Sorry, no shower this week, need to pay for guns

En route to her swearing in, Ardern told John Campbell that she knew she needed to transcend politics in the way that she governed. She wanted people to feel that the government is open, that it’s listening and that her government is going to bring kindness back.

Would this be the same kind government that is limiting showers and meals for the disabled, creating long waiting lists for specialist care, and refusing help for autistic children as part of a desperate cost-saving bid?

The same kind government that has $300 million spare to buy guns? Quote.

Documents obtained by the Herald on Sunday reveal the “ruthless” cuts disability funding agencies offered to make after a $100m sector overspend this year – suggestions so appalling a national rollout was eventually stopped.

However, advocates, providers and their disabled clients say the cuts – designed to save $10m by June, and $20 million each year after – are now simply happening by stealth instead.

The only revelation for them was seeing the cost-cutting tactics they’ve long suspected were being employed by agencies written down for the first time.

“It’s absolute ruthlessness. They’re reducing people’s allocations to the point where anything resembling a good life is simply not possible,” said Garth Bennie, chief executive of sector group Disability Support Network.

“And now there’s no official plan but spelled out there in endless detail is how they go about cutting funding, whether it’s nationally or one person at a time – which we know is happening.” […]

[The Ministry of Health] met with the heads of its regional needs assessment agencies (NASCs) on February 1 and asked them to come up with cost saving plans within two weeks.

It also drafted an announcement about the cuts for clients, explaining it had increased funding to the $1.268 billion disability support sector each year for five years, but could no do so longer. End quote.

So this is what nine years of neglect looks like – increased funding year on year. Quote.

Pay equity settlements, more expensive equipment, more people seeking support and more people with complex needs were all placing pressure on the system, it said.

“The current demand driven funding model is now unsustainable,” the draft read. “The Ministry is reviewing its options and is identifying a set of actions that will help it realign its disability support services spending to fit within the allocated budget.”

By the end of February, each NASC had come up with its plans to help save money.

These included cutting people’s access to current services – like in-home help and meal prep, recreational activities, limiting shower times and personal care – and capping new clients’ packages.

Cost saving was easiest with new clients, one NASC wrote. “This is because there is no pre-existing client expectation or dependence and our experience ? is that this is the optimal time to engage natural supports.”

Others suggested restricting access to residential services by using wait lists, refusing to fund behavioural support for autistic children under 5, and tightening the threshold for service entry – for example, removing foetal alcohol syndrome from the accepted conditions list. […]

Advocates shown the plans by the Herald on Sunday were furious. Some were despondent. One disabled person cried as the documents were read out.

The Disabled Persons Assembly said it was appalled that support might be cut or reduced in any way – particularly after it was given reassurance there would be no reductions.

Taking away from barely enough leaves not enough ? this isn’t just about some line in a budget,” said President Gerri Pomeroy. “It’s about disabled people being able to live their lives at the most basic level.”

CCS Disability Action chief executive David Matthews said the system had never been demand driven – no one was funded for their real needs.

“To imply that seems to imply this is disabled people’s fault for having a disability,” he said. “They’re being made the scapegoats.”

He said despite denials of a national rollout, he was seeing clients’ packages cut each week as a result of downward pressure.

“It’s a crisis,” Matthews said. “We are punishing people for having a disability. Anyone suggesting these cuts needs to go to see what it’s like to help someone with high and complex needs have a shower.”

The Herald on Sunday understands the plans were pulled after ministers intervened. End quote.

A Newspaper

So the ‘official’ word is that there are no longer any cuts, but those at the delivery end are, week on week, seeing cuts that they have been told are no longer happening.

So glad Ardern brought kindness back.