On the Job

Donna Wealleans says support workers are told they shouldn’t get attached to their clients. But she believes you shouldn’t be doing the job if you don’t care.

Donna has been a community support worker for ten years in September.

The Papamoa-based HealthCare NZ worker helps rehabilitate high needs clients with spinal or brain injuries.

She sees most of her clients daily, as one of a team of support workers who provide 24-hour care.

Donna says working with spinal clients is physically challenging.

“There’s a lot of hoisting. They spasm a lot. Their limbs are very stiff so you have to extend them.”

Aside from the physical demands of the job, Donna says the hardest aspect is helping new clients to adjust to their injuries.

“The stress of getting them set up with everything they need, managing their pain levels.”


But Donna loves her job despite the challenges.

“It’s so rewarding. Some clients can only move their heads but their outlook on life is amazing. They are passionate about what they can do and achieve.”

Financial rewards have been harder to come by though.

Donna previously worked with elderly clients in the community, providing care to enable them to stay in their home.

When support workers achieved their equal pay settlement in 2017, her salary went from the minimum wage to $19 an hour. “It was great when we won equal pay and guaranteed hours.”

But when qualification-based pay rates were introduced, experienced and trained workers like Donna found their shifts were cut.

“They were throwing lower level workers in to care for high needs clients to save a buck.”

The cut in hours prompted her to shift back to rehabilitation work, which was not affected in the same way as it is funded by ACC.


It’s inequities like these that Donna has been fighting as a PSA delegate.

During the Covid Crisis, she was part of the campaign for PPE for support workers. She even created a video, using a broom to show the difficulty of showering someone from a distance.

Donna was also involved in protests against HealthCare NZ’s plan to cut community coordinators earlier this year. She says it’s been a disaster that’s left both clients and workers waiting on the phone line for hours.

Donna believes support workers should be fairly rewarded for the work they do.

“It’s also mentally demanding. There have been times when I’ve lost a client, then an hour later you put on a smile and try to cheer someone else up.”


Photo Credit: Daniel Hines, SunLive



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