Progress in implementing the New Zealand Disability Strategy 2001
Government Department Reports
The following section is based on the self-reporting of the 10 key government agencies that drew up implementation work plans for 2001/2002, and covers the three months from 1 July to 30 September 2001.
Agencies achievements and initiatives are grouped under the 15 objectives of the strategy, and where relevant, may be repeated under a number of objectives.
The short timeframe for reporting and absence of a formal monitoring process means that this first report may not cover all initiatives and work in progress. This situation is expected to be remedied in future reports.
Objective 1: Encourage and educate for a non-disabling society
The launch of the strategy has been the catalyst for increased disability awareness by government agencies. Some progress has been made to build disability awareness into regular staff induction and training.
The Ministry of Healths national campaign, Like Minds, Like Mine, to counter discrimination against people experiencing mental illness, is a good example of how to raise awareness and change public attitudes. This campaign is to be funded for a further three years.
Efforts are also being made to increase numbers of Māori and Pacific peoples with disabilities on agency files of people available to be appointed to decision-making positions (Te Puni Kōkiri, Ministries of Pacific Island Affairs, Womens Affairs).
The Ministry of Education has a number of reference groups that advise on special education policy development and implementation. These groups include representation by people with disabilities.
Objective 2: Ensure rights for disabled people
Many projects related to the strategy have a human rights component.
The government made major decisions in the period under review on a new human rights framework for New Zealand. These decisions will have a major impact on the rights of people with disabilities.
As a result of these decisions, the Ministry of Justice is leading development of the Human Rights Amendment Bill, passed in December 2001. Central to this act is the removal of the exemption of government activities from the Human Rights Act, and the establishment of the Bill of Rights anti-discrimination standard for government activities (with the exception of employment-related discrimination, or racial or sexual harassment, for which the Human Rights Act standard will still apply).
The Ministry of Justice is also:
- advising on possible changes to the Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act 1998, which will improve safeguards for people giving enduring powers of attorney and later becoming mentally incapable of managing their affairs, and
- ensuring that polling places are physically accessible for the 2002 general election, so people with disabilities can more easily exercise their right to vote.
The Ministry of Education, in partnership with stakeholders, has developed two resources on rights and responsibilities for students with special needs one for parents and whānau, the other for school boards of trustees.
Objective 3: Provide the best education for disabled people
The Ministry of Education, supported by Specialist Education Services (SES), is responsible for most reported initiatives relating to this objective.
Amendments to the Education Act (October 2001) will enable the ministry to provide more active leadership to schools. The implementation of recently amended national administration guidelines  increases the requirements on all schools to identify and support students with special education needs.
The Ministry of Education is striving to ensure that young people with disabilities help to inform decisions about their education. This has been achieved by students contributing to the scoping phase of the research into integrated, effective practices to support children and young people with physical disabilities, and being given the opportunity to provide feedback on residential services at Homai National School for the Blind and Vision Impaired.
Preparations are being made to integrate SES and the Ministry of Education into a new, more responsive ministry, from 1 March 2002. This includes a staff training component on the New Zealand Disability Strategy as part of the transition planning.
From the end of February 2002, special education services currently provided by SES will be integrated into a new Special Education Group in the Ministry of Education. The group will work with local communities to establish a Learning Support Network to support children, parents, early intervention programmes, schools and specialist service providers.
The Learning Support Network will help provide a more coordinated service for children with special education needs. It will enable special education to be more responsive to local needs, while at the same time creating national consistency, leadership and a direct line of accountability to the government for fundholding and service provision.
A number of new initiatives were launched in October 2001. The Ministries of Health and Education have collaborated on two of these initiatives:
- improving support services for children with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), and
- funding a project to develop services for people who are deafblind the first government funding for these services.
Objective 4: Provide opportunities in employment and economic development for disabled people
Objective 6 (foster an aware and responsive public service) is closely linked with objective 4.  The launch of the Pathways to Inclusion document in September 2001, following a review of vocational services led by the Department of Labour, was the most significant employment-related achievement. The document signals a new direction for vocational services, aimed at achieving greater participation of people with disabilities in employment and in communities. The document contains vocational strategies, which fall under the New Zealand Disability Strategy. These vocational strategies, and the anticipated repeal of the Disabled Persons Employment Promotion Act 1960 (under which sheltered workshops receive a blanket exemption from minimum wage and holidays legislation) will occur within five years.
