Red Alert

Archive for the ‘disabilities’ Category

Disability Issues : Would you create a Ministry for Disability? Labour Leadership Q&A #7

Posted by on September 12th, 2013

14 Questions for 2014

Virtual Hustings Meeting – Question 7

Disability Issues : Would you create a Ministry for Disability?

Question : Under your leadership would a Labour-led Government commit to de-medicalising disability support services by shifting them to a new Ministry for Disability Issues which has a minister in cabinet and a chief executive who is committed to the social model of disability and, preferably, has lived experience of disability?

Submitted by : Hilary Stace, Wellington


Explanatory Note: From September 10th to 14th 2013 as part of the official selection process for a new leader the New Zealand Labour Party is holding a “Virtual Hustings Meeting” hosted by Red Alert and organised by Scoop Amplifier. Over 7 days questions were solicited from eligible voters in the election. The questions and answers are now being posted as a set of 14 posts at the Red Alert Labour Party Blog. This started Tuesday 10th September, and continues till Friday 13th September. At Red Alert all-comers are welcome to discuss the answers in the comment section of the blog. The candidates are expected to participate in these discussions at times over the five days till Saturday 14th September.



Answer from Shane Jones

I will not be supportive in establishing a new Disability Ministry.

I realise how important the disability issues are across society.

The building code is an area where further work needs to be done.

It is important we keep a strong degree of visibility on these issues in our future Cabinet.


Answer from Grant Robertson

I will do everything possible to ensure that this is a country where disabled people have meaningful lives within their communities based on respect and equality, where disabled people have their diversity recognised and rights protected.

An important part of that is making sure that those with disabilities have a strong voice in Government. I would be prepared to look at a new structure for providing disability policy and support services, but I am wary of creating new bureaucratic structures.

One of the issues we urgently need to address is the squeeze on funding for front-line services for Austism which has happened under this Government.

Included in that is a review of the definition of disability that dictates the eligibility for government support – which currently excludes people with autism.


Answer from David Cunliffe

It is important that we support those with a disability to follow their aspirations, to make choices, and lead a quality life.

Those with a disability should be recognised as individuals, with their own set of needs and aspirations.

Our approach is based on the New Zealand Disability Strategy and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

I support having a Minister for Disability Issues.

However, there is still a long way to go before all disabled people are living in a fully inclusive society that values them and enhances their position.

I am supportive of improved public education and information sharing so that wider public better understands disability issues so that people with disabilities can truly participate in a fairer, more inclusive society with more independence.


Our Paralympian heroes

Posted by on September 5th, 2012

Four gold. Four silver and four bronze. So far. Proud of all who are competing

Comments Off on Our Paralympian heroes

What makes us proud?

Posted by on September 5th, 2012

It’s a disgrace that NZers are not seeing any of the live coverage of the Paralympics.

Sky TV pay wall subscribers are only being provided with the highlights of Paralympic events, while coverage for analogue or digital Freeview audiences is limited to items appearing on the six o’clock news shows.

The lack of live coverage of events showcasing the enormous talent of our Paralympians is not only a lost opportunity to provide positive role models for the almost one in five New Zealanders with a disability, but also exposes the glaring gap that public television should be serving.

Why don’t we have live coverage? Because there isn’t a buck in it for the commercial broadcasters (apparently). Because we don’t have a public TV channel that puts public interest and serving the whole community above the commercial interests of the advertisers. Instead, we have a government that does not put a value on public interest broadcasting.

A host of the top Australian politicians are at the London Paralympics this week, and the coverage (live, 16 hours a day on Channel 4) in Britain is the most popular TV. Are any of our politicians at the Paralympics?

I believe in a country that champions and encourages all who try their best to achieve. That is the nation I grew up in and continue to believe in.

Political speed dating

Posted by on November 6th, 2011

Not just another candidates’ debate – this is your chance to debate the real issues facing our communities.

Five union/community election forums will be MC’d around New Zealand by some of New Zealand’s favourite funny people, including Michele A’Court, Jeremy Elwood, Darren Ludlow and Ian Harcourt. The forums have been organised by a group of unions and community organisations joining together to bring you a fun, fast and furious evening of political debate.

There’s a serious side to this as well. Candidates will be asked the hard questions on welfare, public services, inequality and more.

Please come along by going to the Facebook event and inviting your friends in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Invercargill to join in too.

The issues: Welfare, inequality and a living wage | public services, health and early childhood education | disabled people’s issues | caring work | ACC

The format: Party spokespeople will have 2 minutes each to answer questions on these topics.

