'Heartless' letter should never have been sent say care workers, MP

Care workers are upset letters were sent to elderly and disabled people telling them to do their own chores, as support was being cut off. 

The letter, sent to more than 600 clients in Hawke's Bay earlier this week, told them if they're only receiving housework help, they'd now have to do it themselves or find someone else.

"While housework may seem a chore it is also a great way to maintain a good level of health and well-being at any age," it read. 

The Hawke's Bay DHB backtracked on Friday, saying it was "not our intention to be disrespectful in any way".

"Disappointingly some of the people who have received the letter clearly have an ongoing need for that support and I apologise for that," said executive director of planning and funding Chris Ash.

The Public Service Association (PSA), which represents care workers, says the apology is welcome but the letters should never have been sent in the first place.

"Our members are already worked off their feet trying to do as much as they can to help clients in the short time slot they have allocated with them," said national secretary Kerry Davies. "The solution to that is to increase funding and allocate more resources to help staff and clients get the job done."

Davies said many care workers aren't given enough paid hours, and end up doing work for free.

"It hurts us as much as it hurts our clients if we can't give them the support they need in the time we have," one unnamed care worker said in a statement released by PSA.

"I am the only person they see outside of limited contact with family who live in other cities. They are great guys and I care."

The DHB said anyone who called them to say they still needed help would get it.

"The DHB is committed to supporting older people to live in their own homes for as long as they can and is disappointed letters have gone out to people who genuinely still require this support," said Ash.

Reviews would still go ahead to see if everyone currently eligible for the support actually needs it, the DHB said.

National Party MP Lawrence Yule, who used to be Mayor of Hastings, called the letter "heartless".

"Offering cleaning services like vacuuming and bathroom cleaning is a small cost compared with residential care and should be encouraged. It supports people to stay in their own home for longer and stay engaged in their communities."