Minister's Forum - Questions and Answers

The Minister for Disability Issues hosted an open forum in Wellington on 15 December 2016. On this page you can find answers to some of the questions asked at the forum and additional information.

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Minister's Forum

On 15 December 2016, the Minister for Disability Issues hosted a forum at the Ministry of Social Development in Wellington. This was the first ever event like this and it was well attended, with over 80 attendees.

Attendees were requested to submit questions before the forum. This helped inform how the forum should be structured. As such, the forum had three areas of focus:

  • New Zealand Disability Strategy 2016-2026
  • Employment
  • Enabling Good Lives.

There was also time at the end for people to talk directly to government officials. This was because lots of different questions were received and it would not have been possible to go through them all during the forum.

Due to the limited time available, the Office for Disability Issues agreed to make some answers and information available on our website. You can find answers to some of the questions that were asked as below. Some of the questions have been shortened. We did this to try and make it bit easier for people who may not be that familiar with the background of the issue to understand what was being asked.

Some government officials are following up with people directly on some questions that are quite detailed or specific to particular people or organisations. There will be some more information on other questions early in the New Year (2017).

If you have any queries about the forum, please contact the Office for Disability Issues. Our contact details are on the Contact us page.

There were some hand-outs at the forum. These included information on the forum's three areas of focus. There was also an A3 document about what is known about people receiving Ministry of Health Disability Support Services.

You can find these documents below:


Why is 15 hours per week the cut off point for the person to have to change to the Jobseeker Support?

15 hours per week is the definition of part-time work. This means that 15 hours is the cut off point for the Supported Living Payment; otherwise it would be reasonable to expect that Supported Living Payment clients had work capacity to the point they are eligible for Jobseeker Support.

In April 2016 (as part of changes to work obligations) the definition of part-time work went from 15 to 20 hours for sole parents. However, this change does not affect clients with part-time work obligations due to a health condition, injury or disability – they are still expected to look for work of 15 hours a week.

The Ministry of Social Development is doing some work about the 15 hour rule as a barrier to people on the Supported Living Payment getting into work.

Could Work and Income have a reference group of disabled people, other beneficiaries and whānau to inform policy and staff about what life as a beneficiary is really like?”

It is really useful for the Ministry of Social Development to understand the experience of clients. The Ministry already has several groups which help make sure it directly hears from them. This includes the:

  • National Beneficiary Advocacy Consultative Group
  • Health and Disability Reference Group which comprises representatives from the National Beneficiary Advocacy Consultative Group, Disabled People’s Organisations, other disability organisations that work with families (CCS Disability Action and IHC), health practitioners, providers and other government agencies.

Will the Ministry of Social Development continue to support all existing initiatives to assist disabled people into employment and how will this happen?

The Ministry of Social Development will continue to support initiatives to assist disabled people into employment. This includes continuing to promote disability awareness and employer confidence through the EmployAbility approach and the Disability Confident campaign.

For Project 300, how many people had a short term illness and were supported by ACC and how many had a long-term disabilities supported by the Ministry of Social Development agencies?

The Ministry of Social Development is not able to report on how many people had a short term illness and were supported by ACC as this is not recorded in the information system.

Further information on employment

During the session on employment, Ministry of Social Development officials also talked about some initiatives that are currently underway as below.

  • Through EmployAbility, the Ministry of Social Development has committed to ensuring all health and disability clients moving off benefit into work are offered in-work support. 
  • A range of in-work support products for clients are already offered, with some specifically tailored to clients with health conditions or disabilities, which are designed to improve the sustainability of placements. These include Support Funds, Flexi-Wage in-work support and provision through some contracted services.
  • The Ministry is also looking to trial further in-work support services to help ensure all clients with health conditions or disabilities moving off benefit and into work and their employers are offered an appropriate level of service to meet their needs. This includes services for:
    • clients with more complex needs who may require a higher level of support to successfully transition to work
    • employers who need some guidance or support to manage employees with challenges relating to their disability or health condition.

Welfare benefits

In 2013 the sickness benefit was stopped. Will there be another dedicated sickness benefit or temporary disability in future?

People who are on Jobseeker Support will have their obligations deferred if they are not able to work because they are recovering from major surgery or serious illness. This means they will not have to undertake active jobseeking activities during the time they are recovering.

Most disabled people tell the Ministry of Social Development that getting a job is really important and want support to do so.

Enabling Good Lives

Now that the information gathering process has been completed for Enabling Good Lives, how will this information be used, what are the plans for the future of Enabling Good Lives including timeframes for a roll-out?

The Ministries of Social Development, Education and Health ran a process with a sector working group to review the information that had been gathered. This included available evidence from the Enabling Good Lives demonstrations, other government trials, innovations that had been tried by the sector, and international evidence.

This information has feed into the advice that will go to Cabinet in February 2017. Decisions on the future of Enabling Good Lives will be made then.

