Carers in New Zealand

Information about carers and their role, the Carers’ Strategy partnership between the government and Carers Alliance, and the care-related interest and responsibilities of the Ministry of Health.

On this page:

Who is a carer?

Carers are individuals, family, whānau and āiga providing care for someone close to them who needs additional assistance with their everyday living because of a disability, health condition, illness or injury.

Carers make a significant contribution to the quality of the lives of the friends, family, whānau and āiga members they care for. Caring is at the heart of a compassionate community and underpins who we are and what we value. The work of carers is of significant social and economic value to New Zealand.

Carers play a vital role in helping people who need carer support to live and participate in their communities. They are often the first and last to help a person needing care and support.

Not everyone recognises themselves as a carer.

Some people refer to their role in providing care for someone close to them who needs additional assistance with their everyday living as a parent, family member, friend or supporter.

The term ‘carer’ is used internationally, but it is recognised that it may not be accepted or recognised by everyone. Words such as ‘supporter’ or ‘manaakitanga’ may better describe the way a carer sees caring as a natural part of what they do for the people they love, care for, and support.

On these pages, the term ‘carer’ is used to describe the range of individuals, families, whānau and āiga who provide this support. While paid professional carers and foster carers are essential, the term ‘carer’ on these pages is not intended to cover those groups.

The number of carers in New Zealand varies as some people move into and out of the carer support role regularly. About one in 10 New Zealanders are carers. This number is likely to increase as the population ages, and people live longer.

The carer role does not fall equally across the population. The majority of carers are women. Members of Māori and Pacific communities are also more likely to be carers.

While the interests of carers and the people they care for are closely related, support is usually focused on the person needing care. The health and wellbeing of carers must also be recognised and supported.

The demands of care often mean that carers have fewer opportunities to participate in education, paid work and social and community activities. Over time this can harm their health and wellbeing and a carer’s ability to continue to provide care. It can also have broader impacts on the carer’s (and their family’s) finances and social connectedness.

The New Zealand Carers’ Strategy

The New Zealand Carers’ Strategy, introduced in 2008, is a partnership between the government and the Carers Alliance and is supported by action plans.

The vision for carers in New Zealand is that:

  • New Zealand Aotearoa is a society that values individuals, families, whānau or āiga who support others who need help with their everyday living, and this will be achieved when:
    • carers have choices and opportunities to participate in family life, social activities, employment and education
    • carers’ voices are heard in decision-making that affects them.

Mahi Aroha – Carers’ Strategy Action Plan 2019-2023

The latest NZ Carers’ Strategy Action Plan 2019-2023 Mahi Aroha was published in December 2019.

Mahi Aroha recognises, values, and supports carers as an investment in New Zealand’s future. As more people become carers, we must invest in support for carers.

Mahi Aroha responds to what carers have said mattered most to them. The need for carers to be identified, recognised and valued for their contribution; improving the way carers can navigate the support and services available to them; supporting their wellbeing; improving their pathways to employment and training.

As noted in Mahi Aroha, Government departments and Crown entities provide a wide range of services and supports and oversee the development and review of policies that are relevant to carers.

Navigating the various pathways and connections and finding relevant information for carers and the people they care for, are also recognised as challenges.

The NZ Carers Alliance and Carers NZ

The NZ Carers Alliance, established in 2004, is a consortium of 47 national not for profit organisations striving for better support and recognition for New Zealand’s hundreds of thousands of family, whānau, and āiga carers.

Carers NZ, established in the early 1990s by and for family carers, acts as the national peak body providing information, advice, learning and support for carers in its network and serves as the secretariat for the Carers Alliance.

Examples of care interests in the health and disability sector

The health and disability sector has a broad set of interests, activities, issues, policy and services relevant to carers. In the health and disability system, people who may receive care and support from others include:

  • some disabled people;
  • older people living with dementia;
  • people living with health conditions such as cancer, respiratory illnesses, diabetes etc;
  • people with mental health and addiction needs; and
  • people receiving palliative care.

Health and disability are featured strongly in Mahi Aroha, with the Ministry of Health leading and supporting many actions. The Ministry works with other government departments, Crown agencies and the Carers Alliance in the development, monitoring and review of Mahi Aroha.

The Ministry also works on topic-specific issues directly with the Carers Alliance and many of the not for profit organisations that are members of the Carers Alliance.

Resources for carers

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