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Maharey Speech: Building a truly inclusive society

Steve Maharey Speech: Building a truly inclusive society

Comments at the Group Special Education/Sommerville Centre Transition Forum. Education House, Wanganui.


”Work is not punishment. It is reward and strength, glory and pleasure.” [Slide one]

For many, work is primarily a means of providing income. Income that supports our everyday lives, and sustains our material needs. Work also offers rewards that, while less tangible, add value and meaning to our lives.

Self-worth, self-confidence, a sense of achievement. These are the rewards obtained through participating in gainful employment; through contributing in our society.

[Slide two]

The reason we’re here today is to help ensure that more members of our community are given the chance to participate and contribute. That more New Zealanders get to experience the rewards of work.

And I’m very pleased to be with you here this morning. Thank you to the Sommerville Centre and the Ministry of Education – Special Education for your invitation.

This is a great opportunity for us all to gain a greater appreciation of the efforts in action in this community. And it’s an opportunity to be inspired by what we hear today.

[Slide three]

In taking office, this Government determined a vision for New Zealand. We want to build a prosperous, inclusive and environmentally sustainable society.

[Slide four]

And in the four years of a Labour-led government there has been progress in building an inclusive society. Today:

We have a Minister for Disability Issues.

We have the New Zealand Disability Strategy that includes a framework for action towards a fully inclusive society. All government departments are required to prepare annual plans on how they intend to implement the strategy.

Sitting underneath the New Zealand Disability Strategy we have Pathways to Inclusion, our new direction for vocational services for people with disabilities. It embodies our commitment to do everything we can to make sure people with disabilities have the opportunity to gain real skills and real jobs, with the same rights and conditions as other workers.

We also have the Office for Disability Issues operating out of the Ministry of Social Development. This Office takes a broad, cross-sectoral approach to disability issues.

These efforts represent good progress in achieving our vision. But they are early milestones. There is much more that we need to do to build a truly inclusive society.

The leap from school to work [Slide five]

A key foundation in building an inclusive society for our youth is to ensure that young people get to participate as members of the workforce. For many of this country’s young people, the passage from school to work is something taken for granted. It’s a natural progression: leave school, get a job.

That is not the experience for all, especially for many students with disabilities. The thrust of this Government’s efforts is to see employment not as a privilege but as part of an ordinary life - for all New Zealanders.

Making employment a right, not a privilege

We all want young people with disabilities to have access to the right to employment. We don’t want to make the Sickness or Invalid’s Benefit their only option after they leave school.

[Slide six]

The Government’s Jobs Jolt package, released earlier this year, commits $104.5 million to helping New Zealanders into work. Several Jobs Jolt initiatives are targeted at helping Sickness and Invalid’s Benefit clients who want to move off the benefit and into employment.

[Slide seven]

The Jobs Jolt initiatives will help these clients become ready for work, find the right work, and stay in work. They support the goals of the New Zealand Disability Strategy and Pathways to Inclusion.

Jobs Jolt funding is behind several innovative pilot schemes in the Taranaki/King Country region. In one, the Ministry is working closely with occupational therapists to address the specific barriers to employment for people with disabilities. In another, a local doctor has been contracted to trial a course in positive thinking for Sickness and Invalid’s Benefit clients.

Another pilot is trialling in-work support for clients who have recently moved into employment. In-work support helps with things like budgeting, and adjusting to working life. It helps make employment sustainable.

Intensive case management for Sickness and Invalid’s Benefit clients is a key part of Jobs Jolt. In New Plymouth, five new case managers are being recruited. Reduced case loads will enable case managers to work one-on-one with each client, taking a holistic approach and giving them the help they need to move into employment.

Here in Wanganui, young people with disabilities can benefit from the expansion of Job Club, run through Workbridge. Job Club works with small groups of people with disabilities on things like CV preparation, letter writing, and interview techniques.

Another initiative, not part of Jobs Jolt but running very successfully for the past two years, is the intensive case management pilot for Maori long-term Sickness and Invalid’s Benefit clients with mental health issues.

Run by Maori health provider Te Rau Pani, the pilot provides clinicians and employment specialists to work intensively with up to 50 clients at a time. Several clients have so far been successfully placed into employment. The Ministry is investigating expanding this pilot into Wanganui in 2004.

All these initiatives are part of our shift away from simply paying benefits to taking a wider view of a person’s life, and helping them achieve their full potential. To enjoy community membership in an inclusive society.

[Slide eight]

To Have an Ordinary Life is a report on community membership for adults with intellectual disability released last month by the National Advisory Committee on Health and Disability. This report noted that for young people with intellectual disabilities, the transition to adulthood is a complex process that benefits from good planning. Transition planning plays a vital role in enabling young people with disabilities to enjoy the benefits of work.

