29 Jan 2022

Disability Ministry's ongoing costs and funding kept secret

6:51 am on 29 January 2022

Expected annual costs for the new Ministry for Disabled People are being kept secret by the government.

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Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The departments setting up the new ministry - the Ministries of Social Development (MSD) and Health (MOH) - both refused Official Information Act requests for information about estimated annual operational costs, estimated costs of a national rollout of the Enabling Good Lives (EGL) programme, or any cost-benefit assessment of the rollout.

"The information you have requested relates to work that is being actively considered. Releasing this information now will very likely impact ministers' ability to consider advice effectively and to make final decisions," MSD said in its response.

The secrecy is likely to frustrate those in the sector, who may fear a lack of progress led by an underfunded agency.

It comes after the appointment in December of Justine Cornwall to lead the ministry's establishment unit. Cornwall does not identify as disabled, and the move was perceived as going against the "nothing about us, without us" ethos the government signed up to, prompting a petition for her to be removed.

Her appointment was announced alongside the structure of the establishment group, which would have nine members made up of six disabled people including three tangata whaikaha, and three senior MSD and MOH officials. A Community Steering Group made up of disabled people, whānau and family would also be appointed by a separate Officials Steering Group of offiicals from MSD, MOH and The Treasury.

The government announced the new ministry in October, promising a single point of contact for disabled people and others in the sector, as well as a body for setting policy and administering disability support funding.

Its approach to funding would include a national rollout of the EGL approach to funding - which allows disabled people and their families to take charge of how the money allocated to them will be spent.

It was well received, coming more than a year after the Health and Disability System Review largely disregarded disabled people and failed to adequately consult with them, leaving disabled communities furious.

The reforms would also be accompanied by a new law to improve accessibility across Aotearoa.

The government finished initial consultation on that law yesterday and expects to introduce it to Parliament in July.

The fast pace meant a shorter consultation period which left some groups frustrated, though there will be an opportunity for further consultation on the law when it goes to select committee.

The new ministry - the name of which has not been finalised - will be a departmental agency hosted by MSD, meaning it will be operationally independent but will share corporate and back-office services.

It is expected to be up and running by 1 July, with $5 million allocated for its establishment.

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