdown.
An Auckland mother, Angela Hood, has created a petition asking the government to step in with additional funds to pay for the caregiver’s support.
Currently, the maximum funding is $ 80 per day, and the Ministry of Health increased the payment by $ 4 in the last financial year.
With the lockdowns, Hood said payments were disappearing quickly as families sought help from individual support workers at a higher cost.
“These are parents who are really, really trying and won’t give up on their kids – you see the parents just keep going.”
“Seventy-five percent of parents with special needs in our school are single parents, so they do it themselves and may not have much support.”
Caring for a child with additional needs was a full-time task, and the research compared the stress parents face to a soldier in combat, Hood said.
“Those soldiers come back from the service, but the parents don’t leave the service. We are always thinking about our children, we are always worried like anyone else.
“For the children, they don’t understand [lockdown] but for parents, it’s incredibly exhausting because we don’t have a break. “
The funding was intended to give families a break during the year, however it was measured in a normal year where there was school, he said.
Most Auckland students have missed 11 weeks of school. In Waikato, there have been eight.
Hood said he wanted more funding so that families could hire a caregiver while they were locked up, if only for a couple of hours.
“It gives parents a partial respite. For some parents, it would give them maybe an hour or two away from home.
“A lot of this also has to do with recognition and how difficult it is.”
Ruth Pologa’s son is 15 years old and she has been using the funds to ensure that her older children can take their college exams in peace.
She said she or her husband might have to take unpaid leave during the summer because the funds she received had been used for support during the closing.
“We are just trying to figure out how to distribute the support funds during the closure and summer break.
“Without having additional support from the tag teams, I think something will have to give. One of us will have to stop somewhere.”
Somerville School Principal Belinda Johnston believed that no one had considered the additional impact that confinement had on families, as disability issues were often overlooked.
The director of the specialized school said parents have used funds that often last a year, in a matter of weeks.
“It’s just to allow them to survive and have enough people in the home to help them survive through the 24/7 experience for someone who might need personalized supervision every minute of the day.”
She said those with additional needs may have more behavior problems while locked up because they are out of their normal routine.
In a statement, a spokesman for the Health Ministry said the ministry recognized the challenges of supporting a family member with a disability, but would not increase the payment.
“Since the Covid-19 outbreak and the subsequent lockdown in 2020, the ministry has introduced greater flexibility in how funds can be used in many of our disability services, including supporting caregivers.
“Additionally, the caregiver support allowance has increased in the current financial year from $ 76 to $ 80 per day.”
Bernette Peters, a spokesperson for Disability Action, said it was simply not enough.
“It’s not based on what life is like in a confinement. So when you add a couple of dollars to that, it doesn’t really increase the days of support for the caregiver, it just increases the payment that the caregiver receives that day.”
Angela Hood’s petition has received more than 1,500 signatures so far.