Disability service jobs on the line

LISA KNIGHT
Last updated 07:58 12/08/2014

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Fifteen jobs are under threat after Palmerston North-based disability service Enable New Zealand lost a key contract from the ACC.

Disability equipment management for ACC is currently provided by Accessable in the Auckland and Northland areas, and in the rest of the country by Enable New Zealand.

ACC recently reviewed the equipment management process and held a tender process, awarding the tender to Accessable, which will take over from November 1.

Public Service Association union organiser John Shennan said the contract, which Enable started in 2001, accounted for about 20 per cent of the MidCentral District Health Board-owned service's income.

A skilled and educated work force would now be lost in Palmerston North and would have a serious impact on the town, Shennan said.

"These are skilled jobs, people who have to know a considerable amount about the needs of disabled people and need to know how those services should be provided. They have developed good rapport, and so to lose the jobs in a place like Palmerston North is very significant."

Shennan said the feeling among Enable staff was of uncertainty.

"At the moment it's just starting to sink in that there's a real danger to their positions. It's the huge uncertainty that's there, at the moment we simply don't know how many and what type of positions will be affected."

It was expected more information on individual positions would be available at the end of this week or early next, he said.

Enable general manager Scott Ambridge said 18 jobs were impacted, of which 15 were in Palmerston North.

Staff were trying to maintain a "business as usual" approach, he said, but many were still feeling "raw" about the decision.

Ambridge said there would be a transition period as people came to terms with their new provider. "Whilst very disappointed with the ACC decision, Enable New Zealand remains committed to the rehabilitation, health and disability sector."

Shennan said the PSA believed the move would have an impact on delivery of the disability equipment service.

"A feature of this we're particularly disturbed about is Enable is based in Palmerston North, with branches in Hamilton and Christchurch, and the services it provides are therefore in large measure to provincial New Zealand and there are differences in the way these services are handled in big cities like Auckland over what happens in a small town in New Zealand."

The distance to travel for delivery to regional areas and the South Island was of particular concern.

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The PSA was calling for the ACC to reconsider the decision, Shennan said. "This puts the whole service at risk . . . Strategically, they've made a very stupid decision."

ACC spokeswoman Stephanie Melville said ACC reviewed the way it currently provided equipment - such as cooking, cleaning, bathing, communication and mobility equipment - to clients, to help them with their rehabilitation.

"This led to a service redesign, with a focus on timely delivery of equipment based on more streamlined processes and reduced approval steps. Ultimately, this is about ACC best serving clients' needs, and making best use of levy-payers' money," she said.

"We held an open and fair tender process, following the standard government processes as recommended by the Office of the Auditor General.

"Accessable was chosen by the evaluation panel to deliver the new Managed Rehabilitation Equipment Suppliers (MRES) service from November 1, 2014, and will be providing national service coverage."

- Manawatu Standard

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