Getting a grilling

By Sam Murray, National Policy Coordinator

If you're wondering where the various political parties stand on issues relating to disability, check out our detailed Q&As with the National Party, the Labour Party, the Green, the Māori Party and United Future in the resources section. It's a long, but very interesting read.

We approached all parties with an MP currently in Parliament - NZ First and Act have not responded to our request.

The National Party

Employment – our questions
  1. What would your party do to tackle barriers to employment for disabled people?
  2. How will your party ensure disabled people can access the same range of employment opportunities as non-disabled people?
National’s answers:

Getting more people into employment is a top priority for the Government. That’s why in 2016 we implemented EmployAbility, a new initiative designed to get disabled people and people with health conditions off benefit and into sustainable work.

Through the EmployAbility initiative, we’re working with local employers to empower them to be disability confident and to diversify their workforce.

Research shows that most disabled employees take less sick days and perform just as well as other employees once in the right job. This opportunity also gives employees more confidence and economic independence.

While most disabled people don’t need anything extra to be able to do their work, for those that do, funding is available to provide workplace modifications, equipment and on-going support on the job.

EmployAbility is based on the successful Project 300 initiative, a Christchurch based employment scheme that had the goal of getting 300 people with health conditions and disabilities off benefit and into work over 12 months.

During this time, 584 people moved into part time and full time work as part of Project 300.

Research with employers has also found that they want support to help them employ more disabled people.

In 2016 the LEAD Toolkit was launched which is a guide on best practice and policies for employing disabled people.

The LEAD Toolkit is part of a raft of initiatives to assist the State Services to create an inclusive and welcoming work environment for disabled people.

Under the LEAD programme, MSD has established a group of Champions across government agencies – both HR Managers and disabled employees – who meet regularly to share best practices and ideas.

We also have a Disability Confident campaign that is about showcasing the wide range of easily accessible and practical information to support employers to recruit and retain disabled employees.

The campaign aims to make employing disabled people less of a unknown for employers and aims to bring to their attention the range of government funded services and financial assistance available to support the employment and retention of disabled people.

We have worked actively with employer organisations such as the Chamber of Commerce and Business New Zealand to promote the Disability Confident Campaign.

Poverty and higher costs – our question
  1. What would your party do to ensure disabled people have adequate resources and that this support is easy to access?
National’s answer:

The Government is committed to providing disabled people with more support so they can have greater independence and live better lives in their communities.

Budget 2017 invests an extra $205.4 million over four years to maintain and improve disability support services.

The sector will receive an extra $52.3 million in 2017/18, taking its total funding to $1.2 billion for the year. Around 32,000 New Zealanders and their families benefit from these services each year.

How will your party ensure disabled people can access a similar range of opportunities in the community as non-disabled people?

It’s important our disabled people have a strong voice and we make them feel valued and enable them to participate in their communities.

Getting more people into employment is a top priority for the Government. That’s why in 2016 we implemented EmployAbility, a new initiative designed to get disabled people and people with health conditions off benefit and into sustainable work.

Through the EmployAbility initiative, we’re working with local employers to empower them to be disability confident and to diversify their workforce.

Over the next three years $27.1 million will be invested in expanding the successful Enabling Good Lives (EGL) programme, an innovative principles-based approach that empowers disabled people with self-directed planning.

We have also increased spending to support children and young people with additional learning needs by around 33 per cent since 2008/9 to $630 million a year.

The funding is focussed on increasing the level of support to children at an earlier stage in their lives, when we know that we can have the greatest impact on improving their chances of educational achievement.

Funding for students with additional learning needs is dedicated to supporting children and young people with additional learning needs to attend their local school or Early Childhood Education (ECE) centre, access the curriculum, participate fully and achieve.

At the same time we’re providing tools and resources to support schools and teachers to include all learners in their classroom programmes.

Access – our first question
  1. Would your party commit to enacting a new dedicated access law?
National’s answer:

While the Government agrees with the principles of accessibility, legislation is a blunt tool for an issue that clearly requires cultural change as well as practical steps to improve accessibility.

Access – our second question

2. If not (a dedicated access law), what would your party do instead to ensure the community is accessible to all?

National’s answer:

We believe there are plenty of resources to help businesses and individuals make their buildings more accessible.

The Barrier Free New Zealand Trust provides technical advice on accessibility of buildings. They have an informative accessibility helpline on access requirements.

There is also the Be.Accessible Business Toolkit for businesses and organisations. It contains a wealth of information, including quick tips, checklists, links to useful services and how to book a Be. Welcome Assessment.

Auckland Council’s design manual also has great information and examples on applying universal design in buildings and space.

Local government is aware of accessibility issues and proactively supports accessibility. The focus needs to go on the private sector and there is increased awareness in the sector that if you want to future-proof any building, making it fully accessible is an important first step.

Understanding and attitudes – our question
  1. What would your party do to improve the public’s understanding of disability and their attitudes towards disabled people?
National’s answer:

National is committed to providing disabled people with more support so they can have greater independence and live better lives in their communities.

Getting more people into employment is a top priority for the Government. That’s why in 2016 we implemented EmployAbility, a new initiative designed to get disabled people and people with health conditions off benefit and into sustainable work.

