Hot Issues November 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.

Subscribe here to receive our monthly IHC Hot Issues newsletter via email.


Inside IHC Hot Issues:

Select committee finally publishes report on dyslexia, dyspraxia and autism

New Ministry of Education seclusion and restraint guidelines

Youthlaw questions use of seclusion

Education For All rally in Auckland

Autistic Nelson boy receiving only four hours of education a week

Consultation on Te Whāriki Early Childhood curriculum

Families in Otara missing out on Child Disability Allowance

Supreme Court to decide employment status of respite care workers

Calls for inquiry into historic disability abuse


November has been another busy month of disability-related education issues. It started with the Minister of Education announcing her retirement at the next election so it is likely there will be a new Minister appointed in the new year. The Ministry of Education released further information on the Learning support Update, and the new new seclusion and restraint guidelines. The report of the Select Committee inquiry into the Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Autism came out. Another inclusive education rally was held in Auckland where families and gathered to express their concern about government plans. We had major earthquakes, but TVNZ apparently turned down a request for NZ Sign Language interpreters for updates about the emergency responses. Meanwhile new research found that many families of disabled children in South Auckland are not accessing the Child Disability Allowance so are missing on vital assistance, and there is a renewed call for an inquiry into historic disability abuse.


Select committee finally publishes report on dyslexia, dyspraxia and autism

Last year concerned citizens made hundreds of submissions to Parliament’s Education and Science Select Committee inquiry into the identification and support of children in primary and secondary school with dyslexia, dyspraxia and autism spectrum disorders. Reflecting widespread public concern, the committee received almost 450 written submissions, and heard 194 oral submissions in sittings in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Submitters included parents, educational professionals, disability organisations and students. Many of the stories had similar themes of lack of understanding, resourcing and support for affected students.

The committee has now published a report with numerous recommendations. The Government always has a majority of the members on select committees so findings usually reflect government views. This report is unusual in that the members of the committee from the Opposition parties in Parliament - Labour, Greens and NZ First- have provided a minority report with stronger and more extensive recommendations for improving the system.

Green Party education spokesperson Catherine Delahunty, who helped initiate the inquiry, was disappointed that although large holes were found in the current system the report didn’t go far in suggesting remedies. “The report is a start, but as we have made clear in the Labour, Greens and NZ First minority report; without increased funding and enshrining in law a child’s right to an inclusive education, our broken system cannot be fixed. The inquiry heard from hundreds of parents and children about how hard it is to access genuine inclusion and resources for kids who need learning support. When a select committee hears these kinds of stories, there is a duty for MPs to take heed and to make recommendations that will fix the problem. The Ministry currently doesn’t know how many kids have learning support needs, and so we don’t know how many kids are missing out on help and their learning potential. When the funding for learning support is capped, and parents have to compete against each other to gain funding, no one gets the assistance they need.”

The Dyslexia Foundation, which advocated for the inquiry, supported the additional recommendations in the Minority Report as the main report did not go far enough in addressing the problems. Significant issues for them are: that parents need more information about what support is available and assistance to access that support; that school support is inconsistent and variable; and that the capability and capacity of teachers, teacher aides and other specialist support providers varies widely between schools.

The full recommendations were welcomed by many in the sector, such as parent-led advocacy group ViPs Inc, but there was concern about how the changes would be achieved given that the August release of the Minister’s cabinet paper on Inclusion and Learning Support indicated that there will be no further increase to the special education budget. That paper also indicated that money may be shifted from the support of older children into early intervention. VIPs questioned how the needs of children with disabilities and learning difficulties can possibly be met when funding levels are not keeping pace with the rise of diagnoses of these disorders. The funding cap also concerns the primary teachers’ union (and the union for teacher aides) the NZEI.

Some of the recommendations from the main report are to:

• Investigate the feasibility of a recognised qualification for Special Education Needs Coordinators (SENCOs)

• Extend its promotion of inclusive education information and resources to support teachers, including those who may be teaching students with needs arising from dyslexia, dyspraxia, and autism spectrum disorder

• Develop policy on learning support needs, to explicitly explain what best practice for inclusion is, and how monitoring and professional development will support this policy in all schools

• Work collaboratively with Dyslexia NZ, Dyspraxia NZ and Autism NZ and develop more formal links with national and international research experts in these areas

• Review the implementation of the 2008 New Zealand Autism Spectrum Disorder Guideline recommendations specific to education, to assess the level of progress.

