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Advocates seeking more support for disabled

Masterton support and advocacy service CCS Disability Action [CCS] has “major concerns” about whether Budget 2024 will deliver better outcomes for disabled people living in Wairarapa.

CCS community support coordinator Jo Scott questions the adequacy of the $1.1 billion for Whaikaha – Ministry of Disabled People that Finance Minister Nicola Willis announced last week, “given a portion of this will cover [the Ministry’s] deficit”.

“It is unclear where this funding will be allocated or whether recently introduced restrictions [on disability support funding] will be rolled back,” Scott said.

“This leaves disabled people and their families in an uncertain position.”

The recent changes to disability support funding [which were announced suddenly in March by then Disability Issues Minister Penny Simmonds], the Government’s review into that funding, and the difficulties disabled people face trying to access services “feels like a huge backwards step”, Scott said.

“It’s dehumanizing and demoralizing for people who are battling these systems every day.”

The independent review is “deeply” concerning as “there appears to be little or no disability representation on the review panel”, Scott said.

Other measures in the budget will also “negatively impact disabled people and their families.

“This includes the removal of the fees-free prescriptions and a lack of increase in the disability allowance and child disability allowance [which means a cut in real terms].

“And based on income trends, disabled people are unlikely to benefit from tax cuts.

“Most people will be worse off, based on this budget.”

Local disability advocate Peter Knighton told Times-Age he is equally despondent about the prospect of the budget delivering any real change for him and others in the disabled community.

Knighton, who has several disabilities himself, recently took matters into his own hands and set up a petition to be lodged with the parliament.

It calls on the current government to provide more support and funding to the disability sector, and has already attracted 520 signatures from local people.

Knighton took his petition to a recent Labour Party disabilities meeting in Masterton, where he also expressed concern about the current government’s “lack of public consultation” on the funding changes earlier this year.

“They have cut funding to caregivers; imagine what they are going to do with disabled people,” he said.

At the meeting, local Labour list MP Keiren McAnulty and Labour’s Disability Spokesperson and former Carterton resident Priyanka Radhakrishnan promised to lodge the petition with the Petitions Office.

“Once lodged, it will go to the petitions committee,” Radhakrishnan said. “It will then go to a select committee, where they will consider it. I will play my part in facilitating that.”

Knighton’s campaigning on disability issues locally was also acknowledged by National MP Mike Butterick.

“I acknowledge Peter Knighton, a long-term local advocate for disabled people’s rights and a member of the Ministry for Disabled People’s national ‘My Home My Choice’ Steering Group,” he said.

“I have met with Peter and heard his concerns in recent weeks.

“As a government, we want the best outcomes for disabled people, their families, and those who care for them.”

Speaking about the independent review into disability support services led by Sir Martin Weavers, Butterick said it “will provide the disabled community with certainty”.

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