The venues:

West Auckland – Tues 8 November, 7pm. Kelston Community Centre, cnr Great North & Awaroa Rds. MC’d by Jeremy Elwood. Labour candidate – Carmel Sepuloni

Wellington – Wed 9 November, 5.30pm. St John’s on Willis St. MC’d by Ian Harcourt. Labour candidate – Grant Robertson

Invercargill – Wed 9 November, 7pm. Lindisfarne Community Centre. MC’d by Darren Ludlow. Labour candidate – Lesley Soper

Auckland Central – Tues 15 November, 7pm. Trades Hall, 147 Great North Rd, Grey Lynn. MC’d by Michele A’Court. Labour candidate – Jacinda Ardern

Hamilton – Wed 16 November, 5pm. YWCA, 28 Pembroke St. MC’d by Jeremy Elwood. Labour Candidate – Sue Moroney

Sleepover bill nearly there

Posted by on September 27th, 2011

Labour supported the “Sleepover Wages (Settlement) Bill’  tonight to select committee, in a truncated process that will see the bill reported back to the House next week and hopefully finalised.

We’ve been pushing this issue all year and we’re pleased the government has finally reached a settlement with the unions and caregivers.

I want to acknowledge the hard work and commitment of the disability support workers and their unions. I’m delighted that years of a dragged out process, including three court cases and the threat of a Supreme Court case is coming to an end.

I’m particularly pleased that the government has seen sense and not tried to legislate the Court decisions away.

Backpay is coming. It’s well deserved. But having said that, I want to acknowledge the generosity of these workers, who through their unions, are accepting a 50% settlement of backpay and a drawn out process toward being paid minimum wage.

The settlement is great.  But the contribution of the workers is even greater.

Minister Ryall adds salt to the wounds

Posted by on July 19th, 2011

Tony Ryall’s reaction to the rejection of the Government’s offer on the “sleepover case” are at best unfortunate and at worst inflammatory.  He said that :

“Because of a legal technicality they are now wanting to be paid the minimum wage for sleeping….. and retrospectively at that.”

Three Courts have determined that  “sleepovers” are work and entitled to be paid at minimum wage, but apparently Tony Ryall knows better.

He carried on his diatribe by lecturing the unions and the workers about the country borrowing $300 million a week, telling them their claims are unaffordable.

John Ryall, National Secretary of the Service & Food Workers Union describes the “unaffordable” work of these caregivers in this piece in the Dominion Post yesterday.

Overnight, when most New Zealanders are asleep in the comfort of their own homes, these workers provide critical support to members of our communities with intellectual disabilities and mental health issues who live in residential houses. For the staff this may include dealing with challenging behaviour, seizures or vomiting. If they manage to get some sleep, they are on call. It’s demanding, challenging and exhausting work, but our members do it because they care. Their reward is making a difference in the lives of the people they support.

Yet those same disability support workers who are members of the Service and Food Workers Union and PSA receive $34 a sleepover shift of up to nine hours. That’s $3.77 an hour.

The government has offered to pay the minimum wage, but not until 2015.  They’ve offered 25% of the backpay, with Disability Support providers having to find half of the money.

Members of both unions have overwhelmingly rejected the offer and endorsed a union proposal under which workers would receive the minimum wage in six months and half the back pay owed. The unions are being reasonable.  The government is not.

Meanwhile, the Attorney-General has joined IHC in continuing to fight the case in the Court of Appeal.

They’re only putting off the inevitable, but it says a lot about this government’s priorities.

Access around Parliament

Posted by on June 2nd, 2011

I’m getting pretty close to handing the work wheechair back to the Parliamentary tour people (they have four) and hopefully giving the Hutt DHB one back in the not too distant future. Still get tired and sore later in the day if I do too much time vertically.

But one of the things that has become clear to me is that the Parliamentary complex is very badly designed for wheelchair use.

There is no accessible toilet on the 3rd floor of the old building. The doors to the rooms are very narrow which means you can’t use your hands on the wheels and get through the doors. The big doors are very heavy and there is a timer on the swipe that makes it hard to get the doors open on time. A wheelchair can’t get through one of the two swinging doors. Try swiping and then opening two doors without being timed out.

Getting around has to be incredibly indirect. Coming in the main front entrance one has to go left into the Beehive up in the lift, again dooors on quick shutting timing, and then wheel uphill to get to the Parliament Building.

And it has recently got worse. You used to be able to get non swipe access to Parliament through the rubber door. Been an important entrance for 50 years. It is a good level approach. Now it has been put on swipe access off to the left so it is almost impossible to get into the best entrance using a wheelchair.

No doubt I will be able to make other comments about access on crutches as I get used to them over the next while.


Annette = substance, Bennett = useless spin, play of the day

Posted by on May 6th, 2011

And from what I read she is struggling in Waitakere too.

For those without broadband, the Hansard is below: (more…)

Tell the Government: Don’t Cut Our Future!

Posted by on April 27th, 2011


t Cut Our Future

Glad government listens (very occasionally)

Posted by on March 29th, 2011

News just in from the Ministry of Health regarding the sleepovers case – where the Court of Appeal determined that disability support workers were working when they stayed over in IHC premises, and therefore should be paid minimum wage for every hour worked.

“The Government, health and disability service providers and unions have agreed to enter negotiations on payments for staff who work sleepovers in the light of the recent Court of Appeal decision. These discussions are due to start on 1 April 2011.”

