On average, to see a sex worker will cost between $250 and $300 for one hour. If a person with a high-needs disability has one, one-hour session per month, this amounts to $3,600 per year for an individual user.
Let’s compare this cost to other things funded by the government for a moment.
In 2008, the New Zealand Government was funding gender-reassignment surgeries, up to four times per year. Those surgeries cost between $20,000 and $70,000 depending on the type, times that by four, you are looking well in excess of $100,000 per year.
Shortly after this, the Labour Party introduced a policy that would have seen these gender-reassignment surgeries paid for by the government, but not just for up to four people, but to anyone.
That policy was scrapped after intense media scrutiny and the National Party, the party in political power.
The 2016 flag referendum cost New Zealand taxpayers $26million, all of which went to waste after voters chose to keep the original flag anyway.
People on benefits in New Zealand have access to additional financing, this includes covering the cost of a drug called Methadone, a substance for addicts that helps treat pain and withdrawal symptoms for people with dependence. At its worst this can cost the New Zealand Government up to $500, per user, per week to fund.
John Key, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, is paid $360,000 per year by taxpayers.
To be eligible for the Supported Living Payment, or Disability Benefit, the person needs to meet the following requirements:
- permanently and severely restricted in your ability to work because of a health condition, injury or disability, OR
- totally blind, OR
- caring full-time for someone at home who would otherwise need hospital-level or residential care (or equivalent) who is not your husband, wife or partner.
People living in residential services, rest homes, or other care facilities often get ¾ or all of their benefit taken from them in exchange for care, meals, power, and other basics. If there is money left over, this is for “personal items” such as toothpaste, soap, hair wash, and clothes.
It is hardly the case that people living in these situations have more money than any other beneficiary.
Don’t forget that Service Providers also get a cut, and are funded well over $100,000 per year for a disabled person of the highest needs.
The latest census revealed that up to 1million New Zealanders identified as disabled. But that figure does not represent the disabled New Zealanders on the High-Needs level of the spectrum, and it certainly doesn’t amount to the number receiving a disability benefit.
But this isn’t a conversation about what the government funds and doesn’t fund, this is about human rights.
I’ve received a lot of criticism on this issue, especially after comparing it to gender-reassignment and asking the question of how that is more valid as a government funded entity. Sure, people have the right to gender-reassignment because it is to do with their identity, but isn’t sex just as much about identity, the sense of a persons’ self-worth, or relationship with others and themselves?
In 2016, I believe it is, and for those that don’t have any access to it whatsoever, escort or not, is just as de-humanising as all the other causes advocates are fighting for.
If society didn’t look at sex as so taboo and if people didn’t see disability as something that is different, there wouldn’t be the need to even have this discussion. Have you ever looked at a person with a severe, physically-altering disability, and said to yourself “that person is sexy”?
Behind closed doors, most people are sexual beings. The difference is, this conversation is not aimed at most people. A person living with a high-needs disability cannot be compared to most people, especially in regards to the restrictions they face physically and also, accessing their community, for a whole lot of reasons, including access.
I’ve been told that this idea is completely ridiculous and mind-blowing, that people can’t possibly understand my way of thinking, and that my advocacy would be better used on other, more worthy issues.
To do nothing and ignore this conversation is what is the really, stupidly, and mind-blowing decision to make.