News Item

August 2022

Removing Disabling Experiences: a vision for the future of our people

In 2017 Warren Forster won the Law Foundation’s prestigious International Research Fellowship with a bold aim to work out how to realise Sir Owen Woodhouse’s original vision of an ACC scheme that does not discriminate based on the cause of disability, a vision consistent with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. His final report releases today.

People are the heart of our communities and our society in Aotearoa, New Zealand. We recognise as a society that many people with impairments have disabling experiences; these can result in exclusion, and by supporting this research the Foundation wanted to support ways to change that. This was one of several projects the Foundation has supported over the last decade aimed at systemic change for New Zealanders who live with disabling experiences.

Warren Forster’s report states:

“We share a vision that in the future we will have an integrated person-directed system for supporting people with impairments that will reduce our disabling experiences. This future system will provide four enforceable rights to social and income support, habilitation, and healthcare. It will coordinate with two complementary systems for improving accessibility and for removing discrimination through an organisation that is tasked with removing peoples’ negative disabling experiences.”

Warren says, “Unless we act now, the current imperfect and unfair system will continue to be written into the stories of our children’s children and their children. The decisions that are made in the next decade will shape the experience of generations of future New Zealanders.

“Long-term projects require community support, political bravery, and vision. This means that if the change is to come, the call for change needs to come from all New Zealanders.

“This report provides a road map for achieving this goal within a decade and sets out a simple choice for our future. We can become world leaders again in the field of care and support for all our people, or we can choose to perpetuate the fragmented, incomplete, and broken system that history has shown does not work.”

The report sets out four enforceable rights and six guiding principles for the proposed new system:

Four enforceable rights of the proposed future system

This proposed new system will create enforceable rights for persons with impairments to personalised social support, income support, habilitation, and healthcare. Creating this new system will meet the principles of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, empower people to live their best life, and increase choice and control. These would be provided by the state through a centralised administrative system for people with impairment, similar to the way entitlements are currently available under the ACC system. This includes modifications, adjustments and supports for a person with impairment, to ensure their enjoyment or exercise of all human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis with others.

These are all existing rights that should already be provided through a “rights based” framework. But disabled people know that these are not enforceable, not effective and are not provided in a person-centric manner, let alone person-directed. This work focuses primarily on developing a system to create enforceable rights, and then a roadmap to implement this system over the next decade. Whilst the system of enforceable rights has an important role to play in removing disabling experiences, the future system will not be able to remove many of the wider systemic barriers and it will not stop discrimination. The future system will work alongside the accessibility system and anti-discrimination system.

Six Guiding Principles

The report states that as the future system is created it will be informed by six guiding principles. The future system must:

  • meet the requirements of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the Human Rights frameworks that we have committed to;
  • deliver integrated, person-directed legally enforceable rights with a person-centred dispute resolution pathway;
  • innovate the funding model to ensure sustainability and equity for current and future generations;
  • progressively realise the vision of the future system through a planned approach over time;
  • improve the health and safety of communities through creating an evidence-based system and investment in communities; and
  • provide oversight and coordination between this system, the barrier identification and removal system(accessibility), theanti-discrimination system and the wider health and social systems.

The full report is available to download here.

This research was funded through the New Zealand Law Foundation’s International Research Fellowship Te Karahipi Rangahau a Taiao.