IHC Hot Issues - February 2017

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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‘Never again’ campaign calls for inquiry into historic abuse

New Ministry of Health guidelines to prevent abuse

Second killing of an autistic young woman by mother

IHC makes submission on seclusion amendment

Lack of post-school options for disabled young people

Accessing support from Work and Income gets even harder

Yes, there is a mental health crisis

Are we sleepwalking into a world without Down syndrome?

General Election 2017 and advocacy for intellectual disability


‘Never again’ campaign calls for inquiry into historic abuse

The Human Rights Commission has called on the Government to hold an inquiry into the historic abuse of those who suffered in State care, including children and disabled people, many with intellectual disability. Its ‘Never again’ campaign includes a petition. A public letter signed by 29 prominent New Zealanders and disability advocates asks the Government to:

  • initiate an independent inquiry into the abuse of people held in State care in order to identify the systemic issues that permitted this to occur and the broader impact of these events on our communities
  • publicly apologise to those who were affected, including those who were abused, their families and whanau
  • take other appropriate steps to acknowledge the harm that has been caused to the victims and to provide them with appropriate redress and rehabilitation
  • take action to ensure this never happens again.


The request for an inquiry has received widespread support, including from opposition political parties and disability advocates. However Prime Minister Bill English has rejected the idea. He says it is more important to concentrate on proposed changes to child welfare services, so abuse does not happen in the future.

Never Again NZ Human Rights Commission

'Never again' - HRC calls for state abuse inquiry Radio New Zealand

Calls for state inquiry into historic abuse resurface - but Government still says no Stuff

Demand grows for inquiry into alleged historic abuse of children in state care NZ Herald


New Ministry of Health guidelines to prevent abuse of people with disabilities

The Ministry of Health has produced a guide aimed at disability support service providers for safeguarding disabled people against abuse.

The Ministry says: “Safeguarding disabled people involves preventing abuse, creating a better understanding of signs that abuse is occurring and developing appropriate and responsive systems to deal with incidents of abuse.

“It is essential that disability support service providers understand the known risks and indicators of abuse. In line with both the New Zealand Disability Strategy and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Ministry of Health supports a culture that values and respects disabled people as full citizens of our community.

“Abuse can take many forms, including physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, financial and organisational. Abuse in support services reduces the confidence that disabled people and their families have in the services that the Ministry contracts and funds. The Ministry, along with providers, has a duty of care to ensure that any actions taken, or any failures to take action, do not injure or harm disabled people that they support. At the same time, both the Ministry and providers have a responsibility to support disabled people to take risks and experience both success and failure – the dignity of risk – just like other members of the community.”

The Prevention and Management of Abuse: Guide for Services funded by Disability Support Services Ministry of Health


Killing of an autistic young woman by mother

Early last year a Blenheim mother of a young disabled woman published a book about their life together and the challenges of raising a child with high needs autism and other health conditions. A month later, Donella Knox killed her daughter. In December she was sentenced to four years in jail for murder. The details were suppressed until a few weeks ago and since then there has been a great deal of media attention on the death of Ruby Knox. There has been widespread shock and questioning why?

. In 1997 an autistic teenager, Casey Albury, was also killed by her mother. There has been a great deal of work done since to improve policies and support. But this latest case has revealed that major gaps remain in understanding, support, integrated services and training around autism and complex disability, as well as the mental health and wellbeing of carers. Suggestions by some media that this was a ‘mercy killing’ have been strongly challenged by disability advocates. A respite carer has called for improvements to autism care including better training, qualifications and an hourly rate rather than the current carer relief allowance which can be as little as $75 for 24-hour care. Her call is supported by Autism NZ and the E Tu Union.

The Big Read: Case of Donella Knox who murdered autistic daughter Ruby a 'once in a generation case' NZ Herald

On Donella Knox, her disabled daughter, and the so-called ‘mercy killing’ The Spinoff

Murder - it's not OK Access, Public Address

Respite carer calls for better pay and proper training Stuff

Disability Community Day of Mourning Autistic Self Advocacy Network


IHC makes submission on seclusion amendment

The Education (Update) Amendment Bill proposes some major changes to our public education system. The Bill was introduced to Parliament in 2016 and sent to the select committee for public scrutiny. Late last year a Supplementary Order Paper was added to the Bill outlawing seclusion and restraint practices after numerous media reports of such abuse happening in schools, particularly to disabled children. IHC made a supplementary submission and spoke to the Committee in early February.

While supporting the amendments, IHC’s submission asked for more resources for schools. “The historical and recently exposed use of seclusion and restraint in schools is, in IHC’s view, symptomatic of a larger systemic problem, whereby schools often lack the human and financial resources and expertise required to include and provide a quality learning environment for all students.

“The international research literature indicates that children with disabilities are at higher risk of maltreatment generally and are disproportionately subjected to seclusion and restraint in school settings. Information available suggests that this is also the case in New Zealand. The vulnerability of children with disabilities, especially within segregated education settings, requires heightened ‘due diligence’ to ensure their safety.”