Reports from other agencies indicate efforts to improve:
- internal Equal Employment Opportunities (EEO) processes, employment support and monitoring related to people with disabilities (Te Puni Kōkiri; Ministries of Social Development, Justice, Health, Transport, Womens Affairs),
- transitions for young people with disabilities moving from school to work (a joint initiative of the Ministries of Education and Social Development),
- staff disability and strategy awareness training (Ministries of Education and Social Development),
- recognition of the needs of employees with disabilities where agencies are responsible for work-related legislation, codes and manuals (Department of Labour),
- support and opportunities for Sickness and Invalids Benefit recipients to move into the paid workforce (Ministry of Social Development),
- and support for non-governmental organisation (NGO) projects to improve vocational services and practices, and NGO staff training (Ministry of Social Development).
Objective 5: Foster leadership by disabled people
While few government departments report progress in this area, the inclusion of people with disabilities in working and reference groups has increased markedly and is now considered the norm. The concept of working in direct partnership with people with disabilities on an ongoing basis is also evident in some agencies (the Northern Locality of Disability Issues Directorate, Ministry of Health; Ministry of Education).
The Minister for Disability Issues has established a reference file of people with disabilities available for appointment to committees and boards. Efforts by other agencies (Te Puni Kōkiri, Ministries of Pacific Island Affairs, Womens Affairs) to extend appointment files to include people with disabilities have been mentioned under objective 1.
Objective 6: Foster an aware and responsive public service
Reports under this objective fell into three main areas.
1. Improved recruitment and advancement for people with disabilities in the public sector
The State Services Commission has taken a lead role and initiated a number of projects. These include:
a survey of graduate students with disabilities about their knowledge and perceptions of the public service as an employer,
a project to improve senior management development within the public service including removing barriers to recruitment for people with disabilities,
an EEO disabilities seminar (Understanding of disability and impairment in everyday lives) for EEO co-ordinators and human resources advisors in the public service, and
expansion of the Mainstream programme, which provides supported employment opportunities for people with disabilities within the public service.
2. Improved accessibility of communications and information
The inaccessibility of much government information to people with disabilities was highlighted in submissions on the strategy. In response to this, the strategy was released in a number of formats, including large print, Braille, tape, easy-to-read and pictorial versions. It is also available on the Ministry of Healths New Zealand Disability Strategy accessible website .
In July, the State Services Commission E-Government Unit issued the first version of government web guidelines, which aim to standardise the development of government websites. The guidelines include a requirement that websites be accessible to all, including people with disabilities. Other departments report considerable activity in this area (Ministries of Education, Social Development, Justice, Transport, Health, Womens Affairs).
Two departments are changing their print standards to make their written material readable by people with vision impairments (Ministries of Health and Education). As part of decisions related to the introduction of a new human rights framework, the State Services Commission will also lead work to produce guidelines on access to non-electronic government information, to improve access for people with disabilities.
3. Improved physical access to buildings and equipment for staff or clients
For example, several agencies have become more aware of the need to set aside accessible car parks (Ministries of Justice, Social Development, Womens Affairs) and provide accessible computer systems (Ministry of Transport). The Ministry of Social Development is updating its Managers Guide to Building Access and Usability Requirements.
Objective 7: Create long-term support systems centred on the individual
Departments report a range of progress in this area.
The Ministry of Health focused on a number of key areas:
- making services more responsive to Māori with disabilities or mental illness: Māori Health is funding a number of te reo speakers to become sign language interpreters; Disability Issues is developing a Māori Disability Action Plan; and Mental Health is developing a cultural assessment tool for its services;
- making services more responsive to Pacific peoples: for example, the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs and Ministry of Healths Pacific Health Team are developing a Pacific Health and Disability Action Plan;
- clarifying responsibility for funding at the boundary between services for people with disability support and mental health needs (the Mental Health and Disability Issues Directorates). A lack of clarity to date has led to clients falling through the cracks between these services;
- ensuring District Health Boards address the needs of people with disabilities (whether staff or clients): for example, by ensuring that health services are accessible to people with disabilities; ensuring that information about services is accessible; and acting as good employers;
- contracting new services and arranging training for new staff to ensure the successful implementation of the Intellectual Disability (Compulsory Care and Rehabilitation) Bill, once it is passed;
- continuing deinstitutionalisation: the Kimberley Centre resettlement plan for residents with intellectual disabilities has been agreed. All 375 residents will be resettled in the community over the next four years, beginning in June 2002. The decision recognises the right of people with intellectual disabilities to live in the community with the necessary support to meet their personal, medical and social needs. It is based on the recommendation of a working group representing all stakeholders including the Kimberley Parents and Friends Association, MidCentral District Health Board, Māori, consumers, advocacy representatives and the Ministry of Health;
- continuing to improve particular service areas such as community support services for people with mental illness; and
- improving the health and disability workforce: for example a sector reference group, including consumer representatives, met to develop skills and competencies for Health and Disability Care Workers (personal care workers).
