IHC Hot Issues - June 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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Tracking progress - Valuing All: leave no one behind

IHC Service Changes

Update on IHC education complaint

Support Staff Day marked by calls for more money to pay teacher aides

Election forum, Wellington, 13 July

Claim to extend pay equity to more support workers

Research finds large numbers of disabled people have poor housing conditions

Brain-injured teenager in police cells for three days

Another disabled child excluded from NZ

Preventing Elder Abuse

Budget 2017 and disability

Forum for Support Workers

Minister’s tweet makes news



Tracking progress - Valuing All: Leave No One Behind

IHC is tracking progress in making rights real in the lives of children and adults with intellectual disability. Valuing All: Leave No One Behind will highlight achievements and shortfalls in a number of key indicator areas. Given the transformation and social investment approach occurring across government it is particularly important to know whether people with intellectual disabilities are enjoying equitable access to and outcomes from the new approaches. The report will be available in August.

IHC is gathering information from a number of sources. Included in this work IHC Advocacy is talking with people with intellectual disability about their views on how New Zealand is doing and their experiences in getting support to live a good life. There is also an on-line survey for family, friends, supporters and service providers that asks “Are we making good progress or not for children and adults with intellectual disabilities?”  What are the impacts of the changes on quality of life for people with intellectual disabilities and their families.

How is New Zealand doing for people with intellectual disabilities? IHC online survey - open from 26 June to 14 July


IHC moves out of some services

IHC continues to work hard to make sure everyone has a good option for uninterrupted quality services as it seeks to move out of providing home support, shared care, facility based respite and contract board. The organisation signalled it would move out of these services in March saying there were others better placed to provide them. IHC acknowledges that this has been an unsettling time for individuals, families and staff and it has fielded a large number of calls from media and families in relation to the proposed changes, but has sought to provide as much information at the earliest opportunity. It is pleased the providers have been found for home support, shared care and some of the respite services and it is working with the Ministry of Health around contract board.

IHC Service Changes – IHC


Update on IHC education complaint

IHC continues to call for families and schools to stand up for a fair deal for disabled children in schools.

Given the large scale system changes occurring, it is essential all interested parties, children and young people, families, school professionals and rights groups monitor closely what is occurring to ensure that children with disabilities get not just a better deal but finally have their rights to education recognised and responded to in real terms.

IHC has been involved in legal action since 2008 - while the legal action continues slowly, IHC and others have been working hard across the education and disability sectors to facilitate discussions and engagement on inclusive education. There is a growing inclusive education movement with new allies emerging, and opportunities are being created to have focused discussions about how to advance inclusive education. New networking and action groups and communities of interest have emerged and relationships strengthened, all calling for change.

In addition to these developments, IHC and MOE engaged in five days of confidential and “without prejudice” discussions in 2016.  Also present were the Education Council and the Education Review office.

IHC saw the value in discussing with the Crown the “remedies” IHC was seeking within our legal action and whether the learning support update, other initiatives described above were creating and embedding the systemic change IHC saw as necessary for ensuring discrimination free access to education for students with disabilities.

IHC argues that the government systems and structures require significant change as they relate to:

  • initial teacher education and ongoing professional development
  • data, monitoring and assessment of learning, achievement and participation
  • the policy and resourcing framework
  • disciplinary procedures not responding to disability
  • accountability and independent scrutiny of decisions made at the school and Ministry level.

IHC maintains that separately, and together, these systems and structures result in disabled children experiencing discrimination at school.

The 2016 discussions about these issues were respectful and constructive and remain ongoing. In May this year MOE invited stakeholders to a forum where initiatives, projects, resources and the legislatives changes were profiled and discussed. Participants at the forum, while noting the information provided, called for regular opportunities to understand and have input into the layers of activity being implemented across the system involving the Ministry, the Education Council and the Education Review Office. Stakeholders also asked for a “roadmap” type document where all planned activity was identified and described against timeframes.

What is the history of IHC’s complaint?

