27 Sep 2018

Campaigner unimpressed by family care system review move

7:07 pm on 27 September 2018

Disability care reform campaigner Dianne Moody says she is unimpressed with today's announcement today of an independent review into the Funded Family Care system.

Diane Moody and Shane Chamberlain

Diane Moody and her son Shane Chamberlain. Photo: RNZ/ Nick Monro

The 76-year-old mother said the Health Ministry could learn from her disabled son Shane Chamberlain, who she has been caring for.

"He's not too good at the paperwork side of things, but he could teach them how to treat people," she said.

In February, the Court of Appeal ruled the Ministry had failed to take into account the "intermittent" around-the-clock care care Moody carried out for her severely disabled son, when it allocated her just 21 hours a week at minimum wage.

Families and advocates for people with disabilities are questioning why there is to be another review into the Funded Family Care system, saying its flaws are well known.

"How could we be excited?" Mrs Moody said.

"It will be just the same old, same old, I imagine. It will be very interesting to see who they decide to contact. I've got a funny feeling it won't be us."

The government plans to repeal the part of the widely reviled Public Health and Disability Act, which denies families the right to complain about breaches of their human rights in relation to family care policies.

But it stopped short of making hard and fast commitments on a complete overhaul.

Shane Chamberlain's court-appointed advocate Jane Carrigan said it had been five years since the previous government pushed through the law change without consultation or select committee scrutiny - triggering outrage from the Labour Party and the Greens.

Holding another review smacked of "deja vu", she said.

"Every day I have a parent make contact with me asking me to help them because they've been treated in the most despicable manner," she said.

"So the Minister can stand up before everyone and thank the families for their patience - but we're not patient. I don't know who he's talking to, but it doesn't reflect [the opinions of] the families' I'm working with."

Under the current law, spouses cannot be paid to provide care - nor can parents be paid to care for children under the age of 18.

The head of the Carers Alliance, Janine Stewart, said it was "nonsense" to say - as claimed by a previous Health Minister Tony Ryall - that broadening access to funded family care would open the floodgates and bankrupt the country.

Of the 1600 families who could qualify, just 354 had taken it up in the five years it had been running.

Cautious optimism

Ms Stewart was "cautiously optimistic" the government would make the necessary changes.

However, families had already been waiting too long, she said.

"They've indicated they want to be sure they've got the issues," she said.

"We probably all think that we know what the issues are. We're hoping for a very tight time frame, a very clear pathway and that families and carers are right in the middle of this saying how it needs to be."

Associate Health Minister James Shaw said the current system was "a nightmare" for families, and he understood their frustration.

However, he did not want to pre-empt the review's findings or "close off any doors" by discussing what changes could be made.

The review would cover eligibility, pay rates, the employment relationship and the types of care covered.

Mr Shaw could not say whether every one of the 1600 families identified as being eligible under the current criteria would be contacted individually - but the independent review aimed to consult "even more broadly".

"The previous government's approach to this was an egregious breach of human rights and we just want to make sure that the principle of human rights is upheld."

Mrs Moody is heading to the Employment Court shortly to ask for a declaration her son is not capable for employing her.

The government could save a lot of money wasted on lawyers and consultants by just paying family carers what they deserved, she said.

"Everything could be so simple but no, anything to make it difficult.

"We haven't got enough to do, but no, let's make it more difficult for these families."

Following consultation over the next couple of months, options will be presented to cabinet by the end of the year.

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