Through the EmployAbility initiative, we’re working with local employers to empower them to be disability confident and to diversify their workforce.

In recent years, there have been fundamental shifts in the way the world looks at disability. In New Zealand and internationally, there have been significant advances in thinking and practice.

The story of Robert Martin is an example of how far we have come in New Zealand. Robert has a learning disability and was institutionalised as a child. But he became an advocate for the Disability Sector locally and internationally. He now represents New Zealand and all of us on the UN Advisory Committee on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

Since the last New Zealand Disability Strategy was released, New Zealand has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and associated Optional Protocol.

The focus is increasingly on individualised support and greater choice and control for disabled people. Disabled people also want the opportunity to work and to make a positive contribution to society.

With this in mind we undertook two rounds of public consultation with disabled people, their whānau and disability organisations to see what was most important to them. Their views informed the development of a new Disability Strategy for New Zealand.

This was launched in December 2016, and will set the direction for government work on disability issues for the next 10 years.

We know there still needs to be more work done to change attitudes and we are keen to continue work through the Disability Confident campaign to help change negative public perceptions and attitudes towards disabled people.

Diversity – our question
  1. What would your party do to make sure disability supports are culturally relevant for disabled people?
National’s answer:

The National-led Government has already introduced Pacifica and Maori disability strategies, which focuses on their specific needs.

We will continue the development of Enabling Good Lives, which gives disabled people more choice and control over their lives through the ability for flexible spending.

Enabling Good Lives will provide disabled people the ability to choose the services most appropriate for them. It is all about giving disabled people more choice, more control of their services and more opportunities to live a good life – just like any other New Zealander. That includes the most culturally relevant support for them.

How will your party ensure disabled people have the same opportunity to connect with their culture(s) as non-disabled people?

We believe that connecting people with their culture, disabled and non-disabled alike, is not just a job for the government but also for our families and communities. We already provide funding support through the Ethnic Communities Development Fund, and through the work of the Office for Disability Issues, the Ministry for Pacific People, Te Puni Kōkiri, and the Office for Ethnic Communities.

Education – our questions:
  1. What would your party do to ensure disabled children can attend and be included in their local school as of right?
  2. How will your party ensure disabled people can access the same educational opportunities as non-disabled people?
National’s answers:

It’s really important that every child is supported to attend the school of their choice and are supported to achieve their full potential.

New Zealand has a legally enforceable right for all students, including those with additional learning needs, to attend their local state school. This is contained in Sections 3 and 8 of the Education Act, 1989.

The introduction of these rights in 1989 has resulted in New Zealand having one of the most inclusive education systems in the world. Maintaining that inclusivity is hugely important.

But we are very aware that changes are needed in how learning support is delivered.

That’s why since February 2017 we have been testing a new model of support for children and their families. The pilot in three Communities of Learning in the Bay of Plenty / Waiariki is focussed on making learning support simpler to access, quicker and easier for all involved, most importantly for the children and their families.

Initial findings suggest the new model is resulting in a more proactive response to need; more flexible and responsive ways of using learning support resources within the Communities of Learning; and a level of engagement between early childhood services and schools on Learning Support that we have not seen before.

We have also increased spending to support children and young people with additional learning needs by around 33 per cent since 2008/9 to $630 million a year.

In Budget 2017, an additional $63 million in operating funding over the next four years was committed to support students with additional learning needs.

The funding is focussed on increasing the level of support to children at an earlier stage in their lives, when we know that we can have the greatest impact on improving their chances of educational achievement.

Funding for students with additional learning needs is dedicated to supporting children and young people with additional learning needs to attend their local school or Early Childhood Education (ECE) centre, access the curriculum, participate fully and achieve.

At the same time we’re providing tools and resources to support schools and teachers to include all learners in their classroom programmes.

Education is a powerful tool to change negative attitudes and perceptions. We believe our schools are a great place to drive new ideas and increase the understanding and acceptance of our diverse communities, including disabled people.

Housing – our question
  1. What would your party do to ensure accessible and affordable housing is available?
National’s answer:

Housing New Zealand has 3682 properties that have been modified to cater the needs of tenants (as at March 2017). 2296 of these Housing New Zealand properties have wheelchair access.

All Housing New Zealand’s new builds incorporate what are known as “lifetime design principles”, such as lever taps and handles, and minimum door and hallway widths.

Housing New Zealand standards are holistic, focusing on warm, healthy, safe and fit-for-purpose housing, as well as accessible features. For example, additional fire design safety features are provided for customers with disabilities where appropriate.

Housing New Zealand also uses a range of housing standards developed to address the diverse needs of our customers, including specific design standards for ‘Housing for older persons’, ‘Accessible Housing’ and Community Group Housing (CGH), which is supported housing for people with disabilities.

Funding for disability modifications to properties (including Housing NZ properties) is largely provided by the Ministry of Health through its Equipment and Modification Service Providers (Enable NZ and Accessible).

Newly built properties are designed with features such as wide hallways and are made to be easily modified with additional features to suit the specific needs of people with disabilities.

