DPA Bites September 2010
Ross Brereton, DPA CEO, asks whether the current flood of policy initiatives is really benefiting disabled people:
There seems to be a flood of government disability related policy initiatives happening at present. But are we as disabled people primary partners in the design and monitoring of all this policy development? Will all these policy plans make a real difference to our lives and deliver a fully inclusive society? DPA along with other disabled people’s organisations is doing our utmost to ensure the collective voice of disabled people is being heard both nationally and regionally. Our regions are holding issue-based forums. This is great to see.
Here is a snapshot of some of the major policy initiatives and activities under way at present (‘Articles’ refer to Articles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities - the ‘Disability Convention’):
- The Office for Disability Issues is responsible for preparing the government’s initial report on the Disability Convention to the United Nations (refer to Article 33(1)). The Convention Coalition (DPA is a member), The Human Rights Commission and the Ombudsmen’s Office are preparing independent reports (refer to Article 33(2) and (3)). These reporting responsibilities will be discussed at DPA’s 2010 Conference, 5-7 November in Invercargill. (The Conference Programme is available on DPA’s website: www.dpa.org.nz)
- The outcomes of the government’s Special Education Review will be known shortly. DPA facilitated a joint submission for the Review. The submission is available on DPA’s website
- The government’s Welfare Working Group will be presenting an options paper in October. The paper will likely focus on how New Zealand can reduce long-term benefit dependency and on work capacity requirements. Disabled people are encouraged to make their voices known to the Welfare Working Group.
- The Ministry of Social Development will be responsible for developing a public awareness disability campaign aimed at improving public attitudes and behaviours.
- The Ministerial Committee on Disability Issues, chaired by The Minister for Disability Issues, Hon. Tariana Turia, will soon be considering a ‘whole of government’ action plan on disability issues.
- The Ministry of Health has embarked on a number of disability support services projects including:
- Developing and implementing a new model for supporting disabled people. One feature of this model is to make individualised funding more available to disabled people, providing more choice and control over the support services we wish to purchase.
- Reviewing Residential Services including investigating options of how disabled people and their families can have more choice and control over the services we use.
While DPA’s involvement in all these initiatives is most important we must also be proactive in facilitating a collective voice.
This month DPA will be hosting a meeting of disability organisations on disabled people in employment. The lack of employment is a major barrier to disabled people’s participation in New Zealand society. We need to work together and with the government to address this major issue.
DPA’s National Executive Committee has recently signed off on a new strategic plan, available on the DPA website.
DPA’s commissioned research into the value of disabled people’s contribution to the community is in its final stages. The research is producing exciting evidence that disabled people contribute substantially to our communities. We hope to launch the research report publicly in October.
The articles in Bites provide insight into the range of activities in which DPA is involved. Your continued membership and support of DPA is most appreciated.
As this edition of Bites goes to print our hearts and minds go out to our Christchurch DPA members and their families for what they have had to endure over the past few days due to the earthquake and persistent aftershocks. Some disabled people have had to be evacuated from their homes and this of course must be so distressing. This is a time to support each other, to take time to contact friends and neighbours, particularly those people who live alone.
NEC meeting 13-14 August
Here are the key points from August’s DPA National Executive Committee meeting in Wellington:
- A useful paper, titled ‘Assistance for people with learning (intellectual) disability to enable meaningful participation’, has been produced by People First (www.peoplefirst.org.nz)
- The draft DPA Strategic Plan for 2010-2012 was adopted ‘as is’, with the addition of developing a youth strategy. The plan will be made available to regions with some suggestions for how regions can implement the strategy.
- A simple Info Card has been developed to explain DPA and to help build DPA’s profile and membership. The card will be distributed to Regions.
- The NEC discussed concerns over the present status of our DPA regions in maintaining membership and a collective voice and also the size and structure of the NEC. A project group will be established to look at the governance structure of DPA both nationally and regionally.
- The New Zealand Disability Clothesline Project is about highlighting the incidence of abuse and violence against disabled people. Disabled people can tell their stories. Go to: www.disabilityclothesline.org.nz
- Since there are no remits to be presented at the DPA Conference in November, there should be plenty of time for open forum discussions on the Sunday, 7 November.
- A part-time contractor will be employed to investigate alternative funding streams for DPA.
- Members of the NEC met with representatives of Barrier Free NZ Trust to discuss the Memorandum of Understanding between our two organisations.
- Regions are encouraged to host forums and invite council and DHB election candidates, to utilise the updated version of the Inclusive Communities document (see article below).
- DPA’s National Policy Researcher Wendi Wicks presented her Policy and Projects update. Here is a summary:
- The Convention Coalition’s monitoring project reported on in the June edition of Bites has been progressing, despite several hurdles needing to be overcome, including difficulties finding enough NZ Sign Language interpreters and around Budget 2010 funding. Marcia Rioux, co-founder of Disabled Rights Promotion International (DRPI) conducted an intense training seminar in Wellington on 20-25 May for 24 monitors with a range of impairments from around New Zealand. The monitors returned to the four pre-selected sites to begin interviewing disabled people about their lives, and this work continued through to the beginning of August, by which time around 100 interviews had been completed. All the people involved in the project are disabled, with the exception of our excellent data analyst. Wendi said: “It shows that disabled people are, despite the roadblocks, well capable of running projects about themselves, and doing a good job.” A draft report on the project is being prepared. Our monitoring project will finish pretty much on time and the government says they will be interested in our findings, as delivery of their official report to the UN has been delayed from October to March next year.
