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2014 Election Green Party’s response

We have 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.

Question:
What action will you take to address these barriers and lower unemployment amongst disabled people, especially for Maori and Pasifika as well as disabled women?

The Green Party supports the right of disabled people to get paid work and to have jobs.

We recognise that there are many barriers in society that affect access to employment for disabled people, for example if a workplace is inaccessible then people in wheelchairs are automatically be excluded from gaining a job there.

We are committed to removing these barriers and ensuring equal access for disabled people in all areas, including access to buildings, transport and information as these will also remove barriers to employment.

In addition we will increase support for disabled people to ensure that every disabled person who wants to work can.

This will include increasing financial assistance to employers of disabled people to cover the cost of adapting the workplace and also any extra equipment and ongoing personal support such as NZSL interpreters and notetakers that may be needed.

The Green Party will also explore other ways of supporting people who have disabilities that affect their ability to work into paid work, such as extending the employer top up scheme, expanding the range of employment support services to disabled workers and ensuring that the public sector takes a leadership role in employing disabled people. .

The Greens support positive education of all citizens and employers to reduce discrimination against disabled people, and in particular disabled Maori, Pasifika and women, in the work place.

Question:
What action will you take to ensure disabled people receive adequate financial support?

The Green Party has consistently raised concerns about the poor levels of financial support, inadequate support into work with fair pay and the way that the current system does not trust people to define their own needs or abilities.

We are very worried that the current income support system is causing harm to some disabled people. We believe benefits need to be set at a level that will cover all basic and specific disability needs and we will review the sickness and impairment related assessment and appeal system to ensure this as well as respect for all people.

We will also protect income support levels to ensure that the main benefits cannot fall below a fixed percentage of the average wage and ensure that supplementary assistance payments keep pace with the cost of living.

The Green Party proposes to enhance Working for Families by making what is currently the In Work Tax Credit available to all low income families with children. This will improve the financial situation of families reliant on benefits by at least $60 a week.

The Greens will review the Child Disability Allowance with a view to increasing the levels in acknowledgment of the extra financial needs that parents and caregivers have when raising a child with special needs.

The Greens will also reinstate Training Incentive Allowance for degree-level courses

Question:
What action will you take to increase the publicly available data on disabled people?

The NZ Disability Survey is conducted following each Census, which is normally once every five years. The Greens believe that it would be desirable to conduct it more frequently, and this would be a relatively inexpensive exercise, given that it surveys only a sample rather than gathers comprehensive data about all people in New Zealand. With the rapidly changing demographics resulting from migration, differing birth rates between different ethnicities, and an ageing population, this would provide more up to date information regarding disabled people.

The Greens will also establish a Disability Issues Commission. One of the functions of the Commission will be to undertake research and gather data about disabled people with view to ensuring disability services become more responsive, flexible and empowering.

Question:
What will your party do to strengthen human right protection?

The Green Party is committed to implementing the recommendations of United Nations Convention on the Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities and will sign the optional protocol to the Convention.
The Greens will make it unlawful to discriminate against people living with disabilities with regard to employment, the provision of goods, facilities and services, including education; along the lines of the United Kingdom’s Disability Discrimination Act.

Question:
How will your party unite the different initiatives, drive progress and demonstrate a clear overall vision?

The Green Party will establish a Disability Issues Commission to provide the leadership needed to ensure that disability services become more coordinated, responsive, flexible and empowering.

The Commission will work with key sector leaders and families to develop a national strategy, oversee and monitor its implementation, and provide advice to the Minister for Disability Issues.

Question:
How will your party ensure disability services are culturally appropriate and reach those with the highest level of need?

The Green Party is strongly committed to protecting and improving the standard of living and quality of care for older New Zealanders living in aged residential care, and ensuring that all residents are treated with dignity and respect. Our investigation in 2010 into the aged residential sector found that the quality of care is variable in the sector and that many residential facilities are short staffed.

Specifically, we support automatically indexing the residential care subsidy rate to CPI, and we believe there is merit in establishing an acuity index, to measure and enable funding to respond to annual increases in care needs.

The Green Party opposes asset testing for aged residential care as discriminatory on the basis of both age and disability.

