Disability Support Services Consumers Consortium
Thursday 19 April 2012 Speech
Tēnā koutou katoa
It gives me much pleasure to be with you again. Thank you Robert (Robert Martin – Chair) for introducing me, and to everyone present for having me here today.
When I last spoke to you, we talked together about the importance of the message - “nothing about us, without us”. It is such an inspiring message. It is about disabled people and your whānau taking control of your care, and demanding that you be part of the development process of any services or supports.
I recently read a quote, by Robert Hensel, who successfully lobbied to have “beyond limitations” week established as an annual event in his community of New York. He said “we the ones who are challenged, need to be heard.”
When I read it, I thought about this group here today. You have also put this call out, and you are instigators of change, which I hope will overwhelmingly transform the way that we, together, work to provide support services to the communities of New Zealand.
I have come here today with two particular take. The first most important reason – is to hear your voice; to check in and get feedback; and to seek new ideas, to seek your wisdom and counsel, and to weave us together again on our pathway forward. The second is to talk with you about our way forward, and our movements as government and whanau towards providing better support systems for disabled people.
“Ma tou rourou, ma taku rourou, ka ora ai te iwi” –with your input, and mine, the community will survive. It is a well-known Maori proverb, which outlines our approach into the future, and my aspirations for how we as government work with all our whanau and communities of Aotearoa.
The Consumer Consortium is a key part of bringing the voice of our communities together. Between you, the twenty or so members of this consortium span the spectrum of issues impacting on disabled peoples and your families. It is a wonderful initiative to model collaboration make the effort needed to connect; to focus on the big picture; the issues that confront the sector and the challenges and opportunities common in your lives.
Another project which aimed to bring the many voices of disabled people, service providers, and governments together was the Enabling Good Lives project.
Last year, I established a working group and asked them to take a fresh look at what type of supports governments should provide to people currently receiving day services and community participation services. They produced a report titled Enabling Good Lives.
The report outlined some of the key aspirations, and indeed expectations that disabled people have in relation to the services that we provide.
Some of you may have been a part of this process – and I thank you for your commitment. What the report told us, was that disabled persons wanted flexibility to do everyday things in everyday places, rather than special activities in special venues.
They wanted supports that give them choice and control over their lives, and are mana enhancing. They asked that we build and strengthen relationships between disabled people, their whanau and their community, and take a ‘whole of life’ approach to services, rather than split support between programmes.
It was music to my ears – and I am sure to yours too.
I am pleased that we are now working towards implementing programmes which better reflect the voices of those individuals and families who experience first-hand what it means to live with disabilities, and what supports are required to enable a good quality of life.
The working group recommended, that we start to move away from the “centre-based” approach to support services, and work towards “facilitation-based” support.
We have started work to test these concepts in Canterbury. It is a place where rebuilding is happening not just to houses, but across a wide range of areas. It has also become a fertile ground for innovation, and a place where we can put our commitment to the task of making a positive difference into action.
Establishing new ways of doing, new relationships, or new services is not an easy task. In fact, it takes time to bed down some foundations upon which true innovation can grow and nurture future growth. That is what we are working on establishing in Canterbury, and we have plans to expand this project into Wellington and Hamilton.
Gordon Boxall and Mark Benjamin are leading a project to bring together disability sector stakeholders in Christchurch to develop a plan (with practical and realistic steps) for transforming disability supports in Christchurch – along the lines of the Enabling Good Lives report.
The Canterbury Steering Group includes disabled people, family members and providers, as all parts of the sector will need to work together on the many changes. Under the leadership of Gordon and Mark, the group has also invited submissions from local disability stakeholders on the key elements of Enabling Good Lives, and has invited ideas on how this could be implemented in their local community.
Another new initiative that we have been working on has been established as a result of the feedback we have received from groups such as this one. Disabled people told us, that they want greater control over their support services.
The “New model for supporting disabled people”, has been established to give disabled people greater choice about how their support funding is spent, which in turn we hope will enable greater choice over decisions such as where you live, how you live, and how you choose to be supported.
This model is closely linked to Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities, which is about ensuring that you have choices ‘equal to others’ and are supported to be included into the community, and live independently.
There is a demonstration of the core elements of the new model in the Western Bay of Plenty/Tauranga area. This has included the engagement of ‘local area co-ordinators’ who walk alongside disabled people to help them plan and build a new life in their communities.
As part of this ‘New model’we are currently in the process of developing a significantly expanded individualised funding scheme, and this is expected to be implemented in the near future. This will give people considerable flexibility over what they purchase with the funds that they are allocated.
I went to Australia last year to see how this approach could work, and what it looked like in practice. This approach gave total control to disabled people about how their funding was spent. One man I met, had made a decision that he did not require supervised care at night, and instead he used some of his funding for transport into the city to take part in community activities.
I was blown away by the way in which this simple change of policy, created such a change in the quality of life of this man. He was happy, he was engaged in the community, and he was empowered to make choices about his life.
It was something special that I experienced, and yet it was a simple change in the way we do things. That is the value of groups such as this, providing real learnings from real experience.
I want every person and whanau in this country to feel empowered, engaged, and supported. In fact that is the impetus behind the Whanau Ora approach – but that is a conversation for another day perhaps.
In the meantime, I would very much like to hear more from you. We are on this journey together. We share the same goal, and now is the time I would like to ask you to tell me, what you want to see happen within the disabilities sector.
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