- Work is continuing on OurChallenge.net, the Convention-focused website, and the project team hope to launch the website at the DPA Conference in November.
- A draft report is expected shortly on the Lottery Welfare Research project. The research team included a disabled person.
- The Disability Coalition held a very positive meeting with Disability Minister Hon. Tariana Turia and the Ministry of Health appears to be keen to engage with the Coalition again.
- DPA wrote a submission on the Social Assistance (Future Focus) Bill and presented an oral submission to the Social Services Select Committee on 26 May. We did not support the Bill, because the proposed welfare changes would impact negatively on disabled people and we know most of the submissions also opposed it. However, the report back from the Committee made only a few minor changes to the Bill.
- The government’s Welfare Working Group held a forum in Wellington on 8 and 9 June and released an issues paper (titled ‘Long-Term Benefit Dependency: The Issues’) on 9 August. The paper has been sent out on the DPA network and is available online in PDF and Word versions (go to: http://ips.ac.nz/WelfareWorkingGroup/Index.htm). Submissions closed 17 September.
- The Alternative Welfare Working Group comprises people who are very concerned by the ideas on the welfare system being aired by the government’s group, and who believe these ideas would be harmful to disabled people and other groups on the margins of society. In parallel with the ‘official’ group, this alternative group will talk with people, hold public meetings and write a report. The members of the alternative group are: Mike O’Brien (chair), Bishop Muru Walters, Sue Bradford, Wendi Wicks, Mamari Stevens, Paul Dalziel. The group has a website (www.welfarejustice.org.nz) and a Facebook page.
New edition of Inclusive Communities
During July and August, National Secretariat staff and DPA members collaborated to produce a new version of the Inclusive Communities document with funding support from the Office for Disability Issues. We were working to a tight timeframe, as we needed the document to be read by people standing for council and district health board elections, and ballots closed at the end of August.
It was a real achievement to be able to update and re-print this important guideline on time – it was sent to DPA Regional Assemblies in mid September and the government’s election office agreed to email the document to all candidates standing for election. So there will be no excuses for councillors and health board members not knowing about our rights and the Disability Convention.
The previous iteration of Inclusive Communities in 2007 was subtitled ‘Guidelines about Disability for Territorial Authorities and District Health Boards’, whereas the new version is subheaded ‘What New Zealand local authorities and district health boards need to know about the rights of disabled people’. This difference reflects a definite change in emphasis away from a “please consult with us” attitude to one which says, “we must be at the centre of decision making about our lives”. This is the language of the Disability Convention, and of course our own “Nothing about us, without us” rallying cry.
Along with copies of Inclusive Communities, DPA Regions and members have also received a list of suggestions for issues to discuss with election candidates, to focus their minds on our rights outlined in Inclusive Communities, and to remind them we expect to participate in decision making affecting our lives and we will be closely observing how local government - councils and DHBs - set about implementing the Disability Convention.
Disability Coalition Against Violence
DPA member Ruth Jones wrote the following article for Bites:
Two and a half years ago the domestic violence sector and more specifically the National Network for Stopping Violence Services NNSVS were made aware that disabled people as a group were ignored. After several meetings between NNSVS, DPA and other member groups in the disability community the Disability Coalition Against Violence (DCAV) was established.
The membership of DCAV has grown over time and now includes organisations like Age Concern New Zealand, the Homeworks Trust, People First NZ, CCS Disability Action and Women’s Refuge, as well as DPA. The partnership between the domestic violence sector and disabled people continues to grow in strength. DCAV is committed to working with the government to eliminate violence against disabled people in New Zealand.
DCAV established initiatives like the Disability Clothesline (www.disabilityclothesline.org.nz) and has presented at conferences in both the disability and domestic violence sectors. This year we have been working alongside the Taskforce for Action on Violence within Families to heighten its awareness and response.
The Taskforce has funded a DCAV policy position for the last six months and as part of the contract we prepared a report and then presented at the August Taskforce meeting about the impact of domestic violence on disabled people and what needs to be done about it. The recommendations focused on reviewing the Domestic Violence Act 1995 so it protects disabled people, awareness raising, education, research, quality services and including the disabled voice in decision making about policy, planning, projects and programmes.
The Taskforce response has been positive. Initial meetings have occurred, but it is ‘early days’. The issues are systemic and DCAV is now playing the ‘dance inevitable’ when we work with officials and structures. However, Hon. Tariana Turia, Minister for Disability Issues and responsible for the Taskforce, remains committed to progressing the same issues we do. DCAV knows for disabled people to be safe we need to be valued citizens with our human rights recognised on the same basis as other New Zealanders.
Reminder: DPA Annual General Meeting and Conference 2010
Don’t forget, the 2010 AGM together with the two-yearly Conference will be held in Invercargill from Friday 5 November to Sunday 7 November 2010. The venue for this event is Ascot Park Hotel, Corner Tay Street and Racecourse Road, Invercargill.
The theme is: ‘Implementing the Disability Convention’.
The Conference is about turning the rhetoric of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities into reality.
For further information visit www.dpa.org.nz or contact the DPA National Secretariat.
Poem, by Ally Bryan
My soul in a body that will not walk,
My mind in a face that will not talk.
No matter how hard I try, you do not hear,
And I need you so much to calm my fear.
I have so much to offer, so much to say,
But I cannot communicate in the usual way.
Look into my eyes and watch my hands,
Only then will you begin to understand.
My wheelchair is the barrier that you see,
You towering over me is the barrier to me.
We can be friends, we can speak freely,
As soon as you change the way your perceive me.