Ministry of Health Offers Little Assurance To Disabled Community

The Ministry of Health may have fronted, but the detail on what’s next for Disability Support Services was light and uncommitted during the latest round of conversation.

During a live stream hosted last Thursday, the Ministry of Health shared its learnings and attempted to get close to something of a vision for the future after it held public events around New Zealand that engaged with the disability community. Continue reading Ministry of Health Offers Little Assurance To Disabled Community

The Disability Conversation Must Be Open To All (Even Non-Disabled)

As a writer who occasionally attempts to delve into the issues facing the disability community, the argument of being allowed to speak about something is very real.

Whether spoken or not, the frequent rule is that your opinion only counts if you’re a part of something or afflicted by it. If you aren’t such, you should be cautious about what you say and cautioned before even saying it.

Attempting to simplify the complicated is a tough task because within that complication is often a subconscious reason and chain of history that led to it in the first place.

Five years of writing about disability issues such as funding shortages, leadership, service providers and disabled people’s sexuality has, so far, been anything but simple. It’s taught me a hell of a lot, but it’s always been a struggle.

In fact, I can’t remember a single blog or article that was simple to write and never has there been one that was simply received by what is a very complicated community. Continue reading The Disability Conversation Must Be Open To All (Even Non-Disabled)

Children in State Care Living with more than just Abuse

There is no excusing some of the practices by Oranga Tamariki, but the issues impacting children in New Zealand state care are going hand in hand with rising poverty affecting more families.

The ‘chickens are coming home to roost’ for Oranga Tamariki in 2019 as a long-running blight in New Zealand’s state care reaches its tipping point. Reports released by the Ministry of Children show that over 300 instances of neglect, emotional harm, physical and sexual abuse, and emotional turmoil were inflicted on children under state care over a period of just six months.

One aspect of this report showed that Oranga Tamariki staff members were found to be some of the abusers in question.

Surprising and shocking perhaps? Not really, in fact, this has been a long-running concern.

The conduct of Oranga Tamariki social workers and decision makers should be called into question; the evidence found in this report points to many things, firstly, a clear lack of care when it comes to where some children are being placed.

One has to assume that the proper process is taken when it comes to background checking and assessing the conditions prior to placing a child with a particular caregiver and their family. Yet, the report shows that both family and non-family caregivers are the abusers more often than not.

But what of the Oranga Tamariki workers who’ve been perpetrators of abuse? That’s where conduct comes into the equation.

There are many examples of children being uplifted from families without the proper processes being completed beforehand. Are these isolated incidents? Perhaps, but poor conduct in a situation like uplifting from families is bound to cause further psychological harm to children, especially those more cognitively developed.

Children in State Care Living with more than just Abuse

Whatever the case of poor process, and it appears there are many when it comes to children in state care, calls of an organizational-wide shakeup have been coming for many years.

Part of the problem is the skill of the social workers that Oranga Tamariki brings into its organisation and the lack of accountability for the lack thereof. Every week, there are dozens of social worker jobs advertised and this points to two things; a greater supply of workers in order to keep up with demand, but also a growing risk of quality versus quantity.

Like many sectors, you can have as many workers as you like, but if the general quality of the work being done is sub-par, that sector will continue to achieve average results.

Children in New Zealand’s state care sector deserve better than average. Almost all of them didn’t choose to be in the positions they find themselves in, and the scary thing about this report is the suggestion that they may be in equally as bad or even worse situations of harm than before.

A new set of National Standards will only go so far in addressing the chronic issues that have proven life-long effects on children in care.

That’s really the bigger point. We want New Zealand’s next generation, with all the technologies available to them, to be able to thrive and live their lives with the best footing possible.

Hence why New Zealand needs to address its growing poverty issues, like the overpriced market rentals for instance. Families struggling to get by, many of whom are working and not making ends meet, end up with their children in state care. The pressures of not even being able to make it from week to week are a big factor in emotional trauma that can lead to drug abuse and the likes.

