Disability funding issues missing in action
Disability funding issues missing in action during leaders debates
MEDIA RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE
8 September 2017
“ Disability is not a niche topic.”: Disappointment as disability funding issues missing in action during leaders debates
CCS Disability Action is disappointed that the leaders of political parties are not talking about the funding issues affecting the disability community in their debates.
David Matthews, Chief Executive of CCS Disability Action, said that some of the biggest challenges facing New Zealand are around disability policy and funding.
“We have an aging population and that will only increase the number of disabled people. We already have an estimated 1.1 million disabled people. Yet many of our buildings, transport and infrastructure are inaccessible. Disabled people have twice the rate of unemployment and are less likely to have qualifications. As a country, we need to respond to these inequalities and challenges.”
Mr Matthews said that while many parties had well informed disability spokespersons, the leaders of political parties seemed to avoid discussing disability.
“Disability is not a niche topic. The inequalities disabled people face effect their families, whānau, communities and the wider economy. Our productivity as a nation will be constrained if a sizable number of disabled people continue to be shut out of the labour market and education. We need to see leadership from the top. Disabled people deserve to know what the leaders of political parties think about the issues we face and what they will do to address them.”
Mr Matthews said the most pressing issue is funding.
“Since the early 1990s significant increases in funding have been rare and have certainly not kept up with inflation. Where there have been increases they have been minimal and focused on specific areas, such as the recent pay equity settlement or the sleepovers settlement. As a result, organisations providing disability services are now underfunded by around 10% to 15% on average. This has made it harder and harder to deliver services at the level of quality disabled people deserve. My organisation is facing increasing operational deficits and having to dip into reserves to make ends meet. There is a funding crisis in the disability sector which is getting worse every year.”
Mr Matthews believes the disability sector is on the cusp of positive change if these funding shortfalls can be addressed. “The Systems Transformation project, due to start next year in the Mid Central DHB region, is showing enormous amounts of promise. I am confident we can create a new and better system that gives disabled people far more choice and control over their support. A system that can actually make some serious progress in reducing the inequalities disabled people face. But if we do not address the current funding crisis, it may undermine or even prevent the new system from working as effectively as we would like. For a new system to take hold, we need organisations to be innovative, collaborative and open. This cannot happen if everyone is fixated on their dwindling bottom line.”
Mr Matthews believes the funding crisis can be solved with political leadership.
“What we need is an immediate adjustment to make up for the historical underfunding. This is estimated to be around 10% to 15% of current funding. This would lead to more sustainable services, which in turn would allow us to focus on creating a new system of support that can meet the needs of disabled people. We need the leaders of the political parties to start talking about these funding challenges and let us know what their proposed solutions are. The status quo cannot continue.”