Minister's foreword (Annual Report 2015)
It has been a very busy year for us all, and I have spent quite a bit of time getting out and about and meeting with disabled people, and their families and organisations working in the disability sector.
One consistent message I’ve heard is that disabled people can and want to work. They’ve told me that they want the same opportunities to be able to participate in and contribute to their communities, and support their families just like everyone else. As we all know, having a job is so important for our sense of dignity and self-worth.
I’ve heard this message loud and clear and that’s why employment is one of my top priorities. Over the last year, I’ve really focused on understanding what we need to do to break down the barriers disabled people face in getting into and staying in employment. One key achievement I have led is the development of Project 300 which aims to get 300 disabled people into employment in Christchurch over 12 months from April 2015. This is a really important opportunity to find out what works in an environment with low unemployment rates.
Another area of work has been around the employment of disabled people in the public service which is an action of the Disability Action Plan 2014 - 2018. As a significant employer across the country, I think it’s important that the public service takes the lead in demonstrating what inclusive recruitment, retention and work place practices look like. A toolkit that provides practical information for public service employers has been developed and will be launched soon. I am particularly looking forward to the outcomes of work on improving internship opportunities for disabled people next year. This is because one of the biggest challenges I’ve heard is that getting in the door to get experience can be difficult for disabled people and I think this work will help to overcome that.
Another exciting development this year was the establishment of the Disability Data and Evidence Working Group. There has been strong support for this group from both government agencies and the disability sector. One of the things that has struck me since becoming Minister for Disability Issues, is how little we know about what works and what doesn’t for making sure disabled people have the same opportunities as non-disabled people. As a former Minister of Statistics, I know how challenging it can be to get robust information; now as Minister for Disability Issues, I want to make sure that we have really good information to inform decision making so that the right decisions are being made on things that really impact the lives of disabled people. That’s why I’m very pleased that we are finally taking a step back to think about what information we need, and the best way to get it.
Finally, I want to emphasise how important it was for the Government to respond formally to the recommendations from the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Independent Monitoring Mechanism this year. This process has helped us to find out where things are going well, and what we can do to build on and strengthen these, as well as understanding where there are gaps. While there will always be more to be done, we’ve made some good decisions that will improve the lives of disabled people now and into the future.
Hon Nicky Wagner Minister for Disability Issues (Oct 2014 - Oct 2017)
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