Oranga Tamariki is doing nothing to either address or advocate for certain issues. It may not be their role, but if they want to re-innovate themselves, they need to look at these factors and take a closer consideration into how they may be impacting on the families where they are placing the most vulnerable children into.

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Five Challenges for the Disability Sector in 2019

2019 is a crucial year for the disability sector and its challenges are familiar, from funding to information, to new prototypes and putting the work into all the talk. Here are my five challenges for the disability sector in 2019.

Funding: Providing real “choice and control” support options and room for changing need

Late in 2018, a report published by NZDSN and Deloitte claimed that the disability sector is currently underfunded to the tune of $150million, citing a 12% gap between Government funding and the actual costs for supporting disabled people in New Zealand.

Providers argue that the underfunding across the sector has been a long-held problem and that without increases, their ability to provide more flexible support options will remain compromised. $49.04million is currently allocated to the MidCentral prototype, a much talked about trial that aims to provide more flexible support options and choice to disabled people and their families.

For disabled people and families, it is important that their funding packages are allocated to have significant, not minor, room for changing and increasing care needs. What this really means is having the ability to increase funding if required, and to do it quickly. The belief in many circles is that investing earlier can lead to lower costs for supporting disabled people, particularly if alternative futures other than Residential Care/Group Homes are found. But what for those with changing and increasing needs?

The new system being trialed in the MidCentral, and previously in the Waikato, shows that supports can be flexible in terms of how they are delivered. This is especially true in the cases of being slightly more cost-effective, removing the “man in the middle” in a lot of cases to keep down HR and other managerial costs, but the actual support budgets themselves are often fixed and difficult to increase by large amounts if needs suddenly increase due to prolonged sickness or advanced deterioration of existing conditions.

If NZDSN and Deloitte’s report is to be believed, one could argue that the $150million funding gap in the sector goes well beyond just services. The more discussion, investigation of, and critical evaluation across all levels of funding, as well as comparison with other sectors, will be vital in 2019.

Information: Relaying information to, for, and about the sector in a modern way

How information is relayed to disabled people and families needs a serious shakeup in 2019.

We live in the digital age, and it’s time that news, views, and discussions pertaining to disability are presented in a modern way. Written text via monthly newsletters is no longer the only way information should be shared with the community. Video in the form of YouTube and live-streaming platforms like Twitch and Mixer, pictures via Instagram and Facebook, and audio through podcasts on services such as iTunes are just a few of these more modern ways of communicating. Many organizations and a handful of influencers are well established on some of these platforms, but the majority remain underutilized, and it’s disappointing because this can and should be leading to many job opportunities across the sector, jobs that disabled people are well capable of doing.

Beyond that though, we need to get away from this subconscious fear that information needs to be censored. Information needs to be carefully and strategically released to the community, but it also needs to talk to the people in the community, not just at them. The sector likes to focus on the good stories, but many of the elements for change can actually be found in the bad stories. This information also needs to be accessible for all, i.e available in easy read and accessible to the deaf via captions in videos, but it doesn’t need to be as rigorously controlled as it is. There is often paranoia about misinformation spreading through the community due to the impact that this could have on the so-called “safety” of disabled people, and/or some of the tired concerns around privacy. Information and opinion-sharing throughout the disability sector is important, but it needs to be free flowing, carefully and clearly articulated, but most of all, much, much more immediate.

For all disabled people and everyone else working towards a better tomorrow for this sector, we need to know what’s going on, where it’s going on, and why it’s happening. How else can we critically evaluate and strategise for the future? We could also rely on what the Ministry, their subsequent officials, and a handful of local leaders and influencers tell us, but what about the views of those outside those circles?

MidCentral: Ensuring transparency and effective change for disabled people

“One of the things that has become very apparent to me and is very clear in my mind is that we’ve got, I would say, decades of not just unmet need in the community but unrecognized need”.

Those were the words of Lorna Sullivan, head of the Connector/Tuhono team in the MidCentral.

