Dalziel Address to DPA National Conference
3 November 2000 Hon Lianne Dalziel Speech Notes
DPA National Conference:
Te Ao Hou – The New Awakening
Novotel Tainui, Victoria Street, Hamilton
Thank you for the opportunity to address this your 18th Conference.
I looked back through my speeches to find the last time that I had addressed one of your conferences. The last time I spoke to your Annual Conference was in 1995, as I was handing over the role of opposition spokesperson on disability services to Ruth Dyson. I thought I would begin this address, where I left off 5 years ago.
I ended my address with a reference to an American writer, who had a disability, and who was objecting to the phrase "physically challenged". He believed that the phrase attempted to define the barriers confronting people with disabilities and the discrimination they faced as their "challenges" to overcome, rather than a systemic issue we all had to address. He said:
"Until you've made it your responsibility to get downtown, and discovered there are no buses with lifts running on that route, you may not fully comprehend that it isn't a personal challenge you're up against, but a system resistant to change."
I finished with the following words: "New Zealand does not need to represent the system resistant to change. And the challenge is ours collectively, not yours on your own."
It is with enormous admiration for my colleague, Ruth Dyson, that I can say 5 years later, (but in fact only 10 months under this government), that the goal I had hoped for back then, is starting to become a reality now.
I bring greetings from both Ruth Dyson and the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Helen Clark. We all regret the circumstances that have brought me here instead of Ruth this evening.
But the message I have brought is this government's unflinching support for the work that Ruth began, and which I will now take up, with passion and commitment.
My task is made easier because of
the work Ruth has done. 'Making a World of Difference' the
NZ Disability Strategy Discussion Document is the foundation
that Ruth has left us to build on. It is a tribute to her
hard work that we have such a strong base from which to
develop the strategy, and I am looking forward to the role
that I can play in moving it forward. I can assure you that
I will continue working with Ruth to ensure that her input
continues to be evident in the next phase.
I read the statement DPA put out on Ruth's resignation, and I know that she will be moved by your expression of support, and I also know that she will be keen for you to work with me, so that the momentum that she has started is not lost. I know you want that too. Together we can make a world of difference.
New Zealand Disability Strategy
I also want to reassure you that the New Zealand Disability Strategy continues to be a key priority for the Labour-Alliance Coalition Government.
It contains a vision based on human rights. This is in line with international developments, including a growing call to the United Nations to adopt an international convention on the rights of all people with disabilities. I know that there are varying approaches to disability issues – I should lay my cards on the table – mine is the human rights approach.
As my speech from 5 years ago acknowledged, people's participation is limited not by their disability but by barriers within society.
Ruth often tells the story of a New Zealand lawyer who has no arms, who put it this way:
"Most people think I've got a disability. It's round door handles. When they're attached to doors, I become disabled."
He can operate every other sort of door handle with the hook at the end of his one prosthesis arm.
The aim of the New Zealand Disability Strategy is to identify and remove the barriers which stop people with disabilities from participating in society, in the ways they choose.
Since the launch of the strategy discussion document, Making a World of Difference: Whakanui Oranga, in September, there have been more than 50 workshops around the country – and dozens of informal discussion groups - to talk about it.
Interest has been overwhelming. 10,000 copies of the discussion document were printed first time round, and we have had to print another 3000 to meet the demand.
There's been an excellent turnout at the workshops, particularly where disability networks are strong. Those who have participated have brought enthusiasm and commitment to the strategy.
There's been a refreshing lack of cynicism and a belief that we can produce a useful plan that will make a difference to the lives of people with disabilities.
While it is too early to say exactly what has come out of the workshops and the submissions (we've received more than 200), a few key themes have emerged.
Interestingly, the most common barrier being identified is not physical access, employment, transport, accommodation, access to information, overly rigid criteria for access to assistance, or difficulties dealing with government departments, although all of the above have been identified as causes for concern.
The most common barrier identified as impeding participation is other people's attitudes and behaviour.
This is not surprising to me, as I have been working on a positive ageing strategy as Minister for Senior Citizens, and the need for attitudinal change has certainly struck me as a key priority in that area.
This is a real challenge to us all.
Now that submissions have closed, the Ministry of Health and the disability sector reference group will produce the final version of the strategy, which will then go to Cabinet for approval early next year.
Personally, I hope it's a bit controversial, because that seems to be the only way to generate media interest these days which is vital if we are to bring about that all important attitudinal change.
Special Education and Senior Citizens
There are two reasons why I am particularly pleased to pick up on this work as Minister for Disability Issues. One is my role as Associate Minister of Education, with the delegation for Special Education, and the other is in my role as Minister for Senior Citizens. Ruth and I have met together on several occasions this year to discuss where our roles intersect. I guess I'll be talking to myself for a while.
