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Dunedin caregivers Pam Bates, Ange Wilson, and Ailsa Hawkins spoke yesterday about the historic pay offer and what it meant for them.
Mrs Bates said she had worked in the sector for 13 years, and was paid less than $17 an hour.
A car repair, vet bill, new shoes, or trip to the doctor could create significant financial stress.
''Most of the caregivers I know don't look after themselves the way they should,'' Mrs Bates said.
''You end up having to live in debt,'' Ms Hawkins said.
With the increase ''we can live, not exist'', Mrs Bates said.
''For me, it means I'll pay my mortgage off before I retire.''
Mrs Wilson said she was paid over $17 an hour, but had to work ''really hard'' for that.
Her work includes tasks often carried out by registered nurses, such as dressing wounds.
Mrs Bates said she had seen caregivers come back to work too early after an accident because they could not get by on 80% of their wages from the Accident Compensation Corporation.
But the trio said that it was about much more than money.
''It means I'm considered to be worth this because it is being recognised,'' Ms Hawkins said.
Often, caregivers were looking after very sick or dying residents, with few other staff to assist.
Ms Hawkins said she had become ''doubtful'' the settlement would happen, and yesterday felt huge relief.
The trio praised Kristine Bartlett, the caregiver at the centre of the union-backed legal case.