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Wellbeing Budget falls disappointingly short for disability

The Coalition Government has made a small positive step in the right direction, but has failed to deliver the significant, and meaningful change in funding that the disability support sector urgently needs, says New Zealand Disability Support Network CEO Dr Garth Bennie.

“We had hopes for this year’s Budget with its focus on wellbeing, but at best, the funding increases only enable the system to limp through another financial year in its current state,” said Bennie.

“We had been greatly heartened by our meetings with Ministers and their last minute intervention to stop large scale cuts to support services. “And even in the Budget, Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter stated categorically; ‘there will not be cuts to people’s support.’

“Indeed, the Government claims Budget 2019 provides the largest increase ever to Disability Support Services.

“But when you look at it closely, this Budget has failed to provide the step change needed to put funding for the sector on a sustainable footing. Simply put, the Government is not walking the talk.

“Our analysis shows that the Ministry of Health has an estimated $83million dollar over spend in this financial year for disability support services and provision for only an additional $72million in the budget for the new financial year. This leaves an $11million dollar shortfall from the get go.

“What this means, is that the Ministry will face mounting pressure to ration services again despite the positive words from the Minister. Make no mistake, this means disabled people continuing to live with uncertainty about the services they need. If cuts are not an option, then funding will have to once again be found elsewhere in the health budget to cover shortfalls.

“The Wellbeing Budget delivers more funding and that is appreciated, but it fails to adequately address the cost pressures on those who provide services, allow for growth in demand in services or address workforce development issues. There are so many people outside the system who desperately need funding and so much unmet need among those in the system.

There were also small increases in funding for employment support (1%) and community participation programmes (3.75%) but these were the first increases in almost a decade. “Much more needs to be done – if Washington state in the USA can achieve 80% employment for people with learning difficulties, it’s staggering that NZ sits at 15%. That is just one example of the urgent issues this Government should be dealing with.

“We know one Budget will not alone solve the issues we face. That’s why we will continue to press our case for the significant and sustainable change in funding that thousands of disabled people and their families need so they can access with ongoing certainty the quality services they deserve.”

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