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Lack of support for refugees with disability needs

Lack of support for people from refugee backgrounds with disability needs: ChangeMakers Refugee Forum research

24 January 2013

The lives, freedom, and safety of refugees with disability needs who have been resettled may no longer be at risk, but in Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand, their right to participate in society on an equal basis with other New Zealanders is not being realised.

In their latest research, ChangeMakers Refugee Forum – a rights-based, community development, research and advocacy organisation – interviewed people from refugee backgrounds who either have a disability or are caring for someone with a disability, and spoke with staff from Wellington-based disability, health, and refugee service delivery organisations.

Although all New Zealanders with disability needs have the right to live independently and participate fully in society, ChangeMakers’ research found that in Wellington, disability strategies do not include people from refugee backgrounds, and there is a lack of coordination across refugee agencies, and primary healthcare and disability service providers. People from refugee backgrounds with disability needs have ‘slipped through the cracks’ and are living in protracted isolation and with limited independence. As one refugee-background participant commented, ‘it's just computer and tv. I barely go out.’

Alia Bloom, research coordinator at ChangeMakers, said that in Wellington, the greatest barrier to participation in society for people from refugee backgrounds with disability needs is a lack of coordinated support. ‘We need comprehensive service provision and support from disability, health and refugee agencies.’

ChangeMakers Refugee Forum is calling for refugee-background communities to be included as a target population by health and disability agencies to ensure people from refugee backgrounds are reflected in strategic and operational plans relating to the provision of disability services, and improved awareness from refugee agencies of the types of disability supports available.

The research launched at a Human Rights Commission roundtable in December 2012, makes a number of recommendations to ensure that people from refugee backgrounds with disability needs can participate fully in Aotearoa New Zealand life.

For more information, to get involved in the initiative to improve outcomes for people from refugee backgrounds with disability needs, or to see the full report, go to http://www.crf.org.nz/research_programme.


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