IHC Submission on the Education (Update) Amendment Bill Supplementary Order Paper no 250  NZ Parliament

Education (Update) Amendment Bill NZ Parliament


Lack of post-school options for disabled young people

The lack of options for disabled students once they have left school has long been a problem and worry for many families. Some ORS funded students can stay until the end of the year they turn 21 if the school has appropriate facilities and courses. Those not eligible for ORS must leave earlier. But there are very few post-school options for young people to move on to. Day programmes, vocational and other tertiary courses and employment opportunities are very limited. Some day programmes are not suitable for school leavers. Although schools are expected to provide career and post-school transition planning, students with disabilities are often overlooked. Funding responsibilities between the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Social Welfare can be complex. The Enabling Good Lives programme is working on this issue for a few disabled school leavers in the limited areas covered by this initiative, but elsewhere there are still numerous gaps in the provision of activities for school leavers. We need to make this an election issue.

Parents say disabled children left with nowhere to turn after high school Dominion Post


Accessing support from Work and Income gets even harder

Most people with intellectual disability and their families have to regularly interact with Work and Income. This contact often starts with applications for the Child Disability Allowance and then for the Supported Living Payment.  Accommodation Supplement support, part-time or casual employment, the Disability Allowance and constant reviews require numerous and ongoing interactions with the organisation, for the disabled person and/or their approved agent (often a parent). Leaving the country without notification and permission results in an immediate benefit cut. Letters are sent from Work and Income requiring an explanation for any irregularities, but now with fewer postal delivery days, the time-frame for response can be tight, while income support is readily cut.

Despite claims in recent years by MSD that it wants to make processes easier to use, it has been getting steadily harder to access Work and Income. Online registration through the complicated RealMe Government IT interface is required. This is difficult for many disabled people, even if they have access to a computer, a paid-up cell phone and the internet. To make an appointment usually means ringing an 0800 number, but sometimes an available appointment time in the local branch can be weeks away. While individuals may be able to request to see the same Work and Income staff person, the reality is more likely to be that each time you make contact you have to explain your situation to a new person. You can’t just drop into a branch to make an appointment or drop material off as that has to be done through other approved processes. To visit a branch a security guard needs to unlock the door and then you have to wait, under camera surveillance, until someone is ready to talk to you. Photo identification is now required to get in the door. But people with learning or intellectual impairments are unlikely to have photo ID from a driver licence, and may not have a passport or even an 18+ card. There are valid concerns about safety and fraud but more punitive attitudes to some of our most powerless citizens are not the way to have a well-functioning and trusted welfare system.

Visiting a Work and Income branch? You must produce ID Stuff

Whistleblower guard stood down by Armourguard Security Unite Union

Work and Income


Yes, there is a mental health crisis

Despite much evidence from patients, families, professionals and unions, Health Minister Jonathan Coleman still refuses to accept that there is a crisis in support and services for those with mental health conditions. Recent media stories revealed that Capital & Coast DHB’s mental health forensic unit on the old Porirua Hospital site is not fit for purpose and requires an urgent upgrade. This is part of the complex where autistic man Ashley Peacock has been held for years, with long periods in seclusion. We now find out that it costs $750,000 a year to keep him in this inappropriate facility. A fraction of that funding could have provided a fully supported community residential option for him. Advocacy group Action Station is also continuing its campaign to gather stories of those with mental health conditions, in order to get improvements.

Coleman says mental health system is 'high quality' as industry delegates cry for help Stuff

Porirua mental health forensic unit to get upgrade after admission it's 'not fit for purpose'Stuff

$750,000 cost of isolated autistic man's care revealed Stuff

Mental health services Action Station


Are we sleepwalking into a world without Down syndrome?

Tessa Prebble is the mother of a daughter who was born with severe impairments and died while still a baby. The experience caused her to reconsider assumptions behind routine pre-natal testing offered to pregnant women in New Zealand, as elsewhere. She recently wrote of her concerns that people with Down syndrome will cease to be born. She is also the writer/producer/creator behind The One in a Million Baby, a series of blogs and podcasts featuring interviews with different families living with disabled or medically fragile children.

Meanwhile, an advertisement created for World Down Syndrome Day 2014 has been banned in France. The award-winning ad called ‘Dear Future Mom’ has positive messages from children and teenagers with Down syndrome reassuring women about their future children. The reason for the ban is unclear, but may have come after complaints from women who had previously terminated Down syndrome pregnancies.

Are we sleepwalking into a world without Down Syndrome? The Spinoff

France upholds ban on Down syndrome ad: children too ‘happy' Bloom


General Election 2017 and advocacy for intellectual disability

The 2017 General Election will be held on Saturday 23 September. That is just seven months away. We need to ensure that disability support and rights issues, such as those reported on Hot Issues, are high on the political agenda. Parties are in the process of choosing their candidates, so it was heartening to see a recently selected candidate talk about his interest in advocating for intellectual disability issues. Greg O’Connor is the Labour Party candidate for the Ōhāriu electorate in Wellington and he formerly headed the Police Association for many years. What is less well-known is that he has an adult son with intellectual disability, and is a member of the Hohepa Trust Board. Hopefully, there will be more candidates keen to promote disability issues.

The battle for Ōhāriu begins now – Greg O’Connor Scoop