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Environmental Support Services for Disabled People

Media Release

19 July 2006

Changes On the Way to Improve Environmental Support Services for Disabled People

The Ministry of Health is set to make changes to the way it carries out some of its services provided to people with disabilities.

A review of Environmental Support Services, commisioned by the Disability Services Directorate was carried out last year. The review identified a number of key findings and recommendations which the Ministry is now beginning to address.

Environmental Support Services (ESS) are available to provide assistance for disabled people and older people who have a long-term need for support to access their environment. The service includes funding for equipment such as wheelchairs, home modifications, vehicle purchase and vehicle modifications, hearing aids and communication equipment for disabled people of all ages.

Manager of Planning and Development in the Ministry's Disability Services Directorate, Dr Rod Watts says, "we acknowledge that the review has raised some concerns of disabled consumers and our plan is to address those issues as soon as practicable."

"A project manager has been employed to undertake some improvements that can be achieved in the short term, while policy work is undertaken to inform a longer term work programme."

"We will address some concerns the review has raised, in terms of who could get equipment and/or modifications and what types of equipment and modifications were available. ", says Dr Watts.

"The Ministry has organised a programme of work into short, medium and long term activities to address these issues."

Rod Watts says, "one key finding has been that service users and providers want easy access to clear and concise information. Our Mâori and Pacific consumers have also told us they want information in their own languages. The disability services website is going to be used as one way of keeping people informed of the progress we will make with this programme of work."

"We acknowledge that the way the Ministry funds Environmental Support Services now does not support all of the relevant objectives in the New Zealand Disability Strategy. This review allows us to refocus and ensure that future decisions are in line with the Strategy."

A 50 page summary report of the review is available on the Ministry of Health website at

Question and Answer Fact Sheet

1. What were some of the key findings and recommendations of the review carried out?

The areas of Environmental Support Services information, access and eligibility, accredited assessors, service delivery and intersectoral collaboration needed to be addressed. A programme of work to address these areas has been developed. This work will be grouped into short, medium and long term activities.

Recommendations to improve:

Information - Improve the type and availability of information about Environmental Support Services so that it is easier to find and understand. Put information about Environmental Support Services into Te Reo Mâori and the three main Pacific Island languages (Samoan, Cook Island Mâori and Tongan) and provide access to information for people with sensory impairments.

and eligibility- Set up a way of deciding how quickly applications are approved.
Look at the current rules and work out ways of making these fairer for some groups of disabled people.
Make the rules clearer and easier to understand.

assessors - Look at a way to make sure that applications from Specialised Assessors are completed to the same standard across the country.
Look at the way that more Mâori and Pacific people could become Specialised Assessors.

delivery - Develop a way to rate how useful the equipment and modifications have been to the disabled person using them.
Look at the way some assessments and equipment trials are done and find different ways to manage ESS.

2. When will the programme of activities be fully implemented?

The Ministry's Disability Services Directorate has established a programme of work until June 2008 to address the extensive recommendations from the review.

3. How was the review of Environmental Support Services carried out?

The review was undertaken by the Disability Resource Centre (DRC) in Auckland and was completed in August 2005, taking nearly a year to complete. The DRC set up a team of disabled people, Mâori, pacific people, older people, carers and health professionals. Meetings were held around the country and people and groups were also asked to write in to the review team with their ideas and experiences of Environmental Support Services. The review team talked to disabled people and their families, whanau and carers, Mâori, Pacific people and older people. It also talked to organisations including Accessable and Enable New Zealand, health professionals such as occupational therapists and audiologists, equipment suppliers, organisations that provide services to disabled people such as NZCCS, Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind and IDEA Services, other government agencies including the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Social Development and ACC.

4. Who can access Environmental Support Services?

People of all ages who have a disability. This may be a physical, intellectual, sensory (vision or hearing) or age-related disability, or more than one of these. A person must have a disability that lasts for more than six months, and be unable to do some everyday tasks on their own and need some ongoing support. People must live in New Zealand and be a New Zealand resident or be eligible under a shared funding agreement with another country. People covered by ACC are not eligible.
This can be checked on

5. How are Environmental Support Services managed?

The Ministry of Health contracts two agencies to provide Environmental Support Services. Accessable provides services for people living in the Auckland/Northland area and Enable New Zealand provides services for those living outside of the Auckland and Northland areas.


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