IHC provide update on long education equality battle

IHC have provided an update to their long-standing court case surrounding the rights of people with disabilities in education.

Back in 2008 – IHC took the matter to court over the discrimination of children and young people with disabilities at school. Since then, many changes have occurred right through the education system, but IHC argues that the core problem of exclusion remains.

One change saw an update to the Learning Support system – a high point of contention in recent months.

The case has actually remained with the Human Rights Review Tribunal. However, the case is just one of many, and the particular students used in the initial case have since left the education system. This makes the battle for IHC even harder.

IHC even wrote to the Minister of Justice to ask for further resources toward the tribunal – and that request was denied.

The case is yet to go to a full hearing – but IHC say they remain confident in the likelihood of future progress.

Until then, the current Government system continues to fail a lot of disabled people in New Zealand. Additional education for teachers is needed, more data and monitoring of learning, and a greater accountability at schools is just a few of the requirements.

IHC ended by saying that they want to see the rights of learners with disabilities recognised and responded to in real terms.

 

 

 

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.

Thousands on the Autism Spectrum have support cut

Members of the ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) community have been left reeling after news that IDEA Services will no longer provide support to families due to funding cuts by the Ministry of Health.

Three popular and successful support programmes will get the chop, leaving many on the spectrum without their day bases and no education for families. It also means that the several thousand on waiting lists now have to miss out, at least until something else is sorted.

The news comes as a massive blow to the ASD community, and IHC New Zealand’s boss Ralph Jones says that the timing of the announcement comes as an “extra blow” that is “devastating” for the organisation and the people it supports. Just a few weeks ago, Jones also announced that several support services would be cut, including home support and facility based respite.

Other providers are now set to not only bare the increase in demand from the over 12,000 people affected by those cuts, but now also the large numbers involved with ASD programmes.

ASD programmes run by IDEA Services to be cut are:

Growing Up With Austism

ASD Plus

Communication & Behaviour

In total, IDEA Services was underfunded by a total $500,000 in the past financial year as the Ministry of Health continues its cut backs. This news comes despite the fact that Minister for Disability issues said that funding has increased by 4% each year throughout the sector.

IDEA Services has been providing large amounts of support to the ASD community since 2013 under a contact with the Ministry of Health.

The Government simply must inject more funding into disability support. If not, big cuts like this are only going to continue. Labour MP Grant Robertson took to social media to air his concerns, but very few others in Parliament have touched on the issue.

“We should restore the funding for this as part of a comprehensive and diverse set of support programmes for those with autism. It is what a caring and inclusive country would do”, Robertson said.

People suffering from autism and their families have taken to Facebook to air their concerns. One woman said that IDEA Services had done a lot of good work to develop autism awareness training but the Ministry of Health hadn’t provided enough investment for it to take place. Another woman, who works for a National Group Organisation (NGO), said that families are being left with less and less support while workloads for organisations only continue to lose workers who are fed up with being unpaid for extra hours.

This blog has contacted this Minister for Disability Issues and the Ministry of Health for comment.

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.