In 2008 IHC took legal action against the Crown (the Government) about the discrimination experienced by many disabled children at school under Part 1A of the Human Rights Act.

IHC asserted that children with disabilities experience discrimination at their local school because they are treated differently to their non-disabled peers in matters relating to enrolment, access to the curriculum and participation in school life, and are disadvantaged because of this. IHC collected evidence from families, schools and other stakeholders demonstrating that discrimination.

IHC maintains that the problems disabled children face at school relate directly to the systems and structures established by successive governments. That is, that the policy and legislative framework was, and remains, flawed and does not provide children with what they need to enjoy their rights to education, or provide schools with what they need to do their best by children with disabilities.

Legal action of this type takes a long time. Since IHC first took legal action there have been many changes in the learning support system and also some legislative change. We have had a review of special education, a Ministry of Education (MOE) Inclusive Education Capacity Building project, a Success for All initiative, legislative change, a newly formed Education Council with priorities to establish a new Code and standards for the teaching profession and review initial teacher education and professional development, and now a Learning Support update.

However, even with these changes families continue to contact IHC and other groups like VIPs to say that on the ground the signalled positive changes are not being experienced by children and young people with disabilities and they continue to miss out on their education for a variety of reasons and due to both old and new barriers.

IHC’s legal case has been before the Human Rights Review Tribunal for many years following the formal route through the Human Rights Commission. Because of poor Government resourcing of the Tribunal (members of the Tribunal are only part time) there is a long waiting list for cases to be heard. This is a political issue in itself as justice delayed is justice denied. Many of the young people whose stories were used in our evidence when the case was first lodged have now left school. 

IHC has written to the Minister of Justice requesting an increase of resources for the Tribunal so that cases involving potential violations of human rights are heard in a reasonable timeframe – particularly those regarding children and young people. The Minister has replied that government sees no need to increase the Tribunal’s resources.

In 2015, IHC had a three day pre-trial hearing where the Crown challenged our case on three grounds; jurisdiction, joinder and justiciability. Essentially the challenges are about whether a) a systemic claim of this nature was able to be heard, b) whether it was appropriate to join the Education Council (formerly the New Zealand Teachers Council) and the Education Review Office to the legal action, and c) given the emphasis of the policy and resourcing framework in the claim, whether in fact the Tribunal could be involved at all as it was argued that issues related to government financial priorities are matters for Parliament, therefore not able to be considered by the Courts.

IHC’s legal counsel, Frances Joychild QC, remains confident that IHC’s response to these challenges, made in the pre-trial hearing, will ensure the case continues to proceed forward to a full hearing.

Two years on we are still waiting for a decision to be handed down by the Tribunal. Should the case proceed, IHC will want to collect more evidence of discrimination occurring – such as the stories and anecdotes that appear regularly on Facebook parents’ pages. In the interim IHC continues to welcome contact from families and schools about their concerns.

IHC's Education Complaint IHC


Support Staff Day marked by calls for more money to pay teacher aides

School support staff include teacher aides who support our disabled children, as well as librarians, office staff and others who support schools in a variety of vital ways. Wednesday 14 June was support staff day. It was marked by an open letter from over 500 school principals who say they may be forced to cut the working hours of 20,000 support staff unless the Government provides funding to pay them higher wages. The calls were supported by the NZEI, the union for school support staff, which has been negotiating with the Ministry of Education for a pay rise for support staff in both primary and secondary schools for the last six months without any offers. Support staff are paid out of the schools' operational grants which also have to pay for essential school costs. NZEI said 70 per cent of the 20,000 support staff earned below the "living wage" of $20.20 an hour and most teacher aides earn between $15.68 and $17.18 an hour.

Better funding for support staff, better learning for kids NZEI

Schools warn of reduced hours if teacher aides win higher pay NZ Herald


Election forum, Wellington, 13 July

DPA is holding an election forum in Wellington on Thursday 13 July from 6- 8 pm, at the Wellington City Library to get political parties talking about the issues that disabled people care about. As 24% of the population disabled people have a lot of power. DPA is working with Attitude TV to share stories and ask political parties about disability and topics such as housing, education, access, employment and income. Come along or watch live on the DPA Facebook page. Visit Attitude TV's Facebook if you would like to share your story.




