CCS Disability Action Criticised For Facebook Post

CCS Disability Action has come under fire from parents of children with Autism after posting an article written in the US that claims that the condition is being caused by too much time spent on screens. 

The article, written originally on Mad In America, claims that some children show increased signs of Autism due to spending too much time in front of computers, tablets, phones, and from playing video games.

However, CCS has been accused of irresponsible sharing. Advocates for the ASD community and parents both say that CCS were irresponsible to share the post on their official Facebook page, claiming the article presents false information that can be easily disproven by experts.

One woman accused CCS of being “just another agency looking to blame the parents”.

The original article can be viewed here.

CCS Disability Action: “In No Way Supporting The Content Of The Article”

On Monday, CCS responded to the criticism and said the intention was to just share the article, due to it garnering worldwide attention, and that the organisation didn’t support the claims made surrounding causes of Autism.

To their credit, that is the actual truth of the matter. The article was simply ‘making the rounds’, and the organisation was trying to inform.

CCS Disability Action denies ‘Spot Checking’ its own workers

Please note: The following blog has been updated since its original publication.

CCS Disability Action has categorically denied suggestions that Service Coordinators have been asked to ‘spot check’ on Support Workers by the organisation.

It’s alleged that Service Coordinators attempted random spot checks on their Community Support Workers in order to ensure that clients were getting the correct service at the designated times.

Whether the directive was given as a result of complaints is unknown.

The Real Michael Pulman contacted CCS Disability for comment on Wednesday and received the following statement in regards to allegations’ of spot checks.

“I can state categorically that our organisation does not ask coordinators to do spot checks, random or otherwise, on its support workers in the manner you have described. Specifically, our Waikato coordinators do not carry them out – now or ever – and have not been requested or given a directive to do so.”

The organisation also denied any truth of an internal audit currently taking place – though later retracted that statement and said that the organisation “might be carrying out all kinds of internal audits currently or at any time”.

What Is Spot Checking And Why Would Service Coordinators Attempt It?

The term ‘spot checking’ refers to an act where investigations on a person, or group of persons, takes place at a randomly selected time.

The problem for CCS Disability Action, and other disability support services, is ensuring that clients who need care, actually get all their entitled allocation.

With a shortage of support workers, late pull outs of work, and other contributing factors; it’s understandable that the organisation would be concerned about some situations that their more vulnerable clients may be in.

The problem, however, is the timing of such allegations.

It comes while CCS Disability Action’s HR Manager is currently carrying out a formal investigation on one support worker, and shortly after a radical shift in worker pay rates at the beginning of July.

CCS Disability Action say that investigations on their own workers do occur, but denies spot checks are part of that process.

“Should we receive credible reports about the behaviour, professionalism or work practices of our support workers, like we would with any staff member, we do then investigate and manage outcomes according to policies and employment law etc. But these matters are treated with the utmost confidentiality while investigations are in progress and no ‘spot checks’ are employed as part of that process.”


‘Prior Experience’ sufficient enough for CCS Disability Action

Some support workers are being sent into homes without training, or even orientation, as poor practice by CCS Disability Action coordinators continues.

Support workers are not speaking up about the poor practice by the coordinators they answer to – out of fear for their jobs. In some cases, new support workers are being put ‘on the floor’ with high-needs clients without orientation or any hands-on training.

A full orientation is compulsory for new support workers in most organisations and is set out in their employment contracts.

Recently, CCS Disability Action sent a worker into a home in Hamilton without the proper training – insisting that the worker’s ‘prior experience’ was sufficient. Another, more experienced support worker, raised concerns to coordinators but was told no orientation was required.

On May 9th, The Real Michael Pulman reported that some service coordinators at CCS Disability Action could be guilty of misconduct after another client in Hamilton was left with less than half of her allocated support.

At one point – the woman was receiving as little as two hours per week and had to scrape by, enlisting the help of other support workers who offered to help where they could.

CCS Disability Action president Kim Willetts denied those claims in a letter to The Real Michael Pulman – saying they were ‘defamatory and untrue’.

Willets didn’t acknowledge that an investigation into the situation had, or hadn’t occurred, at the organisations Waikato branch.

The Real Michael Pulman understands that the situation involving that particular woman was fixed in early 2017, but only after support workers discovered a letter signed by Disability Support Link (a major Needs Assessment organisation) and complained to CCS Disability Action coordinators.

Disability Support Link provided no comment on the matter when contacted on Tuesday.


“Greater National Consistency” behind CCS Disability Action restructuring

Like a lot of disability support providers, CCS Disability Action faces a difficult transition into the new style of disability supports.

