IHC Hot Issues September 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:

  • Education for All Rally at Parliament 22 September 4.30pm
  • Youthlaw report finds educational barriers for disabled children
  • Does the Ministry really think early intervention will cure impairments?
  • Visit of UN Special Rapporteur on Rights of Persons with Disabilities
  • ‘A Life for Ashley’ Petition presented to Parliament
  • New Zealand needs a new constitution to uphold disability rights
  • NZ disability providers say system in crisis
  • Supported decision-making resources available
  • Amy Street – a documentary web series
  • New Zealand ASID conference, November, Wellington
  • Kia Noho Rangatira Ai Tātou Human Rights and the UN CRPD – free education programme
  • Mourning disabled people killed in Japan


Education for All Rally at Parliament 22 September 4.30pm

Education for All is an umbrella group of organisations, families/whānau, disabled people, educators and service providers advocating for a well-resourced, inclusive education system. It has organised a rally on Thursday 22 September to send a message to Government that its Special Education Update is totally inadequate and it's time to invest in inclusion. EFA and its allies stress the need for a well-resourced education system that supports the rights of every learner to fully participate and succeed. Everyone is welcome to join in for a short, family-friendly event at Parliament grounds from 4.30–5.30pm to show that families and communities are united in wanting education for all. The more people at the event the bigger and better the impact.

These are some of the widespread practices that Education for All is challenging:

  • Children unable to exercise their right to attend their local schools
  • Children being sent home part-way through the day because of lack of learning support
  • Children being excluded from accessing the curriculum, as well as participating in sports, recreation and cultural activities
  • Families having to pay for their children’s teacher aides and additional learning supports
  • Schools having to fundraise and use operational funding to top-up special education funding
  • Extremely limited tertiary training and adult education options for disabled people, particularly those with learning disabilities
  • Lack of access to assistive technologies
  • Lack of inclusive education training for graduating teachers
  • Piecemeal access to professional development for teachers, support staff and schools. 

Instead Education for All is asking the Government to:

  • Meet our international human rights obligations and our own legislative requirements to provide every disabled person with an inclusive education
  • Put an end to children, families and schools having to compete against one another for funding
  • Remove the disincentives for schools at all levels (ie early childhood education, primary, secondary and tertiary) to enrol and include students with disabilities by providing proper resources, supports and funding
  • Adopt a policy of universal design for learning so that everything, from the built environment, curriculum, services and teaching practices, is accessible for everyone
  • Work with the disability community, families, educators and service providers to implement a system that works.

The rally comes just after the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has published detailed information on Article 24: The Right to inclusive education, in what is known as General Comment No. 4 (2016). These general comments are detailed instructions about what the Articles mean in terms of implementation of the Convention for each country. This one also links the requirements of the CRPD with other UN instruments such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the new Sustainable Development Goals (by 2030) of which number 4 is quality education. The CRPD was the first legally binding instrument to contain a reference to the concept of quality inclusive education. Now Sustainable Development Goal 4 also affirms inclusive quality and equitable education. 

Education for All Facebook Page

Article 24: Right to inclusive education United Nations

UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities United Nations

Sustainable Development Goals 2030 United Nations Development Programme


YouthLaw report finds educational barriers for disabled children

A new report into the education of children with disabilities has uncovered cases of exclusion, bullying, poor teaching and funding. The report called ‘Challenging The Barriers, Ensuring Access To Education For Children With Special Educational Needs’ has been published by YouthLaw Aotearoa. The report found many barriers to the education of disabled children, including numerous ways to exclude children from schooling, such as those mentioned in the rally notice, above. It calls for many improvements, including better specialised training for teachers and more classroom support hours for students and, of course, more funding. The author, YouthLaw solicitor Kenton Starr, and Kelly Dugan, CEO of Christchurch disability charity Smile Dial, were interviewed on Radio New Zealand about the significant problems the report found. The YouthLaw report echoes the barriers and remedies  identified in IHC’s legal action under Part 1A of the Human Rights Act alleging that disabled children experience discrimination at school in that they are treated differently from their non-disabled peers in matters to do with enrolment, access to the curriculum and participation in school life. 

Disabled kids and the uphill battle for education Radio New Zealand

Challenging the barriers YouthLaw

Special needs report urges government for more funding New Zealand Herald


Does the Ministry really think early intervention will cure impairments?

