Election 2020

The Green Party’s response to our questions14 min read

18/9/20 10 min read


The Green Party’s response to our questions14 min read

Reading Time: 10 minutes

Kia ora koutou, during election campaigns, we send most of the political parties questions from a disability policy perspective. This campaign is no different. Here is the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand’s response to our questions. We will post the responses of other parties, if, and when, we get them. You can download the questions and these responses here.

Our Question: What would your party do to ensure accessible, affordable and universally designed housing is available?

The Green Party believes that everyone has the right to decent housing. The wellbeing of people, whānau, and communities starts with warm, dry, affordable homes. The Building Code is no longer fit for purpose. Cold, draughty houses with high heating costs should be a thing of the past. The Government’s “Building for Climate Change” programme takes the first step towards reducing carbon emissions from buildings. Next we need to reform the Building Code to require new builds to be accessible to people with disabilities, with minimum standards for different types of buildings. The Green Party will prioritise Building Code reform in the next term of Parliament, ensuring everyone has a place to live that meets their accessibility needs and supports their health.

Our Question: How will your party ensure home modifications are readily, freely, and quickly available so disabled people can move to take advantage of economic and educational opportunities?

The Green Party supports developing and implementing accessibility or disability legislation, regulations and standards, including reforming the Human Rights Act to remove carve outs from non-discrimination requirements for disabled people in employment.  The Green Party endorses the Accessibility Act framework proposed by the Access Alliance. The Green Party would revise the building code so that new houses and building premises are required to be accessible by design unless specifically exempted. By bringing accessibility support into the ACC framework, regardless of the cause of impairment, the Green Party will ensure that everyone has access to accessibility modifications that meet their needs in a timely manner.

Our question: What would your party do to tackle barriers to employment for disabled people?

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 to the changes above (see answer to question two), 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.

By bringing income support for work-impairing conditions into the ACC framework, we will also ensure that disabled people who are able to do part-time or casual work have adequate income top-ups to maintain a decent standard of living.

The Green Party also worked towards passing a Members Bill into law, the Election Access Fund Bill. This Bill establishes a fund, administered by the Electoral Commission, which may be used by any disabled candidate to cover disability-related costs of standing in a general election

Our question: What would your party do to ensure disabled people have adequate resources and that this support is easy to access?

The Green Party’s Poverty Action Plan proposes reforming ACC to become the Agency for Comprehensive Care, creating equitable social support for everyone with a work-impairing health condition or disability, with a minimum payment of 80% of the full-time minimum wage. The Green Party would ensure publicly funded buses and trains are accessible; and support people with disabilities to advocate for themselves, and fund advocacy services. This approach is outlined in detail here: https://www.greens.org.nz/poverty_action_plan.

Our question: How is your party planning to respond to the recommendations in the Welfare Expert Advisory Group final report Whakamana Tāngata Restoring Dignity to Social Security in New Zealand?

The Green Party welcomed the release of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group report Whakamana Tāngata: Restoring Dignity to Social Security in New Zealand. The Green Party campaigned to end benefit sanctions, to raise abatement thresholds and to increase incomes. We need to put the heart back into our social support system. This report creates a roadmap for our long term vision and sets out the goals we need to work towards.

Our question: What would your party do to tackle child poverty amongst disabled children and their whānau?

Everyone deserves a decent life. As we recover from COVID-19, a fairer social support system will empower people and communities to thrive. The Green Party’s Poverty Action Plan is a new, simple safety net to improve our communities long-term, so all people in New Zealand can live with dignity. The Green Party will establish a Guaranteed Minimum Income that ensures everyone has enough to live on, so they can look after their families and contribute to their communities. This will be funded by a more progressive approach to tax – including a new tax on net assets worth over $1 million, income taxes on very high salaries, and closing tax loopholes. Our plan will protect people’s standard of living when out of work, meet the extra costs of supporting children and acknowledge the value of caregiving, and ensure people with health conditions and disabilities can be fully involved in their communities. Everyone will benefit from the peace of mind of knowing that if they need it, support will be available.

