Employment For Disabled New Zealanders Starts With Equal Education

Education and employment are the two biggest barriers facing disabled people in New Zealand; but they both require a change in order for the other to succeed.

It’s a case of needing to get it right in the education space first, to then raise the probability of employment for disabled people once they enter the workforce. The ever-growing exclusion of disabled people from mainstream education on has a double-ended, and very detrimental consequence.

Detrimental to right of the child to learn on an equal level to their peers, and detrimental on the economy at the other end of the line. Not to mention the only other alternatives, which are often vocational programmes and a life-long reliance on the benefit.

Employment For Disabled New Zealanders Starts With Equal Education

Like their peers, disabled people also have the capability of being future business owners and leaders of New Zealand. But it starts in school, and that’s where the big change is required.

The biggest barrier disabled people face to gain employments is the attitudes by the mainstream businesses. How do you change that? Education. If disabled people can be given equal access to education, by having an system that is equipped to deal with their diverse needs, the result has a result that is both positive and impactful. It’s positive that the person has a good education behind them, but the real impact is the message that it sends to the rest of their peers in school and tertiary.

But, is it really possible to simply make all these changes and say with certainty that disabled people will find employment, or even be able to work?

The Biggest Change Required Is In Attitude…

The disability sector talks so much about the attitudes and stigmas that exist in “mainstream society”. Not only does that conversation immediately segregate the two communities, which should be seen as equal, but it also gives an excuse to disabled people.

Words like “capability”, “cost”, and “compatibility” get thrown into the conversation. All are excuses, and all can be worked around if both the Government, the advocates, and the providers could all get around a table to have an open discussion.

It’s not about disabled people being “capable” of working at all; it’s about the changes that need to be made, in both the disability sector and the mainstream, for them to be on an equal playing field. The rest is down to ideology and excuse.

Special Education Dismissed By National At Campaign Launch

Unsurprisingly, Special Education is not high on the priority list for National if they are to be re elected after the 2017 General Election.

The total investment into education is $379 million across a variety of different policies. So where does Special Education fit into it all? The $379 plan doesn’t speak a whole lot to Special Education. It certainly doesn’t tackle the issue of disabled learners being unfairly discriminated against.

Instead, National have promised that every child will get the opportunity to learn a second language.

Wagner Defends PM: “There Are Thousands Of Disabled People”

On Sunday, Minister for Disability Issues Nicky Wagner said that Prime Minister Bill English was a great supporter of the disability community.

“Today, he made Enabling Good Lives the centrepiece of the National Party’s campaign launch. He said that there are thousands of disabled people in New Zealand and that National respects their capabilities.”

Wagner says that the second language option used in schools could be New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL). However, Wagner didn’t provide any concrete promises.

Special Education Dismissed By National At Campaign Launch

There are far more pressing issues at hand in regards to Special Education in New Zealand. A simple promise to ‘deliver’ on Enabling Good Lives and provide the opportunity for learners to learn NZSL is not enough.

Disabled children need a fairer access to education. This starts with better education for teachers and support staff, but it also needs to be tailored to the needs of each individual. For example, the needs for a student with a physical disability are often entirely different to those with an intellectual disability.

Does National’s plan enforce schools to enrol students with additional requirements? No. Does it tackle the issue of principles bullying parents into getting their disabled child out of school? No.

The time old argument that the education system has made is that teachers are not equipped to ‘deal with’ children with special education needs. Well, get them equipped, and fast. National’s plan doesn’t put any pressure on schools to change their current attitudes toward taking on learners with disabilities.

What’s clear is that there is no tolerance of increased needs and additional support requirements by the education system. The bare minimum amount of funding has to stretch across the board, and often Special Education sits right at the bottom of it all.

National has promised little, to no assurance that this won’t continue if they get re elected come September 23rd.

The investment behind impending Disability Support overhaul

With just $1.8million set aside for the major overhaul to disability support, the Government could well be making similar mistakes that it has in the past,

Some people say that the intent behind the Government’s proposal for change is not to the real benefit of disabled people in New Zealand.

Frankly, it’s hard to argue with that. The way the Government choose to take the transformation of disability support will be interesting, but  there is going to be losers, and a lot of them in New Zealand’s disabled community.

Calls for total system change have been rife since a report back in 2008. Then, concerns were that the support system restricted people’s choice and control over the supports and structure of their lives.