In special cases, a property may be built to a specific customer’s very high needs based on an Occupational Therapist’s advice.

This year, the Government will spend $2.3 billion supporting 310,000 households with their accommodation.

Those seeking immediate shelter can access an emergency Special Needs Grant so they have a warm, safe place to stay while they search for more sustainable housing.

We have invested $354 million to help 8600 families every year with transitional housing. We’re helping 4000 families at the moment, with the remainder to be secured by the end of the year.

There are currently around 66,000 social houses across New Zealand. We are also planning to grow the number of social houses available, from 66,000 today to 72,000 over the next three years.

Child poverty – our question
  1. What would your party do to tackle child poverty amongst disabled children and their whānau?
National’s answer:

This Government is taking a number of steps to support children and young people, especially our most vulnerable, so they can lead healthy, safe and successful lives.

This includes Budget 2017’s $2 billion per year Family Incomes Package, which will lift families’ incomes by an average of $26 a week. It’s expected to lift 20,000 families above the threshold for severe housing stress and reduce the number of children living in families receiving less than half the median income by around 50,000.

This year’s Budget also invests $28.1 million to help expand Family Start, an intensive home visiting programme, that allows us to intervene early and target support to families whose children are at risk of poor education, health and social outcomes.

In Budget 2015 we included a $790 million Child Hardship Package to better support the 60,000 to 100,000 children experiencing severe hardship. This came into effect last year and raised benefits for the first time in 43 years and increased tax credits for lower income families.

We know that children whose parents are unemployed are more likely to end up on a benefit themselves, are more likely to be notified to CYF and are less likely to achieve NCEA Level 2. We’ve increased the amount of places for work-focused case management by 40,000, targeted at sole parent beneficiaries, to support them into work. There are now over 60,000 fewer children living in benefit-dependent households than there were in 2011, and the number of sole parents on a benefit is the lowest it’s been since 1988.

The Government is also committed to ensuring every child has access to a world-class education. We are making our biggest investment in education ever, now $11.6 billion, to make sure this can happen and that our children and young people are equipped with the skills and competencies they need to succeed to the best of their abilities.

Sustainable funding for disability support services – our question
  1. What would your party do to ensure funding for disability support meets demand and is adequate?
National’s answer:

Enabling Good Lives is a vision and a set of principles for transforming the cross-agency disability support system so that disabled people have greater choice and control over their supports and their lives.

The transformed disability support system is expected to:

  • Result in improved outcomes for disabled people and their families and whanau, and improved cost-effectiveness
  • Incorporate the EGL vision and principles which have been shown to improve the lives of disabled people
  • Build on the success of individualised funding
  • Be underpinned by a social investment approach that seeks to improve quality of life and the cost-effectiveness.
A social insurance approach for all disability support services – our question
  1. Would your party consider implementing a social insurance funding approach for all disability supports?
National’s answer:

Our government is very focused on the social investment approach. The Enabling Good Lives principles are our way of transforming the sector with a $5.3 billion annual spend on disabilities.

We believe we can provide flexible and tailored services that disabled people tell us they would like.

Disability Commission – our first question
  1. Will your party support the creation of an independent disability commission to manage all disability policy and disability support service funding?
National’s answer:

The Government takes a cross agency approach to disability issues. We believe it’s important to coordinate different public sector agencies and engage with external organisations.

This includes ministers dedicated to Health, Social Development, Housing and Disability issues, as well as independent entities such as the Ombudsman and Human Rights Commission. We believe they are doing a good job managing disability policy. At present, the Minister for Disability Issues is also the Associate Minister of Health responsible for Disability Support so that provides relevant linkages across portfolios.

Disability Commission – our second question

2. If not, what would your party do instead to ensure disability policy and funding is well coordinated?

National’s answer:

The government currently spends an estimated $5.3 billion per year on direct and indirect disability support services. We are working hard towards giving people with disabilities more choice and control over their lives and more opportunities to live a good life with all New Zealanders.

The Prime Minister, Bill English, and the National-led government is committed to delivering a social investment approach to the sector and is focused integrating funding sources through programme such as Enabling Good Lives.

The Labour Party

Employment – our questions
  1. What would your party do to tackle barriers to employment for disabled people?
  2. How will your party ensure disabled people can access the same range of employment opportunities as non-disabled people?
Labour’s answers:

Labour recognises that disability should not be a barrier to work, and people with disabilities should be empowered to work if they can. Labour is committed to understanding and responding to people’s individual circumstances.

Labour will:
  • Support the provision of vocational services available to people with disabilities
  • Encourage employers to adopt equal opportunity hiring practices, and ensure this includes persons with disabilities.
  • Focus on increasing the proportion of disabled people who are supported into paid work through increasing employer support and education.
  • Support employers to ensure workplaces are suitable for people with disabilities.
  • Recognise volunteer work as an important contribution to society and as a pathway to paid employment in some cases.
  • Maintain the availability of existing governmental support (Supported Living Payment and the Disability Allowance) to people with disabilities.
Poverty and higher costs – our questions
  1. What would your party do to ensure disabled people have adequate resources and that this support is easy to access?
  2. How will your party ensure disabled people can access a similar range of opportunities in the community as non-disabled people?
Labour’s answers:

Labour will:

  • Maintain the availability of existing governmental support (Supported Living Payment and the Disability Allowance) to people with disabilities.
  • Introduce a Winter Energy Payment for people receiving superannuation or a main benefit.
  • Reinstate the Independent Earners’ Tax Credit.
  • Implement the Accommodation Supplement increases announced in Budget 2017.