Under the oversight of the proposed Disabilities Issues Commission, the Greens will implement greater co-ordination between social, health, and housing agencies and introduce measures to support older people with disabilities so that they can maintain their lifestyle in their own homes, or remain in their communities in nearby housing that is more suited to their needs.

Although some Māori–based services are now available, the majority of Maori have their needs met by mainstream services which do not necessarily meet their cultural needs. The Green Party will ensure tangata whenua can access culturally appropriate support, whether in Maori or mainstream services.

We will also, under the oversight of the proposed Disability Issues Commission, encourage and adequately fund the provision of services able to meet diverse cultural needs.

Question:
Will your party look into the creation of an independent disability commission to manage all disability policy and disability support service funding?

The Green Party has long supported the establishment of a Disability Issues Commission to ensure that disability services become more coordinated, responsive, flexible and empowering. The Commission will work with key sector leaders and families to develop a national strategy, oversee and monitor its implementation, and provide advice to the Minister for Disability Issues.

The Green Party envisages that the Commission will have an oversight role, but not necessarily a management role, with regard to all disability funding.

Question:
How will you ensure that disabled children can effectively attend and be included in their local school?

The Green Party will ensure disabled children have the absolute right to education in their local school and have the resources to support this, and that schools are accountable for the way they use disability funding.

The Greens will ensure education is accessible to all and well resourced, with flexible, alternative approaches available to meet the needs of disabled children. We will introduce needs based funding for children with disabilities and we will double the number receiving individual funding.

The Greens support the 2006 IHC Code for Schools and in Government will ensure that schools come under the New Zealand Disability Strategy implementation and reporting process.

We will also implement mandatory on-going training programmes about disability issues, needs and rights as part of teacher education.

Question:
Will your party commit to repealing Section 141 and 142 of the Children, Young Persons and their Families Act 1989?

The Green Party will ensure that our human rights legislation and practices are in accord with our international obligations with the aim of eliminating all forms of discrimination, including discrimination on the ground of disability.

The Greens propose to repeal or amend legislation that is inconsistent with these international obligations, including the repeal of section 141 and 142 of the Children, Young Persons and their Families Act 1989.

Question:
What action will you take to ensure the community is accessible to all?

The Green Party will in Government ensure, under the oversight of the Disabilities Issues Commission, implementation of measures that increase the access of people with disabilities to communities, including the provision of sign language interpreters, barrier free buildings, and plain language documents.

The Greens will ensure that transport and infrastructure investment and planning within urban areas is integrated with, and responsive to, the needs of people in cities and towns, including those of people with disabilities. We will create national targets for reducing car dependence and enhancing mobility within urban areas.
We will implement the recommendations of the 2005 Human Rights Commission Inquiry into Accessible Public Land Transport to enable disabled people to use public transport and ensure national standards for accessible public transport so that, for example, all buses have both a visual display and audio announcements.
We will review the building codes and standards for accessible buildings to ensure that all new buildings are accessible. We also support older buildings being required to upgrade disability access when undergoing earthquake strengthening work.

Question:
What action will you take to ensure accessible and affordable housing is available?

The Green Party will revise the building code so that new houses and buildings are required to be accessible by design unless specifically exempted. We will also ensure that a much greater proportion of social housing is accessible.

The Green Party will bring in a Warrant of Fitness scheme for rental housing. Rentals will be required to meet insulation, weather-tightness, and basic service standards.

We will also amend the Residential Tenancies Act to give tenants (including those with disabilities) greater security of tenure, and to protect tenants against exorbitant rent increases by ensuring tenancy agreements contain a formula for future rent increases.

The Green Party will establish a Progressive Home Ownership scheme, under which the Crown builds houses and eligible tenants are able to enter into an agreement with the Crown for their Progressive Ownership home. Initially, the Crown owns all the equity in the home. The tenant makes a basic weekly ‘rent’ payment to cover the Crown’s cost of capital and can then purchase equity in the home on top of that as their situation allows until they own the home outright. This will provide a route to home ownership for people on low incomes, including those whose incomes are limited by disability, who are locked out of owning their own home because they cannot access a mortgage.

Authorised by Mojo Mathers MP, Parliament Buildings, Wellington

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