As a result of large amount of negative feedback about its new policy to concentrate special education resources on younger rather than older children, the Ministry of Education has been forced to put out an assurance that older disabled children will still get support. However, there is a worrying assumption underlying this policy that, as a result of early intervention, some disabled children will no longer require ongoing support. We wonder whether the Ministry really thinks that children with autism or intellectual disability will be cured by early intervention.

Our assurance on special education Ministry of Education


Visit of UN Special Rapporteur on Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The Human Rights Commission and IHC have organised a community forum in Wellington with Catalina Devandas Aguilar from Costa Rica, who is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Her role is to monitor and promote the rights of persons with disabilities across the world. Catalina will speak about her experiences in human rights advocacy and her role as Special Rapporteur. There will also be an opportunity to ask questions. It will be held on Saturday 24 September, 11am–12.30pm, at Te Marae, Level 4, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, 55 Cable Street, Wellington. The venue is wheelchair-accessible and accessible car parks are available. 

IHC is hosting Catalina’s trip to New Zealand. She is meeting with government and non-government groups, including the DPO coalition in Wellington and Auckland. Catlina Devandas is a keynote speaker at the IHC Workability International ‘Make it Work’ conference in Auckland from 26–28 September 2016. 

IHC Workability International Conference – Make it Work


A Life for Ashley Petition presented to Parliament

It was heartening to see the line-up of media waiting to cover the presentation to Parliament of the petition calling for a ‘Life for Ashley’, on 15 September. Ashley Peacock’s parents and supporters handed over their petition to Green MP Kevin Hague, who will take it to Parliament’s Health Select Committee. However, as Mr Hague is leaving Parliament soon he has handed over the role of championing the petition and Ashley’s case to Wellington Central Labour MP Grant Robertson. The petition calls for Ashley Peacock, a 38-year-old autistic man, to be freed from the Tawhirimatea unit on the old Porirua Hospital site, where he is being held under the 1992 Mental Health Act and the authority of the Capital & Coast District Health Board. Instead the petition asks for a more appropriate supported residential option in the community for Ashley.

A Life for Ashley Facebook Page


New Zealand needs a new constitution to uphold disability rights

The recent Wellington High Court case about three other disabled men incarcerated under the mental health system concluded last month. Unfortunately, resolution of this case depends on complicated legal and political processes, which show why it is so hard to get justice for disabled people once they are under the 1992 Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act. A decision is still a long way off. Several United Nations committees have reported on New Zealand's poor practices in cases such as this one and Ashley’s. For example, the Committee Against Torture called for the abolition of seclusion for persons with mental impairment.

The problem is that none of the human rights treaties that New Zealand has ratified are actually binding in New Zealand law. Their status is really only a guide. We have a Bill of Rights Act (1990) but that can be trumped by other laws such as the Mental Health Act, which allows for things like compulsory medical treatment and seclusion. Parliament and the courts have to decide whether the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act has the status to override the Mental Health Act. However, the paid Family Carer situation, in which legislation sidelining the Bill of Rights Act was passed through Parliament in one evening in 2013 under urgency, shows that is unlikely. 

Individuals can take cases to the United Nations under the Optional Protocols to the Conventions, but first they need to have exhausted domestic remedies such as the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. The current case was heard in the High Court.

Former Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer is promoting a constitution for New Zealand, which would resolve such issues and enshrine human rights in law. His book on the topic was launched this month. Such a move is urgent, particularly to protect the rights of disabled people and families. Those vulnerable and powerless people being held in inappropriate settings, sometimes even in seclusion and medicated without consent, urgently need the law to be on their side.

A Constitution for Aotearoa New Zealand

Patients X, Y and Z Access, Public Address weblog


NZ Disability Providers say system in crisis

Garth Bennie, the Chief Executive of the disability service providers’ peak body, the New Zealand Disability Support Network, recently wrote a letter to the Minister of Health about the underfunding crisis in disability support. The Associate Minister of Health disputed the claims so Labour Party MPs, Health Spokesperson Annette King and Disability Issues spokesperson Poto Williams, called a meeting to find out for themselves from providers what the issues were. The roundtable heard how the Government has left disability services chronically underfunded and that providers are having to dip into their own pockets as they are hit by constant cutbacks. The Labour Party will later have a meeting for disabled people and families to hear about their issues. Hopefully, the Government will respond to these concerns with more funding for the growing population requiring disability support.