Labour supports every New Zealander being enabled to participate in our cultural life. We are committed to funding local cultural institutions at a level that allows this participation. We believe that participation in culture is not just about being a reader or an audience member.

We believe it is important to promote pathways to participation for disabled people to assist in developing their creative talents and cultural enterprise.

Labour values the contribution, and has encouraged the participation, of artists with disabilities and those with mental health conditions through funding for organisations such as Arts Access Aotearoa and support for a number of ‘outsider art’ programmes. We believe it is important to promote pathways for disabled people to assist in developing their creative talents and cultural enterprise.

Labour will:

  • Work across Toi Aotearoa (Creative New Zealand), local community services, Ministry of Social Development and local government bodies to develop further opportunities for disabled people and people with mental health conditions to undertake creative initiatives.
  • Review the criteria for access to Creative New Zealand funding to ensure that grassroots creators of talent are not marginalised by an overly complex fund application system.
  • Look into ways to prevent people with disabilities having to pay for carers at events
  • Promote accessible technologies to managers so people can better access arts and culture venues
Access – our questions
  1. Would your party commit to enacting a new dedicated access law?
  2. If not, what would your party do instead to ensure the community is accessible to all?

Labour’s answers:

Labour will bring New Zealand in line with countries such as the United States and Canada which have legislation to protect the rights of people with disabilities. This will include considering sponsoring the Accessibility for New Zealanders Act, draft legislation developed by the Access Alliance, with a view to passing it into New Zealand law.

Labour believes in an accessible New Zealand and will introduce mandatory and enforceable standards for essential areas of life such as social housing and transport

Many people with disabilities are reliant on public transport to get to work and training, to attend appointments, and to partake in community and social activities. Article 9 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognises the right to accessible transport while Article 20 of the Convention recognises the right to personal mobility and seeks Government action to take effective measures to facilitate this at an affordable cost.

Labour will:

  • Ensure that public transport networks, including buses and trains, are accessible and that transport providers train their staff in disability awareness
  • Implement the recommendations of the Human Rights Commission report ‘The Accessible Journey’
  • Investigate how best to ensure mobility taxis are available 24/7 in major cities on demand
  • Promote the use of modern technology and good communications on bus and train services, for example voice and visual screen announcements of stops and of changes to the service.
Education – our questions
  1. What would your party do to ensure disabled children can attend and be included in their local school as of right?
  2. How will your party ensure disabled people can access the same educational opportunities as non-disabled people?
Labour’s answers:

We believe that all children have the right to be included in the general education system and to receive the individual support they require. Ensuring that disabled children can receive quality education in an inclusive environment is a priority for Labour.

The physical presence of disabled children in schools does not ensure their participation. For participation to be meaningful and lead to successful educational outcomes, schools must value diversity and provide a supportive learning environment and skilled teaching for all children.

Labour will:

  • Ensure that all children are welcome, included, and learning to their full potential at their local school
  • Comprehensively review the entire system of special needs support so that resources are allocated based on individual needs assessment for each child, rather than each child having to meet the criteria imposed by the system
  • Increase the funding pool for individual student support as resources allow
  • Ensure the continued provision of special residential schools for the students with the highest needs
  • Ensure that teachers and support staff receive training and professional development and information on inclusive education and disability awareness to ensure the active participation and learning of all children
  • Work to ensure that all students and teachers have access to New Zealand Sign Language at school
  • Strengthen the vocational services available at secondary schools and ensure this transitional service is used to develop pathways for students with disabilities upon their leaving school
  • Review funding to physical and occupation therapy in schools.
  • Promote the implementation of ‘Kia Orite: Achieving Equality: the New Zealand Code of Practice for an Inclusive Tertiary Education’ in New Zealand tertiary institutions

Labour recognises the vital role that support staff plays in schools. We also recognise the financial pressures that schools face and that this has often led to support staff not receiving the level of remuneration they are rightly entitled to.
Labour will address these issues by working with the sector to:

  • Develop a centrally-funded system for the salaries of school support staff
  • Work towards the implementation of a Living Wage for all school support staff, over time and as funding permits
Housing – our question
  1. What would your party do to ensure accessible and affordable housing is available?
Labour’s answer:

Labour is determined to support quality living in the community for disabled people. This includes increasing opportunities to access comfortable and accessible housing. A long-term focus on increased building accessibility will also meet the needs of an aging population.

