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Disability report highlights poverty risk

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) welcomes the new report from CCS Disability Action released today, which has highlighted the inequities for disabled people living in Aotearoa and their families.

"The Government’s Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy advocates for adequate income and standard of living, so this report could not have come at a better time," says Professor Innes Asher, health spokesperson for CPAG. "The report highlights that households managing with a disability are more likely to experience poverty than other households, and children with a disability are significantly more likely to live in poverty than non-disabled children. Lower life satisfaction is reported among disabled people compared to non-disabled. The additional costs of a child having a disability can tip a family into deep poverty."

"The Government has released its Disability Action Plan 2019-2023 and while this shows commitment to making systemic improvements that are long overdue and absolutely necessary, in that plan there is no mention of income adequacy, improving benefits or disability allowances which all need to be addressed urgently," says Asher.

"The Welfare Expert Advisory Group clearly sets out this need in a report released earlier this year, entitled Whakamana Tāngata: Restoring dignity to Social Security in New Zealand ."

The CCS report sets out a vision for an Aotearoa where the needs of disabled people are provided for within a framework of leadership, conscious choice, voice, rights, collaboration and wellbeing. CPAG agrees with the observations of Dairne Kirton, National President CCS Disability Action that Aotearoa would be a fantastic place, if we all embraced this framework and brought it to life as citizens. Income adequacy must be addressed to ensure that wellbeing can be achieved.

A 2018 article from report author Sam Murray highlighted the fact that poverty among households with disabled children is high. Disabled children are more likely to live in sole-parent households than non-disabled children, with primary caregivers often receiving a welfare benefit.

"Our rates of support for families who are on a benefit are already too low and coping with the impacts of disability on top of this means that for many children and their families, their health and wellbeing is further compromised." says Dr Nikki Turner, CPAG Health Spokesperson.

"Where in the UK there are high rates of child poverty, children with disabilities are much less at risk of poverty than in New Zealand. Child Disability financial support is up to three times higher in the UK than paid in New Zealand. Our current amounts are clearly inadequate to needs.

Furthermore many families eligible for the Child Disability Allowance (CDA) are unaware that it’s available to them, as a 2016 report from CPAG found. The Disability Allowance (DA), the other main extra financial support for these families, is highly-targeted and means-tested, creating significant challenges for families in being able to access it.

"Families living with a disability have much more complex lives to negotiate than those without. Not having enough money is a huge stress on families already having additional needs to cope with, and we must prioritise ensuring they and their children are able to live healthy lives," says Dr Turner.

"We also have to look at the link between poverty and disability - poverty can cause adverse impacts such as long-term mental health issues, and the answer to this is clear - incomes must be addressed to support our families in the most need."

"How well we treat our most vulnerable is a measure of how we care as a country, and when we have a plan in place that can be proven to have a measurable, positive impact in their lives, including self-reported health and life satisfaction, then we can say we are doing well as a nation."

CPAG says the Government needs to urgently increase welfare benefits and supplementary payments for people with disabilities.

"The Child Disability Allowance should increase to 2-3 times the current maximum rate, and barriers to access must be removed," says Dr Turner.

"As well as this, there should be comprehensive plan established to assess disability needs, including incomes, infrastructure, transport and inclusive education."

CPAG also agrees with the WEAG’s recommendations to provide financial support that is adequate to live a life with dignity and is equitable across the social sector, and to consider increasing financial support for people affected by health conditions and disabilities not due to an accident, to be equivalent to that provided by the accident compensation (ACC) scheme.

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