Disability advocates protest policy changes

Dunedin's disabled community is calling on the government to reverse changes to access funding and restore their autonomy.

Yesterday, more than 80 people joined a march from the Meridian Mall to the Octagon to protest the government’s changes to access funding.

Disability Issues Minister Penny Simmonds has said there have been "no changes to funding" of the disability support appropriation, and the changes were "simply about ensuring the funding allocated to disabled people is actually being used for that purpose".

But protest organiser Dr Amy Taylor disputed this.

"We've lost a lot of flexibility.

"They've tried to clarify things; but they're still as clear as mud.

"We don't have a lot of autonomy as disabled people. "Ideally, we would like to spend our money as best we can.

"We shouldn't be told by some bureaucrats in Wellington what we need."

Removing the flexibility leads to an "incredibly narrow" type of assistance, she said.

A protest group advocating for the disabled community marched to the Octagon yesterday. Photo:...
A protest group advocating for the disabled community marched to the Octagon yesterday. Photo: Peter McIntosh
"People are not able to leave the city with a carer any more; that’s not possible.

"People aren’t allowed to use the funding to purchase glucose monitors for diabetics ... you can spend it on support workers, but it’s not enough: $80 per day doesn't pay anyone’s salary."

Protester Emily McClelland said the changes affected her family, because her 11-year-old daughter Liliana had a lot of "additional needs".

"It’s limited our options as to how she can be cared for.

"I would to see like the reversal of all the changes."

Ms Simmonds has said in Parliament there were a small proportion of people who were accessing the funding for care services such as massages, hairdressers, pedicures and other appearance or therapeutic services, or for purchasing Lotto tickets.

Ms McClelland said this claim was "nonsense".

Dunedin MP Rachel Brooking also attended the protest in support.

"Governing MPs have seen there is disquiet among the community about these decisions; I'm always optimistic we can effect change.

"Congratulations to the disabilities communities for staying motivated; when government decisions such as these are very de-motivating."