The wider disability community has every right to question the effectiveness of its leaders and the advice they give to officials as a $100m and counting overspend on Disability Support Services continues.
Don’t just blame the government or say that disability support providers are simply trying to protect their own interests. This problem is far greater than that, and crying about it won’t help. Accountability needs to occur and hard questions should rightly be asked.
This should serve as a strong reminder to sector leaders that they simply didn’t get the actual resources required to deliver on the promises that they, and the Government, were making to the community.
The disability sector now needs to find a way to get harder and demand that such an oversight never happens again.
The fallout from the report over the weekend has been intense as disabled people and sector leaders react to what’s become a major issue with serious ramifications for the Disability Support Services landscape moving forward.
If cuts to services were to be made on the scale that was being planned, it would make a mockery of what has been a substantial amount of work done over the course of many years to ‘Enable Better Lives for disabled people and families.
Plans by Government officials made for chilling reading that would make even the most positive of disability advocates cringe.
Cutting, wherever and whenever possible, the in-home personal care and community participation supports, on a mass scale was just one of the desired directions that officials were going to take in order to decrease spending by $10million this year and a further $20million in the years after.
The time for the disability community to ask some hard questions of its own leaders is now, and I’ll tell you why.
An Oversight On The Actual Realities Of Disability Support
This has been a substantial oversight on the part of those leaders, the officials in Wellington, and many of those involved in table discussions that have chewed up so much time and investment that many people rightly felt only scratched the surface of what was actually happening in the disability sector.
The resulting actions played a key part in a near $100million overspend on services.
Those actions didn’t have enough accountability for the appropriate parties, they lacked the evidence to suggest a long-term solution other than stating demand-driven support models are the ‘right thing to do’, and all decisions were primarily made on a faith-based approach when in reality there was no reason for decision-makers to have any trust that officials wouldn’t attempt to cut back on supports.
It’s all very well and good to point the finger of blame factors like provider HR costs, the pay equity deal, rising residential service costs, increasing high and complex needs, or more people accessing services. All of these factors are real and have valid concerns, but they aren’t new problems.
This is why I label it an oversight and the reason why many should now be questioning the advice that has been given to Ministries.
These factors didn’t appear to be addressed in the funding models that were accepted by those responsible for ensuring that disability support is delivered in a way that lives up to the principles driving system change.
Principles and flashy policy documents are just words on a page if the product or service doesn’t deliver in the way promised.
If the disability sector was as united as some say it is, then why was Enabling Good Lives/Mana Whaikaha left out of discussions surrounding the radical plans to cut $10million in support for the next year alone?
Surely people being affected by changes to NASC were going to be asking ‘what next’ and looking at how they could utilise what was only ever referred to as a ‘PILOT’ by top-ranking officials.
That ‘PILOT’, as well as the Waikato EGL demonstration, were both in holding periods until further decisions were made about rolling out a new system nationally.
That rollout was never certain and yet all the discussion suggested that a model such as this was going to be the way of the future, again, acting in good faith that the appropriate levels of funding would be provided once the level of evidence supporting such a system was provided.
Funding requirements in sustaining the new disability support options (EGL/Mana Whaikaha) for disabled people as well as keeping the status quo are not, and were not being met. This is no longer a point of opinion but unquestionable fact.
It’s also a fact that advocates and some organisations were raising from the very outset. Those leaders, our leaders, heard those concerns and many advocated fairly, yet we still find ourselves facing substantial cuts and organisations are labelling the current situation as a ‘crisis’.
Or is all this being hyped up so certain entities can protect their own interests? You be the judge of that.
Michael Pulman is a freelance journalist and content producer based in Hamilton, New Zealand. Since starting writing professionally in 2014, Michael has covered professional sports and has had articles on social issues published in mainstream media outlets in New Zealand and Internationally.