Disability Election Event!7 min read
Our National Policy Analyst, Phoebe Eden-Mann, tuned into the recent Disability Election Event. Here is her take.
With the election looming and political forums and debates coming out of our ears, you may have missed the Disability Election Event. If you did, fear not, I’m here to give you the run down on what happened. It’s hard to condense a two hour forum into one blog article, so we are going to hit the highlight’s.
The forum was a joint event with IHC Advocacy, CCS Disability Action, Deaf Aotearoa, Disabled Persons Assembly NZ, NZ Disability Support Network, People First NZ. ‘Every policy is a disability policy’ was the overarching theme for the forum.
The politicians representing their parties on the panel were Brett Hudson from the National Party, Erika Harvey from the New Zealand First Party, Greg O’Connor from the Labour Party, Jan Logie from the Green Party and Simon Court from the ACT Party. Brett Hudson was a late replacement for National’s Alfred Ngaro.
Moderated by RNZ’s Susie Ferguson, the panel discussed five areas of focus; education, housing, employment, disability support services and accessibility.
As a disabled person myself, it was good to see disability issues getting the spotlight for once. Although, as pointed out, the lack of party leaders was disappointing. Disability is a very important topic and we need the senior leadership of parties to engage with it.
Susie Ferguson did a standout job as moderator, as did the enthusiastic man with the timer bell. Ferguson was quick to throw back thought provoking and relevant questions and made what could’ve been a very dry two hours a joy to watch.
Each candidate preselected three topics or issues that they felt most passionate about, and that would make the biggest difference for the disability community.
Each of the politicians had some connection and lived experience with disability (except for Brett Hudson) mostly as a close family member of someone with a disability; for example, Court’s son has Down’s Syndrome, O’Connor’s son has Autism and learning disabilities. I think this was crucial as in order to really implement effective and long-lasting positive change, one should have some idea about the challenges the disability sector and the community faces daily. Although, we still too often lack candidates who are disabled people themselves, not just family members.
The candidates are below in a random order.
The Labour’s Party Greg O’Connor spoke about education, employment, and support.
O’Connor brought a t-shirt that his son designed (it was a really snazzy t-shirt too), and talked about how we need to re-evaluate what success looks like. For his son, the design process for the T-Shirt meant that “he almost arrived in our world, or more importantly, we probably arrived in his”. I really liked this sentiment; the awareness that his world is just as important and valuable as anyone else’s. Any education system or policies needs to have access to supportive and inclusive education to ensure that they fulfil their potential and live life to the fullest. For his child, the t-shirt was a prime example on that.
Labour recognises the need to work with employers, supporting them to support disabled people into meaningful employment.
The Green Party’s Jan Logie spoke about accessible housing, welfare reform and accessibility in general
Jan has a fundamental belief that we all have the right to participate and be included. Her stepdaughter has learning difficulties and is an amazing young woman, but finding the right learning support has been a battle.
The Green’s see housing as a human right. Two main areas to focus on; Progressively increasing the number of new homes that are accessible within the Crown Home build programme; and changing the building code so that all houses are accessible by type; all one storey houses should all be accessible for example. The current 15% target on accessible Crown homes is according to Jan “appalling to be frank”. Having a home that’s accessible to live in is good, but if you are unable to enter or visit other people because of inaccessibility, then “we are just not meeting our human rights obligations”.
The Green Party is proposing to roll together the current Job Seeker and Supported Living benefits into one payment, and increasing it to $390 per week in the first year, and then progressively bringing that into ACC to remove the discrimination and inequity of support that we have for people who are disabled as a result of an accident, and those who have disabilities for other reasons.
The Green Party is campaigning for improved accessible public transport. They also believe that central government needs to take responsibility for the repair of footpaths, rather than leaving it for local government who often don’t prioritise that, which in turn limits people’s mobility.
The ACT Party’s Simon Court spoke about education, employment, and accessibility.
ACT’s policies are targeted to ensure that all people have access to the same opportunities. They would introduce a personalised student education account of $250,000 which would give people with different learning needs the right to choose the type of learning or education that suits them best.
Court also proposes reinstating charter schools, which is supported by the National party. They reason that charter schools would only increase the choice of education available which would ensure that disabled people are able to have their education needs met. He proposes cadetships and internships as a way of demonstrating to businesses that disabled people can be beneficial to their workplace. Funding would be directed to employers to support the training of disabled people.
ACT would also be reinstating 90 day trials as a way of boosting employment opportunities for disabled people.
Court discussed working with the construction and infrastructure sector to address accessibility issues. Professional bodies should be encouraged to adopt best practice when it comes to accessibility and access needs.
The New Zealand First Party’s Erika Harvey spoke about accessibility, support, and education.
Harvey talked about the one silver lining to the pandemic, was that everyone now has experience in what it’s like to have external barriers that stop them from participating in everyday life like they’d like to; giving most people a glimpse into the realities of many disabled people’s daily experiences. They are exploring a hotline for disabled people which would connect them directly with Parliament and politicians to ensure their voices are heard.
Harvey also spoke about support agencies and the need for provisional support plans. During lockdown many people went without their caregivers and supports that they rely on, which was a significant issue for many of us. PPE would be prioritised for those most in need, including support agencies and disabled people, as well as this, support workers and caregivers would be given priority Covid-19 testing alongside other high-risk groups.
Harvey talked about the final tranche of education support, which would include learning support coordinators nationwide, introducing health aides into classrooms which would support children and young people with high and complex needs. There would also be a focus on finalising and rolling out of early screening tools to pick up learning disabilities to ensure that early intervention and supports were put in place much sooner than they are now.
National Party’s Brett Hudson spoke about housing, employment, and accessibility.
Hudson was the stand-in for National’s disability spokesperson, Alfred Ngaro.
National believes that everyone should have the same opportunities, regardless of disability. They will undertake a review of all state housing, streamlining the process, to ensure that state housing is fit for all New Zealanders. They are committed to RMA reform which would ensure more houses were able to be built. Hudson discussed new targets with MSD housing to house priority A clients.
In terms of employment, National supports the accessibility tick programme, the business and disabilities network which is a disability confident programme which helps employers understand what disabled people can bring to their business. National is also supportive of reinstating the 90 day trial period as a way of boosting employment for disabled people.
Hudson and the National Party support the Disability Strategy and the implementation of that. They are aware that accessibility means many things and it’s easy to focus on one or two areas and miss the needs of a whole group of people. There is a desire for more disabled people to stand for public offices and have undertaken cross party work to explore how that would best be supported.
You can watch the recording of the event here
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