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Source: Human Rights Commission

An Inquiry into the support of disabled people during the Omicron outbreak was launched on March 11. The Disability Rights Commissioner was concerned about the greater risk the high transmission of Omicron, combined with the easing of public health restrictions, put disabled people at. 

The Inquiry will be in two phases. Phase one is an information-gathering exercise where key organisations will report their understanding of the current experiences of disabled people and their whānau. This information is being compiled into a report with recommendations released in April. During this time the Commissioner will also identify key changes that could bring immediate benefit and make recommendations as issues arise in advance of the report.  

Phase two will consider how the needs of disabled people have been responded to during the whole Covid 19 response. 

If you have questions about the Inquiry, process or report please email [email protected]

Questions and Answers  

What legislation does this Inquiry operate under?

Section 5(2)(h) of the Human Rights Act 1993 – provides for the Human Rights Commission to inquire into matters that may involve the infringement of human rights. 

What can the Commission legally do? 

  • Inquire into matters (generally involves “gathering evidence, coming to conclusions and making recommendations.” (In this case to the Government.)
  • May bring civil proceedings before the Human Rights Review Tribunal if it considers its inquiry discloses breach/es of human rights (s 92E) 
  • Can ask the District Court to require evidence from a person for the purpose of the Inquiry (s 126A) 
  • Provide mediation between two parties where one feels their human rights have been breached through its mediation service.

Why is the Commissioner holding the Inquiry? 

The Commissioner seeks to understand: 

  • Whether there is an adequate, clearly documented plan for how the needs of disabled people will be met during the Omicron outbreak 
  • Whether there is bespoke information about the public health response accessible for disabled people 
  • The implications of new testing arrangements for disabled people 
  • Whether the community in care initiatives adequately cater to the needs of disabled people 

How can I contribute to this report? 

Because we wanted to move quickly, we decided to work with key disabled people’s organisations to investigate key themes they are reporting back to us. We understand this may be disappointing, but we were simply unable to hold a public inquiry in such a short time frame. Also, there are ethical and privacy issues that would need to be worked through and could have caused delays.  

There may be opportunities to provide individual feedback as we move into Phase Two of the Inquiry.  

What agencies are you working with?  

Because we don’t want to stretch these already overstretched organisations, we are keeping this information confidential during the initial inquiry phase. This information will become public in the report.