Currently, numbers in the MidCentral indicate that 500 disabled people and families have already come on-board the prototype since it’s launch in October 2018. This is, already, a similar amount of people that the Waikato demonstration of Enabling Good Lives has supported, but over the period of three years, not two months. It is clear that the numbers of people coming onto the prototype in the MidCentral are higher than allocated, and on current trajectory, expected to rise again.

Sullivan also urged providers to move away from notions that responses to disabled people’s needs can be standardized.

“We have to shift away from this idea that we are a service”, Sullivan said.

What has become absolutely transparent since the launch of Mana Whaikaha is that providers, for the most part, have been woefully underprepared for the change that the prototype is trying to give to disabled people. This was something that was predicted and has come to fruition, funding gaps or not.

The challenge now, for Sullivan and her team, appears to have become not only about ensuring that they can work alongside disabled people to create better outcomes, but it’s also becoming about taking providers by the hand and directing them on the type of changes needed to their own systems. Furthermore, connectors in the MidCentral haven’t had the ongoing training and development due to the increasing numbers coming onto the prototype, and Sullivan says that this needs to be addressed early in 2019.

Leadership: Lack of strategic, on the ground, by the people leadership

The state of leadership across the disability sector is seriously lacking, and in 2019, this presents perhaps our biggest challenge, both in terms of finding fresh leadership and investing in it.

Also, using social media to demand change from Government and other mainstream agencies for things like access whilst using the term ‘ableism’ is inherently not leadership, and shouldn’t be recognized as such. The increasing discourse and labeling of non-disabled people as ‘ableists’ needs to stop, fast. This point is as equally applicable to this particular challenge of leadership as it is to the previous information talking point.

The biggest problem here is investment, both from a financial perspective and a hands-on perspective. There have been many strongly-willed, capable, and determined leaders that were initially projected to be the big change makers in the disability sector. Some of them have, and continue to do amazing things both in New Zealand and internationally, but it would be fair to say that without some form of financial incentives moving forward, i.e jobs for disabled people where the development and enhancing of their already strong leadership skills takes place, these potential leaders will be forced to look elsewhere and go down alternate avenues where their talents won’t be fully realized in order to find an opportunity that financially rewards them.

This has already proven to be a big loss for the disability sector, and if it continues, it will hamper the efforts of what new support models are trying to accomplish in theory, because as it stands right now, terms like “social investment” and “capability” are areas of the sector that are big on words, but little on action. People need and deserve to be paid for their time, another reason why further investment across all areas of the sector is needed, and potential investment that could see big returns.

Less Hui, More Doi: For the benefit of the people

One of the things Lorna Sullivan raised recently was the deep sense of isolation disabled people and families are feeling from their own community. This is also something that is a familiar conversation point around the leadership tables, and yet we still have this problem.

This isolation is as much a social issue as it is a service issue.

For one, many families don’t know who to turn to for information, for the support that is both hands-on and effective, as well a general understanding of how to navigate the system. People are still going to have to navigate through the disability system in one way or the other to access supports. Connectors are only one part of the puzzle, and even that requires a small amount of navigation and awareness to access in the first place. There needs to be more support and resourcing, not only for the navigation aspect, but also understanding the practical “how to’s” when it comes to managing support budgets, hiring and firing support workers, and employment law.

Simply having such teaching resources available on websites isn’t enough. Because often people won’t search for help until they actually need said help, and this is often at a time when additional, hands-on, responsive, and effective support is most required. My guess, however, would be that many people don’t care about these things. They just want the flexible support options that work for them, owned by them, and directed by them. But let’s be real for a moment, in order to achieve something like that, you have to have a certain amount of knowledge and resource behind you.

Practicing what we preach isn’t just about changing how support is delivered, it’s about ensuring that this support actually addresses not only the current need, but perhaps the underlying needs as well, and a large amount of this requirement is in understanding. To do that, you’ve really got to look at the individual and their unique context, and that’s where you design a support structure that truly works for them. That takes a lot of time, experiment, and often a lot of going back to the drawing board at each individual level, so it’s vital that more investment of time and understanding is implemented across the sector.

