IHC Hot Issues - September 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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A decade on, IHC’s complaint about the education crisis is still waiting

Desperate need for help for children in early childhood education

Negative attitudes can hamper help for disabled Pasifika children

Ministry of Social Development and ACC using fake names in correspondence with clients

Thankyou Mojo Mathers

How well did the election work for voters with learning disability?

Teenager sedated in locked mental health unit now has permanent home

Increasing use of sanctions in our welfare system

Online UK course to improve working relationships between disabled people and personal assistants

 

A decade on, IHC’s complaint about the education crisis is still waiting

In 2008 IHC lodged a complaint with the Human Rights Review Tribunal against the failure of the Government and the Ministry of Education to ensure that disabled children had equal access to a quality education in New Zealand schools. Section 8 of the 1989 Education Act upholds that right. However, equal access has not happened. Lily Mae who has Down syndrome and experienced discrimination, is fronting IHC’s current campaign.

The system was in crisis 10 years ago when IHC lodged the complaint on behalf of hundreds of New Zealand families. Of the 95,000 New Zealand children living with disability, more than half have difficulty learning. IHC’s claim provided overwhelming evidence of a broken system that was failing disabled children and young people, teachers and families, and urged that their case be made a priority. IHC Director of Advocacy Trish Grant says questions are asked about the child’s ability to stay at school all day. Children are sent home at lunchtime because the teacher aide hours are insufficient, and there are barriers around them being part of school life. The ongoing delays in dealing with the complaint add to the breaches in human rights for these families. The Ministry of Justice says the delay is a result of a workload increase.

The Education For All Forum, made up of disability, family and teacher organisations, is appalled that another generation of disabled children, families and their teachers have had to struggle because of government stalling and inaction. “We need better teacher education and professional support for teachers and schools and resourcing that is calculated on proper data not guesstimates and under-reporting,” says teacher and parent Dr Bernadette Macartney.

We hope that the new Government will acknowledge the crisis in education for children with extra learning needs, and immediately take steps to resolve the issues raised in the IHC complaint.

IHC's education complaint IHC

Education Crisis Unaddressed  Education For All Scoop

Exclusion of autistic children at school a growing problem - Autism NZ  Stuff

Is inclusive education excluding autistic students? Radio Live

Justice delayed for disabled children in NZ education system Maori TV

Every kiwi kid has the right to an education IHC

 

Desperate need for help for children in early childhood education

Newtown Kindergarten in Wellington has written an open letter to the Minister of Education, pleading for its children with special needs to get the support they need. About 40 children attend each session and the teachers face an uphill battle advocating for the most vulnerable on their roll. Its letter last month detailed the frustrations and the shortcomings in support for children with high or special needs. Newtown is a very diverse community and Newtown Kindergarten has a high number of disabled children, as well as children with English as a second language.

Early Childhood Council chief executive Peter Reynolds said council members were concerned about access to support for children with disabilities or behavioural needs. He referred to a recent example in Wellington of children waiting for more than 12 months. He said those delays could affect developmental progress for some children.

Early childhood educators and parents can refer children to the Special Education Early Intervention Service to provide support for developmental delay, behavioural concerns, disability or communication difficulties. This is a team of early intervention teachers, education support workers, Kaitakawaenga (Māori cultural advisors), psychologists, speech-language therapists, and advisers for deaf children. This is largely a self-referral system and waiting lists for assessments and intervention are very long and getting longer.

A kindergarten begs for help for its special needs children Spinoff

David's battle: 'Who is supposed to take care of him?' Radio NZ

 

Negative attitudes can hamper help for disabled Pasifika children

Negative attitudes about disability in some Pasifika communities mean that some children with extra learning needs are not getting the assessment and help they need, according to Whānau Manaaki Kindergartens, an association representing 85 kindergartens in the lower North Island. It says some parents are reluctant to get help for their children because they want to protect them from cultural assumptions about the cause of their disability. Senior Manager of Communities and Participation Caroline Mareko says learning disability can be a difficult topic to raise with families and some families ask, "Is it the sin of the father, or is there a curse in the family, or is there some kind of historical event that occurred in why their child is like that." Teachers needed to understand how different Pasifika cultures viewed disability, and that it could be a negative label. Some children were arriving at school with undiagnosed special needs and early identification was important.

