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Minister's Disability Forums

The forums provide disabled people, their family/whānau and disability sector representatives the opportunity to better understand government policy as it relates to disability issues. They also provide the opportunity to ask relevant government officials, and subject matter experts, questions about policy that will affect disabled people. You can find out more about the forums below.

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April 2017 Forum

The Minister for Disability Issues hosted her second Disability forum at the Ministry of Social Development in Wellington on 6 April 2017. The focus of discussion was the transformation of the disability support system using enabling good lives’ principles. The forum had over 90 attendees.

In addition to the questions sent in before the forum, there was also time at the end for attendees to ask additional questions, and talk directly to government officials and panel members from the National Enabling Good Lives Leadership Group.

Copies of the speeches from the forum can be read at the links below:

Questions and answers

When will other areas of New Zealand get Enabling Good Lives?

  • Wellington
  • Hawkes Bay

Answer: As part of the co-design process, we will be developing a plan for rolling out the change across New Zealand including Wellington and Hawkes Bay. This will involve some thinking through how long that will take. One of the lessons we have learnt through the Christchurch demonstration is how to ensure there is sufficient time to put things in place so that we limit disruption to people through the transformation. We may also consider whether there are some changes that we can roll out immediately, and then have a staged roll out for other changes that take more resource.

When this comes to my region, will this enable my adult disabled son/daughter to access services from all providers in the region I live (Hawkes Bay)?

Answer: We want to provide disabled people and families with choice about the support they receive to assist them to live the life they want. We will consider how to make this happen through the co-design processes. At this stage we do not know the answer. I imagine a spectrum of choices. We anticipate that all current offerings will be available.

In areas where there is currently no day services available (e.g. Hawkes Bay) who will provide such services?

Answer: We want to provide disabled people and families with choice about the support they receive to assist them to live the life they want. For some people, this will include day services. As part of the co-design process, we will be thinking about what needs to be put in place to create an environment where a range of options are available.

For people with very high needs that require 2:1 funding, will this funding be available and by who?

Answer: We are just starting the co-design process and no decisions have been made about the high level design. Part of the process will be to consider if any changes should be made.

How will the changes affect my child’s IF Funding? Our region does not have Enabling Good Lives yet.

Answer: At this stage, there will be no changes to existing arrangements for individuals including IF Funding. As part of the system transformation design, we will be working through what needs to be put in place to minimise disruption for disabled people and their families and to enable them to retain their existing services and arrangements if they are working for them.

How will the changes affect my child’s IF Funding if I live in Christchurch, Waikato, or the mid-Central region?

Answer: We are just starting the co-design process and no decisions have been made about the high level design. Part of the process will be to consider if any changes should be made. At this stage, there are no changes for IF funding in Christchurch, Waikato, or the mid-Central regions.

If the funding is pooled into one ‘bucket’ where will the funding come from? Ministry of Health, Ministry of Social Development, or elsewhere?

Answer: We are just starting the co-design process and no decisions have been made about the high level design.  Part of the process is to consider what funding should be pooled into a personal budget for a disabled person.

Will this see changes (an increase) to the number of hours that can be worked by a beneficiary before his/her benefit is affected?

Answer: No changes are currently proposed to the number of hours that can be worked by a beneficiary before income support payments are affected.

I am wondering why there are no proposed changes. People having paid work is a big plus even if it is only a few hours, why is there no thought to doing that, if it will enable the community to change?

 Answer: What people call the 15 hour rule is about eligibility for benefit.  Specifically, to be eligible for a Supported Living Payment (SLP) a person must be assessed as not being able to regularly work 15 hours a week or for at least the next two years. This is an issue that has been raised by disabled people and is something we are looking into. People can and should work as much as they are able to and there are supports and services in place to help if needed eg SLP opt-in.   If people on a Job Seeker Support or on an SLP benefit earn more than a certain amount from their paid work, then there is a reduction to the amount of their benefit.  This is about fairness for all New Zealanders, including for other people receiving benefits. There isn’t any intention at this point to make any changes to the abatement thresholds for income support. Some of these questions seem to be about the current state of things. However, through this transformation we have the opportunity to change things and to do things completely differently. It will be hard, and there are uncertainties, but where we are now is not where we will be in a few years’ time.

What changes are proposed to provide financial security and support of the adult disabled person, and for the parent(s) who care for their adult disabled son/daughter?