Urban design, Housing and Access and Building Issues

Labour will:

  • Demonstrate leadership in building “Lifetime Design” homes by ensuring that, where possible, new state houses are built in accordance with the disability sector approved Lifemark standard for accessible, adaptable lifetime design
  • Encourage the design of accessible homes to ensure that a higher proportion of the housing stock is suitable to meet the needs of all people
  • Ensure that Housing New Zealand, as part of its acquisition and maintenance programme, invests in the retrofitting of state houses so that they are accessible.
  • Stop National’s state housing sell-off and build more, accessible state housing
  • Build 100,000 affordable homes to buy over 10 years
  • Address regulatory issues that favour investors and distort prices
  • Demonstrate leadership in building “Lifetime Design” homes by ensuring that, where possible, new state houses are built in accordance with the disability sector approved Lifemark standard for accessible, adaptable lifetime design
  • Encourage the design of accessible homes to ensure that a higher proportion of the housing stock is suitable to meet the needs of all people
  • Ensure that Housing New Zealand, as part of its acquisition and maintenance programme, invests in the retrofitting of state houses so that they are accessible.
Child poverty – our questions
  1. What would your party do to tackle child poverty amongst disabled children and their whānau?
  2. What would your party do to ensure disabled children have access to the same opportunities as non-disabled children?
Labour’s answers:

Labour’s Families Package will deliver more money to the pockets of low and middle income Kiwi families, including families with disabled children, without unaffordable tax cuts for the well-off.

Labour has designed a Families Package that delivers more money to families with children and reduces child poverty while freeing up more than $2 billion over four years to contribute to our investments in housing, health, education, and other priorities.

Working for Families changes

Labour will:

  • Increase the Family Tax Credit base rate for the eldest child to $5,878. This is currently $5,303 for eldest children aged 16-18 and $4,822 for eldest children aged 0-15 (due to be increased to $5,303 according to Budget 2017).
  • Adopt the Budget 2017 changes to the Family Tax Credit base rate for subsequent children and new abatement rate.
  • Raise the abatement threshold for Working for Families to $42,700, currently $36,350 (due to be cut to $35,000 according to Budget 2017).

The combination of these changes will increase the amount of Working for Families payments for every family currently receiving them, and increase the number of families receiving Working for Families payments by over 30,000. Labour’s Working for Families boost will cost $370 million in 2018/19.

Best Start

Labour will:

  • Introduce a Best Start payment of $60 a week for each child in the first year after Paid Parental Leave ends, and for low to middle income families up to age three.
  • Best Start gives nearly 60,000 families a year extra support in the first year of their child’s life. For low and middle income earners, that support will continue until their child turns three.
  • We have focused on these years given how important they are for a child’s development, but also because this is the time many families struggle to manage care and often work responsibilities. We want families to have more choice when it comes to the first three years of their child’s life.
  • All families will receive the payment in their baby’s first year. For families receiving Paid Parental Leave, Best Start payments will begin after PPL payments end. Best Start will replace the Parental Tax Credit.
  • For families on low and middle incomes, Best Start will continue until age three. When children are aged one to two, the payment will abate above $79,000 of household income at a rate of 20.8c/$1.
  • If a family has more than one eligible child, it will receive one payment per child. Where household income exceeds the abatement threshold, the Best Start payments for children aged one to two will be abated as a sum, rather than each being abated concurrently.

Best Start will cost $303 million in 2018/19.

Sustainable funding for disability support services – our question
  1. What would your party do to ensure funding for disability support meets demand and is adequate?
Labour’s answer:

Labour will:

  • Implement the recommendations of the National Advisory Committee on Health and Disability research document: To Have an Ordinary Life
  • Consider providing free annual health checks for people with an intellectual disability
  • Support and work to implement the Carers’ Strategy
  • Ensure that those on the autism spectrum are supported through disability support services funding.
  • Progressively address inequities in the pay of the publicly-funded aged care and disability care workforce.
  • Work with sector experts to develop and fund a more comprehensive and coordinated long-term conditions programme. Our goal is to ensure equitable and affordable access no matter where people live or are enrolled.
  • Support and implement the provisions of the New Zealand Disability Strategy.
  • Further address the disparities in funding support services between ACC funded and non ACC funded disabled people.
  • Ensure that health services accommodate the needs of deaf and blind people.
  • Establish a specific fund for medicines to treat rare diseases, controlled by the Ministry of Health, funded from PHARMAC’s baselines.

The Green Party

Employment – our first question
  1. What would your party do to tackle barriers to employment for disabled people?
The Green Party’s answer:

One of the biggest barriers to employment for disabled people is lack of accessibility. Inaccessible buildings, services, transport and information locks many disabled people out of employment even when they have the skills and qualifications simply because they cannot access the workplace. The cost of inaccessibility has been estimated to be as much as $1.45 billion a year. This is why the Green Party strongly supports the call by the Access Alliance for mandatory enforceable accessibility legislation.

Employment – our second question

2. How will your party ensure disabled people can access the same range of employment opportunities as non-disabled people?

The Green Party’s answer:

The Green party believes that the public sector needs to lead the way in being a positive employer for disabled people. We will amend the State Sector Act to place a stronger emphasis on the responsibility of the state sector to give disabled people an equal chance to get a job. We will lift the cap on job support funding and expand eligibility to cover part-time, temporary and volunteer work to open up new pathways to employment for disabled people.

