IHC Hot Issues - January 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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Inside IHC Hot Issues:

Urgent action needed to improve the health of people with intellectual disabilities

School principals need more Government support to make inclusion a reality

Education (Update) Amendment Bill Supplementary Order Paper on seclusion and restraint

Children, Young Persons, and their Families (Oranga Tamariki) Legislation Bill

Many early childhood education services substandard

Latest case emphasises lack of services for young people with complex needs

Time for change – addressing the issues in New Zealand’s mental health system

New Human Rights Toolkit for Australian disabled women and girls

Australian disabled workers finally win fair pay

10 interventions for families to encourage their child’s autistic neurodiversity

 

Urgent action needed to improve the health of people with intellectual disabilities

IHC has advocated for many years for actions to address the disparities in health care and poor health outcomes for people with intellectual disabilities. This group of disabled people has endured decades of systemic neglect and lack of attention to their health needs. Priority 9c of the Government’s latest Disability Action Plan is to “Increase access to health services and improve health outcomes for disabled people with a specific focus on people with learning/intellectual disabilities”. This work was begun in January 2015 and was a promise to address the systemic neglect of these issues. Then in April 2016 the updated New Zealand Health Strategy acknowledged people with intellectual disabilities as a group who experience poorer health and greater difficulties in access than the general population, and included an action to develop and implement a plan to improve their health.

However, the latest update on the Disability Action Plan from the Office for Disability Issues states that work on addressing this action is “not progressing, may need intervention”. IHC is disappointed that work has stalled and that the hopes raised via the Action Plan and the Health Strategy have not yet become meaningful actions  The Ministry of Health needs to act with urgency to progress actions to get a better deal in health for people with intellectual disabilities.  

Outcome 3 - Health and wellbeing Office for Disability Issues

 

School principals need more Government support to make inclusion a reality

A recent Principals’ Federation survey showed that more than 400 of about 500 respondents wanted more funding or resources so that they can support the learning of all students and make educational inclusion a reality. Of the 500, about 270 said their school could not include all students with "moderate to severe learning needs", and 360 said the school could not include all students with "moderate to severe behaviour needs". About 300 disagreed or strongly disagreed that they were well supported by the Ministry of Education for high learning and behaviour needs. However, most said they could include all students with "low to moderate behaviour or learning needs" in their schools.

Schools not 'well supported' for special education - principals Radio New Zealand

 

Education (Update) Amendment Bill Supplementary Order Paper on seclusion and restraint

The Education (Update) Amendment Bill makes significant changes to our Education Act such as to the school starting age and allowing for private online learning providers. Submissions on the bill closed in December. However, following the outcry about the use of seclusion rooms a Supplementary Order Paper #250 has been published to ban enforced seclusion and to regulate the use of physical restraint of students. The proposed new sections prohibit seclusion of a student at a registered school or early childhood service, defines seclusion and physical restraint, and prohibits the use of physical restraint on a student by a staff member except in certain situations of risk. The closing date for submissions on these aspects of the bill is Tuesday, 31 January 2017.

While the Bill now addresses seclusion and constraint it is disappointing that it still neglects to define and enforce what constitutes lawful and reasonable accommodations for children with additional learning needs. Those who are still to make submissions on the Bill might like to mention that oversight.

Meanwhile police have investigated claims of abusive practices by staff against students at Dunedin’s Sara Cohen special school. After a three month investigation the police reported that there was too much conflicting evidence to prosecute anyone. They also found the use of the seclusion room was not illegal. The report was obtained under the Official Information Act and found the use of the seclusion room ‘appropriate’.

Education (Update) Amendment Bill NZ Parliamentary

Seclusion in schools Ministry of Education

Police: Dunedin special school's use of seclusion room 'not criminal' NZ Herald

 

Children, Young Persons, and their Families (Oranga Tamariki) Legislation Bill

Submissions are due on 15 February on the Bill which will overhaul Child, Youth and Family and create a new Ministry for Vulnerable Children Oranga Tamariki. Disability groups, including IHC have long lobbied for equal rights for disabled children in out of home care. The Bill repeals those  sections and if passed will result in enhanced legal protection for disabled children in care . Other positive aspects of the Bill are the inclusion of  United Nations Conventions on the Rights of Children and Disabled Persons within the Principles section.  IHC though has major concerns about other provisions within the Bill and will be making a comprehensive submission..

The disabled children: voluntary out-of-home placement review Ministry of Social Development

Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Oranga Tamariki) Legislation Bill NZ Parliament

 

Many early childhood education services substandard

The Education Review Office has revealed that 220 Early Childhood Education Services were red flagged as "requiring further development "or "not well placed" last year, up from 150 the year earlier. A high proportion were home-based care. The Education Ministry has also confirmed that 54 services were only provisionally licensed after being found in breach of their conditions. Teachers’ Union NZEI Te Riu Roa is one group concerned about the quality of safety, care and learning of thousands of young children enrolled in these substandard services which could be harmful for their health and wellbeing. The union blames the Government for cutting funding and ending the requirement for fully qualified staff.

The finding that many centres are providing poor quality education is particularly concerning for families of disabled children who require well qualified and inclusive services. Early childhood is not part of the compulsory education sector and many services already turn our children away. Neither is there much advice on the Ministry of Education’s website for centres about supporting inclusion or resources for children with special education needs apart from advice about planning the transition to primary school (which is part of the compulsory education sector) and a reminder about Section 8 of the Education Act that states schools cannot refuse to enrol a local child. The early childhood curriculum Te Whāriki is currently being updated and hopefully will have a strong focus on inclusive early childhood education.