There is a push for more choice and control over supports, but more importantly, people and families want more say in how that support is delivered to them.

According to numbers of the past financial year, CCS Disability Action revealed that 69% of their revenue was from Government contracts. 76% of expenditure was spent on staff training – including coordinator training.

The difficulty area was the cost of programmes – a total of 55% of expenditure by National office.

The organisation, under the leadership of David Matthews, decided to head in a different direction in 2016. Deemed “the journey towards a brave new world”, the change wasn’t met without some push back from staff around the country. Fears were that existing workloads would only increase, and that some jobs would be lost along the way.

Matthews argued that a greater consistency for the organisation was key, while promising to look for ways to ensure the costs for delivering services were managed.

The change was immediate and resulted in branch managers being shifted to become regional managers. Northern, Midland, Central, and Southern now had their own regional manager, someone who would look after the various CCS Disability Action branches within a region.

At the national level – new roles were established to complete the new leadership structure. A National Coordinator for Maori Development, plus the following roles:

National Contracts Manager

Service Leadership & Quality Manager

National Operations Manager

Matthews promised that national office would provide efficient support and leadership to the organisation and its various regions. In early 2017; Matthews was selected for the Government’s Disability System Transformation co-design group.



CCS Disability Action coordinators guilty of poor practice

With coordination charged at $46.00 per hour – CCS Disability Action may need to crack down on poor practice by some within the organisation.

A lack of communication among coordinators, poor management, and a lack of responsibility has led to some clients being left without their entitled support hours.

The Real Michael Pulman understands that a woman in Hamilton was previously left with less than half of her allocated support each day. The woman was entitled, by way of funding based on her needs assessment, to over 50% more of the support she was getting on a weekly basis.

Reasons for the lack of full support hours are believed to be on availability of support workers.

The situation has since been rectified, but problems with the coordination department continue to be at an all-time high.

According to CCS Disability Action’s Memorandum of Understanding with its clients, coordinators are to take responsibility for the organisations policies and protocols that ensure a quality delivery of service to their clients.

These protocols are across all teams of support within the organisation; including Youth & Adult and Vocation services.

Sources have informed The Real Michael Pulman that some coordinators have been found guilty of ‘passing the buck’ following mishaps that have resulted in people being left either without support at all, or with an agency carer as a last-minute replacement.

More to come.

CCS Disability Action wants Government to seize the day

David Matthews, CEO of CCS Disability Action. Photo Credit: Supplied 

CCS Disability Action says it supports the Governments plan to reform disability support services in New Zealand.

On Thursday, the Minister for Disability Issues announced that a long term transformation of disability support services (DSS) would begin with a co-design approach during early 2017. At the same time, a new pilot was launched for Palmerston North based on the principles of Enabling Good Lives.

CCS Disability Action, a typically conservative organisation supports many of the Governments decisions when it comes to disability issues, and last weeks announcement was no exception.

“There is a clear need to reform disability support services”, the organisations CEO David Matthew said on Friday.

Matthews stressed the importance of a full roll out, saying that the pilot in Palmerston North should be the last. Enabling Good Lives has been the big talking point in the disability sector since 2015, because it’s principles aim to allow disabled people to have more choice and control over their lives and the supports allocated. Pilots in Christchurch and the Waikato are complete, and both regions will continue to work under demonstration phase throughout 2017.

An announcement on the reforms to DSS was expected in late 2016 but due to former PM John Key’s sudden resignation, talks with cabinet were significantly delayed. A decision wasn’t reached until late February.

For CCS Disability Action, work will now continue on how their service provision can continue to incorporate the growing shift towards the self-direction approach. Matthews backs his organisation and urged the Government to be bold moving forward.

“Disabled people have gotten a raw deal for too long, the time for real change is now”, Matthews said.


Ensuring that Support Workers are fully informed

A lot more could be done to keep support workers around New Zealand fully up to date with all the changes and notes of importance in a rapidly changing disability sector.

The way people want their supports delivered is changing, and with that, the requirements of the modern support worker who is responsible for delivering those supports is changing as well.

Supports are more flexible, some routines aren’t as structured, but a lot of support workers training actually reflects that of the old model. It’s not as simple as telling a support worker that the person they support wants more flexibility and control. You need to explain how the funding model works, but most importantly, support workers need to know that they are doing the job properly.

A lot of people receiving support won’t speak up if they aren’t happy. But the more information and regular communication support workers have, the better they will be when working out in the field.

Two years ago, CCS Disability Action’s Waikato region were looking at starting a newsletter for support workers. I myself was involved in the discussions surrounding this project, but despite my enthusiasm, for whatever reason it just never came to fruition.

