9 Jan 2010

Parents of the severely disabled fear ruling reversal

10:00 pm on 9 January 2010

Two parents involved in the dispute between the Ministry of Health and parents of severely disabled adult children are dismayed that the ministry will probably challenge a ruling in their favour.

The Human Rights Review Tribunal has found that the ministry is discriminating against nine parents by not paying them for the support they give their children.

The ministry currently pays carers to look after severely disabled people - but if the carer's a family member, they are not eligible for the payment.

Nine parents and their children took legal action on the grounds that a parent was not able to be paid for the services they provided to their child, yet anyone else providing the same care to the same child was.

In a landmark decision, the tribunal has found in the parents' favour; but the Government has already signalled it will challenge the ruling.

I'm both happy and apprehensive - parent

One of the parents involved, Peter Humphreys of Ngaruawahia, says he's both happy and apprehensive. When he first heard about the decision, he says, he wanted to cry with relief; now he's worried that the ministry will appeal against it.

Mr Humphreys says his 21-year-old daughter has the intellectual disability Angelman syndrome, and suffers from uncontrolled seizures and sleep disturbance. Looking after her is continuous, he says, and he would be shocked if there was an appeal.

Another parent, Gill Bransgrove of Wellington, says the Government is exploiting her by not paying her for the support she gives her daughter, and an appeal would be upsetting.

Ms Bransgrove provides registered nurse care and caregiving support to her 25-year-old daughter, who has severe spina bifida.

Appeal would be 'mark of shame' - commissioner

The Human Rights Commission says that a Government appeal against the decision would be a mark of shame on New Zealand.

The Chief Human Rights Commissioner, Rosslyn Noonan, says any appeal would delay justice for the families.

She says the Government should ensure that those who brought the case immediately receive the payments they would have got if they had not been family members.

Ms Noonan also says the Government should move immediately to put in place a policy to ensure the discrimination doesn't continue.

Serious implications beyond sector - minister

Health Minister Tony Ryall says however that the decision has serious implications way beyond the disability sector and will almost certainly be appealed against.

He says that therefore it would be inappropriate to comment beyond that at this time.

The ministry has 30 days in which to decide whether or not to appeal.