Disability 'hang-ups' no help for Pasifika kids Radio New Zealand

 

Ministry of Social Development and ACC using fake names in correspondence with clients

Anyone who has ever dealt with Work and Income or ACC knows they are expected to be 100 percent truthful. However, it has been revealed that both of these organisations have used false names for staff on some communications with clients. Decisions by the Ministry of Social Development's benefits review committees have been issued under fake names and signatures. This was revealed when a woman appealed against seven decisions on her case, and a Ministry of Social Development manager disclosed the fake names to the Social Security Appeal Authority that was to hear them. The woman's lawyer, Tony Ellis, called it "extraordinary misbehaviour".

The Social Security Appeal Authority, which hears appeals on MSD decisions, said decision-makers should not be anonymous and ordered the ministry to release the names. The authority had told Chief Executive Brendan Boyle two years ago to stop the practice, but it continued. The Solicitor-General has now been asked to consider the use of false names and signatures on benefit review decisions.

A spokesperson said ACC had to balance its duty to protect its staff with being open and transparent to its clients. Pseudonyms were only used in a small minority of cases where clients had demonstrated "inappropriate behaviour". Dunedin barrister Warren Forster said it was difficult for people who have had trouble with ACC to rebuild a proper relationship when they were dealing with a fake person. "This is a problem that's occurring several times a year," he said.

MSD faked names and signatures in benefit reviews Stuff

ACC admits its staff also use pseudonyms Radio New Zealand

 

Thankyou Mojo Mathers

Green MP Mojo Mathers will not be returning to Parliament as the Green Party did not get enough votes to bring her on their list. Elected as Parliament’s first deaf MP in 2011, Mojo has been closely aligned to the disability community. Her advocacy has made Parliament more aware of disability and participation issues. Live captioning of Parliament TV is just one of her achievements. In 2016, her Green Youth MP was the first ever with a learning disability. Thank you, Mojo, for championing disability rights and awareness.

Mojo Mathers MP Green Party

 

How well did the election work for voters with learning disability?

This year there was a new requirement for voters arriving at polling booths to say their name and confirm their address before voting. Anecdotal feedback from around the country indicates that for some disabled people the process did not go smoothly. One parent of a non-verbal adult said that because she could not say her name she was denied her vote. Others found polling booths were not as accessible as expected. The Electoral Commission is collecting feedback, which will hopefully lead to improvements for the 2020 election.

Electoral Commission feedback form

 

Teenager sedated in locked mental health unit now has permanent home

A Christchurch teenager with Down syndrome, who was sedated and kept in a locked hospital room for two months earlier this year, now has a permanent home at a residential facility. The family who cared for him will continue to be involved in his life. But Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft said the country still lacked focused and specialist facilities for children. Hot Issues has regularly reported on situations where young people with intellectual impairment end up in police cells or mental health units because there is nowhere appropriate for them to go at times of crisis.

Intellectually disabled teenager kept sedated in mental health unit finds a permanent home Stuff

 

Increasing use of sanctions in our welfare system

A recent review of the use of sanctions in welfare – mostly loss of benefits – has revealed that sanctions against individuals are increasing. As usual, this has the potential to disproportionately affect people with disabilities as they remain over-represented as beneficiary recipients. In July 2013 our benefit system was restructured into three main benefits – supported living, job seeker and sole parent. The sickness benefit and the widow’s benefit disappeared and a new sanctions regime was implemented. Since then sanctions have risen rapidly. For example, the number of sanctions handed out to sole parents jumped ten-fold in the five years between 2010/2011 and 2015/2016.

The financial punishment happens regardless of what effect this could have on children, yet the Ministry of Social Development has not done any research into the impacts these sanctions are having. The increased use of sanctions since 2013 has created a system where poverty is used as a disciplinary measure to punish individuals who do not comply with the mounting obligations and conditions applied by Work and Income.

A sanction can be as severe as losing a whole benefit for up to 13 weeks. Even in households with children, parents can still have their benefit cut in half.

Restructuring individuals: The use of sanctions in New Zealand’s welfare system Briefing Papers

 

Online UK course to improve working relationships between disabled people and personal assistants

Many disabled people use Individualised Funding to employ their own personal assistants. Professor Tom Shakespeare and the University of East Anglia in the Britain have developed an online course that explores the role of personal assistance and the challenges and opportunities it brings. The course is designed for both disabled people and personal assistants. It is based on building a good working relationship between disabled people and their support workers. It has been developed in association with disabled people’s organisations to support successful independent living. The course covers such topics as orientation, avoiding conflict and conflict resolution.

The Role of Personal Assistants in Disability Support Future Learn