We will also ensure that disabled people have the same employment rights as all other workers, including the right to the statutory minimum wage.

Poverty and higher costs – our first question
  1. What would your party do to ensure disabled people have adequate resources and that this support is easy to access?
The Green Party’s answer:

Our recently announced incomes policy committed to increasing all benefits, including the Supported Living Payment by 20%. We will remove financial penalties and excessive sanctions for people receiving benefits including the intrusive requirements to endlessly show you are still disabled. We will increase the amount people can earn before their benefit is cut by reducing the abatement rate, which will help disabled people who may only be able to do temporary or part time work for health reasons. You will be able to earn $200 a week before your benefit is reduced and up to $400 before the top abatement rate kicks in. We will also ensure that the Disability Allowance provides genuine assistance to all adults and children who need further support.

Poverty and higher costs – our second question

2. How will your party ensure disabled people can access a similar range of opportunities in the community as non-disabled people?

The Green Party’s answer:

We believe that people with disabilities deserve all the services and opportunities afforded to other members of the community. In Government we would establish Disability Commission to take a leadership role on ensuring equitable, positive outcomes for people with disabilities.

Access – our first question
  1. Would your party commit to enacting a new dedicated access law?
The Green Party’s answer:

The Green Party is proud to be the first party to announce our support for the Access Alliance vision of a 100% accessible Aotearoa New Zealand and we are committed to bringing in accessibility legislation to progress that goal.

Access – our second question

2. What would your party do to improve the public’s understanding of disability and their attitudes towards disabled people?

The Green Party’s answer:

Changing public understanding and attitudes is a crucial first step. We will support and fund projects to raise public awareness of disability issues and support community based action to promote respect and equity for disabled people. Affirmative action is also crucial, by enabling disabled people to counteract barriers to inclusion and take up active roles in their communities, in paid and voluntary work and in business. Children need to see disabled people in a variety of leadership and community roles.

Diversity – our first question
  1. What would your party do to make sure disability supports are culturally relevant for disabled people?
The Green Party’s answer:

We believe that everyone has the right to access disability services that are responsive, flexible, accessible and culturally appropriate. For Tangata Whenua this is particularly relevant, given the lack of services in Te Reo. We would work with Maori, including Iwi, hapu and whanau – as well as other cultural organisations and leaders – to ensure that services are culturally relevant and accessible.

Diversity – our second question

2. How will your party ensure disabled people have the same opportunity to connect with their culture(s) as non-disabled people?

The Green Party’s answer:

We recognise that there are major barriers to accessing to their own culture for many Deaf and disabled people. For example we know that Maori Deaf are disadvantaged by the serious shortage of tri-lingual NZSL interpreters in NZ. We are committed to finding ways of ensuring cultural access through a variety of mechanisms. One option could be to provide NZSL training grants for people fluent in Te Reo. Another mechanism would be to provide grants to marae to improve accessibility.

Housing – our question
  1. What would your party do to ensure accessible and affordable housing is available?
The Green Party’s answer:

The Green party recognises that everyone has the right to safe secure and affordable housing. We are committed to providing pathways to home ownership for disabled people who often don’t have security of income to access a mortgage. The Green Party has a raft of policies that would expand home ownership and improve rental security across New Zealand, including rent-to-buy schemes, innovative financing and a progressive ownership scheme with community housing providers. These will see the state make homes available to families and disabled people on a progressive rent to own basis – paying only as much as their income can manage. We are also committed to mandatory enforceable accessibility legislation that would cover all areas from building code to new housing.

Our disability spokesperson Mojo Mathers has also submitted a Member’s Bill – the Human Rights (Disability Assist Dogs Non-Discrimination) Amendment Bill – which explicitly states that a person cannot be a denied a service, including housing, on the basis that they have a disability assist dog.

Child poverty – our question
  1. What would your party do to tackle child poverty amongst disabled children and their whānau?
The Green Party’s answer:

Child poverty is a huge issue in Aotearoa and we are committed to changing that. Our recently announced incomes policy would ensure that all families have the support they need to raise happy healthy kids. We have committed to raising all benefits by 20%, lifting abatement rates and thresholds for people who work part time on a benefit. These changes will be significant for our poorest families – for example a single parent on a benefit and two children will have an extra $179 every week. In Government we would also review the Child Disability Allowance with a view to increasing the current rates, given the extra financial needs that parents and caregivers have when raising a child with special needs.

Sustainable funding for disability support services – our question
  1. What would your party do to ensure funding for disability support meets demand and is adequate?
The Green Party’s answer:

Disability support is currently insufficient and too many families are missing out. In Government we would work collaboratively with disability support organisations and disabled communities to ensure adequate and flexible funding.

Disability Commission – our question
  1. Will your party support the creation of an independent disability commission to manage all disability policy and disability support service funding?
The Green Party’s answer:

Yes, The Green Party supports establishing a Disability Issues Commission to help ensure that the disability services sector is more responsive, flexible and empowering.

