Reporting back on our 'How's Life Going for the Disability Community' survey


The survey results show that most of the people participating in the survey have managed well with the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey is one important source of information.  Care needs to be taken so that the overall results for most people does not mask the real difficulties and issues that some disabled people experienced.   

The information from the surveys has been important and sits alongside  the range of other mechanisms established during COVID-19 to identify risks/issues and actions to respond to those issues and risks.

A message from Minister Sepuloni

Kia ora, Fa’atalofa atu, malo e lelei

I’m writing to report back on the results of the “How’s Life Going for the Disability Community” surveys. These surveys were implemented to improve our understanding of the issues associated with the COVID-19 pandemic as experienced by disabled people and their whānau. The surveys also collect information from service providers and others in the disability sector. The information gathered from the survey responses has helped officials to identify the issues being experienced by the disability community as a result of COVID-19 and what can be done in response to this. The survey results sit alongside other information and issues that government agencies have been made aware of through direct feedback from the community, sector and Disabled People’s Organisations.

COVID-19 has had an impact on every New Zealander’s life, and the results from our surveys show that the disabled community is no exception. However I’m pleased to be able to say that overall, most of those who responded to our surveys are doing okay or better. This speak volumes about the resilience of disabled people, as well as those who provide services and support - despite the additional barriers and risks to wellbeing, choice and control, and economic wellbeing that are made harder during this pandemic. I have heard that the flexibility and people-focused approaches to service provision need to be business as usual as we move out of COVID-19.

Anecdotally, we’re hearing that you’re more used to accessing services through different channels, and that means you’re able to share your experiences to help other New Zealanders. COVID-19 has meant that a lot of things have been done differently in the past month. What hasn’t changed is that we continue to support New Zealanders who need our help.

We now have the results from three surveys that were completed with Alert Levels 4, 3 and 2. The survey results have told us that for a majority of you, systems in place in the public, non-government and private sectors have worked to make sure you have had access to food. 68% of respondents reported it was easy or super easy to access supplies. You’ve told us that things like priority slots for supermarket deliveries and food box companies have been helpful.

We know that access to personal protective equipment for yourselves and caregivers has been an issue, and that the Ministry of Health has worked to improve this during Alert Levels Four and Alert Level Three.

Getting information about COVID-19 is critically important, so we’re pleased that over half of you said it was very easy to access this information. The number of respondents indicating that it was “hard” to find information about COVID-19 was low for all survey respondents. I am aware that a lot of catch-up work was required to make communications accessible for disabled people and that accessible communications are now easier to find on the COVID-19 website.

The Office for Disability Issues (ODI) has provided me the following information from the results of the three surveys completed so far:

  • Safety – the majority of disabled people and their family and whānau felt either “very” or “mostly safe” in their living situation. Those that noted exceptions mentioned worries over behaviour management (including violence & aggression) of children, and injury concerns in the home. Unlike disabled people, only 40% of service providers across the three surveys felt the living situation for disabled people was “mostly safe” (with none reporting it to be “very safe”). Concerns included the lack of equipped housing, the need for more respite support and worries over COVID-19 exposure from caregivers sharing bubbles.

  • Wellbeing - Most disabled people and their family and whānau, as well as service providers indicated they were doing “very” or “mostly” well, with the average wellbeing score improving over time. Concerns noted across all three surveys included mental health issues being exacerbated, heightened anxiety, increased fatigue, as well as the need for additional support staff.

  • Loneliness – The majority of disabled people and their family and whānau indicated that they felt either “a little bit lonely” or “not lonely at all” in the past 7 days. Although disabled people and their family and whānau reported feeling lonelier in the second survey results, an improvement can be seen in the third survey results. Loneliness levels were higher among those that identified as living alone, as well as those missing friends, family and co-workers. Lack of human contact and conversation was often noted as a concern. Living with others, keeping busy or active, as well as staying connected through technology seemed to be protective factors.

  • Family and whānau – The majority of disabled people felt their family and whānau was doing “very” or “mostly” well. However, there were no improvements seen with family wellbeing in the third release of the survey, with wellbeing concerns among those living alone and apprehension among those staying away from vulnerable family.

  • Information - Most disabled people and their family and whānau indicated they could access and understand information about COVID-19. Concerns that were detailed were largely around there being too much information that was not clear and concise, some inconsistencies, as well as lack of information in accessible formats particularly for those with reading impairments or lack of access to digital technology. Some also noted gaps in timely access to disability support information that was available during lockdown. These concerns seemed to ease by the third release of the survey, with more mentions of the NZSL and Easy Read information being made available. The majority of service provider respondents agreed that the disabled people they support can access reliable information about COVID-19. However only 36% across the three weeks felt disabled people could “very well” or “mostly quite well” understand the Government’s information. Reasons mentioned include, information access barriers for those with intellectual or cognitive impairments, as well as those with literacy difficulties.

  • PPE - Lack of access to PPE was identified as a consistent issue for the disability sector including disabled people, whānau, and service providers. Although access has seemed to improve over time, particularly for service providers, it remains to be the lowest rated indicator. The third survey results predominantly indicate a lack of PPE access for disabled people, as well as carers, RTDs, and for family members.

  • Food and other essential items - Most disabled people and whānau reported being able to “easily” or “mostly” access food and essential items which they needed. The few concerns mentioned include difficulty waiting in long lines, possible exposure to COVID-19 from grocery shopping and transport barriers. From a service provider perspective, access to food and essential items for disabled people was rated more poorly in the third release of the survey. Explanations included delays in the delivery of food items and the need for more shopping support for disabled people.

  • Positive experiences - In survey three we asked respondents to tell us what good things had happened lately. 48 disabled people and their whānau shared positive things that had happened in their lives recently. 
    • The most common response was increased connection with family and whānau, followed by praise for staff and communities going above and beyond expectations. One response praised the “kindness from neighbours and friends”. Numerous comments supported the increased flexibility of disability services. 
    • Several respondents commented on overcoming mobility and transport barriers by maintaining communication through technology. One respondent shared that “accessibility has increased a lot for me - no need to worry about commuting, all events are online, and I can actually socialise with people on an equal basis”. Respondents also said they had more time to cook, bake and garden.
    • 14 service provider respondents shared similar positives, the increased connection with whānau was again the most common. They also noted the benefits of delivering more flexible services for disabled people and the positive impact technology had on the lives of disabled people and their whānau. One respondent noted: “The innovative passionate way in which people have come together. As a provider the positive has been the flexibility to finally be able to work with people how they want, not dictated to by a contract line, we want to make”.

One thing that’s very important to note though is that as most survey responses were completed online, there will be a bias to this survey. For this reason, and because of the self-selected nature of survey participation, we regard this survey as a snapshot of life, rather than perfect data. Thank you to those organisations that have assisted people, who do not have access to computers and the internet to participate in the survey. I’d like to encourage as many of you as possible to participate in the next survey. The information you provide will help us to better understand what is needed and how we can support you as we move through the COVID response.

Thank you for playing your part in protecting New Zealand by staying in your bubble. You can read the full findings of the surveys below as well as have access to the data and a summary of the comments people have made when responding to the survey In the meantime, remember there is a range of support available from across government for disabled people, service providers you may work with and/or the disabled peoples’ organisations you may be involved with. You can find more information about COVID-19 at .

Ngā mihi

Hon Carmel Sepuloni 

Minister for Disability Issues

Survey reports

Tell us what you think

Page last updated: