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Posted by Philip on 19 February 2011, 11:06 am in , , ,

Disability sector needs financial shake-up

I'm deeply concerned at the Government's seemingly defiant response to the Court of Appeal's upholding an Employment Court decision against an IHC provider which had paid a shift allowance of about $30 and was opposed to an hourly minimum-wage rate.

We might just have to change the law, says Health Minister Tony Ryall. 

This is yet another of several attempts to undermine the quality of life of people experiencing disability, and those who support us, in NZ.

Last year the Government appealed two human rights decisions that favoured paying family members to provide complex, high level support. The justification keeps being, there's not enough money.

But hang on. I have reason to believe several large disability support organisations are sitting on large sums (in some cases millions) in property and investment assets. I suspect that the CEOs of these organisations are on very good salaries; so are senior management.

Furthermore, Vote:Health pours millions into an inefficient, ineffective needs assessment system that provides no direct support at all. It is simply a gate-keeper for funding based on the uninformed notion that people needing support are too stupid to know what they need, or are dishonest enough to rip the system off.

Right now the Government would rather spend more on a residential or rest home for someone needing 24 hour support, than provide an individually crafted solution.

Top heavy, bureaucratic, inefficient support providers get paid sometimes up to 50% of gross hourly rates for administration to provide lousy support, while Individualised Funding (direct payments so people can innovatively manage their own support) is being scrimped on and scrutinised beyond reason.

It needs to stop.

I'd like to see a comprehensive audit of all spending on Health-funded disability support. I want to know where it goes, where it stays and how it adds value to people impacted by disability. I'd like to see the cost benefit analysed of getting rid of needs assessment systems and support providers all together.

If we took all the money that pays for the bureaucracy and administration, put it straight in the pockets of support consumers and applied a market model, how would that drive up value for money, effectiveness and quality? How more efficiently could funds be applied without the nanny bureacracy and incompetent do-gooders? (While we're about it, let's be realistic by allowing for a few who may misuse funds or overstate their need and offset it by those who will inevitably make do with less.) And how much resource is lying around in not for profit organisations' property portfolios and investment accounts?

These are questions I cannot answer and neither, I suspect, can anyone else.

So before we start legislating against fairness once again, just because we are dealing with disabled people (who are, let's get real, still regarded by most secretly as the underbelly of society), let's take stock, shall we? Let's see if there might be a better way of doing this by looking at the bigger picture, rather than closing our eyes to the fact that this is about more than sleepovers.

UPDATE (1:00pm)

Since posting I've learned that one support provider netted over $0.5m profit last financial year.