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Back to the future

19/9/14 · Posted in CCS Disability Action, Children

Last week, we looked at the drop in the number of Child Disability Allowances being granted.  This week, we promised to look at the purpose of the Child Disability Allowance. To do that we need to go back in time.

Delorean Time Machine from the Movie Back to the Future

In the 1970’s, there was increasing concern about the segregation, and virtual imprisonment, of some disabled people in institutions. As a result, in 1975, the Labour Government introduced the Disabled Persons Community Welfare Act.

The Act provided a framework to provide support to disabled people and their families in the community. It would eventually cover a wide range of areas, such as respite services, access to public buildings and funding for equipment and housing modifications. Although a Labour Government introduced the Act, it would be expanded by the following National Government.

The Disability Allowance was also introduced in 1975 . The Disability Allowance was up to $8 dollars a week (Would be worth about $69 dollars today) and could be used to pay for disability related costs. The Allowance is income tested and applies to all ages.

Three years later, the National Government introduced the Child Disability Allowance. The Child Disability Allowance was paid to parents of children with ‘serious’ physical or mental disabilities. The Child Disability Allowance was $8 dollars a week, but unlike the Disability Allowance, it is not income tested.

The reason the Child Disability Allowance is not income tested is because the National Party in the 1970’s supported universal assistance, while the Labour Party supported targeted assistance. The general family benefit of the time was also universal.

The Child Disability Allowance is an attempt to address the additional challenges and stress that some families with disabled children face. Unlike the Disability Allowance or respite services, the Child Disability Allowance does not directly address any specific issue.

The Disability Allowance pays for disability related costs. Respite services give carers a short break. The Child Disability Allowance is just a general payment. According to the Ministry of Social Development, it is a payment to recognise the extra care and attention needed for that child. This is a very vague purpose.

Unfortunately, because the purpose is vague, it is hard to assess what the payment rate should be or who should qualify for it. The Ministry of Social Development has a lot of leeway to interpret the legislation how it sees fit.  This is why the Ministry of Social Development was able to reduce the amount of Child Disability Allowances being granted by simple administrative changes.

What can we do? We need to give the Child Disability Allowance a clear purpose. This sounds like a good challenge, one we can start to tackle next week.

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