To their credit, CCS Disability Action does release a few regional newsletters per year that give a lot of information about the latest happenings in the sector. But with that said, there isn’t a publication that is aimed just at the support workers.

Sometimes support workers feel “cut off” from their own place of work; they just go on with their business as the days pass but don’t really have a connection to what is happening. In some cases, they don’t have a lot of contact with their coordinators either.

Support workers need some sort of reoccurring communication, it is important for any employee as it gives them a sense of their performances in what is a very interpersonal job. It is also a good opportunity to offer support, resource, and information, which is to the benefit of not only the support worker but the person they are supporting.

The PSA Journal is a good publication that many will be referred onto, but a lot of support workers don’t sign up to the Union and therefore don’t receive it.

It is the responsibility of the organisation to provide effective and regular communication to their support workers who are out in the field. Some organisations are good at that, and some are seriously lacking.

Sex & Disability: The Sector’s “Complex” Topic

As I will state on social media when I post this blog; I want to reaffirm the message that I am writing this blog as myself, and not a representative of any organisation in the sports journalism field or the disability sector. These thoughts are entirely my own and are my version of events.

It was December 2015, and I’d been thinking about sex and disability for a long time. I knew that I really needed to turn my thoughts into action.

I started writing as much as I could about the subject. I came at it from the perspective of a disabled person, but I wanted to advocate for those who weren’t lucky enough, or brave enough, to make the decisions that I’ve made in the past. That’s right, seeing a sex worker, and especially losing your virginity to one, is a brave choice to make for anybody. It’s not the way you’d imagine that first experience going, and it’s very daunting. Following that, all the moralistic thoughts and emotions are another battle on their own.

Without CCS Disability Action, my employers at the time, the thing with TV3 would never have happened, and that’s when the subject reached a national audience.

To the surprise of nobody, the feedback was relatively negative. The ‘powers that be’ at TV3 Story turned it into a profile about a guy in a wheelchair asking the government to fund sex worker visits for all disabled people. However, most of the country saw it as the guy in the wheelchair wanting all the money for himself, and it sparked massive uproar.

In that story, I am quoted as saying that sex is more accessible for most people than it is for those with disabilities. What I should have said was that it was more acceptable, acknowledged, and probable. Because it is; people with disabilities are not seen as sexual beings capable of having sexual thoughts, desires, or abilities to engage in a “good” sex life.

The week after the story hit the media, CCS Disability Action wrote a column in the NZ Herald that labelled the topic of sexuality as it pertains to the disabled “a complex issue”. Due to my employment with them, I couldn’t exactly go public with how infuriated I was at some of the things Joy Gunn wrote in that column, and I congratulated her on social media.

The story had drawn so much criticism, and many people in CCS Disability Action were uncomfortable. An insider has informed me that the whole reason why TV3 got the tip of my work was because of a partnership between CCS Disability Action and a company called Ideas Shop.

Apparently, the story had put sexuality for the disabled into a somewhat negative light, but I was just glad that the light had been shone on it at all, because it was about time.

Joy Gunn left the organisation just a couple of months later.

One of the things I was disappointed in was when Gunn said that the organisation didn’t support my idea that the Government should fund “his need”. It was never about my needs at all, I was simply sharing the experience of how I had lost my virginity, I wasn’t asking the government to pitch in financially towards my own sex life.

Secondly, Gunn never once discussed the lack of access to money that many disabled people in New Zealand have. Yes, some disabled people work, and others are on the Supported Living Payment, but particularly in that second example, many aren’t able to save any money, let alone save enough to hire a sex worker.

In the months following that saga, CCS Disability Action released their first Sexuality, Gender Identity, and Intimate Relationships policy.

It’s my hope that CCS Disability Action and other leading organisations really do begin to start more robust discussion around this area. Advocating on sex and disability is indeed a very complex task, but it’s not an impossible one. Government funding sex workers for those with disabilities isn’t the ideal scenario, but it’s an option for some disabled people in very unique situations. Perhaps more research into such unique situations needs to occur.

People with Disabilities need to keep putting their hands up

December 3rd celebrated the International Day of Persons with Disability, and it is a reflection of all the hard work that history suggested we needed to do well before now.

Don’t get me wrong, life for people with disabilities has improved so much, but there is a taboo surrounding it that still exists.

The perception of disability has so often been negative, that disability is something to avoid, and as CCS Disability Action’s Samuel Murray wrote this week, days like December 3rd try to get rid of that mindset.

It is mindsets that drive the disability sector forward, but these can also do their part in holding it back.  Continue reading People with Disabilities need to keep putting their hands up