Answer: No changes are currently proposed to the income support arrangements for disabled adults, or for parents caring for an adult disabled son or daughter.

Through the transformation of the disability support system will there be an increase in funds for services?

Answer: We are just starting the co-design process and no decisions have been made about the high level design.  As part of the process, we will be thinking about what funding is needed to implement the new system.

The New Zealand Disability Strategy stresses the importance of universal design. It states that supports and systems will be easy to get. However, I am concerned about the lack of funding. When will there be an increase in funding?

Answer: There has been a significant increase of in funding the system, but we need to use this funding more effectively. I think that individualised funding will work better.

For disabled people who require 24/7 support, and who have no transport, who pays the travel costs to enable them to participate in community activities (travel costs for disabled person and their support person/people)?

Answer: For a person in residential services, transport to and from community activities is paid by the service.  For all others, transport to community activities is the responsibility of the disabled person. We will need to think about how to process choice. For example, we will be looking at what options people have for using their funding.

What changes are proposed to make things easier for carers who work full-time?

Answer: The Ministry of Health is looking at options to better support carers through its respite strategy.  The strategy is still in the consultation phase. Any changes, which may include making the carer support subsidy more flexible, will be considered as part of the strategy’s implementation.

EGL Canterbury. What has been the feedback from both families and providers on the effectiveness of this scheme?

 Answer: Two evaluations have been completed about the Enabling Good Lives demonstration in Christchurch. These have included feedback from disabled people, families and providers.  There was some positive feedback about the experiences of disabled people and families but there were also some challenges. The evaluations found there was limited change in practice amongst providers.

Is there any anecdotal material or survey results on the effectiveness or otherwise of the project?

Answer: We have had feedback that disabled people and families find it hard to find out about what support is available until they talk to another disabled person or family who has already been through the system. This is one of the things that we need to consider in the co-design process.

Some have said the Waikato EGL trial worked better as they held their own funding? Are parents and families going to be able to hold their own funding?

Answer: We want to provide disabled people and families with choice about the support they receive to assist them to live the life they want. This will be considered as part of the co-design process but we anticipate that direct funding will be one of the options that is available for disabled people and families.

Is the Ministry going to view this transformation process from the client and family perspective? With the Christchurch EGL, all the parties were not working off the same page. Parents and families were kept separate which created a dysfunctional attitude from providers towards parent and families.

Answer: We have included five disabled people and two family members on the co-design group to support us to think about the system from the perspective of disabled people and families.

We live in a complex system of services. Under the transformation how will all these different initiatives link up?

Answer: We have identified five systems with significant interfaces with disability support. These are the health, education, income support and employment, care and protection and ACC systems. We need to think about how we make sure that people can get the support they need without having to navigate multiple systems.

My question relates to the five interfaces. I know that these are complex and there is a lot of work going on. You have talked about work and income and I am wondering how we ensure that work in other areas links in to this project?

 Answer: We have a range of governance mechanisms in place to ensure work is connected between agencies. For example, the Minister for Disability Issues is being supported by other Ministers. We have a General Managers group for the relevant agencies, who will be part of the oversight for this project. We are also putting in place a core agency testing group.

Kia ora, The Enabling Good Lives’ principles have been mentioned. These are important to understand. It is often assumed that deaf people should go to a mainstream system first. However, we want culturally friendly services, and we want choice. That system of mainstreaming first is in conflict with the other principles. In the spirit of what the Minister said, I would like to put forward solution. First, we could delete this principle. A second option is to reword it. The New Zealand Disability Strategy Revision Reference Group has a twin track approach. One principle does not have to be more important than another. That is something that could be considered here.

Answer: Thank you for the feedback. We will consider it as part of the co-design process. I do not want to lose the focus on making universal services as inclusive as possible. But this is the most contentious principle and we need more discussion.


December 2016 Forum

The Minister for Disability Issues hosted her first forum at the Ministry of Social Development in Wellington in December 2016. This was the first event like this and was well attended, with over 80 attendees.
We asked attendees to submit questions before the forum to help inform what the Minister should cover. The forum had three areas of focus:

  • New Zealand Disability Strategy 2016-2026
  • Employment
  • Enabling Good Lives.

There was time at the end for attendees to talk directly to government officials, giving them the opportunity to ask any questions they had. 
You can read the questions and answers and the hand-outs from the forum at the links below.