Save the date – IHC election event

IHC will hold its election event on September 5 2017 from 2:30pm at the ASB Sports Centre in Wellington. The event will provide people with intellectual disabilities, their families, supporters and sector organisations the opportunity to listen to and ask questions of political parties heading into the general election on September 23 2017. Politicians including Labour’s deputy leader Grant Robertson, and the Green Party's Mojo Mathers have been among the first to confirm their attendance. Keep an eye on IHC’s website for more information.


Claim to extend pay equity to more support workers

A pay equity claim on behalf of mental health support workers has been lodged with the Employment Relations Authority. After a long legal battle and subsequent negotiations, new pay rates finally take effect on July 1 for 55,000 workers in Government-funded aged care, home support and disability sectors. The settlement for aged care, home support and disability sector workers came after the Service Workers' Union (now E Tū) took a court case on behalf of rest home worker Kristine Bartlett.

But community mental health support workers miss out on this settlement and many workers are leaving to take up the better pay rates in aged and disability care. Now a new claim from the Public Service Association and E Tū unions seeks to extend the claim to mental health workers. The unions are seeking urgency from the ERA in hearing the claim because the July 1 increases for other support workers will "cause a crisis" in the sector. The claim will cover people employed by community mental health providers, not direct district health board employees. Many of these workers support people with dual diagnoses such as intellectual disability and mental illness.

The Home and Community Health Association, whose members provide more than 95 percent of government-contracted home and community support services, claims that the Government is not even properly funding the original Pay Equity deal which could mean service cuts, including for older people and those with disabilities.

Similar pay equity claims for workers in female-dominated low-paid industries are likely to be lodged in the coming months. The Government is developing legislation to establish a process for groups to resolve pay equity claims through bargaining rather than the courts and is likely to limit the scope of claims.

HCHA slams government for short-changing the Pay Equity deal Scoop

Mental health care and support workers lodge equal pay claim E Tū Union

Pay equity claim lodged for mental health support workers NZ Herald


Research finds large numbers of disabled people have poor housing conditions

There is a close relationship between housing and health. Disabled people need housing that is safe and warm and close to facilities for good health outcomes but new research has found instead that large numbers of disabled people are living in inadequate rental housing which is damp and cold. Many are also living in areas that are deprived and isolated. This is even more concerning when considering that disability prevalence increases as the population ages. Two researchers from Victoria University have found that disabled New Zealanders are living in some of the worst housing conditions. Disabled Māori and Pacific Islanders are particularly badly affected.

The 2013 Disability Survey identified that almost 24 percent of New Zealanders identify as disabled including nearly 60% of people aged over 65. Big increases are projected particularly in the 15–39 years age group and those over 65. Home ownership is also decreasing and the challenge will be to provide those who are poor and disabled with housing that improves their health outcomes rather than causing them to deteriorate.

Our poorest and most vulnerable are living in the worst conditions Victoria University


Brain-injured teenager in police cells for three days

A 16 year old with a pre-existing brain injury and epilepsy was recently remanded to the police cells in Auckland. The Ministry for Vulnerable Children Oranga Tamariki could not find him a suitable place and he had to be remanded in the cells where he spent three nights, including a weekend. The teenager was arrested after violent behaviour but the police told the court they did not have the facilities to care for him, but neither Oranga Tamariki or mental health authorities would take him. A representative of Oranga Tamariki told the court that social workers spent hours trying to find suitable accommodation but nothing could be found. The ministry eventually managed to find room in a secure mental health unit in Porirua. This is just one of a number of cases in the last few weeks of teenagers spending time in police cells because there was nowhere else for them. New Zealand has to do better for these young people, many of whom also have neurodevelopment disabilities.

