Keeping Promises Important for Disability Community Leaders

Recently, a friend linked me to an article that discusses the portrayal of disability in literature – and it got me thinking about the importance of disability community leaders being progressive and true to its promises.

Reading headlines like “Ardern’s broken promise to the disability community” on Scoop.co.nz might be true for one portion of the community, but entirely untrue for another.

In reality, continuing the current way of doing things will lead to similar results over the course of the next decade, or even longer. Promises must be kept, but that doesn’t just go for the politicians, it goes for the disability community leaders also.

Sometimes I wonder, however, just what that promise and subsequent direction actually is. I hear a lot, and most of it often conflicts with what other groups within the community are saying and/or doing.

That’s not to say the tide isn’t slowly turning or that considerably good outcomes haven’t been achieved already, because nothing could be further from the truth.

Just look at Enabling Good Lives, Disability Pride Week, or the recent Accessibility Concession in the Waikato that provides free public transport for people with disabilities. These three outcomes alone were built on the back of disabled people, their families and the sectors’ leadership working hard and working together.

Keeping Promises Important for Disability Community Leaders

Change, especially societal change, doesn’t happen quickly. It takes years, sometimes decades to achieve. When you add the service providers, governance groups, ministries, and lobbyists into that mix the process becomes that much more complicated. If the disability sector is to be truly progressive, all those parts can remain, but the question really is about how much time, energy and cost will be required to get better results.

At a local network meeting this week, DPA president Gerri Pomeroy said that one of the big things their organisation is working on currently sits in lobbying training and community connectedness.

Representation at the political level and having the right people in those roles is key, but it only serves one part of the puzzle. Many would argue that the disability community, particularly in New Zealand, relies too much on the “nanny state” and constantly blames the political spectrum for life outcomes disabled people are experiencing.

Those people would argue that the Government and the services they provide aren’t going to make society more equitable for disabled people – their only role is to help put the required support systems in place.

That’s where this conversation gets somewhat murky – and it’s completely open to interpretation. Just what is an equal society and what role does the Government play in that?

Robyn Hunt’s recent article in the Spinoff was a great history lesson about disability in literature. She called for “better writing” about disability on all fronts, and whilst that is very true, we also need to be better as a community of people.

Stop all the petty politics and infighting, because, for as much as we hear about how “wonderfully diverse” the disability community is, that seems to go out the window at some very crucial times – like getting that same diversity around the conversational table.

For example, many would argue there was little to no representation from either the Autism or Deaf community in the initial co-design team tasked with developing the new support prototype currently on trial in the MidCentral.

Sure, it came down the track in the various working groups, but initially, nothing. Many would say that isn’t diversity in action, and that leads to the question, who is responsible for ensuring diversity and how do you even ensure diversity?

Perhaps there is some sort of metric system I am unaware of. But if we are to succeed in promoting a diverse and talented community, then the leaders need to be equally as accountable to their own community when such diversity and talent isn’t represented. Otherwise, it’s nothing more than an empty promise.

Inadequate Disability Supports stretches way past simple dollar value

For anyone receiving Disability Support of any kind – it goes way beyond just the dollar value and the assortment of the different services. That’s why support services need to remain, and they need to suit the needs of the individual.

Whether it be a full-time caregiver, or just a supportive friend helping a disabled person in their community, what gets provided is often invaluable.

If they work well, supports can enable people to achieve goals important to them, or at the very least, put them into a position to do so.

So, that’s why service cuts in New Zealand, and around the world, can have such a bad impact on people.

The damage to the routine and structure of those peoples’ lives goes far beyond the care side of things as well; it actually limits and sometimes takes away access to existing support networks and work opportunities.

But it’s a worldwide problem that stretches far beyond New Zealand.

The ‘upper tops’ in world Governments simply don’t grasp just how important a continual and simple support structure is to people with disabilities.

If change is ‘giving with one hand and taking with another’, that can quickly become catastrophic and it ends with the people’s individual requirements being at the very bottom of the priorities list.

Medicaid Changes Could Affect Thousands In United States

Over in the United States; thousands are at serious risk of having their existing supports cut due to changes surrounding Medicaid.

In a story published in The New York Times recently; a young woman preparing to graduate from law school has found her ability to work in the future under serious threat. Her existing support, provided from a funding package approved by Medicaid, currently enables the woman to attend her final exams and have the ability to partake in work experience. Cutting her support therefore takes away the existing structure which has allowed such independence until this point.

This is just one of thousands of examples should the changes to Medicaid go ahead.

BUDGET 2017: Pay Equity will have an impact on IF clients

July 1st is fast approaching – and for people with disabilities using Individualised Funding (IF) things could be about to get quite interesting.

The Care and Support Workers Pay Equity settlement got its first reading in Parliament last week, but some of the major concerns surrounding how people and families will fund the impending pay increases still remain.

Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway spoke in Parliament on Wednesday afternoon as the bill went into its first reading.

Lees-Galloway spoke of a woman with over 20-years worth of experience working as a care worker and hailed the Government for its decision to meet with the Care Workers Union.

“I want to congratulate the Government for getting around the table, but they were forced to do so because if they didn’t then the court settlement was going to result in a much greater exercise”, Less-Galloway said.

“The model of the Government getting around the table and admitting that they have a really bad problem is an incredibly good one, and it sets a wonderful precedent”, Lees-Galloway added.

Pay Equity was signed off by Government on May 1st after Kristine Bartlett, a care worker from Wellington, took the case to the highest levels and had hundreds of people rally round her. But at that point it seemed like the deal was primarily for care workers in the Aged Care sector.

From July 1st – every care worker across all sectors will think they are eligible for the big pay rise.

Union members say that the Government will have no choice but to increase the funding levels of individual packages, but there is a big possibility that it won’t happen. If it doesn’t, people may be forced to drop crucial support hours in order to be able to afford pay increases for individual care workers. The Ministry of Health held an emergency series of meetings last week to address this very issue.

Budget 2017 has thrown an additional spanner into the works as well. According to the Minister for Disability Issues, the total financial cost for Pay Equity is $1.54billion and not the $2billion originally promised. That’s a quarter of a decrease from the first plan but it does fall under the total health budget increase.