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Officials and paid family carers

10/4/15 · Posted in officials, paid family carers

Last week we looked at the views of government officials in Canada, the United States and England. Now these countries are different to New Zealand.  There have been sharp funding cuts in supports for disabled people in these countries, especially in England. Yet some of the same ideas and emotions can be seen in New Zealand, particularly during the paid family carer’s cases.

During the cases, the Ministry of Health described its supports as just being there to meet gaps in unpaid support. The Ministry said most support should be met through unpaid support from family and friends. The government funded system was only available as a back-up. The Ministry also expressed similar fears as overseas officials about people switching to government funded services, if these are made more available.

Yet what emerged during the various cases on paid family carers was that the line between unpaid and paid support changed all the time. It depended on choices made by families and friends about how much unpaid support they wanted to provide. It also depended on disabled people deciding how much unpaid support they wanted.

The Ministry believes it has very little control over how much unpaid support is available. It therefore thinks it has very little control over demand for paid support. This may well have ignited the fear both here and overseas about budget pressure and demand for services.

This attitude of fear around funding poses real problems for disability rights advocacy and the social model of disability. As long as fears of budget blowouts hang over the heads of officials, the pace of any reforms may be slow and officials may look for ways to restrict access to services and limit funding. Such an approach flies in the face of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

A lot of these funding concerns, however, are not based on evidence. The Human Rights Tribunal and the courts were unconvinced by the Ministry of Health’s fears about costs during the paid family carers cases. The Ministry had no detailed or credible estimates of costs. Officials’ attitudes appeared to be emotional rather than logical. The Funded Family Carers scheme has turned out to be very low cost and is probably saving the government money by reducing the number of people moving into residential care.

These fears around cost also ignore that many carers are already receiving support through the Supported Living Payment for Carers (Former Domestic Purpose Benefit – Case of Sick and Infirm, terrible name I know). Demand was never going to be that high, but fear got the better of officials.

Through better data and evidence it may be possible to address these fears. Australia has also shown that politicians and the public are willing to put more funding into disability supports, if a good case is made. Extra funding there has even survived a change in government. Ultimately if disability rights are going to be made real and disabled people given choice, control and opportunities, officials need to overcome their fear.

One Response to “Officials and paid family carers”

  1. […] lot going on in the heads of officials and politicians, the people who make the decisions. They are often afraid of blowing budgets and also spend a lot of time worrying about what the wider public and the media will […]

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