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2017 Election Party Response- The Labour Party

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

Employment – our questions

  1. What would your party do to tackle barriers to employment for disabled people?
  2. How will your party ensure disabled people can access the same range of employment opportunities as non-disabled people?

Labour’s answers:

Labour recognises that disability should not be a barrier to work, and people with disabilities should be empowered to work if they can. Labour is committed to understanding and responding to people’s individual circumstances.

Labour will:

  • Support the provision of vocational services available to people with disabilities
  • Encourage employers to adopt equal opportunity hiring practices, and ensure this includes persons with disabilities
  • Focus on increasing the proportion of disabled people who are supported into paid work through increasing employer support and education
  • Support employers to ensure workplaces are suitable for people with disabilities
  • Recognise volunteer work as an important contribution to society and as a pathway to paid employment in some cases
  • Maintain the availability of existing governmental support (Supported Living Payment and the Disability Allowance) to people with disabilities

Poverty and higher costs – our questions

  1. What would your party do to ensure disabled people have adequate resources and that this support is easy to access?
  2. How will your party ensure disabled people can access a similar range of opportunities in the community as non-disabled people?

Labour’s answers:

Labour will

  • Maintain the availability of existing governmental support (Supported Living Payment and the Disability Allowance) to people with disabilities.
  • Introduce a Winter Energy Payment for people receiving superannuation or a main benefit.
  • Reinstate the Independent Earners’ Tax Credit.
  • Implement the Accommodation Supplement increases announced in Budget 2017.

Labour supports every New Zealander being enabled to participate in our cultural life. We are committed to funding local cultural institutions at a level that allows this participation. We believe that participation in culture is not just about being a reader or an audience member.

We believe it is important to promote pathways to participation for disabled people to assist in developing their creative talents and cultural enterprise.

Labour values the contribution, and has encouraged the participation, of artists with disabilities and those with mental health conditions through funding for organisations such as Arts Access Aotearoa and support for a number of ‘outsider art’ programmes. We believe it is important to promote pathways for disabled people to assist in developing their creative talents and cultural enterprise.

Labour will:

  • Work across Toi Aotearoa (Creative New Zealand), local community services, Ministry of Social Development and local government bodies to develop further opportunities for disabled people and people with mental health conditions to undertake creative initiatives.
  • Review the criteria for access to Creative New Zealand funding to ensure that grassroots creators of talent are not marginalised by an overly complex fund application system.
  • Look into ways to prevent people with disabilities having to pay for carers at events
  • Promote accessible technologies to managers so people can better access arts and culture venues

Access – our questions

  1. Would your party commit to enacting a new dedicated access law?
  2. If not, what would your party do instead to ensure the community is accessible to all?

Labour’s answers:

Labour will bring New Zealand in line with countries such as the United States and Canada which have legislation to protect the rights of people with disabilities. This will include considering sponsoring the Accessibility for New Zealanders Act, draft legislation developed by the Access Alliance, with a view to passing it into New Zealand law.

Labour believes in an accessible New Zealand and will introduce mandatory and enforceable standards for essential areas of life such as social housing and transport

Many people with disabilities are reliant on public transport to get to work and training, to attend appointments, and to partake in community and social activities. Article 9 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognises the right to accessible transport while Article 20 of the Convention recognises the right to personal mobility and seeks Government action to take effective measures to facilitate this at an affordable cost.

Labour will:

  • Ensure that public transport networks, including buses and trains, are accessible and that transport providers train their staff in disability awareness
  • Implement the recommendations of the Human Rights Commission report ‘The Accessible Journey’
  • Investigate how best to ensure mobility taxis are available 24/7 in major cities on demand
  • Promote the use of modern technology and good communications on bus and train services, for example voice and visual screen announcements of stops and of changes to the service.

Education – our questions

  1. What would your party do to ensure disabled children can attend and be included in their local school as of right?
  2. How will your party ensure disabled people can access the same educational opportunities as non-disabled people?

Labour’s answers:

We believe that all children have the right to be included in the general education system and to receive the individual support they require. Ensuring that disabled children can receive quality education in an inclusive environment is a priority for Labour.

The physical presence of disabled children in schools does not ensure their participation. For participation to be meaningful and lead to successful educational outcomes, schools must value diversity and provide a supportive learning environment and skilled teaching for all children.

Labour will:

  • Ensure that all children are welcome, included, and learning to their full potential at their local school
  • Comprehensively review the entire system of special needs support so that resources are allocated based on individual needs assessment for each child, rather than each child having to meet the criteria imposed by the system
  • Increase the funding pool for individual student support as resources allow
  • Ensure the continued provision of special residential schools for the students with the highest needs
  • Ensure that teachers and support staff receive training and professional development and information on inclusive education and disability awareness to ensure the active participation and learning of all children
  • Work to ensure that all students and teachers have access to New Zealand Sign Language at school
  • Strengthen the vocational services available at secondary schools and ensure this transitional service is used to develop pathways for students with disabilities upon their leaving school
  • Review funding to physical and occupation therapy in schools.
  • Promote the implementation of ‘Kia Orite: Achieving Equality: the New Zealand Code of Practice for an Inclusive Tertiary Education’ in New Zealand tertiary institutions
  • Labour recognises the vital role that support staff plays in schools. We also recognise the financial pressures that schools face and that this has often led to support staff not receiving the level of remuneration they are rightly entitled to.
  • Labour will address these issues by working with the sector to:
  • Develop a centrally-funded system for the salaries of school support staff
  • Work towards the implementation of a Living Wage for all school support staff, over time and as funding permits

Housing – our question

  1. What would your party do to ensure accessible and affordable housing is available?

Labour’s answer:

Labour is determined to support quality living in the community for disabled people. This includes increasing opportunities to access comfortable and accessible housing. A long-term focus on increased building accessibility will also meet the needs of an aging population.