Tragedy 'waiting to happen' New Zealand Herald


Supported decision-making resources available

Supported decision-making assists disabled people to have control and choice in their lives, rather than have others make decisions for them. Resources about supported decision-making have been developed by Auckland Disability Law in partnership with several other organisations and as a result of a hui, which looked at what sort of resources and information was required. Three new resources are now available:

  • Let’s Talk about Supported Decision Making (leaflet for disabled people and their families/whanau) 
  • Promoting Supported Decision Making and the Protection of Personal and Property Rights (pamphlet for lawyers) 
  • Supported Decision Making: A Roadmap to Success (poster) 

The resources are available on the Auckland Disability Law website.

IHC’s resource Supported Decision-Making can be downloaded here


Amy Street – a documentary web series

A new documentary web series called Amy Street is now available on the internet. It features residents of the Supported Lifestyle Hauraki Trust, which supports adults with learning disabilities in Thames, on the Coromandel Peninsula. Amy Street is an eight-part web series that brings to life the residents’ stories. Each of the eight documentaries focuses on different residents and explores their hopes, dreams, challenges and relationships. The filmmakers developed Amy Street as a follow-up to their award-winning 2014 documentary Wayne, about one resident of the Trust. Amy Street is available to view online at www.amystreet.nz, and has been made with the support of the NZ on Air Digital Fund.

Amy Street – a documentary web series Scoop


New Zealand ASID conference, Wellington

The ASID (Australasian Society for Intellectual Disability) New Zealand 2016 Conference will be held on Thursday 3 Nov 2016 and Friday 4 Nov 2016 at the Brentwood Hotel, Wellington. The theme is No more excuses: Looking beyond ‘because’. Topics include: High and Complex Needs; Support and Innovative Programmes; Dual Disability; Life span; Legal/Supported Decision-Making; Positive and Safe Relationships; Health; Options for Living; What the evidence says. A range of presentations include some from self-advocates, families, providers and researchers.

NZ ASID 2016 conference  NZASID

Kia Noho Rangatira Ai Tātou Human Rights and the UN CRPD – free education programme

A free education programme on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has been developed and is now going on the road. The Kia Noho Rangatira Ai Tātou programme is hosted by Te Pou and DPA, and funded by the Ministry of Health. It is a unique education programme that puts the human rights of disabled people and the CRPD into a New Zealand cultural context. This two-day workshop has an applied focus, which will help disabled people to ensure that their human rights are upheld. Kaumātua Pete Mason (DPA's Māori Advisor) and Te Huia Bill Hamilton will provide cultural oversight and be joined by programme manager Dr Heather Barnett and co-educators Ezekiel Robson, Jak Wild, Chris Ford and Vicki Terrell. Sessions coming up are Dunedin 4 and 5 October, Christchurch 18 and 19 October, with more dates to come, including Wellington.

Te Pou events Te Pou


Mourning disabled people killed in Japan

Many people and organisations around the world were extremely distressed by the killings of disabled people in an institution in Japan in July and expressed their sadness on Facebook and in social media. A former employee of the facility plotted and killed 19 people in Sagamihara, a town near Tokyo. The assailant reportedly told the police that he wanted to eliminate the disabled from the world. 

But even though this is the worst mass killing in Japan since World War Two, the major attack on disability and disabled people attracted very little attention from the international press. It also revealed the negative attitudes towards disabled people held by many in Japan. About one in six people with developmental disabilities, including those with Down syndrome and autism, live in institutions. Until recently the law allowed involuntarily sterilisation of disabled people. The police will not release the identities of the victims as they say many families are ashamed of their disabled family members. But disability advocates say withholding the names endorses the views of those who say disabled people should be kept separate from the rest of society. 

Now leaders of DPI Japan, Japan Disability Forum, Inclusion Japan and other DPOs are organising a memorial meeting and street demonstration on 26 September in Tokyo at the Parliament building to respect the victims, highlight this hate-crime and the negative views of disability.

After Mass Knife Attack in Japan, Disabled Victims Are Still in the Shadows New York Times

Disabled and diverse: Mourning those killed at Tsukui Yamayuri  Facebook

Why has Japan’s massacre of disabled gone unnoticed? For answers, look to the past The Conversation