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Disability support New Zealand: What do the changes mean?

Disability support in New Zealand is changing. From October 1st 2018, a prototype for a system known as Mana Whaikaha has been in operation in the MidCentral region of North Island, one which aims to give disabled people and their whānau greater control over their lives, and the support available to them.

However, if you’re used to life under the old system, you may be wondering why this shift is taking place. We understand that being informed is crucial, so this article will look at what Mana Whaikaha hopes to achieve, and how it hopes to improve the lives of disabled people across the country.

Where did Mana Whaikaha come from?

The principles on which the new system is based were developed over an 18 month period by a group consisting of disabled people, their whānau and professionals working in the disability sector.

The changes stem for calls for improvement from within the disabled community.

They were reacting to long-standing calls for change from within the disabled community of New Zealand. These calls were rooted in a feeling that the old system wasn’t providing the person directed style of support that it should be, for the following reasons:

  • Worse life outcomes: Disabled people in New Zealand still have worse prospects than many other groups in areas including employment and education.
  • A one size fits all approach: The current system doesn’t work towards supporting individual needs and desires, but rather tries to help all people in the same way.
  • The system works for the system: Aspects of the old system were convenient from an administration point of view, but didn’t always serve the best interests of disabled people and their whānau.
  • Fragmented support: Access to funding, and other support mechanisms, were fragmented across different government departments.
  • Increasing costs: The cost of providing support is still increasing.

What are the objectives of Mana Whaikaha?

There are four main objectives behind the new system for disability support, based on the principles of Enabling Good Lives. They are:

  • Giving disabled people and their whānau greater flexibility with their support options.
  • Providing disabled people and their whānau with increased decision making capabilities when choosing support, and over their lives in general.
  • Improving results for disabled people and their whānau.
  • Making the support system more cost-effective.

These points can be boiled down to two essential concepts. The new system aims to:

  1. Put individual disabled people and their whānau in control of their lives, and
  2. To give them the tools they need to get where they want to go.

How is Mana Whaikaha going to work?

Perhaps the single biggest change is that disabled people and their whānau will have much more control over support funding. The idea is to provide easy access to funding, and there’s more flexibility over what can be purchased with that funding.

The new system aims to put individual disabled people and their whānau in control of their lives.

Of course, any change that puts more choice into the hands of individuals can only be seen as a positive – ultimately only you know what you want to achieve, and how support can be geared to enable you to achieve it. However, some may be wondering exactly how to go about navigating the new options open to them, and this is where Connectors, come in.

Who are Connectors?

Under Mana Whaikaha Connectors can be seen as allies for disabled people and whānau, offering advice and presenting information on what’s available to you.

As individuality is such a core concept of the new system, you can work with your Connector in a number of ways. A few examples could include:

  • Learning what’s important to you, and helping you fulfill your goals.
  • Looking to the future, and devising strategies for big life transitions such as starting a new job or moving house.
  • Helping you to plan your support budget, and apply for funding.
  • Providing information on community-based opportunities that will help you develop skills.

There are a number options when choosing your Connector. However, if you want someone independent from the Mana Whaikaha system, CCS Disability Action provides a Connector Service. This is free of charge, and can help you find your feet in the new system, as well as benefit from the expert guidance of an organisation with over 80 years of experience working within New Zealand’s disability sector.

Why does your feedback matter?

It’s crucial to remember that this system is designed to be an improvement on the old one, not just an alternative. For this reason it has been designed to be more accountable to you.

Disabled people and their whānau play an integral role in overseeing Mana Whaikaha and providing feedback to Ministers as to how well it’s working, and what could be changed to make it better. The current prototype is operating on a ‘try, learn and adjust’ basis. This means that eligible people have the opportunity to engage with it, and give their thoughts, with the overall aim being to finalise the system and expand it beyond the MidCentral region by the end of 2020.

If you’re looking for more information on the new system for disability support in New Zealand, or are interested in meeting one of CCS Disability Action’s Connectors to talk about how they can help you, get in touch with our team today.