Education – our first question
  1. What would your party do to ensure disabled children can attend and be included in their local school as of right?
The Green Party’s answer:

The Green Party is passionate about fostering inclusive education that means everyone’s learning needs are being catered to. The Greens have been calling for national data about how many students have disabilities, including learning support needs, and the level of need. Without this data, the competitive and capped funding system continues to fail students and students with moderate needs, as well as students whose families cannot afford additional special help for diagnosis.

We are committed to increasing access to the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme, as well as other programmes to ensure that children are supported in accessing their local school. The Special Education Grant is clearly not meeting demand and schools are having to access other funding to support students with high learning needs.

Teachers are also not supported to identify diverse learning support needs. We need more centrally funded and well trained school support staff on a living wage to help students and teachers. Teacher education needs to be developed and expanded to address inclusion practice and help identify students needing specific support. Special schools need to be centres of excellence whose main role is to support the inclusion of students with high needs in local schools and provide the knowledge and skills to make sure the students’ needs are met.

The Green Party will also be launching more specific, and costed, policy on this issue before the election.

Education – our second question

2. How will your party ensure disabled people can access the same educational opportunities as non-disabled people?

The Green Party’s answer:

Having an inclusive school means that a school’s culture is geared around all students having their needs met. Currently, we know that schools are excluding students because it is easier for the school rather than provide the education required. The Green Party is committed to enshrining in law a child’s right to an inclusive education, but the Government failed to pick up this opportunity when they revamped the Education Act recently.

The recent Learning Support Update from the National Government proposes to cut support to 18-21 year olds. This is misguided and wrong. The Green Party will maintain funding to ensure that people with disabilities can continue to access educational opportunities.

The Māori Party

Employment – our questions
  1. What would your party do to tackle barriers to employment for disabled people?
  2. How will your party ensure disabled people can access the same range of employment opportunities as non-disabled people?
The Māori Party’s answers:

The Māori Party retains a longstanding and strong commitment to investing in enabling disabled people and their whānau so they have more choices, control and flexibility over support and funding in their everyday lives. This approach applies to employment related issues, including barriers to access too. We also support a wider review of employment laws to ensure that disabled people are fairly catered for.

We would review the Disability Action Plan to better target solutions focused at specific barriers to a range of employment opportunities that disabled people seek, in order to get more disabled people into paid work and reduce their dependency on welfare or other supports. We also maintain that a collaborative approach between employers and businesses to promote more employment opportunities for disabled people is necessary.

Greater access to, and participation in skills acquisition in the education and tertiary education system is also required in order to support disabled people greater opportunities in employment.

Poverty and higher costs - our questions
  1. What would your party do to ensure disabled people have adequate resources and that this support is easy to access?
  2. How will your party ensure disabled people can access a similar range of opportunities in the community as non-disabled people?
The Māori Party’s answers:

The Māori Party believe in extending Enabling Good Lives – an approach aimed at supporting disabled people and their whānau to take greater control of their lives and resources to support them.

We support extending the Enabling Good Lives approach nationwide, with associated investment in Thinking Differently, Individualised Funding and Supported Living.

Whānau Ora is a transformational approach in the way services are designed and delivered by whānau for whānau. It is a bold and innovative approach which places the aspirations and outcomes for whānau at the centre. We support changing the disability support system from providing a standard menu of services to a more individualised one that is driven by the specific needs and aspirations of whānau.

Access  – our question
  1. Would your party commit to enacting a new dedicated access law?
The Māori Party’s answer:

Yes, we support Be Accessible as another innovative opportunity and believe that legislating for rights to greater access for disabled people to enable them to enjoy all the opportunities available be it tourism, accommodation, travel, moving around our towns and cities is necessary.

Access – our second question

2. What would your party do to improve the public’s understanding of disability and their attitudes towards disabled people?

The Māori Party’s answer:

The best thing we can do is push for better education and making New Zealand a more tolerant and compassionate place to live. We support more funding to promote positive attitudes and behaviours towards disabled people. It’s about what they can do – not what they can’t do.

Diversity – our question
  1. What would your party do to make sure disability supports are culturally relevant for disabled people?
The Māori Party’s answer:

The Māori Party has strongly advocated to ensure that a voice for Māori disabled whānau is heard. We believe the funded sector of services for disabled people and their whānau could take a more holistic approach to providing health and social services, which are community led and whānau-centred.

Education – our questions
  1. What would your party do to ensure disabled children can attend and be included in their local school as of right?
  2. How will your party ensure disabled people can access the same educational opportunities as non-disabled people?
The Māori Party’s answer:

We would allow the whānau to determine which school their child should attend and provide more support for schools so they are better equipped to cater to people with varying needs.

Housing – our question
  1. What would your party do to ensure accessible and affordable housing is available?
The Māori Party’s answer:

We launched the Māori Housing Network which now has a budget of $17.5 million per annum that provides funds for the development of new whare, housing repairs, infrastructure and papakāinga. The Māori Party has advocated for emergency housing and lobbied for a Warrant of Fitness on all rental properties. It truly is a sad indictment on our country that there is a growing number of people sleeping rough on the streets, in cars or in garages. The Māori Party are advocating policies to address issues of poverty, homelessness, access to services, and housing affordability. We will also continue to support iwi and Māori groups that want to provide social housing providers.

