Hot Issues March 2016

Hot Issues is an electronic newsletter produced independently for the IHC advocacy team. The newsletter covers education, current political developments, submissions, family concerns, disability topics and events.

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Inside IHC Hot Issues:

  • Better advocacy needed for our children and young people
  • Changing school decile rating: warnings from ‘special’ education.
  • Boy shifts 500 kilometres for inclusive school
  • Teacher aides in most poorly paid occupational group
  • In-between travel settlement for home support workers
  • Inquiry into the future of New Zealand’s mobility needs


Better advocacy needed for our children and young people

Are we doing enough to safeguard our disabled children and young people and promote their interests? Are disabled children and young people’s voices heard at the government tables where Children’s action Plans disability action plans are developed? There are lessons from how disability organisations are working together in Australia to advocate for disabled children and young people. The organisation Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA) is a key body which represents children and young people aged 0-25 years old.

Earlier this month IHC Advocacy hosted a visit from their Chief Executive, Stephanie Gotlib. As well as visits to government agencies and Members of Parliament, IHC organised a meeting with representatives from several organisations including Parent2Parent, CCS Disability Action, Autism Action, Inclusive Education Action Group, NZDSA and other parent groups. Stephanie explained that the CYDA, a not-for-profit community organisation, which provides a link between the direct experiences of children and young people with disability and their families, through various disability and impairment groups, to government and other agencies who need this information. It also develops and provides resources, advocacy and assistance for disabled children and young people around a variety of topics such as inclusive education or abuse. CYDA as a representative organisation sits alongside disabled persons organisations in discussions with government about human rights implementation and service delivery.

The organisation’s aims are to: listen and respond to the voices and experiences of people with disability; advocate for children and young people with disability for equal opportunities, participation and inclusion in the Australian community; educate national public policy-makers and the broader community about the experiences of children and young people with disability; inform children and young people with disability, their families and care givers about their citizenship rights and entitlements, and celebrate the successes and achievements of children and young people with disability.

Its principles are staunch and non-negotiable: fundamental rights; having a childhood; participating in decision making; an inclusive approach; valuing families and care givers; working in partnerships (working collaboratively with relevant government, non-government, private sector agencies and the broader community to promote the rights and interests of children and young people with disability), and being accountable.

Although the organisation has been in existence for several years it has become more active since the introduction of Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme, the Australian Disability Strategy 2010-20 and the current Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. All these government initiatives are highly relevant to disabled children and young people. The organisation also rebranded itself as CYDA in 2009 to better reflect Australia’s obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Stephanie’s dedication and energy is also clearly contributes its success.

Membership is free for young people and their families while service providers, professionals and organisations pay a small membership fee. CYDA is also funded under the Commonwealth Department of Social Services national secretariat program with project funding from the Department of Social Services to provide information, referral and systemic advocacy regarding the experiences of children with disability in relation to the work of the Royal Commission.

There are numerous reasons why we need strong advocacy for and by young disabled people in New Zealand too. Too many children and young people with disabilities struggle to access an equitable, quality inclusive education. A pan-disability children and young people’s group could lobby for a Royal Commission into abuse like the Australian one which would allow disabled people’s stories to be heard in a respectful and safe environment. For those who think this is merely an historical issue, the recent conviction of a school staff member in Christchurch for abuse of students including disabled children over many years and in various schools is a wake-up call. How many more such stories are there? What programmes and resources are there encouraging young people themselves to speak out? CYDA’s publications provide a model.

We have also had recent cases of convictions of caregivers for abuse of young people in care. Many young people still live in inappropriate adult residential care facilities. We have had regular media stories of inappropriate restraint and seclusion of disabled children in schools. This can involve locking children in rooms alone or be as invisible as turning a power chair to manual so a disabled child cannot freely move around the classroom. Or maybe they are never asked for their input into classroom activities. We know that disabled children are often excluded from regular school programmes, and that after school care can be hard to access. We have regular stories of families denied immigration to New Zealand because of their disabled child. The discrimination is clear.

A stronger national voice for disabled children and young people is needed. A mechanism is needed which works with children themselves and their families and in partnership with all the other groups already working in the space. Many of those groups which currently receive government funding are not allowed to advocate for their clients under the terms of their contracts and may only provide information or programmes. But Australia’s CYDA shows us how effective a pan disability group can be in uniting such groups around a common advocacy cause.

Currently in New Zealand the voices of children and young people with disabilities are not heard or responded to by the children’s sector nor by the disability sector- resulting in both disadvantage and discrimination. New Zealand can and should do better.

The IHC was founded to give a voice to disabled children and their families. Is it time to take the lead again? Children with Disability Australia


Changing the school decile rating system: warnings from ‘special’ education

The Minister of Education, the Hon Hekia Parata, has signalled that the decile rating system will be changed to provide more targeted support for certain students. However, our experience since the Education Act was changed in 1989 to ensure the right of every child to attend their local school should provide a warning. Although the intentions of that Act were urgent and admirable, the implementation has long been problematic. Three decades later insufficient funding and barriers to inclusion for students with special educational needs remain serious concerns. Targeted funding has not been enough to include the large number of students who require extra support.

