Two-tier system queried

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Frank views expressed . . . Dunedin disability advocates meet with Minister for Disability Issues Carmel Sepuloni (standing, at centre) during her visit to the city last week. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD

A Dunedin disability advocate has challenged Minister for Disabilities Carmel Sepuloni to address funding inequality between people on ACC and those born with disabilities.

“Those on ACC are the rich disabled, and people born with disability are the poor disabled,” MS Society member Arralyn Ibbotson told a meeting between the minister and Dunedin Disabled Persons Assembly representatives last week.

“There are two levels of disability in this country.

“Why is there such discrimination?”

Ms Sepuloni said she was aware of the issue, which dated back to the establishment of the ACC scheme in 1974.

“When ACC was implemented, some things were put aside to address later, but that has not happened,” she said.

“We need to do more work around this.”

Dunedin disability advocates made the most of having the ear of Ms Sepuloni during Thursday’s visit, raising a broad range of issues – from accessible transport to education for deaf children.

Assembly kaituitui-liaison worker Chris Ford said the 21 people at the meeting had relished the chance to meet Ms Sepuloni, and were keen to discuss issues that affected the ability of disabled people to participate fully in society.

These included equitable access to employment, housing, transport and disability support, he said.

Representatives of the Otago Association of Deaf Children raised concerns about the educational support available for deaf children in Otago, and an autism advocate raised the need for accountability within organisations.

Ms Sepuloni told the gathering her office had recently been focused on the need to make progress towards meeting the requirements of the United Nations Convention on Disabled Persons across a range of areas, including education, data, housing, employment, accessibility, seclusion and restraint.

Housing was top-of-mind for many people at present, and accessibility was an important aspect of the planning process for the Government’s KiwiBuild scheme.

The Government was also looking closely at the education system, and the disabled community needed to “have input into what that needs to look like”, Ms Sepuloni said.

In answer to questions about barriers to mainstream employment for people with disabilities, Ms Sepuloni agreed it was vital to improve employment opportunities for disabled people.

“We have to find out how to work with them to hook them up with opportunities to be employed .. and for people to be better off.

“For the wellbeing of citizens, there has to be meaningful and sustainable employment.”

Mr Ford said it was important for the voices and perspectives of disabled people, such as those in the deaf community, to be heard.

“There are still many issues to be dealt with, but the willingness of this new Minister to listen will hopefully lead to action.”