New disability housing and health research is grim reading

August 5, 2022

Three new research reports on housing and health affecting disabled people have been released without any public launch, despite the wishes of the disabled people’s organisations involved.

They make for grim reading, revealing a level of desperation that will be uncomfortable for many because the issues they raise, many of them tangled together, aren’t easy to fix.

The reports are part of monitoring under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to make sure disabled people have the same rights as everyone else. The New Zealand Government gets copies of these reports and so does the United Nations.

Leo McIntyre, spokesperson for the Disabled Persons Organisation Coalition (DPO Coalition), says the reports make for uncomfortable reading, but they provide plenty of evidence to be used by disability organisations and the Government to guide reform.

Case studies reveal disabled people living in houses where they cannot access their bathrooms and toilets, where older parents struggle to bath adult children in bathrooms without hoists, where a disabled family member is bathed outside in summer.

“The only time we give him a shower outside is when it is nice and hot … because we don’t want him to get sick. So, wintertime is just sponge wipe, the whole winter,” said one family-whānau interviewee.

Some disabled people were or had been homeless, and one young person was living in a rest home. One interviewee described living in a tent and some days being in too much pain to access the shared toilet block easily.

Because of hardened attitudes to disabled renters among some landlords and agents, some disabled people send others to viewings for them, so as not to be ruled out from the start.

One interviewee said: … “Landlords are getting very choosy. Even people with children, they’re sending them away, they don’t want children in the house. They don’t want unemployed in the house. They don’t want disabled in the house. They want these high professionals in the house and that’s about it. They can afford to be really choosy, and they are. So, a lot of extremely good tenants who would really look after the place are just being turned away. They go for what society values the most and that’s certainly not disabled.”

Leo says the Coalition is looking for a response from the Government on the reports and it is hopeful that the creation of Whaikaha – Ministry of Disabled People, along with the health system reforms, will see progress. He urges the Government to employ disabled people and use their experience to guide the change that is needed in every sector to improve the lives of disabled people.

The health report recommends the removal of the two-tiered funding system (ACC and Ministry of Health) and an equitable funding and support system for everyone regardless of the cause of their disability.

“I think one of the big things would be combining the ACC model and the DHB model so that everyone is entitled to the same services regardless of how they acquired the disability,” said an interviewee.

The report describes the case of a mother denied ACC for a severe birth injury, who was moved from an intensive rehabilitation facility to an aged care facility where she received minimal support and was separated from her child and family.

The report also recommends free primary health care and better health screening of disabled people. This was echoed by an interviewee.

“So, I would love there to be, even if it was every five years you could get a dental check-up or a health check-up. That’s gotta be better than what it is now. If people haven’t been to the dentist for 40 years. People haven’t had a cervical smear or mammogram, or they’ve got this huge lump on their arm which is a melanoma, and they don’t know.”

The Donald Beasley Institute was appointed by the DPO Coalition and the New Zealand Government as the research partner to carry out the monitoring research. The research is led by disabled people.

The reports are available at donaldbeasley.org.nz/projects

Caption: Photograph by Benjamin Disinger – Unsplash

 

This story was published in Strong Voices. The magazine is posted free to all IHC membersRead the full issue of Strong Voices or view more articles.