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Shuffling The Chairs On The Titanic Won’t Resolve Underfunding Of Disability Support

24 April 2024

Disabled Persons Assembly (DPA) welcomes the move to place the new disability Minister position inside Cabinet but is concerned that on its own the move will not resolve the underlying issue of chronic underfunding of disability support.

DPA, a pan-disability organisation, run by and for disabled people, is calling for regular and meaningful engagement between Minister Upston and the disability community.

DPA Chief Executive Mojo Mathers says the change of Minister is no guarantee that disability support will be adequately funded.

"Changing ministers will only amount to shuffling chairs on the Titanic if it is not matched with meaningful resourcing and dialogue with disabled people and the wider disability sector."

"We are aware that former disability minister Hon. Penny Simmonds caused significant hurt with her comments suggesting that carers were abusing the system for personal gain, instead of recognising the need for carers' wellbeing to be supported so they in turn can offer the best level of care to disabled people.

“We know many will be relieved that there is a new start with a new Minister for this portfolio."

"However, DPA has also been alarmed by the targets to reduce the number of people receiving Jobseeker support and Minister Upston's 'if you can work, you should' rhetoric."

"We urge Minister Upston to take a holistic approach to investing in disabled people's wellbeing across both disability support and welfare, especially as narrow eligibility criteria mean many disabled people can't access disability support in the first place.

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"We also know that the restrictive eligibility criteria for the supported Living Payment push a huge number of disabled people into poverty and onto the Jobseeker benefit where many are now facing sanctions and unfair work-ready obligations."

The change of minister comes after a tumultuous month in which restrictions on disability funding impacting disabled people, whānau, support workers and providers were announced without meaningful consultation on 18 March, the day they came into force.

After considerable pressure from the disability community and sector, those restrictions have today been partially walked back.

The latest changes mean that funding will now again be available for using ride and driver services to access the community, purchasing of items that assist with self-management, arrangements that stop people ending up in residential care, and flexible support people were reliant upon for work or study.

"These changes are a partial but important win for our community.

"However, DPA urges Minister Upston to recognise the urgency of reversing the restrictions in full as a first step towards a disability support system that honours disabled people's human rights and Te Tiriti o Waitangi."

About Disabled Persons Assembly NZ

We work on systemic change for the equity of disabled people

Disabled Persons Assembly NZ (DPA) is a not-for-profit pan-impairment Disabled People’s Organisation run by and for disabled people.

We recognise:

  • Māori as Tangata Whenua and Te Tiriti o Waitangi as the founding document of Aotearoa New Zealand;
  • disabled people as experts on their own lives;
  • the Social Model of Disability as the guiding principle for interpreting disability and impairment;
  • the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as the basis for disabled people’s relationship with the State;
  • the New Zealand Disability Strategy as Government agencies’ guide on disability issues; and
  • the Enabling Good Lives Principles, Whāia Te Ao Mārama: Māori Disability Action Plan, and Faiva Ora: National Pasifika Disability Disability Plan as avenues to disabled people gaining greater choice and control over their lives and supports.

We drive systemic change through:

Rangatiratanga | Leadership: reflecting the collective voice of disabled people, locally, nationally and internationally.

Pārongo me te tohutohu | Information and advice: informing and advising on policies impacting on the lives of disabled people.

Kōkiri | Advocacy: supporting disabled people to have a voice, including a collective voice, in society.

Aroturuki | Monitoring: monitoring and giving feedback on existing laws, policies and practices about and relevant to disabled people.

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