Transforming the disability support system has significant and far ranging implications for disabled people, families, providers and government. The advice to Cabinet will consider the timeframes and what needs to take place before making changes.

Low vision rehabilitation review

What is happening with the review of low vision rehabilitation and the final report to the Minister of Health?

The Minister of Health has received a copy of the Low Vision Rehabilitation Strategy which was developed with advice and input from the Low Vision Strategic Reference Group. The Ministry of Health is currently working on options to support low vision going forward.

Funding for disability

It has been reported that $4 billion was spent on the disability sector. What was this spent on?

The A3 document relating to what is known about people receiving Ministry of Health Disability Support Services has information on the funded services for disabled people.

Read the 2016 A3 document about Disability Support Services [PPTX, 163 KB]

What steps will the Minister take as part of the newly announced Disability Strategy to ensure that there is no difference between the services provided through ACC and through the health system for disabled people with the same needs?

We are continuing to progress the development of Enabling Good Lives, which will provide disabled people with more choice and control over the services provided to them.

Why has funding for Transition Services for youth leaving school not changed in over 15 years? How does this fit with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the NZ Youth Development Strategy?

The aims of the Ministry of Social Development-funded Transition Services are broadly consistent with the rights articulated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in particular:

  • Article 19: Living independently and being included in the community
  • Article 27: Work and employment.

However, it is acknowledged that the transition support provided by government agencies needs to be improved to achieve better employment and community inclusion outcomes for young disabled people. The Ministry of Education is leading work under the Disability Action Plan aimed at increasing the number of disabled people who transition from school and from tertiary education into employment. The Ministry of Social Development has deferred making any changes to the support that it is purchasing pending the outcome of the Disability Action Plan action review and decisions on the Enabling Good Lives work.

The Transition Services funded by the Ministry of Social Development specifically for disabled people are not directly linked to the Ministry of Youth Development’s Youth Investment Strategy or its funding for youth development. The Ministry of Youth Development spends around $7.1 million a year on a wide range of Youth Development opportunities. This includes funding for community-based services to support young people, aged 12 to 24, to develop and use knowledge, skills and experiences to participate confidently in their communities.

Why has there not been any increase in Vocational Services funding for the last 15 years?

Each year the Government must weigh up many competing demands for additional funding. The Government has decided that making sure that school leavers with very high needs can participate in their communities is a high priority. In Budget 2015, an additional $16.3 million was provided over four years for participation and inclusion services for school leavers eligible for the Very High Needs Scheme. This funding is making a significant difference to the quality of life for about 300 young people with very high needs and their families.

The Government is looking at ways to improve the disability support system in the medium to longer term. For a number of years, disabled people and their families have been saying that they want more choice and control over their services and their lives. In response, the Government has funded two Enabling Good Lives demonstrations (first in Christchurch and now in the Waikato) to work out the best use of available funding.

Work and Income

Will all Work and Income staff be given basic training in how to communicate with disabled people and not just specific staff who are located at the back of Work and Income offices?

During 2016, all Work and Income service centre staff received training to recognise the importance of empathy to support positive client outcomes and our interactions in the workplace. Staff are also completing Mental Health 101 training, which builds understanding of what to do and when in order to support clients, colleagues, family and friends with mental illness. 

See more information about the course   

See more information about mental health issues on the Mental Health Foundation website

Focused Case Managers at Work and Income are completing workshops covering core elements of practice to ensure they are having quality conversations with clients and considering their full set of circumstances, including disability. Core elements of practice include: building rapport, understanding your clients’ circumstances, goals planning and problem solving, and identifying clients’ strengths to help them move forward. We plan to roll this training out to all service centre staff.

With the new layout of Work and Income offices and what seems to be less face-to-face time and more about doing everything online, are there contingencies in place for assisting disabled people who cannot operate a computer or who do not have the capacity to understand fully what is required by the staff at Work and Income?

Work and Income does its best to accommodate clients’ needs where possible, and to investigate what options are available to improve services and accessibility.

Work and Income has been working to streamline our processes, and provide digital channels for clients who can and choose to use them, aiming to make interactions with us quicker and easier and ensuring staff are able to spend time with our clients who most need face-to-face or phone support.  

Although people are encouraged to apply online, paper based applications are available.  For some people, their health condition, injury or disability may make it difficult or impossible for them to complete forms on their own. In these cases either Work and Income or someone else can help them. Clients can also appoint an agent to act on their behalf. 

Service providers

What obligations are there on established service providers to provide a service the users actually want rather than what the providers want to provide?

The current contractual service specification clearly sets out what is expected from our contractors.