Question and answers


Why is 15 hours per week the cut off point for the person to have to change to the Jobseeker Support?

15 hours per week is the definition of part-time work. This means that 15 hours is the cut off point for the Supported Living Payment; otherwise it would be reasonable to expect that Supported Living Payment clients had work capacity to the point they are eligible for Jobseeker Support.

In April 2016 (as part of changes to work obligations) the definition of part-time work went from 15 to 20 hours for sole parents. However, this change does not affect clients with part-time work obligations due to a health condition, injury or disability – they are still expected to look for work of 15 hours a week.

The Ministry of Social Development is doing some work about the 15 hour rule as a barrier to people on the Supported Living Payment getting into work.

Could Work and Income have a reference group of disabled people, other beneficiaries and whānau to inform policy and staff about what life as a beneficiary is really like?”

It is really useful for the Ministry of Social Development to understand the experience of clients. The Ministry already has several groups which help make sure it directly hears from them. This includes the:

  • National Beneficiary Advocacy Consultative Group
  • Health and Disability Reference Group which comprises representatives from the National Beneficiary Advocacy Consultative Group, Disabled People’s Organisations, other disability organisations that work with families (CCS Disability Action and IHC), health practitioners, providers and other government agencies.

Will the Ministry of Social Development continue to support all existing initiatives to assist disabled people into employment and how will this happen?

The Ministry of Social Development will continue to support initiatives to assist disabled people into employment. This includes continuing to promote disability awareness and employer confidence through the EmployAbility approach and the Disability Confident campaign.

For Project 300, how many people had a short term illness and were supported by ACC and how many had a long-term disabilities supported by the Ministry of Social Development agencies?

The Ministry of Social Development is not able to report on how many people had a short term illness and were supported by ACC as this is not recorded in the information system.

Further information on employment

During the session on employment, Ministry of Social Development officials also talked about some initiatives that are currently underway as below.

  • Through EmployAbility, the Ministry of Social Development has committed to ensuring all health and disability clients moving off benefit into work are offered in-work support. 
  • A range of in-work support products for clients are already offered, with some specifically tailored to clients with health conditions or disabilities, which are designed to improve the sustainability of placements. These include Support Funds, Flexi-Wage in-work support and provision through some contracted services.
  • The Ministry is also looking to trial further in-work support services to help ensure all clients with health conditions or disabilities moving off benefit and into work and their employers are offered an appropriate level of service to meet their needs. This includes services for:
    • clients with more complex needs who may require a higher level of support to successfully transition to work
    • employers who need some guidance or support to manage employees with challenges relating to their disability or health condition.

Welfare benefits

In 2013 the sickness benefit was stopped. Will there be another dedicated sickness benefit or temporary disability in future?

People who are on Jobseeker Support will have their obligations deferred if they are not able to work because they are recovering from major surgery or serious illness. This means they will not have to undertake active jobseeking activities during the time they are recovering.

Most disabled people tell the Ministry of Social Development that getting a job is really important and want support to do so.

Enabling Good Lives

Now that the information gathering process has been completed for Enabling Good Lives, how will this information be used, what are the plans for the future of Enabling Good Lives including timeframes for a roll-out?

The Ministries of Social Development, Education and Health ran a process with a sector working group to review the information that had been gathered. This included available evidence from the Enabling Good Lives demonstrations, other government trials, innovations that had been tried by the sector, and international evidence.

This information has feed into the advice that will go to Cabinet in February 2017. Decisions on the future of Enabling Good Lives will be made then.

Transforming the disability support system has significant and far ranging implications for disabled people, families, providers and government. The advice to Cabinet will consider the timeframes and what needs to take place before making changes.

Low vision rehabilitation review

What is happening with the review of low vision rehabilitation and the final report to the Minister of Health?

The Minister of Health has received a copy of the Low Vision Rehabilitation Strategy which was developed with advice and input from the Low Vision Strategic Reference Group. The Ministry of Health is currently working on options to support low vision going forward.

Funding for disability

It has been reported that $4 billion was spent on the disability sector. What was this spent on?

The A3 document relating to what is known about people receiving Ministry of Health Disability Support Services has information on the funded services for disabled people.

Read the 2016 A3 document about Disability Support Services [PPTX, 163 KB]

What steps will the Minister take as part of the newly announced Disability Strategy to ensure that there is no difference between the services provided through ACC and through the health system for disabled people with the same needs?