For decile ratings, currently schools are rated 1 (most deprived) to 10 (least deprived) on a complex analysis of the socio-economic status of the local population. All schools are funded on the total number of students they have but this funding is topped up on a scale from 1 – 10 following this analysis. Similarly, all schools also receive an additional Special Education Grant allocated by decile rating not according to whether there are any disabled students in the school.

The Minister is concerned that the public mistakenly equate decile ranking with quality, whereby they think that higher decile schools provide better education for their children. In fact many families of disabled children have found that lower decile schools are more welcoming of diversity and more focused on each child’s regardless of background or academic ability.

Although no formal announcement has been made it seems that the idea will be to scrap the decile system and fund schools according to students’ ‘risk of failure’ based on criteria such as having a parent in prison, experience of abuse, a parent on a benefit, or if the child’s mother has no formal qualifications. There are concerns that this could move stigma from schools in poorer communities to students and families themselves, and there are also considerable privacy issues.

Many parents of disabled children already understand the stigma of having a child with extra educational needs and know how they are often not welcomed by schools or communities. The Minister would be wise to listen to the experiences of such families, before labelling other categories of students and deciding on any new funding regime.

Other critics of the decile system would prefer the system to be enhanced to better reflect the needs of each school’s specific populations, rather thrown out altogether.

Schools shake-up: No more deciles? New Zealand Herald

John Hattie: It is time to be rid of deciles  New Zealand Herald

What’s wrong with ‘special’ education Briefing Papers, AUT


Boy shifts 500 kms for inclusive school

A boy with Down Syndrome has moved with his mother 500 km from Kaeo in Northland to Tokoroa as she could not find a local school which would support his needs once he left primary school. They have left some family members behind and are staying with relations in Tokoroa. The boy’s mother tried sending her son to the local high school but they said they couldn’t provide enough support and another school further away, which has several students with special needs, would not take him as he was out of zone. A Ministry of Education spokesperson says they approached that second high school to seek an exception but the principal declined the request, saying it would set a precedent for other out of zone students as they didn’t have the space and students with special needs are low priority for out of zone inclusion. At his new school the boy is well supported and has full-time teacher aides. The principal from his previous primary school regretted the lack of support and resources for the boy from local colleges in the north.


Teacher aides in most poorly paid occupational group

In yet another sign that our children with intellectual or learning disability are not valued learners comes the news that teacher aides rank among the most poorly paid occupations. Many of us know this anecdotally but it has been confirmed by research from the Universities New Zealand which analysed the earnings and qualifications of 2.15 million people to show which qualifications provided the most financial benefit over a working life. Medicine and law came out top and bottom was those with certificates in ‘other education’ including teacher aides. To remedy this the NZEI says that teacher aides should be paid in the same way as teachers. Currently schools pay teacher aides out of their operations grant, with sometimes extra funding through ORS. But this creates a disincentive for training. The operations budget is limited so if teacher aides get better qualifications and consequently more skills, they cost more for schools to employ so the school can then only employ them for fewer hours. Centralised employment and funding would ensure a proper career structure and recognition of teacher aide skills and their role in the inclusion of disabled children in classrooms.

Teacher aides among worst-off occupations New Zealand Herald


In-between travel settlement for home support workers

In 2014, after lobbying by unions and others, the Ministry of Health entered negotiations to find a solution that would lead to home support workers getting paid for the time they spend travelling between clients. This is referred to as in-between travel. A parliamentary bill was developed and this legislation is intended to provide a mechanism for a ‘one stop shop’ where employers can check their obligations and employees can check their entitlements. The full implementation of the settlement was due earlier this month. The bill describes Home and Community Support services as those funded by the Ministry of Health or a DHB that are performed in a client’s home for the purpose of assisting the client to continue to live in their own home; and services funded by ACC that are performed in a client’s home for the purposes of supporting a client’s rehabilitation from an injury covered by the ACC Act and to achieve and sustain the client’s maximum level of participation in everyday life. It also extinguishes retrospective and future claims, amends the Minimum Wage Act and limits the liability of employers to specific travel payments.

In between travel settlement   Ministry of Health


Inquiry into the future of New Zealand’s mobility needs

Parliament’s Transport and Industrial Relations Committee is holding an Inquiry into the future of New Zealand’s mobility. This may seem to be an odd topic for a parliamentary inquiry as mobility is such a broad term but one which is explained in the terms of reference. ‘This inquiry seeks to investigate how changing transport technology, and social and economic trends can: Enhance productivity, reduce transport and related costs, optimise infrastructure, increase accessibility and social connectedness, save lives, reduce injuries, and reduce the environmental footprint’. It is also about transport planning and personal mobility needs. So it is important that the needs of disabled people and families are considered in their work. For example, many people with intellectual or learning disability do not drive and rely on reliable and affordable public transport, as well as well-lit safe streets. They and their families need to access all the places required for community participation. Some might use school taxis or the subsidised Total Mobility. How could such services be improved? The closing date for submissions is Friday 1 April 2016 and they can be done on-line or on paper.

Inquiry into the future of New Zealand’s mobility  New Zealand Parliament