1. Community Participation services – Context

The Ministry of Social Development seeks to fund Community Participation services for disabled people that contribute to realising the aims of:

  • United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, particularly the rights of disabled people to live independently and be included in the community (Article 19).
  • Disability Action Plan 2014 to 2018. Priorities in 2015 update of the Plan include:
    • increasing the number of disabled people, including long-term unemployed disabled people, in paid employment and self-employment on an equal basis with others (Priority 2)
    • promoting disabled people to have choice and control over their supports/services, and making more efficient use of disability support funding (Priority 4).
  • Enabling Good Lives vision to work towards a future in which disabled people and their families will have greater choice and control over their supports and lives, and make more use of natural and generic supports.

Community Participation services will also contribute to the following Ministry of Social Development outcomes:

  • More people are able to participate in and contribute positively to their communities and society.
  • More people are supported into sustainable work.

2.    Aim of Vocational services (Community Participation)

The aim of Community Participation services is to contribute towards disabled people having a good life, in everyday places, as others do at similar stages of life. This will be achieved by enabling disabled people to participate in and make a positive contribution to their communities. Services will provide individually-tailored supports to disabled people to enable them to:

  • participate in and contribute to their communities in ways valued by them and their communities
  • learn new skills to help them manage their lives and overall well-being, and to participate in their communities
  • maintain and develop social and support networks.

Services will also play a role in helping to build:

  • inclusive and welcoming communities and mainstream services
  • empolyers’ confidence in employing disabled people.

Marrakesh Treaty

When does the government intend to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty?

A discussion document on the Marrakesh Treaty was put out for public consultation in late October 2015. The submissions were really positive about acceding to the Treaty and people also raised some specific suggestions about how it could work in practice.

Since the public consultation concluded in February 2016, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) officials have analysed the submissions received. They are now preparing the National Interest Analysis for the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs to present to Cabinet for approval to join the Treaty.

See more information about the Marrakesh Treaty on the MBIE website

Civil Defence Emergencies

Will the Minister require all media broadcasters covering Civil Defence Emergencies to compulsory have New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) interpreters in their video/TV broadcasts?

Editorial decisions, such as the inclusion of NZSL interpreters, are the discretion of the broadcaster. The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management does, however, have a Memorandum of Understanding with TVNZ, TV3 and radio media outlets to broadcast emergency messages when an emergency with significant national impacts (earthquake, tsunami, tornado, volcano, cyclone etc) happens in New Zealand. This agreement is currently being reviewed and will be finalised in coming weeks.

The revised agreement will set an expectation that television broadcasters will use best endeavours to use news tickers and/or captions to relay emergency messages whenever the agreement is activated.

The Ministry also uses NZSL interpreters at media briefings, and is committed to advocating to broadcasters and Civil Defence Emergency Management Groups for information about emergencies led by Civil Defence to be made accessible to deaf audiences.

Tertiary Education

How will the revised New Zealand Disability Strategy address the disparity in accessing tertiary education?

Within the New Zealand Disability Strategy 2016-2026, the Education Outcome states that: ‘we (disabled children) get an excellent education and achieve our potential throughout our lives’.  This includes:

  • ‘all local schools and education services are welcoming and provide a great inclusive education for us’  
  • ‘we have trained teachers and educators who support and believe in our progress and achievement, and value our contribution to the learning environment’  
  • ‘services that are specific to disabled people are high quality, available and accessible’ (New Zealand Disability Strategy, page 24).

The education outcomes in the Strategy are not specific to schools but apply throughout a child/young person’s education pathway, including their tertiary education. If the schooling system provides an excellent education for disabled children, it is anticipated that more disabled young people will be able to access tertiary education.   Finally, the Strategy focuses on the outcomes to be achieved through education.  The Disability Action Plan which will be developed to achieve those outcomes will likely have actions that address the disparity in accessing tertiary education.

Why did the Tertiary Education Commission not make the implementation of Kia Orite mandatory?

Tertiary Education Organisations are a mixture of autonomous publically owned Crown Entities such as Universities, Polytechnics, Wananga and private training establishments. As such, when Kia Orite was developed it was decided to release it as a voluntary code of practice to improve sector practice in terms of providing an inclusive environment for learners, rather than making it compulsory.

Kia Orite was initiated and developed by a sector group, ACHIEVE.  The document reflects their professional knowledge, experience and understanding of issues for students with impairments undertaking tertiary study. Kia Orite during its development was subject to extensive consultation throughout New Zealand. The Ministry of Education was also involved in its development.

Kia Orite does not promote a one-size-fits-all model.  Rather, it is designed to be applicable to a range of tertiary contexts.  The Code sets out best practice standards which are outcome-focussed and so allows flexibility around the kinds of measures that would achieve the standards.

Tertiary Education Organisations are expected by government to ensure equity of access and opportunity for disabled people, and to provide the support these students require for full participation.  Tertiary Education Organisations have autonomy in using government funding for a range of purposes.  Under the Education Act 1989, however, they must work towards meeting government objectives articulated in the Tertiary Education Strategy.




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