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IHC Demands Government Response To Widely Known Abuse Experienced By Disabled People

IHC wants to congratulate the Human Rights Commission for drawing attention to the staggeringly high rates of abuse and neglect that disabled people experience in Aotearoa.

Trish Grant, IHC Director of Advocacy, says disabled people are significantly more likely to experience abuse and violence.

“The report has told us that more than 90 percent of disabled participants in some international studies have talked about physical, sexual and emotional/coercive violence against them,” says Trish. “IHC has been aware of this issue for many years and inaction on this issue cannot be tolerated any longer.”

“The HRC reports released today are very timely considering the reduced scope of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care.”

“We had serious hopes that the Royal Commission would be able to expose the abuse that disabled people have experienced, so we were incredibly disappointed when Government reduced the scope of the Inquiry.”

Trish says the report points out how underserved this community is, despite being way more likely to experience abuse and violence.

“Aotearoa has no specialised family violence services for disabled people,” says Trish. “Mainstream services rarely have staff with knowledge of disability, particularly intellectual disability– and although Māori bear a disproportionate burden of violence, there is a lack of kaupapa Māori sexual or family violence services.”

“For too long we have worked with intellectually disabled adults experiencing abuse and neglect from family members and have not been able to locate suitable and accessible services to keep them safe.”

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“Additionally, most services do not know how to work with intellectually disabled people, who may communicate in different ways, nor with adult individuals who are experiencing abuse from other adult family members.”

Trish says family violence services are also not equipped to dealing with the imbalance of power between a disabled person and their carer. Some forms of this abuse can include withholding necessary medication, personal cares, food, or mobility aides.

“Disabled people live in great fear of reporting violence and abuse as they may have no alternatives to their current living situation and have a very serious fear of repercussions.”

IHC also holds concerns about the high number of restraints used against disabled students in special schools.

Initial figures discovered by IHC through OIA requests have demonstrated that disabled students in special schools are 60 times more likely to be restrained than students in mainstream schools. “Disabled students suffer traumatic stressed disorders from experiencing or witnessing this state-sanctioned violence in special schools.”

Finally, IHC demands a joint response from the Government, and the family violence and disability sector, that recognises the intersectional approach needed for Māori with intellectual disability.

“The HRC reports not only lay out the serious and urgent problems for those who are not aware of them, but also offer a Te Tiriti focused and human rights road map to tackle these problems,” says Trish. “The reports are focused on a twin-track approach, where general services are disability literate, while specialised services are also available with a focus on upskilling people - shifting perceptions of disability, and co-designing everything with disabled people.”

There is one gap in the HRC reports that IHC thinks needs to be addressed.

“We also think there is real space for a Public Advocate of Aotearoa to be the statutory body responsible for guaranteeing the safety and wellbeing of disabled people,” says Trish. It is not enough to provide accessible services – a government-level body needs to ensure that the work being done is effective, that services are joined up nationally, and good practice is shared.”

IHC cannot wait to be involved in this critical work.

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