It isn’t about investing heavily early, it’s about finding the sweet spot for each individual. For that individual, their lives aren’t a box on a checklist to be ticked off, their lives are uniquely theirs, and they are relying on this sector to listen to, include, and advocate for them.

An audio version of this blog can be found here:

All resources used in the creation of this blog can be found here:

Lorna Sullivan – Thinking and Acting Differently for System Transformation

#MeToo Movement Needs To Be Followed Up By Real Talk From Men

Sexual abuse, against any gender and in any form, is never acceptable. Cynics who say that the #MeToo hashtag is an inappropriate form of raising awareness to the issue are missing the point entirely.

I’d dare say that the real reason why so many women spoke out so strongly on social media about their own abuse stories is because the issue is not going away. If anything, it’s getting worse.

Society has become more and more sexualised, and young people are expected to “put out” to be a part of the social norm, regardless of the values being taught to them by their families. If young women, and men, don’t engage in the highly sexualised culture that is modern life, they are judged by their peers, and sometimes, the peers closest to them.

But here’s the other thing – those same peers judge the person when they speak out about the sexual abuse that occurs because of those high-pressure situations. Nobody talks about that, all the discussion surrounds the act of sexual abuse itself, and to hell with the circumstances which led to it.

Said circumstances cannot be defended. What the #MeToo movement revealed wasn’t anything our society didn’t know already, but it put the focus squarely (and perhaps unfairly) on men and their responsibilities surrounding this subject moving forward. Whilst stats show that both genders encounter sexual abuse, nobody can deny that women are in the higher category of victims.

Men Need To Look Closely At The #MeToo Movement

It’s time that more men starting having conversations about just why the horrendous rates of sexual abuse towards females are occurring.

There are multiple aspects to this argument. Perhaps the fear of judgement, being disowned by their friends and family, or even having to sit down and look into why these situations even happened in the first place. None of those reasons excuse anybody who sexually abuses another person, but it is relevant in terms of their mindset after the fact.

But then, you also have those who are just downright terrible people, with no morals and no regret for what they’ve done, and perhaps continue to do. That’s why we have a prison system here in New Zealand, because that’s exactly where those predators belong.

Good on the thousands of women who spoke out using #MeToo over the last few days. Now it’s time for men to have a deeper discussion about the issue and not be excused for refusing to do so.

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.

Chronicling intimate details of a child with Muscular Dystrophy on Facebook

At what point does a well-meaning parent go too far with sharing intimate details of their child’s fight against Muscular Dystrophy?

It’s a cruel question to ask in a way – because imagine putting yourself into a situation where you’ve just been told that your child might not live past the age of ten.

Add onto that, in 2017, nearly everything is shared with the world through social media, right?

Perhaps it is a sign of the times – but the reality is now days that even the worst of situations can draw a big following of keen eyes ready to hit the keyboard and ‘get behind the crusade’.

Even if we overlook that the children themselves cannot fully consent or understand the realities of having so much of their young lives broadcast on Facebook. Not only that, but they quickly become the young man that ‘lives with and battles being disabled’ in the eyes of many people.

Facebook has been a place for hundreds of awareness, fundraising, and journey-sharing pages aimed at engaging with a local and international community online.

For people with disabilities and their families, Facebook is used to connect with others in similar situations, most of the time for knowledge sharing, and just some basic connection with people sharing the same difficulties as faced by life with a disability.

Some individuals have decided to share the journey of their child living with Muscular Dystrophy in a bid to help others, and gain some support at the same time.

A Heartless Question Or A Starc Reality?

These pages are also a reflection of the battle that countless others face.

Over in the United States, and even now in Australia, early signs of successful drug treatments for children with SMA (a similar but less lethal condition than Muscular Dystrophy) are beginning to gather momentum.

These stories are getting large followings. More importantly, it is creating a much larger awareness than ever before.