Good. That’s what Labour said they should have been doing way back.  They should have saved the expense of joining the Court of Appeal case and got on with doing the right thing.

Still, better late than never.

Where’s the Minister of Disability Issues (Tariana Turia) on the IHC workers issue?

Posted by on March 25th, 2011

Prior to becoming a Labour MP I spent six months as Project Manager of the Pacific non-regulated health workforce development research project (I’d also been part of this workforce many years ago – when I worked as a caregiver in a geriatric hospital whilst studying).  The focus of this project was entirely on the Manukau/ Counties DHB area and Pacific workers.  The roles that these workers were undertaking were varied (everything from Health Promotion to caregiving) but the biggest proportion of this workforce could be found in caregiving positions.  Not suprisingly this is a highly feminised and low paid workforce.  Although our focus was solely on Pacific, it would be reasonable for me to assert that across the country a large proportion of this workforce would be – Pacific, New Migrant and Maori women. 

Now with all of the above in mind – I think it is reasonable to expect that Tariana, would have a keen interest in seeing this workforce treated fairly – not only as the Minister of Disability Issues but as a Maori women.  So what concerns me, is we haven’t heard a peep out of her.  Tony Ryall has made comments about the situation but seems to think that the responsibility lays solely with the providers – washing his hands of any Governmnent responsibility. 

The National Government’s refusal to back a decision by the Court of Appeal which would ensure workers who perform sleepovers are paid the minimum wage has let down thousands of disability support workers.  If you let down the workforce, then you are also ultimately letting down the people that they are employed to care for.

As my colleage Darien Fenton has publically said – What the Government should have done, is meet with the stakeholders in the disability support sector, including the carer’s union, immediately after the Court of Appeal decision to neogtiate a durable solution.

It is obvious that Tariana has shamefully abdicated responsibility for the disability sector, along with her Government but I still want to know what Tariana has to say on this issue.  I’ve just fired some written questions off to her.  Will post on this again when I get some responses.

The Christchurch Earthquake – People living with disabilities

Posted by on February 28th, 2011

As the past week has unfolded NZ has been gripped with grief over the traumatic events of the Christchurch earthquake. As the death toll has increased we are reminded of the immeasurable cost to human life that Cantabrians face and the great tragedy that will forever mark New Zealand’s history.

Amidst this time of great grief we have been comforted by the support of our international community who, even today and no doubt in the weeks to come, continue to offer their resources to the huge effort being undertaken to assist people affected by this tragedy. In such a difficult time it has been overwhelming to witness the response from emergency services at the front line ensuring food and water is distributed, that houses are safe, and that people are comforted. Many of those providing emergency services have volunteered their time and resources and support continues to pour in from around the country. We are determined to stand together resilient in the face of huge adversity.

As the official statements from emergency services have reminded us, one of the most immediate responses to victims of the earthquake has come in the form of neighbours, and those close by affected areas, checking on others in their community – by all accounts, Cantabrians have not let each other down.  Whilst natural disaster strikes the hearts and homes of many people all over New Zealand in one form or another, a particularly acute impact is had on those in the affected area living with disability.

The most recent disability survey highlights that close to 600,000 adults and 90,000 children (17% of the population) registered as having a disability. Furthermore, the likely hood of having a disability also increases with age meaning that our elderly are particularly vulnerable. It is also important to remember that a majority of those living with disability endure sensory and physical disabilities impacting on their ability to access vital emergency services in a natural disaster. In particular, structural damage to buildings, liquefaction and rubble have a compounding impact on those living with disability. In short reduced mobility can often mean lesser visibility lesser access and also lesser voice.

In times of natural disasters, it is also important to bear in mind that assisting those with existing disabilities is only half of the equation. The National Director of CBM (formerly the Christian Blind Mission) reminds us that for every person that dies in times of emergency three will suffer a severe disability.  We’ve all heard the stories of survivors having to have limbs amputated in order to free them – there will be many that will suffer from varied long term disability because of this disaster.  Those survivors of the Christchurch earthquake that will require rehabilitation from injuries and who experience permanent disabilities will need our on-going consideration and support.

There have been a couple of times whilst watching the televised coverage, that I’ve seen a NZSL interpreter in action – this will be a welcomed initiative by NZ’s deaf community. Approximately 200,000 New Zealanders live with a hearing impairment that cannot eliminated by a hearing aid. Whilst the NZSL interpreter will benefit many of the deaf community around NZ thought also needs to be given to those living in earthquake struck Christchurch without access to television, consistent subtitling of media coverage or sign language interpreters at future emergency updates. The absence of such services potentially compounds the distress being felt amongst our deaf community in an already stressful time.

There is so much to take in to consideration when reflecting on the enormity of the Christchurch situation.  Our people living with disabilities in the midst of the turmoil – are an important group to remember when reflecting on or responding to the very serious situation at hand.