Speech to NZ Federation of Disability Information Centres Annual Training Conference
Thank you for the invitation to speak to you today.
The Federation of Disability Information Centres play a critical role in ensuring the disabled throughout New Zealand can lead full and active lives in their communities and assisting with the formulation of policy for the disabled.
Here in Northland, NorthAble has been serving local communities since 1990 with centres in Dargaville, Kaeo, Maungaturoto, Kaitaia and Pukenui; an office in Whangarei as well as a mobile service.
We are proud that locals such as Phoebe Foley have made a noteworthy contribution to your work, not just locally, but also nationally.
BROAD RANGE OF DISABILITIES
Disability covers a vastly broad spectrum – physical and mental - and all ages.
Fortunately we live in a time when the disabled have been given greater respect; they are acknowledged and heard more often than in the past.
At the last general election telephone voting operated for the first time and people with disabilities, including those with intellectual and/or psycho-social disabilities, were enabled to vote.
The use of sign language is regularly seen on our television screens.
The wider community has woken up to the fact as Stevie Wonder once said:
Just because a man lacks the use of his eyes doesn’t mean he lacks vision
Social media has brought about change and while there are negatives, it has become another tool for the disabled to become engaged.
SPORT AND DISABLED
Sport has also helped play a major role in breaking down barriers and opening up new opportunities.
New Zealand has a long history of parathletes excelling.
Eve Rimmer was the first woman selected to represent New Zealand at the Paralympics and she went on to win many gold medals.
Archer Neroli Fairhall became the first parathlete to compete in the Olympic Games.
In more recent times, Sophie Pascoe has won nine gold medals and six silver medals, at the Paralympics. She has become a household name in New Zealand.
And last year a new star emerged at the Rio Paralympics, blade runner Liam Malone.
Someone said after watching last year’s paralympics:
“What I learned was that these athletes were not disabled, they were superabled. The Olympics are where heroes are made. The Paralympics are where heroes come.”
Sophie Pascoe, Liam Malone, and others have been inspirational figures for all New Zealanders.
They have also been great role models for the disabled community.
LARGE DISABILITY COMMUNITY
And it is a large community.
In 2013, 24 percent of the New Zealand population were identified as disabled, a total of 1.1 million people.
Most of which, 59 percent, were people aged 65 or over followed by those under 65 being 21 percent. Children under 15 years make up 11 percent.
Just over half of all disabled people (53 percent) have more than one type of impairment.
In spite of the wonderful images of Sophie Pascoe powering to another gold medal, the everyday life for many disabled is a struggle.
The housing crisis has hit the disabled community hard.
Young disabled wanting to leave home and start their own lives in suitable accommodation find it extremely difficult to find accessible accommodation.
Only 45 percent of disabled adults have jobs compared to 72 percent non-disabled adults.
Just over two and a half years ago the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities acknowledged there are positives in New Zealand but there are negatives also:
The committee expressed concern that programmes were needed to protect people with disabilities from violence and harm in institutions.
They criticised the continuing practice of using seclusion and restraints in psychiatric hospitals.
- They were concerned the prevalence of disability was higher among Maori as a result of poverty and disadvantages.
They said more was needed to increase the entry levels into tertiary education for people with disabilities.
- The committee said 1200 people with disabilities were paid less than the minimum wage.
The disability sector is constantly confronting change.
This is most apparent with the co-design process your sector is now going through with the new model of Enabling Good Lives.
The new system proposed is that individuals will control funding their own services.
Co-design workshops have been held in Wellington with the aim of designing a system to meet the needs of the diverse disabled community.
New Zealand First is watching this process with interest.
BUDGETS NOT KEEPING UP
We are concerned that the current Budgets are not keeping up with population growth and an ageing disability population.
In last year’s Budget the government committed an extra $2.2 billion to health over the next four years.
It sounds impressive but the disturbing thing is health spending per capita or per person in New Zealand has gone down, not up.
According to the “Yes We Care” campaign – an alliance of health professionals and community groups- the country’s health system is underfunded by $1.8 billion.
NEED FOR ACTION
In fact, the entire health sector is under so much stress, New Zealand First believes an independent analysis and action for all of the health system and its funding is now an urgent priority.
We believe funding must be boosted for DHBs – with so many of them in deficit.
We want increased funding for mental health services in rural areas as well as for Pharmac to treat life-limiting and rare conditions.
We are committed to fully supporting the disability community.
Among our policies, we would strengthen the role of the Minister for Disability Issues.
We would ensure resources are available to all students with disabilities on an equitable basis.
New Zealand First believes that as much as is possible the disabled can be assisted to live and enjoy normal lives.