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The never-ending reforms

We are now several years into the reforms of disability supports. A key reason for the reforms was the Social Services Select Committee’s report in 2008 (PDF). This report found that disability supports were fragmented and often difficult to access. Unfortunately, the government may have inadvertently made this situation worse.

There are currently a lot of government-initiated pilots, demonstrations and different initiatives. It is difficult keeping track of them. It is usual, and positive, for non-government organisations to be innovating and trialling new ideas. I am less certain it is positive for the government to be starting a large number of pilots, especially with no real funding identified to roll any of them out.

Current demonstrations and pilots include:

The large number of pilots seems to be a side effect of trying to reform supports within existing funding. There is no funding to roll pilots out so the government just keeps starting new pilots and leaving old pilots running. The pilots are also usually more expensive than existing supports and come with their own structures and bureaucracies.

Current supports are often unattractive to disabled people and their families. Many existing supports are based on outdated models that rely on segregation, such as residential care. Segregated options are often undesirable to disabled people and their families. So people find alternatives, including staying at home and relying on support from family members.

There is less government support for people living in family and independent living settings. This is actually cheaper for the government, but often puts disabled people and their families under stress and at risk of poverty. It is not fair for disabled people and their families.

Some pilots, such as Choice in Community Living and Enhanced Individualised Funding, offer a means to fix this imbalance. These pilots are more flexible about where support is provided, which means people can receive more support in settings of their choice, such as family or independent living settings.  This is much fairer to disabled people. It will also, hopefully, reduce the risk of poverty that many disabled people and their families face. It is also more expensive for the government. There is no easy way around this, at least in the short-term. In the long-term, the better outcomes and decreased risk of poverty may led to people needing less support, but that is further down the track.

If we want fairer and better outcomes for disabled people and their families, it is likely to cost more in the short term. Because we are not facing up to this, we seem to be heading to a strange situation where pilots and demonstrations are becoming permanent, but limited to certain regions or to a certain number of people.

I think some hard questions have to be asked about the current direction of reforms. I cannot help but compare our reforms to Australia. The Australian Government and the Australian disability community has always been upfront with the Australian public that their reforms of disability supports will be more expensive, but will also be fairer. In contrast, the New Zealand Government has tried to create fairer supports within existing funding. Is this actually possible? If it is not, do we need to be more honest about that?

Thank you for reading and I would love to hear your thoughts.

David Matthews
Chief Executive

8 Responses to “The never-ending reforms”

  1. Fiona Weston says:

    Ware experiencing EIF in the BOP and struggling with the fact that the criteria for the pilot has been changed to a huge extent without any communication to clients. The extent means in fact that all the meaningful supports that differentiated EIF from IF appear to have been suddenly withdrawn. Not only does this take away our ability to use our funding in an individualised manner, but it also means we are unable to budget our funds . The communication around the demonstration nature of the scheme has not been given to those using it, communication around changes driven by the MoH have similarly not been communicated and we find ourselves now in fact with an IF funding package which is not what we started with 6 months ago and not what we signed on our service agreement.

  2. Wendy Duff says:

    I think your way of describing all the pilots going on currently is the best description I have heard.n
    All the pilots , evaluations etc all cost money – meanwhile consumers are waiting and waiting…….. and nothing changes.

  3. Anne Bell says:

    Great analysis, and it risks people who are disadvantaged by not having strong family support being left out of these demonstrations, the most vulnerable, those with limited communication and few supports to advocate will continue to languish unseen and unheard in group homes. LAC is specifically not available for people currently in residential, despite these living situations supposed to be a person ‘s home. Blatant discrimination by a government department.
    I hear they have advised there are to be no rmore referrals to Choices in Community Living despite people being keen to uptake and leave current group homes.
    Meanwhile thousands of people aged under 65 languish in aged care facilities either funded by DDS or DHBs. The promises of the Select Committee are not being realised.

    • Anne Bell says:

      I am told my Choices in Communiity Living comment is not accurate, my apologies I was misinformed.

  4. Gabby Hogg says:

    I agree what everyone has commented so far and agree with your article, trials after trials etc.

    Anne is right, disabled people can usually access the new model if they have effective communication and so forth and who have a strong family network.

    Take the cases of individuals at the more moderate to severe end of the Autism spectrum. as from my recent experiences. IF is not for me due to my communication and social skills impairment unless i have someone to be a agent and to managed things which I didnt. and now I’m going back to providers etc

    Of which using a provider also concerns me cause they end up sending someone that has no experience of autism and challenging behaviours and yet the govt refuse to put funding into training the providers about autism etc. and i can tell you now that even someone with autism and intellectual disability will look and have a different set of challenges to a individual just with intellectual disability.

  5. G Wilson says:

    The pilot trials of the new/different ways to fund supports are also often really complicated, and it can take time and effort to access them. Unless you have an advocate prepared to walk alonside you for the duration of set up (and ongoing?) it could be impossible to become involved.
    The limitations are many – especially with Funded Family Care – and at times seem designed to exclude rather than assist.
    As you say there is no clear new funding for ongoing implementation of these pilots, and a lot of the funding is soaked up by set up and management costs – given the current trends of this government it could potentially be moved over into the private sector?
    It feels a bit like smoke and mirrors at times and it is hard to see what is behind it all!

  6. […] David, our Chief Executive, asked some critical questions about the current reforms of disability supports last week. Why, because of people. We are passionate about all people, especially disabled people, living good lives in communities that include everyone. Disability supports, and all the policies and laws around them, are only important because they can help or hinder people living good lives. We care about the impact of policies and laws on people and communities. This might seem like a simple and obvious point, but it is easy to lose the focus on people when talking about policies and laws. […]

  7. […] could be seen during the Paid Family Carers cases and in the current Carer Support Subsidy case. The pilots and demonstrations, some of which allow more equal resourcing of independently living and family-based situations, are […]

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