Disability sector thanks Ministers for intervention
Government urged to act on long overdue funding boost
Thousands of disabled New Zealanders are breathing a sigh of relief after the last-minute intervention of Ministers stopped the Ministry of Health proceeding with $30 million of funding cuts, says the New Zealand Disability Support Network.
Papers released under the Official Information Act show the Ministry of Health was planning to cut up to $10 million from disability support services by June as a first step towards tackling a $90 million deficit. A further $20 million in cuts was planned for the next financial year.
“We are enormously grateful for the intervention of Ministers to stop these planned cuts which would have had a huge impact on the quality of life of disabled people and their families,” said New Zealand Disability Support Network chief executive Dr Garth Bennie.
“For example, the papers show a proposed plan to cut community support services by 10 per cent. That effectively means cutting one hour in ten hours of support services – that would be significant for many people and their families.
“We have been really encouraged by our recent discussions with Ministers and remain hopeful the Government will find a long-term solution to tackle what has been a long-standing funding crisis in the sector.
“The sector faces a funding shortfall of at least $150 million (on top of the $90 million current deficit) after years of chronic underfunding. Agencies who provide support services are under mounting cost pressures – funding increases have been absorbed by pay equity and relativity wage adjustments – the gap between the cost of providing services and government funding is widening every day.
“We know this can’t be fixed in May’s Wellbeing Budget alone, but there needs to be progress in closing the funding gap or thousands of vulnerable New Zealanders will continue to see the quality and level of support they need every day, deteriorate. That just places more stress on their carers and families.
“Any cuts have a huge impact on the quality of life of these people, and we as an organisation will be watching closely to ensure there is no backsliding on this.
“It’s always the most vulnerable, who don’t have access to strong advocacy, and particularly those with high cost and complex needs who end up having their funding squeezed as these papers show and it has got to stop.
“We know the Government has many competing demands on its purse, but the funding shortfall is comparatively small – $150 million is how much the Government spends on our armed forces every three weeks.
“We need a new and sustainable approach to funding that properly recognises the costs of providing a quality service – the current approach is flawed and will only make lives worse, not better,” said Dr Bennie.