Child poverty – our questions
  1. What would your party do to tackle child poverty amongst disabled children and their whānau?
  2. What would your party do to ensure disabled children have access to the same opportunities as non-disabled children?
The Māori Party’s answers:

Māori and Pasifika children are approximately twice as likely as Pākehā/European children to be living in severe poverty. We know 25 percent of children – about 270,000 – currently live in poverty (OCC Report, 2012). Māori Party policy is around creating and enabling wellness in our whānau to ensure that all children have a good start in life.

We believe, given equal opportunities, people living with disabilities can lead thriving lives and do extraordinary things. Our priority is around raising awareness to the public and providing them with the right support so they can be empowered to live lives of their choosing.

Sustainable funding for disability support services – our question
  1. What would your party do to ensure funding for disability support meets demand and is adequate?
The Māori Party’s answer:

Our priority is to reduce disparities and inequities in the overall health of whānau and individuals. We want to ensure that the services provided are effective in providing care for those who live with disabilities. It can be very costly living with disabilities so we support a cost of living adjustment to all benefits.

A social insurance approach for all disability support services – our question
  1. Would your party consider implementing a social insurance funding approach for all disability supports?
The Māori Party’s answer:

Yes, we would support social insurance funding to provide a safety net for the disabled community.
Disability Commission – our question

Will your party support the creation of an independent disability commission to manage all disability policy and disability support service funding?

The Māori Party’s answer:

Yes, absolutely. We believe that a commission to manage all disability policy would greatly benefit the disabilities community.

The United Futures Party

Employment – our first question
  1. What will your party do to tackle barriers to employment for disabled people?
The United Future Party’s answer:

Support a campaign aimed at employers to break-down any negative perceptions of those with disabilities, ensuring they can get into the workplace.

Employment – our second question

2. How will your party ensure disabled people can access the same range of employment opportunities as non-disabled people?

The United Future Party’s answer:

Support a campaign aimed at employers to break-down any negative perceptions of those with disabilities, ensuring they can get into the workplace.

Poverty and higher costs – our first question
  1. What would your party do to ensure disabled people have adequate recourses and that this is easy to access?
The United Future Party’s answer:

We would promote an increase of funding for early identification of children with special needs and disabilities with targeted systematic, intensive and high quality interventions, so that children and their parents have targeted support and access to all the care they need.

Poverty and higher costs – our second question

2. How will your party ensure disabled people can access a similar range of opportunities in the community as non-disabled people?

The United Future Party’s answer:

Establish community-based advocacy services to ensure that every disabled person and their family have a case manager who ensures that clients have access to every support to which they are entitled.

Public Attitudes – our question
  1. What will your party do to improve the public’s understanding of disability and their attitudes towards disabled people?
The United Future Party’s answer:

Establish community-based advocacy services to ensure that every disabled person and their family have people to advocate for them and ensure their voices are heard as well as supporting a campaign aimed at employers to break-down any negative perceptions of those with disabilities, ensuring they can get into the workplace and increase public understanding.

Diversity – our first question
  1. What would your party do to make sure disability supports are culturally relevant for disabled people?
The United Future Party’s answer:

With a community-based approach that is catered to an individual and their family, culture can be more considered; we fully support this course of action.

Diversity – our second question

2. How will your party ensure disabled people have the same opportunity to connect with their culture as non-disabled people?

The United Future Party’s answer:

With a community-based approach that is catered to an individual and their family, culture can be more considered; we fully support this course of action. With that we can generate pathways to connecting with culture.

Housing – our question
  1. What would your party do to ensure accessible and affordable housing is available?
The United Future Party’s answer:

Support home ownership for people with disabilities through rent-to-buy and shared equity mechanisms and the use of State Housing stock for this purpose.

Child Poverty – our first question
  1. What would you do to tackle child poverty amongst disabled children and their whanau?
The United Future Party’s answer:

Support home ownership for people with disabilities through rent-to-buy and shared equity mechanisms and the use of State Housing stock for this purpose and Establish community-based advocacy services to ensure that every disabled person and their family have a case manager who ensures that clients have access to every support to which they are entitled.

Child Poverty – our second question
  1. What would your party do to ensure disabled children have access to the same opportunities as non-disabled children?
The United Future Party’s answer:

Ensure that appropriate care, employment and housing is available in every region.

Sustainable funding for disability support services – our question
  1. What would your party do to ensure funding for disability support meets demand and is adequate?
The United Future Party’s answer:

Commission an independent review of current audit and monitoring provisions for disability care providers to see what areas need changes and support.

A social insurance approach for all disability support services – our question
  1. Would your party consider a social insurance funding approach for all disability supports?
The United Future Party’s answer:

It is UnitedFuture policy to investigate the feasibility of a national health insurance scheme which would cover disability.

Disability Commission – our first question
  1. Will your party support the creation of an independent disability commission to manage all disability support service funding?
The United Future Party’s answer:

We don’t currently have any policy planning to do so.

Disability Commission – our second question

2. If not, what would your party do instead to ensure disability and funding is well coordinated?

The United Future Party’s answer:

Commission an independent review of current audit and monitoring provisions for disability care providers.

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