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NZ welfare policy around relationships harms disabled

Welfare policy which penalises people for forming relationships is harming the disabled community, Disabled Persons Assembly (DPA) says.

DPA are joining Auckland Action Against Poverty, Child Poverty Action Group and Action Station in calling on the Government to change rules around the reduction of supports and benefits for people who form relationships.

An open letter to Jacinda Ardern was launched today asking for change to how relationships are treated by Work and Income New Zealand - so people get what they need to live a dignified life that does not trap them in poverty and make them fearful to build relationships.

“Many disabled people rely on the benefit system because they aren’t able to work, or have difficulty finding work. These people should not be financially disadvantaged because they have formed a relationship,” DPA Chief Executive Prudence Walker says.

“Disabled people should have as much of a right as non-disabled people to form relationships without losing their livelihood.”

The Disability Action Plan (2019-2026) sets out the vision for disabled New Zealanders: “We have an adequate standard of living that enables us to fully participate in society, where necessary through the provision of income support which takes into account the additional cost of disability.”

“Until welfare rules change, this vision cannot be realised,” Ms Walker says.

“We also have concerns about the impact of forcing people to become reliant on their partners early on in a relationship

“Policies that create a power imbalance in relationships can make it difficult for people to leave unhealthy relationships. Disabled people are particularly vulnerable as they are much more likely to experience family violence than non-disabled people.”

Julia*, who has a physical disability that causes pain and fatigue, was receiving the Supported Living Payment when she met her partner Michael*. Unable to work at the time, she says it was a “huge decision” for her to move in with Michael.

“It was a lot to ask of him – to support me both physically and financially”.

“It meant that I had to rely on him totally, which was a real blow to my independence”.

As well as losing her core benefit entitlements, she no longer received the disability allowance.

“Being disabled is expensive – and suddenly I had to cover extra expenses like unfunded medications, transport and equipment”.

Julia’s disability support hours were also reduced when she moved in with Michael, because she no longer qualified for a community services card.

“There are so many disincentives for people on benefits to form relationships, it’s really unfair.”

*not their real names

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