Seriously though, there are significant issues within the NZ Disability Strategy framework that relate to my work in these portfolios, and you can be assured that I will be mindful of that.
I should say that I have not taken over Ruth's Health delegations, and therefore my role is that of advocacy Minister on Disability Issues. I am well-used to advocacy in my role as Minister for Senior Citizens, and I can assure you that I will be your voice at the Cabinet Table.
I am placing on record rather than taking credit for the fact that in the area of disability support services, this Government has put its money where its mouth is.
In our first Budget in June,
we delivered one of Labour's key pre-election commitments to
people with disabilities, that is vocational services, with
an additional $4.5 million each year for four years, the
first significant funding increase since 1995.
One of the 13 action areas in Making a World of Difference is to "provide opportunities for employment and economic development" for people with disabilities.
I remember reading an Australian article a couple of years ago where they followed the employment of a man who in one year of employment had re-paid in taxes the disability support he had received in his lifetime. The perspective that the article was highlighting was that disability support was an investment not a cost.
Again this requires a shift in attitude and may take some time to achieve.
Review of vocational services
As you know, a review of vocational services for people with disabilities is underway.
This is a long-overdue response to a funding and policy vacuum which has existed for many years. The review will primarily focus on services purchased by the Department of Work and Income.
However, it makes no sense to consider these
services in isolation.
Many of the problems stem from the interface and anomalies between services provided by different government agencies - Work and Income, Health, ACC, Skills NZ.
For this reason, we have extended the review to include an overview of all vocational services purchased by the government.
I know that many of you have already given officials your views in previous exercises. Those views will be analysed and taken into account.
However, if you have not had a say, or would like to contribute again, please do so by 15 November.
A draft report, which will be available for public comment, is expected in December and the final report will be out by March next year.
Funding of disability support services
As you will all know, Cabinet agreed some months ago that DSS funding should continue to be administered centrally, until we know the outcomes of both the Disability Strategy and the Positive Ageing Strategy for older people. This means it is not being allocated to the district health boards.
Responsibility for DSS funding will be transferred from the Health Funding Authority to the Ministry of Health, which has set up a distinct disability directorate - one of eight - led by deputy director general Carol Searle.
It will be no surprise to anyone here that I am personally pleased that we have acted cautiously in this regard. Most of you will know that I have never agreed with DSS funding going to health in the first place. I have always felt that the close association would see the medicalisation of DSS and needs assessment practices.
Sadly, I believe, that to a certain extent my fears have been realised.
Without the health delegation, I believe I will be well positioned to advocate for the best approach so I will be looking forward to hearing from you about your actual experiences of being tied to the HFA and Ministry of Health and what future you perceive to be the most appropriate given this window of opportunity to seek change.
In the meantime however, the Public Health and Disability Bill will still require district health boards to focus on and promote disability support services, and boards will be required to set up disability support advisory committees.
They will also be required to report clearly and separately in their annual plans on how they intend addressing the disability support needs of their population.
National Health Committee report
Before I leave the health area, I will comment briefly on the NHC report of health care for older people by saying I share their view that strategies for older people should be separate from those for disability support services.
Lumping them together was a fundamental mistake made by the previous Government.
There are several reasons why it does not work:
It is inappropriate to have demand driven funding and capped funding within one budget.
There is less common interest when the disability is the direct result of unmet medical needs, which is a significant issue with respect to older persons' health.
The separation of needs assessments, service coordination and service delivery imposed by the DSS framework has fragmented services and encouraged cost-shifting.
The framework has increased anomalies between older people who have similar needs but may be assessed differently.
New human rights body
I thought I would finally comment briefly on the announcement earlier this week that consideration is being given to a new Human Rights Institution for New Zealand.
The key focus of the new institution would be on promoting a human rights strategy, community leadership and education work.
The government is calling for submissions. The deadline for submissions is 20 December 2000.
I believe DPA should make a submission on this important document, as it contains within it the kind of Human Rights framework that could strengthen the work we are doing on the disability strategy.
Thank you again for allowing me to address you this evening.
The vision that I shared with you five years ago, as I handed over the opposition portfolio role to Ruth Dyson, is the vision I still hold today, as she hands it back, in what could be described as a team relay approach to delivering a New Zealand disability strategy that is meaningful and real to all of us.
I cannot stress enough how important it is that the momentum continues.
I am prepared to commit to you my energy and determination to make a world of difference, and I ask that you join with me, to ensure that together we do.