We are continuing to progress the development of Enabling Good Lives, which will provide disabled people with more choice and control over the services provided to them.

Why has funding for Transition Services for youth leaving school not changed in over 15 years? How does this fit with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the NZ Youth Development Strategy?

The aims of the Ministry of Social Development-funded Transition Services are broadly consistent with the rights articulated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in particular:

  • Article 19: Living independently and being included in the community
  • Article 27: Work and employment.

However, it is acknowledged that the transition support provided by government agencies needs to be improved to achieve better employment and community inclusion outcomes for young disabled people. The Ministry of Education is leading work under the Disability Action Plan aimed at increasing the number of disabled people who transition from school and from tertiary education into employment. The Ministry of Social Development has deferred making any changes to the support that it is purchasing pending the outcome of the Disability Action Plan action review and decisions on the Enabling Good Lives work.

The Transition Services funded by the Ministry of Social Development specifically for disabled people are not directly linked to the Ministry of Youth Development’s Youth Investment Strategy or its funding for youth development. The Ministry of Youth Development spends around $7.1 million a year on a wide range of Youth Development opportunities. This includes funding for community-based services to support young people, aged 12 to 24, to develop and use knowledge, skills and experiences to participate confidently in their communities.

Why has there not been any increase in Vocational Services funding for the last 15 years?

Each year the Government must weigh up many competing demands for additional funding. The Government has decided that making sure that school leavers with very high needs can participate in their communities is a high priority. In Budget 2015, an additional $16.3 million was provided over four years for participation and inclusion services for school leavers eligible for the Very High Needs Scheme. This funding is making a significant difference to the quality of life for about 300 young people with very high needs and their families.

The Government is looking at ways to improve the disability support system in the medium to longer term. For a number of years, disabled people and their families have been saying that they want more choice and control over their services and their lives. In response, the Government has funded two Enabling Good Lives demonstrations (first in Christchurch and now in the Waikato) to work out the best use of available funding.

Work and Income

Will all Work and Income staff be given basic training in how to communicate with disabled people and not just specific staff who are located at the back of Work and Income offices?

During 2016, all Work and Income service centre staff received training to recognise the importance of empathy to support positive client outcomes and our interactions in the workplace. Staff are also completing Mental Health 101 training, which builds understanding of what to do and when in order to support clients, colleagues, family and friends with mental illness. 

See more information about the course   

See more information about mental health issues on the Mental Health Foundation website

Focused Case Managers at Work and Income are completing workshops covering core elements of practice to ensure they are having quality conversations with clients and considering their full set of circumstances, including disability. Core elements of practice include: building rapport, understanding your clients’ circumstances, goals planning and problem solving, and identifying clients’ strengths to help them move forward. We plan to roll this training out to all service centre staff.

With the new layout of Work and Income offices and what seems to be less face-to-face time and more about doing everything online, are there contingencies in place for assisting disabled people who cannot operate a computer or who do not have the capacity to understand fully what is required by the staff at Work and Income?

Work and Income does its best to accommodate clients’ needs where possible, and to investigate what options are available to improve services and accessibility.

Work and Income has been working to streamline our processes, and provide digital channels for clients who can and choose to use them, aiming to make interactions with us quicker and easier and ensuring staff are able to spend time with our clients who most need face-to-face or phone support.  

Although people are encouraged to apply online, paper based applications are available.  For some people, their health condition, injury or disability may make it difficult or impossible for them to complete forms on their own. In these cases either Work and Income or someone else can help them. Clients can also appoint an agent to act on their behalf. 

Service providers

What obligations are there on established service providers to provide a service the users actually want rather than what the providers want to provide?

The current contractual service specification clearly sets out what is expected from our contractors.

1. Community Participation services – Context

The Ministry of Social Development seeks to fund Community Participation services for disabled people that contribute to realising the aims of:

  • United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, particularly the rights of disabled people to live independently and be included in the community (Article 19).
  • Disability Action Plan 2014 to 2018. Priorities in 2015 update of the Plan include:
    • increasing the number of disabled people, including long-term unemployed disabled people, in paid employment and self-employment on an equal basis with others (Priority 2)
    • promoting disabled people to have choice and control over their supports/services, and making more efficient use of disability support funding (Priority 4).
  • Enabling Good Lives vision to work towards a future in which disabled people and their families will have greater choice and control over their supports and lives, and make more use of natural and generic supports.