The Ministry of Social Development will report to the Minister of Social Services and Employment by mid-2002 on options to improve current eligibility, assessment and review processes for the Invalids Benefit.
The scoping phase of Ministry of Educationfunded research into integrated, effective therapy services for children and young people with physical disabilities has ended. This research was commissioned by an advisory reference group comprising a wide range of stakeholders, including parents, people with disabilities, and educational and health professionals. The Ministry of Health will be a partner in the next phase of the research, which begins in 2002 and will consist of an analysis of overall resourcing and individual case studies in a range of settings.
The Department of Child, Youth and Family Services, and the Ministries of Health, Education and Social Development have worked together on a cross-sectoral Strategy for Children and Young People with High and Complex Needs. A national unit to deliver cross-sectoral services for this group of young people began operation in July 2001.
Objective 8: Support quality living in the community for disabled people
Many reports under objective 8 are intersectoral in nature. One focus of activity is intersectoral housing issues for people with mental illness, including the consideration of:
- homelessness and transience;
- boarding houses (including extension of the Residential Tenancies Act 1986);
- and coordination and support needs.
There are a series of projects to develop an awareness of mental illness for private providers of housing services and opportunities for improving and developing housing facilitation services. The Ministry of Social Development researched housing needs for this group for Housing New Zealand, while the Ministry of Health is leading an intersectoral work programme that includes housing needs, as well as vocational options, for people with mental illness.
The Ministry of Transport is being guided by the New Zealand Disability Strategy when developing policy and legislation for land transport in three main areas: the accessibility of new scheduled public transport; the accessibility of routes to connect buildings, public spaces and transport systems; and nationally consistent access to passenger services where there is no accessible public transport.
Objective 9: Support lifestyle choices, recreation and culture for disabled people
Several reports refer to action area 9.1, "Support disabled people in making their own choices about their relationships, sexuality and reproductive potential":
- the Ministry of Justice has instructed that the interests of people with disabilities be taken into account in the development of legislation on Assisted Human Reproduction;
- the Minister of Health launched phase one of a Sexual and Reproductive Health Strategy in September, which makes explicit reference to the needs and rights of people with disabilities; and
- the Ministry of Education has launched a professional development programme and resource for teachers and boards of trustees, called Inclusive Sexuality Education.
Objective 10: Collect and use relevant information about disabled people and disability issues
The recent Ministry of Social Development-led review of the equity of access to and coherence of services and support for people with disabilities, and other reviews, have identified the need for more consistent and improved collection of data on disability in the New Zealand population and across government departments.
Data collected by government agencies should be able to be used alongside data from Statistics New Zealands post census Disability Surveys . Improved data would make it easier to measure equity of access to and coherence of government-funded services and support, as well as assist with monitoring the Implementation of the New Zealand Disability Strategy (NZDS).
The Ministry of Health is currently developing nationally consistent approaches to collecting disability support services data.
The Ministry of Womens Affairs, and other agencies, have worked with Statistics New Zealands Consultative Committee to refine questionnaires used for the 2001 Disability Survey. The Ministry of Womens Affairs reports that the survey will assist their policy development.
Research on people with disabilities comes under this objective, and many projects (some already mentioned) have a research component. For example, the Ministry of Education has completed the scoping phase of research into developing more effective practices to support children and young people with physical disabilities. Young people with disabilities have had input into decisions on this research.
Objective 11: Promote the participation of disabled Māori
The strategy acknowledges that the Treaty of Waitangi is New Zealands founding document and that the government is committed to fulfilling its obligations as a Treaty partner. Central to the Treaty relationship and implementation of Treaty principles is a common understanding that Māori will have an important role in developing and implementing disability strategies for Māori, and that the Crown and Māori will relate to each other in good faith with mutual respect, cooperation and trust .
The strategy states that Te Puni Kōkiri should undertake a leadership role in promoting the participation of Māori with disabilities.
Consistent with these commitments to Māori with disabilities, Te Puni Kōkiri and other key government departments report considerable activity in:
- developing policy: Te Puni Kōkiri has scoped a project on how Māori with disabilities will be considered in all policy development;
- recruiting Māori with disabilities by government departments (Te Puni Kōkiri, and State Services Commission through the Mainstream programme);
- ensuring mainstream providers of disability services are accessible to and culturally appropriate for Māori with disabilities and their whānau (Ministries of Health and Social Development);
- ensuring accessibility of buildings and websites for Māori with disabilities, and use of sign language interpreters fluent in te reo for Māori Deaf (Te Puni Kōkiri; Ministry of Health); and
- establishing more disability support services designed and provided by Māori for Māori. This is referred to in the draft Māori Disability Action Plan of the Disability Issues Directorate, Ministry of Health.
