18 Dec 2010

Court backs families of disabled adults

10:41 pm on 18 December 2010

The families of disabled adults who have won a court case against the government say the decision recognises their caregiver role.

The Ministry of Health had refused to grant the families disability payments received by other caregivers.

On Friday the High Court in Auckland ruled that the Ministry of Health discriminated against the families by refusing to grant the payments.

The families had sought payment from one of four special categories of help payable to professional caregivers.

The Ministry had argued it was not possible to fund the employment of those who provide what it called natural support, which it said applied to family members.

The court ruled that government policy breaches the Human Rights Act by discriminating against people based on their family status.

Family support beyond natural

The families say their support goes far beyond what could be considered natural and are calling on the Ministry of Health not to appeal the latest decision.

A father of a disabled woman, Peter Humphreys, says he has spent most of his working life supporting her and it is not a natural situation.

"Our children don't leave the nest, they just stay with us forever."

The families say they work 24 hours a day and are crying out for financial support as they care for adult children with high needs.

Cliff Robinson, the father of two disabled adults, says he has looked after them for 40 years and has had to live on the Domestic Purposes Benefit, although he is now on superannuation.

He welcomes the High Court ruling.

"It's a recognition of what I do, it's a recognition that that fellow there provides a good life, a loving and secure and a wonderful life for his son and daughter who are intellectually disabled, and we're going to pay him to continue."