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Disturbing health statistics on intellectual disabilities

Commission calls for explanation of progress on disturbing health statistics for New Zealanders with learning/intellectual disabilities

The Human Rights Commission joins the IHC and People First New Zealand in calling for an explanation of progress for people with learning/intellectual disabilities. The call marks the tenth anniversary of the 2003 report of the National Advisory Committee on Health and Disability Issues To Have An Ordinary Life Kia Whai Oranga Noa.

The Committee reported a disturbing level of systemic neglect of the development potential of this group of people and their families. They said there was inadequate and improper health care provision and that people in authority had a disturbing low level of understanding of the impact of their actions and decisions on the lives of adults with an intellectual disability.

Disability Rights Commissioner Paul Gibson said “The health situation for this vulnerable group of New Zealanders has been known for the last 10 years. It is unacceptable that in New Zealand today someone born with a learning/intellectual disability can expect to live twenty years less when this could be preventable”.

In the Government’s report on New Zealand’s human rights performance to the UN Human Rights Council in 2009 it advised there was a workplan in place to address the systemic and serious abuse of the health of people with learning/intellectual disability.

The Ministry of Health’s own 2011 research found people with learning/intellectual disabilities have a life expectancy that is 20 years less than their fellow New Zealanders.

The Commission in its submission on New Zealand’s human rights performance to the UN Human Rights Council in June this year noted there is minimal evidence of a commitment to address this abuse. It called on the Government to advise the steps it has taken to address the systemic abuse of the health of people with learning/intellectual disabilities since 2009.

Successful steps have been taken in other countries to address this issue such as funded annual health checks for adults with learning/intellectual disability.

Commissioner Paul Gibson said “Any lack of progress by the Government towards meeting its own commitments to addressing this issue would be disturbing.”


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