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2017 Election Party Response- The National Party

We asked the main political parties questions about disability issues. Here is the National Party’s response.

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?

National’s answers:
Getting more people into employment is a top priority for the Government. That’s why in 2016 we implemented EmployAbility, a new initiative designed to get disabled people and people with health conditions off benefit and into sustainable work.

Through the EmployAbility initiative, we’re working with local employers to empower them to be disability confident and to diversify their workforce.

Research shows that most disabled employees take less sick days and perform just as well as other employees once in the right job. This opportunity also gives employees more confidence and economic independence.

While most disabled people don’t need anything extra to be able to do their work, for those that do, funding is available to provide workplace modifications, equipment and on-going support on the job.

EmployAbility is based on the successful Project 300 initiative, a Christchurch based employment scheme that had the goal of getting 300 people with health conditions and disabilities off benefit and into work over 12 months.

During this time, 584 people moved into part time and full time work as part of Project 300.

Research with employers has also found that they want support to help them employ more disabled people.

In 2016 the LEAD Toolkit was launched which is a guide on best practice and policies for employing disabled people.

The LEAD Toolkit is part of a raft of initiatives to assist the State Services to create an inclusive and welcoming work environment for disabled people.

Under the LEAD programme, MSD has established a group of Champions across government agencies – both HR Managers and disabled employees – who meet regularly to share best practices and ideas.

We also have a Disability Confident campaign that is about showcasing the wide range of easily accessible and practical information to support employers to recruit and retain disabled employees.

The campaign aims to make employing disabled people less of a unknown for employers and aims to bring to their attention the range of government funded services and financial assistance available to support the employment and retention of disabled people.

We have worked actively with employer organisations such as the Chamber of Commerce and Business New Zealand to promote the Disability Confident Campaign.

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?

National’s answer:
The Government is committed to providing disabled people with more support so they can have greater independence and live better lives in their communities.

Budget 2017 invests an extra $205.4 million over four years to maintain and improve disability support services.

The sector will receive an extra $52.3 million in 2017/18, taking its total funding to $1.2 billion for the year. Around 32,000 New Zealanders and their families benefit from these services each year.

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?

National’s answer:

It’s important our disabled people have a strong voice and we make them feel valued and enable them to participate in their communities.

Getting more people into employment is a top priority for the Government. That’s why in 2016 we implemented EmployAbility, a new initiative designed to get disabled people and people with health conditions off benefit and into sustainable work.

Through the EmployAbility initiative, we’re working with local employers to empower them to be disability confident and to diversify their workforce.

Over the next three years $27.1 million will be invested in expanding the successful Enabling Good Lives (EGL) programme, an innovative principles-based approach that empowers disabled people with self-directed planning.

We have also increased spending to support children and young people with additional learning needs by around 33 per cent since 2008/9 to $630 million a year.

The funding is focussed on increasing the level of support to children at an earlier stage in their lives, when we know that we can have the greatest impact on improving their chances of educational achievement.

Funding for students with additional learning needs is dedicated to supporting children and young people with additional learning needs to attend their local school or Early Childhood Education (ECE) centre, access the curriculum, participate fully and achieve.

At the same time we’re providing tools and resources to support schools and teachers to include all learners in their classroom programmes.

Access – our first question

  1. Would your party commit to enacting a new dedicated access law?

National’s answer:

While the Government agrees with the principles of accessibility, legislation is a blunt tool for an issue that clearly requires cultural change as well as practical steps to improve accessibility.

Access – our second question

  1. If not (a dedicated access law), what would your party do instead to ensure the community is accessible to all?

National’s answer:
We believe there are plenty of resources to help businesses and individuals make their buildings more accessible.

The Barrier Free New Zealand Trust provides technical advice on accessibility of buildings. They have an informative accessibility helpline on access requirements.

There is also the Be.Accessible Business Toolkit for businesses and organisations. It contains a wealth of information, including quick tips, checklists, links to useful services and how to book a Be. Welcome Assessment.

Auckland Council’s design manual also has great information and examples on applying universal design in buildings and space.

Local government is aware of accessibility issues and proactively supports accessibility. The focus needs to go on the private sector and there is increased awareness in the sector that if you want to future-proof any building, making it fully accessible is an important first step.

Understanding and attitudes – our question

  1. What would your party do to improve the public’s understanding of disability and their attitudes towards disabled people?

National’s answer:
National is committed to providing disabled people with more support so they can have greater independence and live better lives in their communities.

