System Transformation workshops off to underwhelming start

Two workshops down and not a lot to show for the co-design group behind transforming the disability support system in New Zealand.

Throughout April, the first of several workshops were held in Wellington that saw a small group of disabled people, advocates, and service providers come together to work with Government.

The purpose is to design a new system for supporting disabled people; but about all that’s been achieved so far is discussion on Enabling Good Lives principles and clarifying the meaning of Mainstream First.

Workshops continue in Wellington this week, but the group have already convinced project manager Sacha O’Dea to schedule additional meetings in a bid to get the process complete in time for cabinet’s reading in June. More work will need to be done in between meetings as well.

There was a lack of clarity of the actual scope behind transforming the system, and that was a major cause of anxiety in the first meeting. Finer details were cleared up and the official line from O’Dea to the group is that the scope of transformation is for all specialist disability support services in New Zealand. That adds up to around 33,000 people in total – with no word on the restrictions regarding eligibility criteria.

The second workshop saw clarification over the term ‘Mainstream First’ – a big buzzword behind new approaches to services that enable more choice and control. Here is the decided meaning:

“Everybody experiences full participation and inclusion within their community (people, places, assets, infrastructure and supports) as of right and can choose funded supports to enhance and facilitate this.”

The group is keen on getting into the actual design process – something that hasn’t really happened throughout the first month of the project.

Hard Work & Real Action Needs To Begin Now

There is no doubt that the co-design group faces an immense task over the next eight weeks.

It goes without saying that whatever the future looks like for services, and more importantly the process, a key ingredient needs to be simplicity. One assessment, one host, and a greater level of flexibility to go along with the person as their life journey continues. Don’t do things to, for, or on behalf of the person with a disability, do it with them.

This isn’t a case of creating a “brave new world”, it’s about creating a fair system that does include a much greater level of financial investment. The money side matters just as much as the promise of a better system, one cannot be a given without the other.

While some great minds are present on this group, just how much can be achieved remains the huge question.

In an election year, time is of the absolute essence, and it’s debatable that Minister Nicky Wagner will leave anything to chance when it comes to this so called “system transformation”. Re inventing the wheel isn’t going to happen by June.

There is a risk that this co design group could be just another example of great talk, with positive enthusiasm and quiet cynicism, followed by mediocre action.


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