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Media Release

CCS Disability Action Chief Executive David Matthews is calling on the Government to reconsider their proposal to devolve disability support and medicalise disability, in response to the final report of the Health and Disability System Review, released yesterday. Mr Matthews observes that the Review rightly recognises the importance of Māori having their own Authority, but fails to offer the same respect to disabled people. Mr Matthews is calling for the establishment of a new Disability Authority to be built into this proposal immediately.

The report recommends disability support services be moved to a newly established Health NZ authority and over time to DHBs. This proposed model is at odds with years of consultation with disabled people and whānau, who have repeatedly called on Government agencies and funders to work collaboratively and flexibility to support them to work, live and connect. Disabled people do not want to be treated as if they are sick and subject to only ‘health-related’ support and considerations.

“The structure proposed seems at odds with the principles it aims to address. For the past decade we have seen select committees, major reviews and reports from government, lead to agreement that a fundamental shift was needed to give disabled people greater choice and control over their supports and their lives. By devolving the big picture thinking and decision-making from the Disability Directorate within the Ministry of Health, to individual DHBs we are ignoring all that previous work and consultation and are creating a system that will make it significantly harder to achieve the aims of greater choice and control,” said Mr Matthews.

“We need a separate Disability Authority governed by disabled people and their whānau. The Review rightly recognises the importance of Māori having their own Authority, but then falters with disabled people. In the Review there is no mention of any guaranteed disability representation at either the DHB or Health NZ level. Frankly, that is just not good enough.”

Mr Matthews believes that being integrated with the health system would be a major backward step in the move to make disability support more holistic and less medicalised.

“Disability support is not a health service. With modern disability supports the focus should be on making sure disabled people and their whānau are fully included in their communities and have the same opportunities as other New Zealanders. That the proposed new entity is named Health NZ does not fill me with confidence that the Review understands this. Instead we are likely to see an even narrower focus on just meeting health-related needs in these health-dominated authorities.”

Mr Matthews acknowledges the idea of a separate Disability Authority is not new.

“A Disability Authority or Disability Commission has long been proposed as the right way to ensure that disability supports are based on the values of the disability community, not the values of the health sector. It is disappointing that the Review has not acknowledged this and instead proposes to further medicalise disability support. This is not the right way forward.”

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