Getting more people into employment is a top priority for the Government. That’s why in 2016 we implemented EmployAbility, a new initiative designed to get disabled people and people with health conditions off benefit and into sustainable work.

Through the EmployAbility initiative, we’re working with local employers to empower them to be disability confident and to diversify their workforce.

In recent years, there have been fundamental shifts in the way the world looks at disability. In New Zealand and internationally, there have been significant advances in thinking and practice.

The story of Robert Martin is an example of how far we have come in New Zealand. Robert has a learning disability and was institutionalised as a child. But he became an advocate for the Disability Sector locally and internationally. He now represents New Zealand and all of us on the UN Advisory Committee on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

Since the last New Zealand Disability Strategy was released, New Zealand has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and associated Optional Protocol.

The focus is increasingly on individualised support and greater choice and control for disabled people. Disabled people also want the opportunity to work and to make a positive contribution to society.

With this in mind we undertook two rounds of public consultation with disabled people, their whānau and disability organisations to see what was most important to them. Their views informed the development of a new Disability Strategy for New Zealand.

This was launched in December 2016, and will set the direction for government work on disability issues for the next 10 years.

We know there still needs to be more work done to change attitudes and we are keen to continue work through the Disability Confident campaign to help change negative public perceptions and attitudes towards disabled people.

Diversity – our first question

  1. What would your party do to make sure disability supports are culturally relevant for disabled people?

National’s answer:
The National-led Government has already introduced Pacifica and Maori disability strategies, which focuses on their specific needs.

We will continue the development of Enabling Good Lives, which gives disabled people more choice and control over their lives through the ability for flexible spending.

Enabling Good Lives will provide disabled people the ability to choose the services most appropriate for them. It is all about giving disabled people more choice, more control of their services and more opportunities to live a good life – just like any other New Zealander. That includes the most culturally relevant support for them.

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?

National’s answer:

We believe that connecting people with their culture, disabled and non-disabled alike, is not just a job for the government but also for our families and communities. We already provide funding support through the Ethnic Communities Development Fund, and through the work of the Office for Disability Issues, the Ministry for Pacific People, Te Puni Kōkiri, and the Office for Ethnic Communities.

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?

National’s answers:
It’s really important that every child is supported to attend the school of their choice and are supported to achieve their full potential.

New Zealand has a legally enforceable right for all students, including those with additional learning needs, to attend their local state school. This is contained in Sections 3 and 8 of the Education Act, 1989.

The introduction of these rights in 1989 has resulted in New Zealand having one of the most inclusive education systems in the world. Maintaining that inclusivity is hugely important.

But we are very aware that changes are needed in how learning support is delivered.

That’s why since February 2017 we have been testing a new model of support for children and their families. The pilot in three Communities of Learning in the Bay of Plenty / Waiariki is focussed on making learning support simpler to access, quicker and easier for all involved, most importantly for the children and their families.

Initial findings suggest the new model is resulting in a more proactive response to need; more flexible and responsive ways of using learning support resources within the Communities of Learning; and a level of engagement between early childhood services and schools on Learning Support that we have not seen before.

We have also increased spending to support children and young people with additional learning needs by around 33 per cent since 2008/9 to $630 million a year.

In Budget 2017, an additional $63 million in operating funding over the next four years was committed to support students with additional learning needs.

The funding is focussed on increasing the level of support to children at an earlier stage in their lives, when we know that we can have the greatest impact on improving their chances of educational achievement.

Funding for students with additional learning needs is dedicated to supporting children and young people with additional learning needs to attend their local school or Early Childhood Education (ECE) centre, access the curriculum, participate fully and achieve.

At the same time we’re providing tools and resources to support schools and teachers to include all learners in their classroom programmes.

Education is a powerful tool to change negative attitudes and perceptions. We believe our schools are a great place to drive new ideas and increase the understanding and acceptance of our diverse communities, including disabled people.

Housing – our question

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

National’s answer:
Housing New Zealand has 3682 properties that have been modified to cater the needs of tenants (as at March 2017). 2296 of these Housing New Zealand properties have wheelchair access.

All Housing New Zealand’s new builds incorporate what are known as “lifetime design principles”, such as lever taps and handles, and minimum door and hallway widths.

Housing New Zealand standards are holistic, focusing on warm, healthy, safe and fit-for-purpose housing, as well as accessible features. For example, additional fire design safety features are provided for customers with disabilities where appropriate.