Brain injured teenager left in police cells for three nights Radio New Zealand


Another disabled child excluded from NZ

Last month Hot Issues covered the issue of how unwelcoming New Zealand is to immigrants with a disabled child. Another case has been reported this month. A South African family living in Geraldine has failed in its court bid to prevent the deportation of their five-year-old disabled daughter. Because of her conditions she was not issued the same visa as rest of her family and her Interim visa has now expired and will not be extended as the Immigration Protection Tribunal considered she would impose significant costs on New Zealand's health and education systems. The Minister of Immigration says requirements around health are "entirely appropriate". However, Green MP Mojo Mathers disagrees. She says the Green Party wants to change the current rules around deporting people with disability or health conditions. "It's particularly cruel to be deporting children with health conditions. We should be, and are, better than that," she said. "While there is a financial cost, it is wrong to split up families who are making a positive contribution to New Zealand and send their children to an uncertain future where their basic needs won't be met."."Immigration should not be just about the economy, it should also be about what kind of society we want to have."

Decision to deport blind girl, 5, labelled 'appalling' Stuff


Preventing Elder Abuse

World Elder Abuse Awareness Week took place this year 15-22 June. Elder abuse can affect anyone including those with intellectual disability. It can take many forms. As well as simple neglect, abuse includes physical, psychological, financial, emotional and spiritual abuse and can also involve silencing victims so that they do not or cannot speak up. Unfortunately, most abusers are family members such as adult children and grandchildren. Abuse and neglect also happens in residential care although anecdotal evidence suggests that in New Zealand, eight per cent of abuse happens in a rest home while the remaining 92 per cent is committed at home. However, data is lacking as much of this abuse is hidden and not reported.

A recent study by two Massey University researchers explored perceptions of quality of life and care satisfaction from residents in care and their family, and found that ensuring the dignity of residents, and the quality of staff-family relationships are important for quality care. We can all help prevent elder abuse. Age Concern has an Elder Abuse and Neglect Prevention team. Residential care facilities have complaints processes, the Ministry of Health’s audits rest homes and the Health and Disability Commissioner reviews complaints about health and disability services. But most important is preventing it in our communities and reporting suspected abuse.

Making safer havens for our older people Scoop

Elder abuse hits close to home Age Concern


Budget 2017 and disability

CCSDisability Action’s Sam Murray has done a good analysis of the 2017 Budget for its relevance to disability, and the link is below. It is difficult to analyse from the figures what changes there are as most figures are given for four years and funding is often taken from one area to fund another. Inflation and the population increase also need to be taken into account. There was new funding for the pay equity settlement and for the new disability system transformation. In education there was money for more teacher aid hours, more behaviour services and assistance for young children with difficulties talking and listening.

In another Budget related announcement PHARMAC will fund melatonin for those under 18 with neurodevelopmental disorders from 1 July. Cicardin, a 2mg modified-release tablet will be available on Special Authority. Melatonin is useful for aiding the sleep of many people with conditions such as autism or ADHD, but has been expensive or hard to get. Unfortunately it will remain out of reach for many of those over 18.

Budget 2017 analysis CCS Disability Action

Newsflash Disability Issues Newsletter: May 2017 Hon Nicky Wagner New Zealand

Approval of funding for modified-release melatonin for insomnia in children and adolescents with neurodevelopmental disorders Pharmac


Forum for Support Workers

ASID NZ is hosting a forum that recognises the critical role of support workers in the lives of people with intellectual and learning disabilities. At this forum support workers will be able to share stories, ideas, achievements and challenges. They will get a real sense of their own expertise, learn from each other and discover new resources. It is being held in Christchurch on 11 and 12 August, 2107.

ASID NZ - Support Workers Talking  ASID


Minister’s tweet makes news

In an unfortunate slip, the Minister for Disability Issues tweeted that she would rather be boating on Auckland harbour than attending a meeting with disability groups. There was a strong reaction to her tweet on social media including on Facebook from disabled people, and parents struggling for appropriate support and services for their disabled children. Two blogs from members of the disability community explained why it mattered.

Hey Nicky Wagner! Your words matter The Wireless

Being Inconvenient Public Address/Access