Community Participation services will also contribute to the following Ministry of Social Development outcomes:

  • More people are able to participate in and contribute positively to their communities and society.
  • More people are supported into sustainable work.

2.    Aim of Vocational services (Community Participation)

The aim of Community Participation services is to contribute towards disabled people having a good life, in everyday places, as others do at similar stages of life. This will be achieved by enabling disabled people to participate in and make a positive contribution to their communities. Services will provide individually-tailored supports to disabled people to enable them to:

  • participate in and contribute to their communities in ways valued by them and their communities
  • learn new skills to help them manage their lives and overall well-being, and to participate in their communities
  • maintain and develop social and support networks.

Services will also play a role in helping to build:

  • inclusive and welcoming communities and mainstream services
  • empolyers’ confidence in employing disabled people.

Marrakesh Treaty

When does the government intend to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty?

A discussion document on the Marrakesh Treaty was put out for public consultation in late October 2015. The submissions were really positive about acceding to the Treaty and people also raised some specific suggestions about how it could work in practice.

Since the public consultation concluded in February 2016, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) officials have analysed the submissions received. They are now preparing the National Interest Analysis for the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs to present to Cabinet for approval to join the Treaty.

See more information about the Marrakesh Treaty on the MBIE website

Civil Defence Emergencies

Will the Minister require all media broadcasters covering Civil Defence Emergencies to compulsory have New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) interpreters in their video/TV broadcasts?

Editorial decisions, such as the inclusion of NZSL interpreters, are the discretion of the broadcaster. The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management does, however, have a Memorandum of Understanding with TVNZ, TV3 and radio media outlets to broadcast emergency messages when an emergency with significant national impacts (earthquake, tsunami, tornado, volcano, cyclone etc) happens in New Zealand. This agreement is currently being reviewed and will be finalised in coming weeks.

The revised agreement will set an expectation that television broadcasters will use best endeavours to use news tickers and/or captions to relay emergency messages whenever the agreement is activated.

The Ministry also uses NZSL interpreters at media briefings, and is committed to advocating to broadcasters and Civil Defence Emergency Management Groups for information about emergencies led by Civil Defence to be made accessible to deaf audiences.

Tertiary Education

How will the revised New Zealand Disability Strategy address the disparity in accessing tertiary education?

Within the New Zealand Disability Strategy 2016-2026, the Education Outcome states that: ‘we (disabled children) get an excellent education and achieve our potential throughout our lives’.  This includes:

  • ‘all local schools and education services are welcoming and provide a great inclusive education for us’  
  • ‘we have trained teachers and educators who support and believe in our progress and achievement, and value our contribution to the learning environment’  
  • ‘services that are specific to disabled people are high quality, available and accessible’ (New Zealand Disability Strategy, page 24).

The education outcomes in the Strategy are not specific to schools but apply throughout a child/young person’s education pathway, including their tertiary education. If the schooling system provides an excellent education for disabled children, it is anticipated that more disabled young people will be able to access tertiary education.   Finally, the Strategy focuses on the outcomes to be achieved through education.  The Disability Action Plan which will be developed to achieve those outcomes will likely have actions that address the disparity in accessing tertiary education.

Why did the Tertiary Education Commission not make the implementation of Kia Orite mandatory?

Tertiary Education Organisations are a mixture of autonomous publically owned Crown Entities such as Universities, Polytechnics, Wananga and private training establishments. As such, when Kia Orite was developed it was decided to release it as a voluntary code of practice to improve sector practice in terms of providing an inclusive environment for learners, rather than making it compulsory.

Kia Orite was initiated and developed by a sector group, ACHIEVE.  The document reflects their professional knowledge, experience and understanding of issues for students with impairments undertaking tertiary study. Kia Orite during its development was subject to extensive consultation throughout New Zealand. The Ministry of Education was also involved in its development.

Kia Orite does not promote a one-size-fits-all model.  Rather, it is designed to be applicable to a range of tertiary contexts.  The Code sets out best practice standards which are outcome-focussed and so allows flexibility around the kinds of measures that would achieve the standards.

Tertiary Education Organisations are expected by government to ensure equity of access and opportunity for disabled people, and to provide the support these students require for full participation.  Tertiary Education Organisations have autonomy in using government funding for a range of purposes.  Under the Education Act 1989, however, they must work towards meeting government objectives articulated in the Tertiary Education Strategy.




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