It all comes down to a question of what becomes too much and what is really in the best interests of that person.

A young child cannot fully consent to their parent sharing these details of their lives, and they especially cannot understand the image that it generates. But, because of their age and lack of exposure to the world, taking the word of their parent is the obvious choice.

Arguing that the child is somehow more exposed to the world because of the difficulties they face due to their condition doesn’t cut it.

A consenting adult is a different scenario altogether and isn’t the case of a parent speaking for the child.

It is a matter of dignity and privacy – something any child should have regardless of the difficulties they and their parents face.

The Bugged Meeting Room

On Saturday morning it was reported that the All Blacks had discovered they’d been bugged. But the real story started well before then.

As it stands right now – the matter has been referred on to NSW Police.

It’s clear that this had been done well before the media ran the story, but the media likely knew of the situation well before Saturday when the story broke.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said that information wasn’t passed onto police until Steve Tew, NZ Rugby CEO, had arrived in Sydney.

Since then there has been a whole lot of speculation as to who planted the device, and what the motive behind it was. We may never know the answer to this. The most likely scenario was that the device was planted on behalf of a sports betting agency. Continue reading The Bugged Meeting Room

Cricket! Keep the bouncer in the game

The bouncer is an integral part of cricket, and nothing should change that.


The cricketing world is in a deep state of mourning, and this afternoon the world will pause for one final farewell to the late Phillip Hughes.

Players from all over the world are expected to be in Macksville, including the entire Australian Test team as well as legends of the game including Brian Lara and Glenn McGrath.

There is simply no denying that the sudden death of Phil Hughes is the most tragic story in the history of cricket.

But through all the sadness, the fundamentals of cricket should not be changed. Talks of banning the short pitched ball commonly referred to as a bouncer are utterly idiotic.

Yes, even with the death of Hughes, talk of banning the bouncer as a result of all this is completely and utterly idiotic.

Getting rid of short pitched bowling would further favor the game of cricket towards the batsmen, and undoubtably the impact of this would result in a game that would slowly over time become less and less exciting.

Stuff columnist Mark Reason wrote a column this morning titled “Phillip Hughes death highlights cricket hypocrisy” discusses this very issue, and is one of the most silly things to be written in the wake of the Hughes tragedy.

In one particular line in Reason’s column, he writes that “the circumstances that led to the tragedy have been fostered by Clarke and others”. This is not only untrue and unfounded, but quite a disgusting comment to make in light of the current heartbreak Clarke and his Australian teammates are going through at the moment.

Excuse me Mr. Reason.

Calling cricket players hypocritical because they are so sad at the moment and your implying that because bowlers in recent games prior to Hughes death bowlers have implemented the bouncer as a tactic to get batsmen out is somehow reason for them to not be allowed to grieve is one of the most disgusting things anyone has written on this situation in the last week.

Sometimes you wonder why the NZ media has the faith to hire such writers.

The battle between Mitchell Johnson and the English batsmen last summer, although brutal, was one of the most exciting and edgy things cricket has seen in a long time.

Let’s not forget it was the Ashes.

For god sake ICC, please don’t change the fundamentals of cricket. Change nothing, the death of Phillip Hughes which honestly was just a freak accident and the game shouldn’t suffer because of it.

JD Ryder: A personal viewpoint on a favourite cricketer

It had occurred to me before now, but the fact remains that I’ve written a lot about Jesse Ryder during my five or so years as a writer.


Favourite Blackcap? Check. Favourite cricketer? Check. Favourite sportsman? Check. Favourite sports story? Check.

They are probably the reasons why much of the cricket related content here on THE REAL MICHAEL PULMAN has revolved around Jesse Ryder.

On the face of it, Ryder seems to be a man that is troubled, but also a man that the media love to hate. On the evidence of the past few years, Ryder is a man who was superb on the field but not too amazing off it.

I always liked Jesse because of what he did to me as a viewer when I would watch him bat, he was just something a little more exciting than anyone else in the game to me, and through all the incidents off the field I always found it easy to stick by him and continue to be a fan.