• Continue to investigate working with bodies, such as the Children’s Commissioner, to create a mediation and dispute-resolution model for parents and schools, which uses arbitration as a last resort.


The Minority Report went further including:

• The MoE create a register of students identified with learning differences requiring extra support, so that need can be measured and thereby funded

• Increasing the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme funding to 3 percent to meet the actual number of high needs students, and remove the complex application process

• Ensuring an uncapped Intensive Wraparound Services fund, or an alternative effective system of support, to meet students’ needs

• Providing for moderate needs by increasing the Special Education Grant to meet the actual needs of the identified number of students in each school, annually adjusted


Inquiry into the identification and support for students with the significant challenges of dyslexia, dyspraxia, and autism spectrum disorders in primary and secondary schools New Zealand Parliament

IHC submission into Inquiry

Families let down by Education Select Committee report Green Party

Committee findings on learning support welcomed with caution  ViPs NZ Inc

Funding cap for children with extra learning needs unacceptable - NZEI  NZEI


New Ministry of Education seclusion and restraint guidelines

The Ministry of Education has been working on guidelines for seclusion and restrain use in schools for the last couple of years, assisted by an advisory group. The issue came to light last year after a complaint from a parent at Invercargill’s Ruru special school that a child with special needs was locked in a small dark room as punishment. Then there were the more recent allegations of seclusion rooms in several other schools. The Ministry has now published official ‘Guidance for New Zealand Schools on Behaviour Management to Minimise Physical Restraint’. This guidance is intended to help schools use positive strategies for managing student behaviour. It focuses on preventative and de-escalation techniques with the priority on the wellbeing and safety of both staff and students. They have also developed a training package for schools called ‘Understanding Behaviour – Responding Safely’.

The Ministry has also warned against the use of seclusion for behaviour management. Schools secluding students have been asked to stop the practice immediately and to report any previous use of seclusion to their board of trustees and Director of Education their region. The Ministry is offering to support schools that have used seclusion to explore other options. Schools are asked to contact the Ministry of Education for advice and support if a situation requires the use of physical restraint.


IHC made comment that the use of seclusion rooms was a symptom of a larger problem around the lack of resourcing for children with disabilities and schools and that a stronger response was required to protect children’s rights to a safe learning environment.

Update on Learning support

Letter to schools from The Secretary of Education regarding the use of Seclusion Ministry of Education

Guidance for New Zealand Schools on Behaviour Management to Minimise Physical Restraint Ministry of Education

School defends use of 'safe room' Stuff


Youthlaw questions use of seclusion

Auckland based human rights group YouthLaw have published a report on the use of seclusion rooms. They found two significant and worrying issues. Firstly, the absence of an appropriate accountability framework through which decisions that have a significant impact on students can be tested, including an Independent Education Review Authority that would provide an accessible check on the system when families experience issues, and more thorough monitoring and review of school disciplinary procedures. Secondly, the question of whether schools are appropriately funded and supported to provide a meaningful education to children with special education needs and if adequate support isn’t in place how will the situation be improved?


YouthLaw on the Seclusion Room Issue Scoop

Disability Rights Commissioner concerned about child safety Stuff


Education For All rally in Auckland

Families, disabled children and adults and educators gathered in the rain in Auckland Domain on Saturday 12 November to advocate for the education of all disabled children. This rally follows an earlier one in Wellington. It was organised by Education for All (EFA), a collaboration of families, disabled people and educators committed to ensuring that disabled children and young people are in schools that are well resourced to welcome them, and have the support to learn and participate in school life. EFA spokesperson Dr Bernadette Macartney says the Government isn’t investing in disabled children and schools in ways which will build disabled children’s access to education, and that these problems have gone on for too long. EFA says the Government’s recent Update announcements fall far short of the investment needed to build a quality inclusive education system.


We Stand Together, or We Fall Apart Autism and Oughtisms blog

Auckland rally to support education for all Scoop


Autistic Nelson boy receiving only four hours of education a week

A 9 year old autistic boy from Nelson has been out of school for most of this year after exclusion from local mainstream schools. The Ministry of Education wants his parents to enrol him in Halswell Residential School in Christchurch and has threatened them with prosecution if they do not do so. But his mother does not want him to be send 400kms away to a special school, particularly after the recent reports about seclusion practices in schools. She has been doing some educational activities with her son, but does not want to home school him, and would prefer he attended regular school as the law requires. He has now been receiving some help from a retired teacher for four hours a week. But his situation shows the serious gaps in access to education for some of our children. Hopefully, the implementation of the recommendations of the Select Committee will address such injustices.


