Disability advocates agree govt response was lacking

Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero.
Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero.
Disabled people experienced considerable stress and confusion by the Governments’ Omicron response, says the Human Rights Commission.

Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero said an inquiry by the commission found the aspirations and needs of disabled people and their whānau did not appear to have been given prominence in government policy and decision making throughout the pandemic.

Key recommendations include taking immediate action to work in partnership with disabled people to improve information about Covid-19 and Omicron so it is easier to find and use, make sure there are more and easier ways to get what people need including masks, rapid antigen tests, a support worker if the usual worker is sick, and more help if someone has to isolate at home if they are sick.

Ms Tesoriero said the purpose of the inquiry was to highlight the crucial importance of putting appropriate mitigations in place to address increased risks for disabled people, tangata whaikaha Māori and their whānau.

"Their voices must be central to the ongoing response to Covid-19."

Dunedin Disabled Persons Assembly kaituitui Chris Ford said he had noted some people on social media commenting they were having issues, in particular around personal care.

"For me personally it didn’t affect me as I have individualised funding and I am able to employ my own person but for people who use agency-based services, disability support services, it was things like personal support that was very difficult."

From an overall disability perspective he thought there should have been more planning from the outset for the disabled community as soon as people knew the Omicron variant was on its way.

Locally, some people were not able to access home-based vaccinations until very recently, he said.

There were lower numbers of people who had received the booster shot and he wondered if people had been given enough information on how the vaccine could be administered at home.

CCS Disability Action southern region general manager Richard Buchanan said it welcomed the findings of the Human Rights Commission Inquiry acknowledging that many disabled people and their whānau found this time to be very stressful and confusing and it compromised many people’s well-being.

"Disabled people need to have trust in the Government and work in partnership with them to design and implement responses that ensure they are well informed and their voices heard."

CCS Disability Action agreed with the commission’s contention of the crucial importance of putting appropriate mitigations in place to address the increased risks for disabled people and their whānau.

"It is vitally important that government services and funding meet the aspirations and needs of all disabled people and their whānau."

CCS looked forward to continuing to work alongside disabled people, their whānau and government agencies to ensure equitable support was available for all people during the ongoing pandemic, he said.






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