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Disability Support Network Welcomes Minister Upston, Thanks Minister Simmonds

The disability sector hopes that new Minister for Disability Issues, Louise Upston, will champion improved services for disabled people to enable them to live fulfilling lives with the support that they need, says New Zealand Disability Support Network CEO Peter Reynolds.

"The Prime Minister is right to recognise the major financial issues in the disability sector. Disability support providers have barely treaded water for years, despite significant budget increases averaging 10% per year, due to surging demand for their services. Rapidly increasing costs of delivering services, including staffing costs, have largely been ignored by successive governments.”

"A token funding increase will not be enough. We estimate there needs to be a significant funding uplift of 24% to cover inflation and offset cuts since 2017 in the coming Budget, just to maintain current service levels. Without that funding, providers will need to cut services and disabled people will miss out on the support they need.”

"Additionally, we need the Government to front up with the money to settle the pay equity claims for care and support workers. Our workers deserve, and are legally entitled to, fair pay, and that will only happen if the Government stumps up. It’s not a choice for providers. They’re wholly reliant on government funding to operate.”

"If Whaikaha had been set up with sufficient funding in the first place, we wouldn’t be in this precarious situation now. It’s vital that disability funding keeps pace with need, and enables us to employ skilled workers to support disabled people.”

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"Given the scale of funding pressures on the disability sector, we welcome the appointment of a Cabinet-level Minister to handle the portfolio. There will be some trepidation towards Minister Upston from the sector, given her cuts to disability benefit increases. We hope that she will be a champion for Whaikaha and use her influence in Cabinet to ensure that support for disabled people isn’t sacrificed to pay for tax cuts. It is important that Whaikaha, as a Ministry specifically for disabled people, remains independent of MSD.”

"We want to thank Minister Simmonds for her service as Minister for Disability Issues. It was valuable to have a Minister with lived experience of disability and we wish her success in her other portfolios," says Mr Reynolds.

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