Autistic boy receives four hours of education a week following exclusions Stuff


Consultation on Te Whāriki Early Childhood curriculum

The Ministry of Education is updating New Zealand’s early childhood curriculum, Te Whāriki, and is seeking public feedback until 16 December. The Ministry wants Te Whāriki to ensure that our youngest New Zealanders have a great start to learning now and in the future. However, advocates for disabled children say youngsters with disabilities are missing out on vital education due to a lack of funding in Early Childhood Centres (ECE) as the Government looks to drive up participation numbers. Parent-led advocacy group VIPs Inc have called for an end to the funding freeze placed on ECEs, after a recent NZEI survey claimed a third of these centres were unable to offer inclusive education. NZEI surveyed 264 ECEs and found the six-year funding freeze had forced increases to parent fees, cuts to teacher pay, deteriorating child to teacher ratios, and increased reliance on unqualified staff.


Disabled kids miss out Manawatu Guardian

Te Whariki Update Consultation Ministry of Education


Families in Otara missing out on Child Disability Allowance

A new report from the Child Poverty Action Group has found that many parents of children with disabilities or chronic conditions in South Auckland are not receiving the Government’s Child Disability Allowance. The non-means tested allowance of $46.49 per week can be used for extra expenses parents incurred as a result of the child’s disability, such as transport to appointments, prescription charges or time off work to look after their child. The report called “Barriers to Support – Uptake of the Child Disability Allowance in Otara” found that families either don’t know about the allowance, or found there were barriers to the application process through medical professionals and Work and Income. A third fewer parents are receiving the CDA than in 2009, although the population has increased. Work and Income emphasises that it is not an entitlement, but an allowance which some parents may be eligible for after their application has been considered.

To improve access to the allowance, CPAG's recommendations include that government agencies: Increase promotion of the allowance and its eligibility criteria to families and doctors, Simplify the application procedure, and Provide more funding for culturally-appropriate advocacy services.


Child Disability Allowance - Work and Income  Ministry of Social Development

Families missing out on child disability allowance, survey finds NZ Herald

Barriers to support: uptake of the Child Disability Allowance in Otara Child Poverty Action Group


Supreme Court to decide employment status of respite care workers

Those who provide respite care for disabled people while their primary carers take a break can be paid a maximum of only $75.00 for a 24-hour shift. The Union E tū has been trying to win a legal argument that respite workers are engaged workers and thus entitled to the minimum wage and holiday pay. They originally took the case on behalf of a former respite worker, to the Employment Court and won. However, that decision was overturned by the Court of Appeal, following an appeal by the Ministry of Health and the Capital and Coast DHB. The Court of Appeal found the respite worker was not engaged by the Ministry of Health, which pays the respite care subsidy, nor the DHB which assesses patients for respite care eligibility.

The Supreme Court has now granted leave for E tū to appeal that Court of Appeal ruling. The Union secretary commented that the country’s 35,000 mainly female respite carers are without basic employment conditions and paid a pittance. “This is a major public policy issue. These workers do a great job and they’re paid just $3.00 an hour. Someone has got to sort it – either the government or the courts,” he said.


Supreme Court grants leave to appeal Jan Lowe case Scoop

Legal battle over carers' pay to be heard in Supreme Court Stuff


Calls for inquiry into historic disability abuse

Ros Noonan, the former Chief Human Rights Commissioner, has called for an independent inquiry into historic abuse. She has accused the current government of burying a critical report on historic abuse done by the Commission under her leadership in 2011. Many children in state care, including in institutions until the early 1990s, suffered abuse and neglect. In 2009 the United Nations Committee Against Torture raised concerns about how New Zealand handled historic abuse claims. In 2011 the Human Rights Commission launched a review. Ms Noonan said the draft report recommended an independent inquiry be set up. But the Attorney General disagreed.

She has been supported in her call for an independent inquiry by a lawyer who has supported many clients seeking justice and compensation for historic abuse, abuse survivors, and the head of panel which heard complaints until it was disestablished in 2015. The 2011 report and the correspondence between the Commissioner and the Attorney General have now been released.


Child abuse report 'shut down' Radio New Zealand