Disability in New Zealand
Wide ranging action is needed across New Zealand society to realise disabled people's rights. A role for the Government is to show leadership that others can follow.
In October 2010, the Government stepped up its commitment to disabled people by meeting an important obligation in the UN Convention. Following discussions by the Office for Disability Issues with disability sector organisations over the last two years, the Government agreed a framework to promote, protect and monitor implementation of the UN Convention. This framework meets the obligation in article 33 of the UN Convention and sets out roles and functions within government and independent of government.
The government mechanism is the Ministerial Committee on Disability Issues, which has the job of co-ordinating implementation across government, and the Office for Disability Issues is the focal point on disability issues.
The independent mechanism is made up of three parts:
- the Human Rights Commission, which has an existing mandate for human rights, has a broad role across all three functions of promotion, protection and monitoring (including the proposal to establish a full-time Disability Rights Commissioner)
- the Office of the Ombudsmen has a role in the areas of protection and monitoring within its existing mandate, which is confined to agencies in the state sector
- the Convention Coalition, a governance-level steering group formed by six major disabled people's organisations to run a rights monitoring programme (using the Disability Rights Promotion International methodology).
Budget 2010 provided funding of $2.34 million over three years for the independent mechanism and consists of $900,000 for the Human Rights Commission, $690,000 for the Office of the Ombudsmen and $750,000 for the Convention Coalition.
The Government also agreed that the Ministerial Committee on Disability Issues meet once a year with the independent mechanism participants to discuss progress and priorities with implementation.
The Ministerial Committee's supporting officials are also expected to have ongoing engagement with the independent mechanism participants.
Framework to promote, protect and monitor implementation
|Co-ordinating mechanism within government for implementation
Ministerial Committee on Disability Issues
|Chief Executives' Group on Disability Issues||Focal Point within government
Office for Disability Issues
|Senior Officials Group on Disability Issues|
(disabled people's organisations)
|Human Rights Commission|
Information about disabled people
Growing what we know about disabled people as a population group is an ongoing priority. Better information will help inform decision making and ensure that actions which make a difference are identified and implemented.
As part of improving our knowledge base, in 2009, the Office for Disability Issues commissioned a review of statistical data from the 1996, 2001 and 2006 Disability Surveys  to compare key social and economic outcomes for disabled people and non-disabled people over time . It has also been a useful contribution to New Zealand's first report on implementing the UN Convention.
An important factor to keep in mind when interpreting this data is that disabled people are on average older than non-disabled people. This may partly account for some of the differences in social and economic outcomes for disabled people compared with others. Also, differences between the three surveys makes analysing trends over the period difficult.
However, given these factors, there was no clear overall pattern of improvement or deterioration over the period 1996 to 2006 in the position of disabled people relative to non-disabled people.
In each of the three surveys, when compared with non-disabled people of all ages, disabled people were:
less likely to be living in one-family households and more likely to live alone
more likely to have a low annual household income
more likely to live in the more deprived areas of New Zealand.
Compared with non-disabled adults , disabled adults were:
more likely to have no educational qualifications and less likely to have post-school qualifications
more likely to not be in the labour force and less likely to be employed
more likely to have a lower annual personal income
less likely to be partnered.
In each of the three surveys, rates of disability were much higher among older people than younger people. 
Also, Māori had consistently higher rates of disability than people in the European and ‘Other' ethnic group. 
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