In 2008 New Zealand ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The next review will be in mid to late 2019 so last month’s Budget announcement was the Government's last-ditch effort to ensure that we are meeting our targets as a nation. One of the wins associated with this is the criteria change for gaining a Community Services Card.
Between 2014 and 2016 there was a decline in the number of Community Services Card holders, some complaining that it had become redundant because the eligibility criteria were so strict. People had to earn less than the full-time minimum wage to receive one and when they did fall within the threshold, critics have argued that there weren’t many benefits to having a Card (click here for more details). However, those of us with an impairment know that the value of having a Community Services Card is in the ability to access home help which is otherwise not funded.
You can currently apply for a Community Services Card if you are:
- aged 18 years or over (or 16–17 years if in full-time tertiary study)
- on a low to middle income (depending on your family situation)
- a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident.
Refugees or people with protection status or who have applied for refugee or protection status may also be eligible to apply.
(Note: Some SuperGold Card Holders may have a Combo card that includes their Community Services Card details and expiry date on the back of their card.)
From December 2018, eligibility will also include:
- people living in public housing, and
- Accommodation Supplement recipients.
From a disability perspective, these changes and others could be due to New Zealand’s ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The Convention requires New Zealand to promote, protect and ensure the full enjoyment of human rights by persons with disabilities and their full equality under the law. There are eight guiding principles that underpin the Convention:
- Respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one's own choices, and independence of persons.
- Full and effective participation and inclusion in society.
- Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity.
- Equality of opportunity.
- Equality between men and women.
- Respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities.
In a progress report delivered in November 2017, there were some key areas which New Zealand was required to improve upon.
- Data: There are large gaps in disaggregated disability data in New Zealand.
- Education: Engagement with education is one of the most critical protective factors and indicators of a life course. Our education system is not fully inclusive. Forty-two percent of disabled young people aged 15-24 are not in education, training or employment.
- Employment: Unlocking the employment potential of people with disabilities is critical both for their independence and self-worth. Twenty-five percent of disabled persons are in the labour force compared to 75% of non-disabled persons.
- Seclusion and Restraint: Seclusion and restraint are overused and not always used as a last resort as part of a suite of options.
- Access to information and communication: Disabled people still are not getting fundamental information communicated in accessible ways.
- Housing: There is a lack of accessible housing in New Zealand in all housing sectors.
(Click here to view the list and further information)
Considering these points, when viewing the latest Budget, it becomes evident why the government focus was on some of these key areas. There has been a slight increase in funding for information services within the health sector. However, the big winner appears to be education, in particular, support services for disabled children (e.g. teacher aides).
Housing has been in the headlines and the Government has committed to building more homes and having rent-to-own schemes. It is still not clear how this will play out for disabled people.
It will be interesting to watch developments over the next few years. In my opinion, the great thing about the UN Convention is that it keeps disability issues at the top of the agenda and enables groups to be mobilised and be heard.
For a full list of UN Convention guiding principles click here.
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