Our question: What would your party do to ensure that the voices of disabled children and young people are heard?

Children and young people’s rights, needs, and interests must be prioritised at all levels of political and government planning and policy-making. Children have valuable perspectives, so they should be supported in their own initiatives and encouraged to participate in decisions affecting them to the extent that they are able. The Green Party believes in meaningfully engagement in the decision-making processes of the service providers that disabled children and young people use so that their voices are heard. The Green Party secured legislative amendments to the Education and Training Bill to ensure better rules for school teachers and staff, so they can de-escalate children with diverse needs and cognitive differences rather than using unnecessary and often traumatising force.

Our question: What would your party do to ensure greater inclusion for disabled children and young people in sporting, arts & recreational activities?

Everyone should have access to a range of recreational and sporting opportunities, to promote healthy lifestyles and community involvement. To increase participation in recreational and sporting activities the Green Party will support facilities that are accessible and have programmes specifically for disabled participants. School camps are also a key part of the curriculum and something that many kids appreciate and enjoy. Children with high and moderate learning support needs have often been excluded from camps due to funding pressures and attitudinal barriers to their full participation. The Green Party will create a $5 million annual School Camps Fund to provide financial assistance to include all students in school camps. This will help pay for the support staff, equipment, and infrastructure required to make sure that school camps are more accessible.

Our question: Would your party commit to enacting a new dedicated access law?

The Green Party strongly supports the call by the Access Alliance for mandatory enforceable accessibility legislation. There has also been a focus on central Government funding footpath maintenance so that it is also safer to walk around and to invest more funding onto public transport so that it is easier to get around cities.

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

The Green Party recognises that the real obstacle to full participation in society by people with impairments is the physical, environmental, social and organisational barriers, poorly informed attitudes, and inadequate support services. The Green Party agrees that we need to support and fund awareness projects to raise public awareness of disability issues and support community based action to promote respect and equity for disabled children and adults.

Our question: How will your party eliminate ethnic inequalities in disability supports?

We know that disability support must be that responsive, flexible and culturally appropriate. That means acknowledging the inequities in our health and disability system and making sure support is fair and takes into account these inequalities. The Crown must provide particular support for hauora Māori, the needs and preferences of Māori whānau must be recognised and respected in the development and delivery of health and disability services.

At a minimum, this should include making sure Disability Allowance and the Ministry of Health’s Disability Support Services are being distributed fairly. We will prioritise those population groups with the lowest health status, including Māori, Pasifika, refugee and migrant communities to ensure equal disability outcomes for all.

Our question: What would your party do to ensure disabled children can attend and be included in their local school and early childhood centre as of right?

The Green Party is passionate about fostering inclusive education that means everyone’s learning needs are being catered to and that every child can be included at their local school. The Green Party will work towards ensuring that New Zealand’s obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child are met. The Green Party recognises that all children benefit from low teacher-student ratios, and that this is particularly crucial for enabling inclusive education. The Green Party will also increase funding for teacher aides, building off the pay equity settlement, and ensuring that all teacher aides are centrally funded at high enough levels for all children who need a teacher aide to be able to receive this support.

Our question: How will your party ensure disabled school leavers are supported to transition to employment and further education?

As the first step of transitioning to a guaranteed minimum income, the Green Party will establish a universal student allowance, recognising that financial barriers to further education are particularly significant for disabled school levers. As noted above we support the Accessibility Act and will work to ensure all tertiary education providers meet accessibility requirements. The Green Party acknowledges that some disabled school leavers require additional pastoral care as part of tertiary study and will ensure this is provided for, including through updating the Education (Pastoral Care of Domestic Tertiary Students) Code of Practice as part of the 2021 review.

Our question: What would your party do to ensure disabled people have access to the support they need to have high mental wellbeing?

The roll-out of the free youth mental health Piki programme throughout the Wellington Capital and Coast DHB areas is a massive step towards delivering accessible mental health and wellbeing services for our country’s young people and those with disabilities. We would like to rapidly expand this programme so there is free counselling and access to mental health support for young people, and eventually adults as well, throughout Aotearoa, taking into account the wellbeing and accessibility needs of those with disabilities.   