ERO finds hundreds of ECE services are substandard NZEI, Scoop

Updating Te Whāriki  Ministry of Education

Transitioning children with special education needs from ECE to school Ministry of Education

 

Latest case emphasises lack of services for young people with complex needs

The latest case of a 14-yr-old Manawatu boy with intellectual disability held overnight in police cells highlights once again the lack of appropriate services and supports for those with high and complex needs. After his behaviour became violent his mother called the police for help but there were no appropriate facilities for him, so he was kept in the cells overnight. This was very traumatic for him and his family. The court ordered he be sent to ward 21 at Palmerston North Hospital, then transferred to the Adolescent Inpatient Unit in Porirua, but both facilities rejected him, saying he did not fit their criteria. The court then ordered he be put into Child Youth and Family care overnight, and while it was still not the appropriate place for him, there were no other options. The next day an empty house was found for him, but his father had to stay with him as there were no staff available. He is currently being shifted around various short term placements until a local residential option is found for him. This is a very unsatisfactory and distressing situation.

However, this is not an isolated case. An Autism New Zealand board member said there are several other families around New Zealand ready to tip into crisis and there needed to be "safe havens" for people where they could go and be surrounded by a team of people trained to deal with them, such as a therapy team and psychiatrist to look at medications. Services needed to be integrated and available across the country. The Government and the Ministry of Health urgently need to address the issues and to properly fund and resource services for those with high and complex needs.

Autistic teen spends night in Palmerston North police cells NZ Herald

Judge orders CYFs to put autistic teen into motel NZ Herald

 

Time for change – addressing the issues in New Zealand’s mental health system

The Mental Health Foundation has published a plan to improve the mental health and wellbeing of New Zealanders against a background of an increasing demand for services. They do not support current calls for an inquiry as they claim it would divert resources and there is already sufficient evidence of the issues. Instead they have provided a ten point agenda of changes that are required. These include: increased investment in prevention; supporting individuals to help each other; easier access to talking therapies and early-intervention services; strengthening the role of primary health care providers; adequate staffing levels across all mental health services in all DHBs; integrated, person-centred crisis responses; eliminating seclusion, minimising restraint and reducing use of the Mental Health Act; joined up, recovery-focused services; services that include and value family, whānau and culture, and local research about what works. The Foundation emphasises that there must be political and community will to tackle the social issues that can contribute to poor mental health.

Addressing issues in our mental health system - a position paper Mental Health Foundation

 

New Human Rights Toolkit for Australian disabled women and girls

Women with Disability Australia has developed a toolkit for Women and Girls with Disability about disability and human rights and how to access them. The Australian Government has supported the project. According to the website the Government has “agreed to take action to make sure all women and girls with disability enjoy all the human rights described in the Conventions, Treaties, Covenants and Declarations it has agreed to or supported. Yet, very few of us know about our rights. Importantly, very few of us know how they are relevant to our life, and the lives of our families, friends, and communities. Learning about our human rights – what they are and how to have our rights respected – is important to achieve positive and lasting change for all women and girls with disability. We need to take action, individually and together, so that all of us can demand and enjoy our human rights”.

WWDA Human Rights Toolkit for Women and Girls with Disability Women With Disabilities Australia

 

Australian disabled workers finally win fair pay

Australian workers with intellectual disability and other impairments have just won a major legal victory. There has been a long running dispute about the low wages paid to many disabled Australian workers. Across Australia thousands of people with disabilities are employed in packaging, manufacturing and cleaning jobs at hundreds of Australian Disability Enterprises, formerly known as sheltered workshops. Up to 10,000 Australians with intellectual disabilities work for as little as just 99 cents an hour. In December 2016 the Australian federal court made a decision to approve a settlement of a claim for approximately $100m in unpaid wages for employees working for Australian Disability Enterprises, the lowest paid workers in Australia.

The situation arose because the 2004 introduction of a new wage setting tool called the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool (BSWAT) effectively cut wage rates for these workers. Shortly after that a court case began asserting that the BSWAT tool illegally breached disability discrimination laws. The case ran for many years. The Australian Government fought it and unsuccessfully sought permission from the Australian Human Rights Commission to continue to pay the workers at the low wage levels in contravention of anti-discrimination laws. They then tried to defeat the case through legislation but disability advocates lobbied politicians for support. Eventually, the Government agreed to mediation.

The Federal Court has now approved the multimillion-dollar settlement. Some individual employees, who earned a fraction of the minimum wage, are now in line to receive as much as $100,000 in backpay. Thousands of workers can now register with the Department of Social Services, have their eligibility determined and receive their compensation. The court approval of the settlement of the claim is a victory for the lowest paid workers in the country and for disabled people and a “reminder that improved wages and conditions for employees are never gifted but are the product of dogged persistence, protracted conflict and staring down the inevitable and loud threats of calamity”.

Disabled workers win $100m fair pay case: a 2016 good news story Guardian

$100 million payday for $1-an-hour staff with disabilities Brisbane Times

 

10 interventions for families to encourage their child’s autistic neurodiversity

When a child is identified as autistic, they often receive therapies based on the “medical model” of disability. Their autism is seen as a disorder or something negative and the aim of therapies is to change autistic children so that they will act more like their ‘typically developing’ peers. In contrast, the neurodiversity paradigm views autism and other neurodivergence as a natural and valuable part of human diversity. There is not an ideal brain or correct style of neurocognitive functioning, or an ideal or correct way for children to play and communicate. One parent of an autistic child has created a list of interventions families can do to support their autistic child’s uniqueness which includes: learn from autistic people; tell your child they are autistic; say NO to all things stressful and harmful; slow down your life; support and accommodate sensory needs; value your child’s interests; respect stimming; honour and support all communication; minimise therapy, increase accommodations and supports, and explore your own neurocognitive differences.

10 interventions for families embracing the neurodiversity paradigm Respectfully Connected blog