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2017 Election Party Response- The Green Party

We asked the main political parties questions about disability issues. Here is the Green Party’s response. We will post the responses as we get them.

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

  1. 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

  1. 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

  1. 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

  1. 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

  1. 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.

Take two minutes to tell your local MP that you want accessibility legislation now.

www.accessalliance.org.nz

 

 

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