At last – a commissioner to serve the elderly (the cohort which remembers the role of the hyphen in compound adjectives)

A splendid demonstration of the usefulness of  the compound adjective can be found on The Beehive website today.

A headline among the latest announcements  says:

Progress in establishment of Aged Care Commissioner

Without a hyphen in “Aged-care” to show this is a compound adjective, an element of uncertainty can creep into considerations.

Is the government intending to recruit an aged person to become a commissioner whose job will be “care”?

As we all know, this would be in keeping with the programme of a government which is committed to kindliness and the wellbeing of all and would suggest the commissioner would be responsible for caring for everybody.

All members of the Point of Order team happen to be card-carrying superannuitants and, for good measure, we are very caring people. We fancy we would be great candidates for the job.

But fair to say, there’s ample evidence in the first paragraph of the press statement to shake out any ambiguity and affirm an intention to appoint somebody (younger than us, no doubt)  to care for Kiwis at the more mature end of the age spectrum:

Recruitment for an Aged Care Commissioner will start next month, to ensure greater oversight of New Zealand’s aged care sector.

Furthermore, any remaining doubts would (or should) be allayed by these words from the Minister for Seniors and Associate Minister of Health, Dr Ayesha Verrall:

“The right person for this role will ideally have a deep understanding of aged care services and consumers’ experiences.

“Aged care services include functions such as needs assessment, rehabilitation, home and community support services, support for carers, and aged residential care.”

Oh – and don’t forget the Treaty plays a role in everything the Ardern government does, making some citizens a bit more special than others:

“We need to make sure older New Zealanders experience consistent, quality care that’s culturally appropriate for everyone, particularly our Māori and Pacific communities.

The challenge for the new commissioner is clearly spelled out:

“This sector is responsible for supporting a large and often vulnerable population. While most people are able to access quality care, there have been cases where that care has fallen short, and this is an opportunity to identify areas for improvement,” said Minister for Seniors and Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall.

“Several reports have identified issues in the sector, ranging from the complexity of the complaints process, to feeling fearful of the repercussions from raising issues, and the lack of visibility around service provided by home and community support providers.”

Then there’s a timeline.

“The Aged Care Commissioner will be in place within the next 6 months, delivering on our manifesto commitment and giving older people, their friends and whānau greater confidence in the quality and safety of services,” Ayesha Verrall said.

Yes, the government most definitely is delivering on a commitment.

But it has taken time, as you can see from this Newshub report (which also omits the hyphen) headed Grey Power slams Government over Aged Care Commissioner failure.

Published in December 2018, it records Grey Power grumbles about the Government’s failure to appoint an Aged Care Commissioner, saying it’s time to “get on with it”.

The report was triggered by “disturbing revelations” about conditions inside rest homes – including a disclosure that an elderly man died after being left with maggots in his feet.

Appearing on RadioLIVE on Thursday, Grey Power president Mac Welch said he doesn’t think conditions in rest homes have changed – and he’s calling for the Government to take action.

“That incident, which we’re all well aware of, was absolutely shocking, it really was. It was a massive failure of the institution concerned.

“There is always room for improvement and every now and again we get these horror stories. But it’s not just in aged care facilities.”

Welch said Grey Power had spent the previous three or four years pushing for the appointment of an Aged Care Commissioner to combat the abuse and mistreatment of the elderly.

“What we’ve currently got is a bits and pieces – where you’ve got three, probably, different ministers with little bits of responsibility and then on top of that you’ve got a retirement commissioner,” he says.

“But no one person has got oversight of the whole thing and that’s what we’re looking for.”

Welch recalled that, before the 2017 election, reviews into aged care around New Zealand in conjunction with Labour and the Greens had found an Aged Care Commissioner was “urgently required” – and Labour promised to take action.

“David Clark, the Minister of Health, made a commitment prior to the election in a speech he gave in Christchurch that the first Budget of a Labour-led Government would see the appointment of an Aged Care Commissioner,” he says.

The Beehive press statement almost three years later which announces recruitment is on the drawing board provides more recent data about the challenge for the new commissioner:

In 2020/21, the Health and Disability Commissioner and the Advocacy Service received 259 complaints about aged residential care, and 147 complaints about home and community support services. Communication issues were the most common theme, including failure to communicate effectively with family. Inadequate care and treatment issues were also among the most common concerns raised.

Verrall explains several shortcomings in the way things are now being done:

 “The current system to ensure quality and safety in the sector is fragmented, and it can be complicated navigating services to get help. This disconnect has made it difficult for those who want to make a complaint about aged care to speak up, be heard, and receive a timely response.

“The Aged Care Commissioner will proactively provide leadership and advocacy for systemic change across the entire sector, and be a recognisable figure for resolving complaints,” Ayesha Verrall said.

We wonder if the fellow who wrote the Newshub report in 2018 will have become eligible for his Gold Card, by the time the commissioner bursts into action…

Latest from the Beehive

The elderly

 Progress in establishment of Aged Care Commissioner

Recruitment for an Aged Care Commissioner will start next month, to ensure greater oversight of New Zealand’s aged care sector.

The Government has allocated $8.1 million over the next four financial years for the creation of the Aged Care Commissioner role and its ongoing operation.

This includes some funding for the Ministry’s HealthCERT, to handle additional complaints.

The role will sit under the Health and Disability Commissioner, as a Deputy Commissioner and cover: Strategic oversight and stronger sector leadership to drive quality improvement in collaboration with other agencies; Report on emerging issues and thematic improvements in the aged care sector; Enhanced advocacy on behalf of older consumers and their whānau and support the Government’s commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

More information about the process for appointments can be found at


 New record number of homes consented

The latest report shows that the residential building sector is performing well to meet demand for new houses, says Acting Minister for Building and Construction Michael Wood.

“We’ve broken the record for annual number of new homes consented yet again and we’re starting to see a pattern here. This Government is committed to supporting the sector so that we can deliver more homes than ever before,” Acting Housing Minister Michael Wood said.

Estimates from Statistics New Zealand  show the number of new homes consented in the year ended June 2021 is at an all-time high of 44,299. This is an increase of 18 per cent from the June 2020 year. 4,310 new dwellings were consented in June alone, an increase of 3.8 per cent from May 2021.

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