Urban design, Housing and Access and Building Issues

Labour will:

  • Demonstrate leadership in building “Lifetime Design” homes by ensuring that, where possible, new state houses are built in accordance with the disability sector approved Lifemark standard for accessible, adaptable lifetime design
  • Encourage the design of accessible homes to ensure that a higher proportion of the housing stock is suitable to meet the needs of all people
  • Ensure that Housing New Zealand, as part of its acquisition and maintenance programme, invests in the retrofitting of state houses so that they are accessible.
  • Stop National’s state housing sell-off and build more, accessible state housing
  • Build 100,000 affordable homes to buy over 10 years
  • Address regulatory issues that favour investors and distort prices
  • Demonstrate leadership in building “Lifetime Design” homes by ensuring that, where possible, new state houses are built in accordance with the disability sector approved Lifemark standard for accessible, adaptable lifetime design
  • Encourage the design of accessible homes to ensure that a higher proportion of the housing stock is suitable to meet the needs of all people
  • Ensure that Housing New Zealand, as part of its acquisition and maintenance programme, invests in the retrofitting of state houses so that they are accessible.

Child poverty – our questions

  1. What would your party do to tackle child poverty amongst disabled children and their whānau?
  2. What would your party do to ensure disabled children have access to the same opportunities as non-disabled children?

Labour’s answers:

Labour’s Families Package will deliver more money to the pockets of low and middle income Kiwi families, including families with disabled children, without unaffordable tax cuts for the well-off.

Labour has designed a Families Package that delivers more money to families with children and reduces child poverty while freeing up more than $2 billion over four years to contribute to our investments in housing, health, education, and other priorities.

Working for Families changes

Labour will:

  • Increase the Family Tax Credit base rate for the eldest child to $5,878. This is currently $5,303 for eldest children aged 16-18 and $4,822 for eldest children aged 0-15 (due to be increased to $5,303 according to Budget 2017).
  • Adopt the Budget 2017 changes to the Family Tax Credit base rate for subsequent children and new abatement rate.
  • Raise the abatement threshold for Working for Families to $42,700, currently $36,350 (due to be cut to $35,000 according to Budget 2017).

The combination of these changes will increase the amount of Working for Families payments for every family currently receiving them, and increase the number of families receiving Working for Families payments by over 30,000. Labour’s Working for Families boost will cost $370 million in 2018/19.

Best Start

Labour will:

  • Introduce a Best Start payment of $60 a week for each child in the first year after Paid Parental Leave ends, and for low to middle income families up to age three.

Best Start gives nearly 60,000 families a year extra support in the first year of their child’s life. For low and middle income earners, that support will continue until their child turns three.

We have focused on these years given how important they are for a child’s development, but also because this is the time many families struggle to manage care and often work responsibilities. We want families to have more choice when it comes to the first three years of their child’s life.

All families will receive the payment in their baby’s first year. For families receiving Paid Parental Leave, Best Start payments will begin after PPL payments end. Best Start will replace the Parental Tax Credit.

For families on low and middle incomes, Best Start will continue until age three. When children are aged one to two, the payment will abate above $79,000 of household income at a rate of 20.8c/$1.

If a family has more than one eligible child, it will receive one payment per child. Where household income exceeds the abatement threshold, the Best Start payments for children aged one to two will be abated as a sum, rather than each being abated concurrently.

Best Start will cost $303 million in 2018/19.

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?

Labour’s answer:

Labour will:

  • Implement the recommendations of the National Advisory Committee on Health and Disability research document: To Have an Ordinary Life
  • Consider providing free annual health checks for people with an intellectual disability
  • Support and work to implement the Carers’ Strategy
  • Ensure that those on the autism spectrum are supported through disability support services funding.
  • Progressively address inequities in the pay of the publicly-funded aged care and disability care workforce.
  • Work with sector experts to develop and fund a more comprehensive and coordinated long-term conditions programme. Our goal is to ensure equitable and affordable access no matter where people live or are enrolled.
  • Support and implement the provisions of the New Zealand Disability Strategy.
  • Further address the disparities in funding support services between ACC funded and non ACC funded disabled people.
  • Ensure that health services accommodate the needs of deaf and blind people.
  • Establish a specific fund for medicines to treat rare diseases, controlled by the Ministry of Health, funded from PHARMAC’s baselines.

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

www.accessalliance.org.nz

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