Social agencies working with the country’s most vulnerable are warning they may be forced to shut as social workers leave for better-paid jobs with the Government.
They say a recent pay equity settlement will fuel the crisis, widening the wage gap by up to 50 per cent.
One of Auckland’s oldest charities, Anglican Trust for Women and Children (ATWC), offers support like parenting classes to 3,000 families.
One mother told 1 NEWS she wouldn’t have had her child without the support of ATWC. But in the last year, the organisation has lost 47 staff – over one third of their team.
ATWC general manager Judy Mati’a said, “The staff turnover has taken a hit. I had one colleague, she described it as ‘haemorrhaging.'”
Her organisation is not alone, with larger social agencies like Barnardos also feeling the pinch.
Barnardos CEO Jeff Sanders said, “We are in a situation where turnover is higher than what we’d like, and attracting new staff in the market is harder than what we hope for.”
Social workers are mainly leaving for higher-paid jobs at ministries like Oranga Tamariki.
Social Services Providers Association (SSPA) national manager Brenda Pilott said there is a massive pay gap.
Currently, Oranga Tamariki social workers are paid around 20 per cent more than their counterparts at other social agencies. That gap is set to widen even further – up to 50 per cent – after a pay equity settlement offer last month.
“That’s within a single occupational group, essentially doing the same work, working in many cases with the same families. Simply, it’s not a sustainable picture,” Ms Pilott said.
Oranga Tamariki CEO Grianne Moss agrees the entire sector needs more funding.
“There are cost pressures and challenges coming up both for the core public sector and also the NGO sector,” Ms Moss said.
But those affected say the solution is simple – ensure 30 per cent pay rises for all social workers. Otherwise, social agencies will struggle to stay afloat.