IDEA Services support staff 'shell-shocked' by decision to withdraw from services

E tu advocate Alistair Duncan said the cuts are a major and significant event for IDEA Services.
JEAN PAUL CHASSENET/FAIRFAX NZ

E tu advocate Alistair Duncan said the cuts are a major and significant event for IDEA Services.

The future of about 20 per cent of IDEA Services clients is uncertain as the national disability service provider prepares to cut several support programmes.

IDEA Services support workers and E tu union have voiced their concerns about the changes, which one support worker said had left staff "shell-shocked".

More than 6500 people with learning disabilities were supported by IDEA Services in the 2015/2016 financial year.

When the exit was confirmed on Wednesday, an IDEA Services executive spokeswoman said about 1200 service users with learning disabilities would be affected.

READ MORE: IDEA Services plans to cut 5 per cent of its business, affecting more than 1000 service users

On Thursday, IHC New Zealand communications general manager Gina Rogers said many service users only sought a small amount of support or for a short period of time.

"We will make sure people with intellectual disabilities are well assisted to understand changes. They are at the heart of our decision making and will be well supported throughout this process as always."

IDEA Services would work with the Ministry of Health, Needs Assessment Service Co-ordination Association, other providers and individuals "to make sure we support them into a change in support that works for them", Rogers said.

IDEA Services wanted to consult with affected parties as it would "inform the way forward". It had no current time frame for the process.

Staff, clients and families were informed about the changes in a open letter outlining the organisation's decision, which was sent out from Tuesday.

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IHC NZ chief executive Ralph Jones said the cuts made up only five per cent of its business.

A Canterbury support worker, who feared her job could be affected if she was named, said other workers were "shell-shocked" by the decision.

They were unprepared and not consulted about the changes, which could affect 200 support staff workers as well as many service users and their families, she said.

"Noone asked how we felt or what we thought.

"The clients rely on us. It's a withdrawal of services so important to the community."

E tu union advocate Alistair Duncan said initially many workers took to the union's closed Facebook page to voice their surprise

"Workers are divided between concern for their own jobs and future, and being worried about their clients," Duncan said.

It highlighted the calibre of staff at IDEA Services, he said.

E tu sent out letters to staff who could be affected and released a statement on their website, saying "we've told IDEA to protect jobs as they exit services".

The union planned to meet with IDEA Services on Monday to ask them about the proposed consultation process and exit strategy.

This should be a proposal, yet the language used by IHC New Zealand chief executive Ralph Jones sounded as if the decision had been already made, Duncan said.

People First New Zealand national chairman David King said people needed the full picture, otherwise they would worry.

The self advocacy organisation is led and directed by people with learning disabilities.

Communications manager Alexia Black said the changes could be hard to deal with, "especially if there is misinformation or people do not know if they will be affected".

"We think the most important things are that people and families who use IDEA Services receive the support they need to deal with this process, and that people are given full information, in ways they can understand."

New Zealand Disability Support Network chief executive Garth Bennie, in a media statement, said while the network had no specific comment to make on the IDEA Services decision, many disability support providers had to be realistic about how they could maintain their services and ensure long term viability.

"The difficulties being faced by providers accumulates to the point whether the kinds of decisions recently taken by IHC are not at all surprising, and they should be no surprise to government either," Bennie said.

"Ultimately this all creates a climate of uncertainty for people with disabilities, families and the support staff working in the sector."

The Ministry of Health did not respond by deadline.

 - Stuff

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