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Source: Human Rights Commission

Budget 2022 has pluses and minuses for the disabled community, says Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero.

On the plus side there was considerable investment in the new Ministry for Disabled People and other funding which has the potential to benefit the disabled community including:

  • increased investment in the health sector which, if done well with an equity focus, could benefit disabled people
  • increased investment in Pharmac which could provide greater access to medication and assistive devices
  • funding for First Signs which provides opportunities for families and whanau of deaf or hard of hearing children to learn New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL)
  • increased investment in mental health services.

“There is also some funding for community-based services which support the disabled community. However, I would have liked to have seen an increase to core benefits given that more than 50% of beneficiaries are disabled or have a health condition.  In particular, I would have liked an increase in the Disability Allowance – and especially the Child Disability Allowance – as one means to address the rising cost of living,” said Ms Tesoriero.

“Disabled people need an income which allows them to live a dignified life. This is incredibility difficult when 64% of disabled people in Aotearoa New Zealand have an annual income of $30,000 or less,” she said. “Often what is not considered is the high cost of disability which has a direct effect on disabled people and their whanau.”

Ms Tesoriero said she would be looking into the budget in more detail however her immediate concern was the lack of urgency in addressing the high rates of violence and abuse experienced by disabled people.

Disabled people experience higher rates of experience family violence and sexual violence than any other population group, so no explicit Budget funding to address the issues is very concerning.

“I publicly supported the way in which in Te Aorerekura: National Strategy to Eliminate Family Violence and Sexual Violence acknowledged the high rates of violence and abuse experience by disabled people. The strategy also commits to a twin track approach (accessible mainstream services and bespoke solutions tailored to specific circumstances of disabled people). So it is surprising and deeply disappointing that this is not reflected in these budget investments.”

The Human Rights Commission welcomes a focus on prevention and community-led responses but only one initiative aimed at young people appears to have any specific focus on disabled people.

While there may be potential for the investments in prevention and community led responses to benefit disabled people, the investments need to make this explicit and ensure they are designed by these communities. 

It is also frustrating to see no further immediate investment in the safeguarding approach given it is known to work.

“Services and approaches known to be effective should be supported while the engagement process is being established.”

The Human Rights Commission acknowledges the Budget commitment of $4 million to creating an enduring mechanism for engaging with diverse communities on the family violence and sexual violence prevention framework.

“Waiting for a new mechanism for engagement to get going is delaying work that could make an immediate difference in disabled people’s lives when it comes to harm prevention.”

The Government has access to recent national and international studies, including in two Human Rights Commission reports released last year on violence and abuse against disabled people: ‘Whakamanahia Te Tiriti, Whakahaumarutia te Tangata – Honour the Treaty, Protect the Person’ and ‘Whakamahia te Tūkino kore Ināianei, ā Muri Ake Nei – Acting Now for a Violence and Abuse Free Future’. 

A lack of specific focus on disabled people in this Budget will increase inequity if programmes that are invested in are not expressly working with disabled people.

“It is simply not good enough for disabled people to not be prioritised in both prevention and response to family and sexual violence,” says Tesoriero.  “I plan to meet with entities who receive funding for family and sexual violence initiatives and ask how they will ensure the needs of disabled people are met”.

University of Auckland research published in 2021 showed:

  • disabled women in New Zealand are nearly twice as likely to experience family violence than those without a disability
  • 40 per cent of disabled women were subjected to physical violence by a partner, compared with 25 per cent of non-disabled women.
  • disabled men were more likely to experience physical violence by non-partners (56 per cent) compared with 38 per cent of non-disabled men.

MIL OSI