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Appointment of new Minister seen as urgent

New Zealand CCS Media Release

31 October 2000 – For Immediate Release

Appointment of new Minister seen as urgent by disability sector

A replacement Minister for Disability Issues must proceed urgently, according to leading disability organisation New Zealand CCS.

Chief Executive of New Zealand CCS, Rob Williams, said that Hon Ruth Dyson’s resignation was very much regretted, particularly as she was extremely effective in progressing outstanding disability issues. It was now vital, however that the momentum achieved during her time in office was continued.

“For the first time in the country’s history we have had a Minister with responsibility for the disability issues portfolio. Her successes included the development of a Disability Strategy supported by a working group primarily comprising people with disabilities.

“She was also instrumental in getting Government departments such as housing, transport, ACC and Social Welfare to work together on disability related issues, aas well as the appointment of a Deputy Director General of Health responsible for disability issues,” said Mr Williams.

“These successes represent a significant investment in time and resources. We’re acutely aware that this portfolio is outside Cabinet and it would be easy to drop it altogether. We are also aware of the temptation to collapse disability into, or run it alongside, the health portfolio under the Hon Annette King. We need assurance as soon as possible that Government remains committed to disability as a separate portfolio working across all sectors and is not considering either of these options.”

Human Rights Commission
A reality check on the current state of resolving disability issues in New Zealand included the lack of resourcing behind the Human Rights Commission, said Mr Williams.

Commenting on the proposal by Associate Justice Minister Margaret Wilson to amalgamate the Human Rights Commission and the Race Relations Office within a new Human Rights Institution, Mr Williams said: “Any improvement on the current situation would be heralded by the disability sector. The ability of the Commission to do its job has been steadily declining over the past 10 years through dwindling resources provided by Government. We are extremely concerned with any more changes, unless they represent an actual commitment to supporting rather than undermining the Commission’s ability to protect and promote human rights,” he said.

Complaints regarding discrimination from people with disabilities represent 26 percent of claims to the Commission – the largest proportion of any group, he said. Around half of these cases relate to employment and only signal a problem which largely represents systemic discrimination within our community. The remainder of complaints are against educational institutions, and other organisations as a result of lack of equal access to retail and other facilities and services.

“Lack of resources means that processing claims typically takes many months and often years. Furthermore people aren’t aware what their rights are, the procedure for making a complaint, or that the majority of claims are actually settled before reaching the courtroom,” he said.

“The Human Rights Commission, whatever future shape, has to be supported so that people are informed and claims can be processed quickly – to the benefit of all parties. Better still, more public information and a Commission with teeth will prevent this discrimination from happening in the first place. The current situation cannot continue.”

For more information please contact:
Rob Williams
Chief Executive, New Zealand CCS
E-mail: rwilliams@no.ccs.org.nz


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