22554925-Jesse-ryder_6 Jesse-Ryder-001

You could be forgiven if you asked me why I was a fan of what is clearly a troubled individual in the NZ Cricket community.

Simply put, I like how no matter what seems to happen off the field, Ryder always seems to come back into the conversation.

His form has just improved and improved.

Secondly, I just haven’t seen a batsmen in all my years of watching cricket who can hit the ball as far and as clean as Ryder does. He waits and waits at the crease, and then hacks at the ball. It is almost lazy, and scary too because there never seems to be much thought or effort in any of the strokes you see Jesse play, and yet nine times out of ten the ball will be hit long enough to clear any boundary in world cricket.

Especially since the Christchurch incident and the comeback to cricket from that, it seemed that on the field Ryder was in the form of his life.

To me, there is absolutely zero question that the Jesse Ryder you see with the bat at the moment is a Jesse Ryder who has never been better, form wise anyway.

When the Christchurch incident happened, my first reaction was shock, and like so many people in New Zealand, I naturally assumed that we wouldn’t see Ryder take to the crease ever again. Then what? About a year later, here he is walking out on Boxing Day at Eden Park to open the batting for the Blackcaps alongside another personal favourite of mine, Martin Guptill.

The pairing of Guptill and Ryder was my most preferential that the Blackcaps have had in recent seasons.

As this is a personal take on Ryder, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I was very, very upset and more than a little disappointed in Jesse back in February of this year when he was dropped from the Blackcaps side yet again.

What quickly saddened me was the situation, because here I was (as a fan) seeing Jesse bat for the Blackcaps once again and suddenly it was all taken away.

And in all honesty, we saw what we saw in the video but what did you really see?

Is it not ok for Ryder, a human being and grown man, to go out on the town and have a few drinks with some mates?

You have to keep in mind that we live in an age where nearly everybody has a smartphone with a camera, and anybody can snap a photo or a video and upload it to social media within seconds.

I think Jesse is just a type of person who doesn’t see himself as any different.

But he also probably realized that with his potential inclusion in the Cricket World Cup, more attention would have been placed upon him and this could be one reasons in the many for his decision to withdraw from the New Zealand A tour.

I said at the beginning of this piece that much of the cricket related content on this site has been around Jesse.

So where to now? I don’t know really.

I want to say that by some miracle cricket fans will see Jesse play in the Cricket World Cup, but it seemed unlikely a week ago, now it seems near on a forgotten wish.

I feel that it is a shame, I think it is disappointing for New Zealand Cricket and the CWC tournament, and I believe that if the Blackcaps don’t ever play Jesse again, they will be doing both themselves and cricket fans in this country a tremendous disservice. I rate Jesse, as a cricketer, one of the best to ever play the game.

But I don’t know the reasons for any of this, and in all honesty I don’t feel it is my business to know.

The media don’t know Jesse, the fans don’t know Jesse, and I don’t think even all the Blackcaps players know Jesse. I don’t know Jesse personally, bar a few conversations on social media, but if the vibes I’ve gotten from others who do know him are anything to go by, I believe that Ryder (while not being perfect) just doesn’t see himself as anything special, and someone who potentially deeply hates the media attention placed upon him.

I got a comment on Facebook the other day on a piece I wrote about Jesse and it said “good things happen to good people, and there is nothing good about him”.

Based on what? The things you hear in the media?

Sure Jesse hasn’t helped the situation over the course of his international career, I understand that completely but again, I don’t know Jesse too much personally, all I know is what I see on TV.

Jesse knows Jesse, and if I would submit anything to you it would be that if nothing else, Jesse loves playing cricket.

Despite all the talk around right now, if we never see Jesse play for the Blackcaps again I would hope that one day when he is sitting at his home he looks back on the good things he did while on the field, including playing test cricket for New Zealand and achieving the very pinnacle of what you can do as a cricketer.

The very best of luck with everything Jesse.

Mike Pulman