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Disabled people deserve better health and education

Embargoed until 2.30pm, Thursday 7 August 2014

Media Release: Disabled people deserve better health and education

Urgent attention is needed to stop disabled New Zealanders with intellectual/learning disabilities dying up to 23 years before the rest of the population, says a key group monitoring disability rights in New Zealand.

In its second report, launched this week, the Independent Monitoring Mechanism (IMM) of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities says health outcomes for disabled New Zealanders seriously lag behind the rest of the population. And the group is calling for urgent attention to be given to raise the health status of people with intellectual/learning disabilities.

In its report, the IMM says this situation is not new and is unacceptable.

More than 10 years ago, a 2003 National Health Committee report criticised significant health disparities for people with intellectual/learning disabilities.

However the IMM report says there has been minimal evidence since then of progress to address this systemic health abuse, despite government assurances to the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2009. As a result, the IMM made further submissions to the Human Rights Council last year.

New Zealand Convention Coalition chair Mary Schnackenberg says it is appalling that the life expectancy of disabled New Zealanders is considerably less than the rest of the population.

“It is unacceptable that women with an intellectual/learning disability die an average of 23 years before other women. Men with an intellectual/learning disability fare only slightly better with a life expectancy 18 years shorter than other men. These are appalling statistics.”

In June 2014, the Government reported back to the Human Rights Council that it would explore options for making healthcare more accessible to people with intellectual/learning disabilities. Increasing access to health services and improving health outcomes for disabled people is also one of the cross-government priorities in the 2014-18 Disability Action Plan, announced at the end of May.

“The IMM welcomes these announcements. It is essential that disabled people, including those with intellectual/learning disabilities, are actively involved in finding solutions that improve their health, wellbeing and life expectancy,” says the report.

The IMM includes the Office of the Ombudsman, the Human Rights Commission and the New Zealand Convention Coalition made up of eight disabled people’s organisations.

The IMM’s report recommends that the Ministry of Health work with disabled people and their organisations to establish a comprehensive health monitoring and improvement programme. The IMM also calls on Statistics New Zealand to ensure that comprehensive data is collected comparing health outcomes for disabled and non-disabled people in New Zealand. In addition, the IMM has recommended changes to the Education Act so that disabled students are guaranteed the right to attend their local state school. This includes considering whether the Ministry of Education should have statutory power of direction in cases where a disabled child is being prevented from enrolling in, or attending, school.


Find out more at: http://www.hrc.co.nz/

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