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Disabled floater voters Part 4: Health and Support

by Disabled Persons Assembly New Zealand

This is the fourth of a series of blogs from the Disabled Persons Assembly (DPA).   We have used DPA’s strategic areas of focus, as identified by our members, as a guide to examine key areas of each party’s policies. We have then asked questions that we would like answered from political parties.

Mental health, and physical health and well-being

Our communities, schools, and workplaces do not always value or include disabled people as they do others, and this impacts on our mental wellbeing. New Zealand has high rates of suicide. This not only includes people with long-term mental illness, but people with other impairments. People with psychosocial disabilities, autism or learning disability may be subjected to seclusion and coercive or compulsory treatment. 

Disabled people die earlier and have poorer health outcomes because of factors that are not directly associated with their impairment or condition. For example, New Zealand’s Independent Monitoring Mechanism reports that women with learning disability die on average 23 years younger than other women. 

How would your party positively influence the mental wellbeing of disabled people?

When would your party end seclusion?

How would it move towards ending compulsory treatment?

How would it reduce suicide?

How would it improve the health and life expectancy of disabled people?

Our comparative assessment: Mental health and the high suicide rate are receiving attention, with Labour leading the debate.  More emphasis could be placed on people with long term mental illness and other impairment types, and their rights within the mental health system.  No one has committed to a date to end seclusion or given a suicide reduction target.

Support and Living in the Community

Disabled people want to live in their communities, in their cultural contexts, and with choice about their own lives and control of their supports. Families want to ensure disabled children have the best start in life.

Having flexible and comprehensive support has been more likely in New Zealand if a disabled person’s support is funded through ACC, as opposed to the Ministry of Health. For disabled people to be able to live in their communities and direct their own lives requires transforming systems, connecting with more disabled people and families earlier, and updating support systems which have been narrowly focused on meeting needs that someone else has assessed, within a very tight budget. Options for family paid care are unreasonably limited.

Are there any rights or choices open to non-disabled people that you would deny disabled people? 

How would your party ensure disabled people and families realise their rights and choices?  

Would you consider social insurance similar to ACC a funding option?

Our comparative assessment:  While the 1999-2008 Labour government delivered for disabled people with its role in the development of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and the first New Zealand Disability Strategy, its review of long-term supports did not result in any reform, and there seems little further progress in Labour's current policy.

National came into power in 2008 on the tide of change of a Select Committee review of disability support, pointing to a need for substantial reform. The Māori Party has been the leader and innovator, initiating Enabling Good Lives (EGL), a progressive approach to support, choice and control. National have supported and continued EGL, with significant co-design and investment in preparing to roll out EGL across the MidCentral DHB region.

However, the pace of rollout could be improved through an investment in workforce development and ensuring adequate resourcing levels so that EGL can expand beyond the currently eligible group of disabled people. National here is an improvement on the previous Labour government's “review of long term supports” 

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