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"Walk The Talk"- Advocacy Groups Demand To MPs

23 March 2005

"Walk The Talk"- Advocacy Groups Demand To MPs

Disabled peoples advocacy groups are appalled that the Social Services Select Committee were "unable to reach agreement" and commend a Bill to the House. This Bill will repeal a 1960 Act that allows disabled peoples' employment rights to be exploited.

DPA, CCS, People First and IHC are calling on all Members of Parliament to walk the talk and support the Bill repealing the Disabled Persons Employment Promotion Act when it is voted on in the House.

"New Zealand has a Disability Strategy, human rights legislation and a proud international reputation as a society that values all people" says Gary Williams, DPA CEO and past sheltered workshop worker. "Disabled people want the Act repealed, so if MPs don't support what disabled people want, it's a complete contradiction of all the rhetoric".

This country has a leading role in the development of a UN Convention on Disability, and if we don't pass the repeal Bill, NZ's hypocrisy will be highlighted to the international community" he continues.

Repealing this Act is only part of a wider policy direction "Pathways to Inclusion" which emphases new opportunities for life long learning, more participation for people in their own communities and more opportunities for work in regular employment. Pathways to Inclusion is in its third year of a five year phase in period with many exciting changes already occurring.

This policy was designed after the Department of Labour Review of Vocational Services back in 2000 where many people were consulted. Cindy Johns, an advocate working for IHC, recalls; "During the review of vocational services we facilitated several small groups of people with intellectual disabilities to make their own submissions about how they thought vocational services should be. Comments such as 'real work for real pay' were common along with 'more choice of activities' and we think the government listened to the submissions at that time at responded appropriately. We expect people to get a better deal from vocational service providers in the future."

Advocacy groups welcome the new policy direction and see it as well overdue.

Some sheltered workshops are creating fear amongst disabled people and their families stating they will no longer exist. Existing sheltered workshops have had over two years to start planning for changes and will have the option of applying for an exemption to the minium wage for people on an individual basis. This will mean a much fairer system than the current Act allows for, with its blanket exemption of all employment rights to people just because they have an impairment.

DPA, CCS , People First and IHC urge all Members of Parliament to consider the human rights implications of not passing the Bill to repeal this Act and urge some MPs to stop using disabled people as political pawns in this election year.


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