Housing New Zealand also uses a range of housing standards developed to address the diverse needs of our customers, including specific design standards for ‘Housing for older persons’, ‘Accessible Housing’ and Community Group Housing (CGH), which is supported housing for people with disabilities.

Funding for disability modifications to properties (including Housing NZ properties) is largely provided by the Ministry of Health through its Equipment and Modification Service Providers (Enable NZ and Accessible).

Newly built properties are designed with features such as wide hallways and are made to be easily modified with additional features to suit the specific needs of people with disabilities.

In special cases, a property may be built to a specific customer’s very high needs based on an Occupational Therapist’s advice.

This year, the Government will spend $2.3 billion supporting 310,000 households with their accommodation.

Those seeking immediate shelter can access an emergency Special Needs Grant so they have a warm, safe place to stay while they search for more sustainable housing.

We have invested $354 million to help 8600 families every year with transitional housing. We’re helping 4000 families at the moment, with the remainder to be secured by the end of the year.

There are currently around 66,000 social houses across New Zealand. We are also planning to grow the number of social houses available, from 66,000 today to 72,000 over the next three years.

Child poverty – our question

  1. What would your party do to tackle child poverty amongst disabled children and their whānau?

National’s answer:
This Government is taking a number of steps to support children and young people, especially our most vulnerable, so they can lead healthy, safe and successful lives.

This includes Budget 2017’s $2 billion per year Family Incomes Package, which will lift families’ incomes by an average of $26 a week. It’s expected to lift 20,000 families above the threshold for severe housing stress and reduce the number of children living in families receiving less than half the median income by around 50,000.

This year’s Budget also invests $28.1 million to help expand Family Start, an intensive home visiting programme, that allows us to intervene early and target support to families whose children are at risk of poor education, health and social outcomes.

In Budget 2015 we included a $790 million Child Hardship Package to better support the 60,000 to 100,000 children experiencing severe hardship. This came into effect last year and raised benefits for the first time in 43 years and increased tax credits for lower income families.

We know that children whose parents are unemployed are more likely to end up on a benefit themselves, are more likely to be notified to CYF and are less likely to achieve NCEA Level 2. We’ve increased the amount of places for work-focused case management by 40,000, targeted at sole parent beneficiaries, to support them into work. There are now over 60,000 fewer children living in benefit-dependent households than there were in 2011, and the number of sole parents on a benefit is the lowest it’s been since 1988.

The Government is also committed to ensuring every child has access to a world-class education. We are making our biggest investment in education ever, now $11.6 billion, to make sure this can happen and that our children and young people are equipped with the skills and competencies they need to succeed to the best of their abilities.

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?

National’s answer:
Enabling Good Lives is a vision and a set of principles for transforming the cross-agency disability support system so that disabled people have greater choice and control over their supports and their lives.

The transformed disability support system is expected to:

  • Result in improved outcomes for disabled people and their families and whanau, and improved cost-effectiveness
  • Incorporate the EGL vision and principles which have been shown to improve the lives of disabled people
  • Build on the success of individualised funding
  • Be underpinned by a social investment approach that seeks to improve quality of life and the cost-effectiveness.

A social insurance approach for all disability support services – our question

  1. Would your party consider implementing a social insurance funding approach for all disability supports?

National’s answer:
Our government is very focused on the social investment approach. The Enabling Good Lives principles are our way of transforming the sector with a $5.3 billion annual spend on disabilities.

We believe we can provide flexible and tailored services that disabled people tell us they would like.

Disability Commission – our first question

  1. Will your party support the creation of an independent disability commission to manage all disability policy and disability support service funding?

National’s answer:
The Government takes a cross agency approach to disability issues. We believe it’s important to coordinate different public sector agencies and engage with external organisations.

This includes ministers dedicated to Health, Social Development, Housing and Disability issues, as well as independent entities such as the Ombudsman and Human Rights Commission. We believe they are doing a good job managing disability policy. At present, the Minister for Disability Issues is also the Associate Minister of Health responsible for Disability Support so that provides relevant linkages across portfolios.

Disability Commission – our second question

  1. If not, what would your party do instead to ensure disability policy and funding is well coordinated?

National’s answer:
The government currently spends an estimated $5.3 billion per year on direct and indirect disability support services. We are working hard towards giving people with disabilities more choice and control over their lives and more opportunities to live a good life with all New Zealanders.

The Prime Minister, Bill English, and the National-led government is committed to delivering a social investment approach to the sector and is focused integrating funding sources through programme such as Enabling Good Lives.

 

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