Media Release: Health and Disability System Review Report fails disabled people

Recommendations in the Health and Disability System Review Final Report released this week will fail to improve outcomes for disabled people, the Disabled Persons Assembly NZ (DPA) says.

“The Health and Disability Review Final Report shows that this review was – as we feared – a health review with disability tacked on,” DPA National President Gerri Pomeroy says.

“For a long time disabled people have been saying that Disability Support should never have been lumped together with “health” and this review simply leaves us feeling this more than ever.”

DPA is calling for a separate authority to deliver disability services. An authority that will be staffed with people who have the expertise and commitment to be able to make the changes needed to enable disabled people to live good lives.

The review’s suggestion that disability support might be devolved to DHBs is of huge concern. Disability is not a health issue and this suggestion is contrary to calls from disabled people and their whanau over the last decade.

This review has obviously put a huge amount of thought into the major changes needed for our health system. However, the urgent need to transform disability support is conspicuous in its absence.

“This was a chance to completely overhaul the disability support system, in the same way that the report is suggesting overhauling the health system. Instead the urgent need to transform disability support is conspicuous in its absence,” Pomeroy says.

“Disabled people have put a significant amount of time, effort and expertise into designing a transformed disability support system. Trials of a transformed system, ‘Enabling Good Lives’, have been running for years now in Waikato, Christchurch and the MidCentral area.

“When this review was not even going to consider trials of a transformed disability support system, how could it ever begin to properly look at the changes needed to disability support?” Pomeroy says.

“Furthermore, as neither the Expert Panel nor the Maori Expert Advisory Panel included a single disabled person or disability expert, it is unsurprising how lacking in focus on disability the review is, and that the need for disabled leadership is unconsidered.

The report acknowledges, “leadership capability is inextricably linked to the design, functioning, purpose and culture of a system and the organisations within it,” yet the design proposed by this report creates no space for disabled leadership – for example, there is no suggestion of a requirement for disabled representation on either the Health NZ Board, or DHB Boards. There is no acknowledgement of the need for disabled people in any form of governance within the system – including within disability support services.

Since 2008, considerable work has been done by disabled people, their whanau and others to design and trial an enabling and effective disability system. This extensive body of work is not evident in the recommendations, specific to disability, contained in this report.

“This report acknowledges that the current system does not deliver for disabled people, yet has clearly not heard what disabled people have been saying for many, many years,” Pomeroy says. “Never has the need for a separate disability authority with clear disabled leadership been more apparent.”