New Brunswick

Home care agencies seek more funding

Home care agencies in New Brunswick say they are struggling under the new funding agreement with the province.

Home care agencies in New Brunswick say they are struggling under the new funding agreement with the province and hope the government will take another look at funding in April when the provincial minimum wage is set to increase.

The agreement, signed last fall, stipulates that all workers assisting clients assigned by the Department of Social Development must have a "personal support worker" designation.

But that requires 1,000 hours of training, most of which must be done on the job with private clients whose costs aren’t supplemented by the province, said Brenda Dykeman, the president of the New Brunswick Home Support Association.

That puts an extra strain on the agencies’ finances, forcing several of them to lay off staff, or reduce the number of hours they provide for clients, she said.

If the province wants trained workers, it needs to help with those costs, said Dykeman.

"How we get there with the industry is a real challenge."

Agencies are also struggling with the new minimum wage of $11 an hour for personal support workers, up from $9.50, said Jean Mowatt, the president of Senior Watch Inc. and Care-Ed — a learning centre for students working toward their designation in Saint John.

Under the new contract, the province pays $16 an hour for work the agencies do with government-referred clients. But Mowatt contends that isn't enough.

"That leaves us, after benefits, with about $1.87 left for infrastructure, for administration, for meeting the standards that they have now produced where they're requiring most people to have certain training levels that will be managing these people."

"That all adds up and almost exceeds the $1.87," said Mowatt.

"It's almost impossible for you to maintain training programs that they're asking for in the standard and deliver all that they want for $16."

Mowatt said she hopes the province will reconsider the funding arrangement in April when the provincial minimum wage is set to increase and agencies will have to pay employees $10 an hour instead of $9.50 for work with private, non-subsidized clients.

The current contract affects 57 home care agencies across the province.

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