Ministry of Health make further comment on ASD Support reductions

A senior media advisor at the Ministry of Health has provided further information on the recent cuts to services supporting people in the ASD community.

According to the Ministry; an email sent by IDEA Services last week was confirmation that the provider would not be renewing the ASD contracts.

No one has said that IDEA Services won’t continue to provide any support for the ASD community, in this blog or otherwise. IHC New Zealand boss Ralph Jones said that the organisation will continue to advocate on behalf of all people with intellectual disabilities.

But the fact remains, IDEA Services won’t be running these popular services and the hundreds of families on waiting lists will have to stay in limbo.

For a long time now, people have struggled to take what the Government says regarding funding for disability support at face value. This latest example in terms of the apparent reduction in funding for ASD support services is the latest example.

After the email exchange between IDEA Services and the Ministry, a letter was sent out to people receiving support for ASD services. In that letter, IDEA Services gave this official statement:

“Unfortunately with the underfunding of over $500,000 in the 2016/2017 year and no offer of an increase for the coming year we cannot continue to provide the service”, IDEA Specialist Services General Manager said.

The Minister for Disability issues has said that funding isn’t being reduced, for IDEA Services or any other organisation. This is in direct contrast  to what was claimed in the letter.

Costs for all organisations are on the rise and some have speculated that the $500,000 underfund for IDEA Services isn’t specific to ASD contracts. What IDEA Services are saying is that there has been insufficient funding to continue ASD support services moving forward.

Some members of the ASD community say that IDEA Services didn’t renew the contract with the Ministry of Health due to being underfunded as costs for services and programmes continue to rise. They also say that this was not a new problem either.

The mainstream media are currently working on this story.

Minister denies claims of reduction in funding for IDEA Services

The Ministry of Health and the Minister for Disability Issues have both denied a reduction in funding for IDEA Services led to cuts of support programmes for people with Autism.

Tony Atkinson, Disability Support Services Group Manager, rejected claims of funding reductions leading to IDEA Services pulling out of providing three programmes that support and educate people in the ASD community.

“There has been no reduction or cut in funding to IDEA Services”, Atkinson said.

The Ministry and IDEA Services want to limit disruption and the gaps between the end of one service and the beginning of other ones. Atkinson says that alternative arrangements for affected services are being worked through.

Just what those other services will be, and how accommodating they are to the thousands of people in the ASD community remains to be seen.

Aside from the thousands due to be affected by the cuts announced via a letter distributed from IDEA Services on Tuesday, many more are still on waiting lists as well. In the letter, IDEA pointed to an underfunding of $500,000 in the 2015/16 financial year as a big factor in their decision to cease continuation of three ASD programmes.

After negotiations with the Ministry of Health, a new contract was not signed. Atkinson says that the Ministry will be seeking alternate providers to continue services for ASD clients and also the others affected by home care and facility based respite cuts.

The Minister for Disability Issues palmed off suggestions of reductions and cuts also. When contacted by this blog, Nicky Wagner says she had no knowledge of the letter sent out by IDEA Services and questioned some of the quotes published on this blog.

“I haven’t seen this letter but nothing you quote is correct”, Wagner said.

Yesterday, the Minister announced the members selected onto a co-design group that will be tasked with transforming disability supports. Some concerns have been raised by members of the ASD community about their representation on the group.

Gabrielle Hogg is advocate for people on the Autism spectrum and says that a lack of representation goes against a call from the United Nations to have people with Autism in decision making roles on Government advisory committees.

Hogg says that she is very concerned that people on the spectrum are being ignored.

“Autistic individuals feel very much locked out from having direct feedback with being on the group”, Hogg said.

More to come.