The business-as-usual activities and new initiatives (including cross agency collaboration) of government agencies in the past year have highlighted some of the real progress that has been made over the last decade in the implementation of the Disability Strategy, as well as in our meeting our human rights commitments under the Disability Convention.
There have also been some important shortfalls highlighted and some real opportunities identified for more of a whole-of-government approach to progress the vision of disabled people being fully included and able to live a good life in New Zealand.
Real progress has been achieved in communication technology, in models for supporting disabled people, in support for carers, in inclusive education and in access to information, particularly in the online and digital environment. These advances are significant both in terms of the shifting attitudes and capability of frontline provision of government services to support and include disabled people, but also in terms of the increased independence and participation opportunities disabled New Zealanders now have.
How government agencies gather and report disability-related information in relation to the services they provide is a clearly identified shortfall area. Without this information there is no comprehensive way to ascertain who is actually accessing services and how effective the services are for disabled people. It also means that there is no comprehensive whole-of-government information on how public services actually reach disabled people.
In addition, there is very little available national data or statistics relating to disabled New Zealanders. The forthcoming Census and subsequent Disability Survey will provide some updated and improved information. This information needs to be supplemented with sector specific information from government agencies for it to be fully comprehensive and relevant for planning public services.
The Ministerial Committee’s whole-of-government Disability Action Plan has identified seven specific initiatives for 2012-14 to address identified priority issues, and provide a real focus on implementation of the principles of the Enabling Good Lives report and Government’s Better Public Services programme. This will set the focus for across government disability activities in the year ahead. Individual government agencies have also identified some initiatives that they have planned to progress.
A further point of note is the 2011/12 report of the independent monitoring mechanism of the Disability Convention. This monitoring group includes the Human Rights Commission, the Office of the Ombudsman and the Convention Coalition (of disabled people’s organisations). The report focuses on disabled people’s rights in New Zealand and government approaches to support those rights. The report identifies a number of issues and recommendations that highlight areas for improvement including data collection, accessibility, participation, person- centred approaches, and coordination between agencies.
Disability Action Plan
The Ministerial Committee on Disability Issues, established by Cabinet in 2009, provides leadership and coordination across government agencies in the implementation of the Disability Convention and the Disability Strategy.
The Committee brings together a range of Ministers who have agreed on a whole-of-government approach and programme of action to improve disabled people’s lives (the Disability Action Plan).
In May 2012, the Disability Action Plan was updated and now comprises:
- a cross-government, shared outcomes work programme
- inclusion of disabled people in the Better Public Services ten result areas
- key actions by agencies for improving their business-as-usual.
The shared outcomes work programme developed from the Action Plan focuses on three areas where value is added by agencies working together:
- Enabling Good Lives – disabled people have greater choice and control over supports, use more mainstream and natural supports, and disability support funding is more efficiently used
- Employment – there is an increase in the number of disabled people in paid employment
- Rebuild Christchurch – the Christchurch rebuild is inclusive of disabled people.
In September 2012, the Ministerial Committee agreed to seven new initiatives under the shared outcomes work programme:
- Develop options to demonstrate the Enabling Good Lives approach
- Develop policy options to integrate supports for children from birth to six years
- Connect disabled youth with the labour market through promotion of work experience and easier access to apprenticeships
- Improve existing employment support for employers and disabled people
- Promote greater coherence in disability-related employment policy and practice
- Promote accessibility in the rebuild of Christchurch with provision of extra advisory services and information
- Produce and promote national guidelines on emergency preparation and response to ensure great disability inclusiveness.
These are being implemented by agencies from 2012 to 2014.
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