Objective 12: Promote the participation of disabled Pacific peoples
The strategy states that the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs should undertake a leadership role in promoting the participation of Pacific peoples with disabilities.
Reports under this objective show several initiatives to make services more appropriate for Pacific peoples, and to build capacity of Pacific providers, for example:
- the government has approved a State Sector Pacific Provider Development Framework, which the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs developed with input from five other agencies;
- the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs and the Pacific Health Team, Ministry of Health are developing a Pacific Health and Disability Action Plan; and
- the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs and the Health and Disability Commissioners office are working on a strategy to improve responses to Pacific peoples who need advocacy or support services.
Objective 13: Enable disabled children and youth to lead full and active lives
The strategy states that the Ministries of Youth Affairs and Social Policy should undertake a leadership role in promoting the participation of children and youth with disabilities.
Most progress reports did not separately identify the age group focus of projects. However, many of the projects impact directly and indirectly on the ability of children and youth with disabilities to lead full and active lives. These projects are listed under strategy objectives such as:
- Provide the best education for disabled people (3);
- Create long-term support systems centred on the individual (7); and
- Support quality living in the community (8).
Progress reported by the Ministries of Health, Education and Social Development and the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services as well as population ministries (Te Puni Kōkiri; Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs) in relation to children and youth with disabilities, includes:
- students with disabilities contributing to the scoping phase of research to develop more effective practices for children and young people with physical disabilities;
- students with disabilities providing feedback on residential services at Homai National School for the Blind and Visually Impaired; and
- review of Operational Protocols for equipment and therapy is due to be completed by June 2002 by the Ministries of Health and Education. This work will focus on cross-sectoral vision, shared processes for assessment and funding, and will involve a stakeholder reference group.
Objective 14: Promote the participation of disabled women in order to improve their quality of life
Few progress reports separately identified the extent to which women with disabilities were the focus of projects. Many issues relevant to women with disabilities will be included under:
- Create long-term support systems centred on the individual (7);
- Support quality living in the community (8); and
- Support disabled people in making their own choices about their relationships, sexuality and reproductive potential (9.1).
The strategy states that the Ministry of Womens Affairs should undertake a leadership role in promoting the participation of women with disabilities. The Ministry of Womens Affairs is developing a Womens Strategy, which will look at increasing womens equality and participation in society. Priority groups have been identified and include women with disabilities, Māori, Pacific peoples, low income, rural and migrant women. Consultation with women will occur early next year (including women with disabilities).
Objective 15: Value families, whānau, and people providing ongoing support
The Disability Issues Directorate, Ministry of Health, has made progress on improving the range of support services provided for people with disabilities and their carers. These include:
- a trial project to recruit and train informal carers;
- extending the range of carers who can participate in family/whānau carer programmes;
- trialling more culturally responsive and flexible carer support options: for example, the Tongan Langafonua Community Centre is operating a mobile service in central Auckland; and
- using flexible funding packages in more creative ways to achieve new options for providing carer relief.
Many children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have high and complex needs, and their families are placed under great stress. The Ministry of Health is responsible for leading an interdepartmental working group to improve ASD services. As part of improving support services, the Ministry of Health is funding the post-graduate diploma at Massey University, which allows people to specialise in working with people with ASD.
There have been a number of new initiatives including the EarlyBird programme, jointly funded by the Ministries of Education and Health, to support and train parents of children and young people with ASD.
At the other end of the age spectrum, the draft Health of Older People Strategy focuses on integrating health and support services to promote positive ageing. The draft strategy has a strong emphasis on services that are responsive to the needs of older people and their family, whānau or carers. Increasing responsiveness requires a greater focus on health promotion and community-level health care and support. Better-coordinated services that are simpler to access and culturally appropriate should greatly assist family and whānau of older people.
Response of other government departments
Other government departments that did not specifically develop implementation plans for 2001/2002 have also taken steps to support the New Zealand Disability Strategy. For example:
- the Department of Internal Affairs has made its website accessible in line with government standards; and
- the Department of Conservation (DOC) has developed a People Diversity Strategy that sets goals, including achieving greater numbers of women, Māori, Pacific peoples and people with disabilities in the DOC workforce, especially at management level