CareWise has been launched to give workplace-based help to the 1 in 8 New Zealanders who have caring responsibilities for family members who are frail, unwell, or have a chronic condition or disability.
The initiative is timely as New Zealand emerges from Covid-19, with employers doing everything they can to recover and grow, and caring staff coping with extra pressures to support someone who is vulnerable, says Laurie Hilsgen, CEO of national not for profit Carers NZ.
Carers NZ developed CareWise with input from the Ministry of Social Development, Business NZ, employers, diversity specialists, and trades unions.
Almost 90% of New Zealand’s 490,000 family carers are of workforce age (15 to 64) and many struggle to juggle employment and caregiving.
CareWise is New Zealand’s answer to the growing issue of how to help carers keep working and avoid exiting paid employment. This can impact overall wellbeing, with many carers unable to save for retirement and experiencing decades of hardship, Hilsgen says.
CareWise makes it easy for employers to share free tools and information so carers know about available support. At the moment this includes food and supplies for loved ones who may still be homebound to limit their Covid-19 risks, through charitable programme wecare.kiwi
CareWise also provides coaching for employers about how to manage the business impacts of caring, which can be hidden and aren’t well understood by business owners, managers, and human resource teams, she says.
“Simple measures make all the difference, especially now. We’re supporting employers to assist caring staff so everyone can focus on getting New Zealand through Covid-19 in a healthy state.”
Employers, while preoccupied with rebuilding after Covid-19’s economic realities, are well aware of the costs of retention, recruitment, training new staff, and loss of institutional knowledge for every carer departure. CareWise helps retain caring workers, while minimising absenteeism and preoccupation at work due to caring responsibilities, Hilsgen says.
“There is strong employer buy-in, now especially, for the Prime Minister’s call for every New Zealander to be earning, learning, caring, or volunteering. CareWise takes one pressure away by walking alongside employers to ensure carers can keep working and earning by accessing help day to day.”
To join the MSD-funded programme, employers commit to becoming a carer friendly workplace and are guided by Carers NZ to achieve and maintain this.
CareWise has been welcomed by Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni as an outcome of the Government’s Carers’ Strategy Action Plan for 2019-2023.
“The launch of CareWise will help both carers and employers get the support they need to strengthen the country’s carer friendliness at a time when this has never been more important.”
For information visit www.carewise.net.nz or call Carers NZ, 0800 777 797.
Laurie Hilsgen, Carers NZ CEO, 021 702 922, firstname.lastname@example.org