How could it be that a once-proud organisation like IHC has become such an eager assistant to the National government’s mission to abandon vulnerable families?
IHC does have a proud history of supporting vulnerable New Zealanders, particularly those with intellectual disabilities, to live full, active and productive lives. They have fought hard for acceptance of people with disabilities in all aspects of everyday life from the right of children to an inclusive education at their local public school to work opportunities and “supported independence” in the community for older people.
Many of us, myself included, recall helping out on Saturday mornings going house to house collecting for the IHC annual appeal a few decades back.
In more recent times however, the IHC has become a corporate entity, growing fat on government contracts to provide state services.
It has increasingly pulled its punches in its criticism of government policies and the failure of successive governments to enforce the rights of children with disabilities.
There is no clearer sign of its new corporate approach to the world than the listing of Rod Deane and his wife as patrons of the organisation. Deane has an awful history as a leading campaigner for the privatisation of state assets in the 1980s and 1990s. He took roles in the public sector to help set the scene for privatisation then took up the role of Chair of the privatised Telecom. You can read some of Deane’s sordid story here.
With that background it’s not surprising to find Accessible Properties – the IHC’s housing arm – eagerly lining up to buy over 1000 state houses in Tauranga.
In other words the IHC is keen to help the government abandon its responsibility for housing low-income families. While many social housing groups do a good job they will never have the capacity or resources to provide quality, affordable homes for everyone who needs them. Only the state is able to do this.
IHC would not support Victorian-era approaches and attitudes to people with disabilities so neither should they support the National government returning housing for low-income families to Victorian times when the only options were charities and churches.
There is a housing crisis for tenants and families on low incomes. New Zealand has faced such crises in the past and the government has stepped in to build large numbers of state rental houses. It must be required to do so again.
If IHC wants to retain public respect and confidence it must join the Salvation Army and Methodist Mission and refuse to help National abandon vulnerable families.