Our question: What would your party do to ensure funding for disability support meets demand and is adequate?

The Health and Disability System Review Panel begins the work of identifying how we can build a disability support service system which gives disabled people and their families’ choice, control and culturally appropriate support. Part of the review considers funding models for disability support services given the unsustainability and inflexibility in the current service funding. The Green Party would like to build on this work and explore the recommendations made, including boosting and devolving funding to DHBs so that it can be managed with Tier 1 services.

Our question: Would your party consider implementing a social insurance funding approach for all disability supports?

The Green Party will reform ACC into an Agency for Comprehensive Care so that it covers income support and work-accessibility support for everyone with a health condition or disability, regardless of cause. The current approach to main benefits does not recognise that people with health conditions and disabilities will often need significant income support in the long-term. As well as the small number who cannot work at all, this includes people who are able to do some paid work on a casual or part-time basis while managing their health needs. By removing barriers to ACC and making support more accessible and less conditional, we can ensure those with disabilities have comprehensive and equitable social insurance that is at least 80% of the full-time minimum wage.

Our question: How would your party ensure that people whose disabilities are non-accident related receive the same amount of support as those whose disabilities are accident-related and receive ACC support?

This is part of The Green Party’s Poverty Action Plan which will simplify our welfare and ACC systems and bring those with disabilities into the ACC system, regardless of cause. Our current system creates significant disparities within Aotearoa for people with the same impairment due to different causes. Fixing these unjust systems is a priority for The Green Party this election.

Our question: What will your party do to ensure disabled people are not more likely to be a victim of violent crime than non-disabled people?

We are aware of the statistics that state that disabled people aged 15-44 were 4.2 times more likely to have been a victim of violent crime in the last 12 months than non-disabled people the same age. The Green Party is aware that we need to address the underlying causes of offending, and focus on rehabilitating offenders. Fixing the justice system requires better housing, inclusive education, and mental health and addiction treatments.

Our question: How will your party improve the ability of the justice system to meet the needs of disabled people, especially those with a learning disability?

The Green Party supports the provision of comprehensive legal information, through the internet, libraries and other community agencies; and advocate for the use of plain language in court procedures to ensure they are accessible and understandable to participants. We support resourcing Community Law Centres so they can better meet clients’ needs, and restore mandate to act in individual cases and conduct justice sector advocacy.

Our question: What would your party do to ensure disabled people who are victims of violent crimes receive the same access to support as non-disabled victims?

Justice for the victims of crime is as important as justice to offenders. The Green Party would create an independent Victims Commissioner to give a formal voice to victims in the justice system and ensure support services are resourced to provide specialised support for victims of intimate partner violence and sexual violence

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

The Green Party believes a Disability Commission should be established to provide the leadership needed to ensure that disability services and other services used by disabled people become more responsive, flexible and empowering. The Commission would work with key sector leaders and families to, oversee and monitor the implementation of the Enabling Good Lives strategy, and provide advice to the Minister.

Our question: How will your party ensure disability supports continue during emergencies?

Through the Covid-19 crisis, Kiwis have been compassionate. We look out for one another and New Zealanders deserve world-class public health services. Nearly one in four people in Aotearoa lives with a disability, and many more of us have a whānau member or close friend who does. For example, we are aware that a majority of district health boards (DHBs) around the country don’t provide 24/7 access to sign language interpreters, which puts deaf people at significant risk in medical emergencies. We need clear and enforceable legislation to ensure access for disabled New Zealanders to crucial services. The Enabling Good Lives principles underpin a new model being rolled out across the country, centred on giving disabled people and whānau choice and control about the services they use.  The Green Party is committed to an Aotearoa in which all people with impairments can access their full rights at all times.

Our question: How will your party ensure the needs of disabled people are prioritised during emergencies?

We support District Health Boards implementing a disability ‘Plan of Action’ in accordance with Article 25 ‘Health’ of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. All District Health Boards DHBs should work with Disability Peoples Organisations to develop, implement and report to the Plan of Action.