[Slide nine]

To Have an Ordinary Life also states that successful transition needs to involve the student in an empowering way. It needs to focus on the goals and aspirations of the student, take a whole-of life approach, and provide work experience in a range of settings.

[Slide ten]

Successful transition planning relies heavily on good partnerships with parents, whanau and support agencies. It starts as early as possible, and is broadened from school-to-work transition to school-to-adulthood transition.

[Slide eleven]

Late last year the Ministry of Social Development sought contracted providers to take part in a two-year development pilot for transition services. Thirteen organisations are now involved in the pilot, which began in June this year.

The pilot provides funding for full time Transition Co-ordinators. They plan services for students with disabilities who receive Ongoing and Renewable Resource funding, and are in their last year of school.

The first reports of the programme’s progress were due with the Ministry this week so it’s a little early to comment on outcomes just yet. But, these are steps in the right direction.

Supported employment [Slide twelve]

Still a relatively new concept in New Zealand, supported employment has developed as a successful alternative in providing vocational services for people with disabilities.

Supported employment is all about providing people with the support they need to get and remain in a job. Under current funding, the Ministry of Social Development has entered 20 contracts with providers of supported employment services.

[Slide thirteen]

One of the foundation principles of the Association of Supported Employment in New Zealand is to get the person into the job and then get them up to speed on the job, rather than put them through prolonged preparation. This ,principle forms the basis for the Ministry’s contracts with providers.

Other principles include: open employment - where people with disabilities are employed in the mainstream workplace equal working wages and benefits - I’ll talk about this principle in a few minutes and no exclusion or screening based on how bad the disability is perceived to be.

[Slide fourteen]

The Ministry’s contracts for supported employment services are part of the foundation work that will bring about improvements in vocational services offered to people with disabilities.

Over the last 18 months the Ministry has been laying the groundwork needed to achieve the aims of Pathways to Inclusion. Our initial priority has been to strengthen and improve the current provision of services. This includes evaluating existing services, establishing areas of need, and providing assistance to improve services.

[Slide fifteen]

Next financial year, activity will step up a notch. The 2004/2005-year will see a significant jump of more than $9 million in new funding for vocational services.

This demonstrates the Government’s commitment to assist people with disabilities into real paid work through the provision of effective support.

Equal rights, equal pay [Slide sixteen]

One position this Government stands firm on is the need to repeal the Disabled Persons Employment Promotion Act - because it treats people with disabilities unfairly.

The repeal of the Act is priority 3 on the government’s legislative agenda. This means it will be repealed, if possible, later this year.

The repeal will give people with disabilities the same employment rights and opportunities as other New Zealanders. Most importantly, the repeal will ensure that employed people with disabilities do not receive less than the minimum wage.

This is a significant change for the sector. The government has recognised the challenges this change represents, particularly for providers such as sheltered workshops. We recognise that these providers have a long history of providing employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

However, we must repeal the Disabled Persons Employment Promotion Act if we are to genuinely make progress in achieving inclusion.

[Slide seventeen]

In setting the scene for the repeal of the Act, the Ministry of Social Development is working alongside providers to support them through the period of change.

We’ve allowed five years for providers to assess their circumstances and how they want to work after the Act is repealed.

We’ve provided financial assistance through the Quality Fund to help providers develop change management plans.

[Slide eighteen]

Well into the 5-year lead in time, some providers are developing their plans to adapt. Others have decided their future lies in becoming community development organisations. Still others are striking a balance between the two. Some are even looking at ventures that allow them to employ people without disabilities in order to earn the funds to pay all their employees at the appropriate level.

For many organisations the new environment is driving new solutions in vocational support-- solutions that will be of great benefit to people with disabilities.

A collaborative approach [Slide nineteen]

Much of the government’s focus from here on in is on ensuring we continue to deliver a better and more socially connected life for people with disabilities.

For some time now we have been driving the adoption of a whole-of-government approach as the best means of taking this country forward.

We have been requiring a more results focused approach across the public sector. This approach is fostering collaboration and the integration of state sector processes and services.

[Slide twenty]

However, while the government plays an integral role in building social wellbeing for New Zealanders, achieving it is not a solo act.

Whether we work in partnership across government agencies, with community leaders or groups, or with individuals, success in building social wellbeing boils down to a bond between people. People who share a common vision and who are committed to working together to achieve it.

This need for partnership is why events such as today are so important. Here we all are, coming from our different perspectives, with differing skills.

This is an ideal opportunity to learn from one another. To tap others’ ideas and strengths. To build the networks and relationships that can offer genuine benefits to the work and interests of each person.

[Slide twenty-one]

I strongly encourage you to do whatever needs to be done to ensure this forum is not a one-off. Forge those connections. Work at keeping in contact.

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