The proof of similar mistakes occurring again can be seen in a cabinet paper that proposed system transformation to disability support.

The entire project has a total financial investment of $1.8million. But claims that that sum is an investment by Government are also up for scrutiny. According to the cabinet paper, the $1.8million used to fund the system transformation project has been taken from a $3million contingency already established by the Government. That bucket of $3million was set aside for supporting further work and development of Enabling Good Lives.

A breakdown of the investment Government will put into DSS overhauls. Photo: Michael Pulman

This move can be seen in a couple of different ways, however. EGL (Enabling Good Lives) is a demonstration project that has been running in Christchurch and throughout the Waikato. If the system transformation works, using principles of EGL, the need for these two demonstrations no longer remains. If it doesn’t, chances are that the demonstrations will be forced to either stop, or continue minus the $1.8million batch of funding, therefore running at a loss of sorts.

Government have made it clear that any system transformation for disability support has to be cost-effective. In other words, make it work with $1.8million and offer little alternative. In the words of Sacha O’Dea from the Ministry of Health, the immediate future is that “everything stays exactly the same”.

The Minister for Disability Issues, Nicky Wagner, says that culture change within the disability support system will be significant. Within the last week, Idea Services (the operating arm of IHC) cut services that will affect 1200 users of disability support. When pressed on the matter, Wagner said that funding has increased across the disability sector.

“Idea Services will take a strength based approach and will focus on community residential and day services”, Wagner said. “In actual fact, funding for Idea Services has increased and this is absolutely in line with the increases that we have had right across the disability sector”, Wagner added.

The cabinet paper shows that an increase in funding has occurred, at a level of 4% over the course of the last ten years. That increase is spent across the Ministries of Health, Social Development, and Education; meaning a small impact at best.

So the question remains, can an overhaul that truly incorporates greater choice and control be a successful one for disabled people in New Zealand? It’s hard to imagine.

MOE and Disability Groups not doing enough for Inclusive Education

A recent outcry from parents of disabled children has re-enforced the terrible reality that once school education concludes, the battle gets that much harder and that much more unfair.

The Ministry of Education may claim to have the correct systems for a successful transition out of school and into tertiary education or employment in place. The current system of transition, or lack thereof, simply isn’t working for the majority of disabled New Zealanders in education. Just giving the families information isn’t enough, it should be the job of the Ministry to ensure that outcomes are being met, because if not, how is the system truly inclusive as a whole?

Nobody should be forced to stay at school until they are 21 years old. Having to do so is disabling, and the future implications are dire. All this fails to mention that is also NOT inclusive at all.

Employers will look at the time a person spent in school, and many won’t distinguish the difference that a disability plays in that. Parents of disabled children are being forced to do a major disservice, but in a lot of cases it still remains the only viable option they have.

The choice doesn’t enable independence at all; however the alternative is just as unfair. That alternative would see the disabled person sit at home each day, or they’d attend vocational services that do nothing to enhance their future prospects for employment, or a meaningful social life for that matter.

The real problem here isn’t the Ministry, or even a lot of the schools for that matter. The issue is the same that it has always been, once the child turns 18 there is next to no support for them. There is too much focus on the child and not the adult, but it’s when someone becomes an adult that the need for equal education and fair opportunities at employment become that much greater.

This is clearly an ongoing discussion and one that isn’t new to anyone. Better systems need to be put in place and a greater amount of accountability must occur. If this doesn’t happen, disabled people will continue to fall through the cracks of the education system.

ORS Funding to be reviewed by Government

Students over the age of 18 who want to enter tertiary education may be left with less support than what is currently available.

The Government will review the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme in the near future as radical changes to Special Education are set to continue.

The Ongoing Resourcing Scheme, or as most people commonly know it, ORS Funding, will likely be significantly reduced for students with disabilities over the age of 18. Continue reading ORS Funding to be reviewed by Government

Government’s update to Special Education is a major blunder

It’s out with the “special needs” and in with the early prevention. But National’s latest approach to education for disabled New Zealanders is a joke of the highest order.

Special education in schools is likely to be the biggest loser in a proposed change released today by the Government. Minister for Education Hekia Parata says that the term ‘special needs’ singles people out and creates a barrier to a fully inclusive education system.

To further quote her words, Parata said that by concentrating on learner’s deficits, students become marginalised in their education. Continue reading Government’s update to Special Education is a major blunder