Disabled people are more than a quarter of the voting age population. Our families and allies make an even bigger block. At least 30% of us are open to changing our vote, so that’s at least 13 seats of disabled “floater voters” who can turn the political tide. We will determine the next government.
Political parties in Australia have realised the scale of the disability vote, and the need to not leave disabled people behind in their policy agendas. In the last decade the biggest funding and legislation change issue has been a commitment to $8-9 billion increased investment to transform the disability support system there. All major parties have moved to support this, despite concerns about its implementation.
In Aotearoa New Zealand, we have begun co-designing a new support system, and while we recognise the implementation problems in Australia, we have concerns about the lack of funding here compared to there.
In the NZ news headlines, apart from the increasing political profile of mental health issues, some recognition of the historic abuse of disabled people, and poorly handled bioethical issues that may impact on the lives of disabled people without our perspectives being sought, we are hearing mostly words of encouragement and empathy – and not much concrete resource commitment or legislative change. You wouldn’t recognise that this nation led the world in the development of the United Nations disability convention and has committed to its implementation.
We have used the Disabled Person’s Assembly’s (DPA) strategic areas of focus, as identified by our members, as a guide to examine key areas of each party’s policies. We have then asked questions that we would like answered from political parties.
The blogs over the next few days, and strategic areas of focus are
1. Introduction and housing
2. Work and income
3. Education and Justice
4. Mental and general health, and support and living in the community
5. Overall rating of political parties
Many disabled people aspire to own their own homes, and many require rental or social housing. There are not enough accessible houses for disabled people today, and with an aging population the gap is growing.
Many can’t stay with friends and family because their houses are not visitable, meaning that they lack accessible entrances and basic ground level facilities, including an accessible bathroom and a bedroom.
More disabled people than others live in cold damp rentals, and many have long term health conditions and have an increased need for warm dry housing.
Many disabled people are discriminated against when seeking to privately rent. ‘No pets’ policies conflict with the need for assistance animals. Stable rentals are required to build community connections and networks, and stability is a criteria for Government-funded modifications. Many older people, as they acquire impairments, move from their home to an aged-care facility as their home may not meet their changing needs. Many disabled people experience housing deprivation and some sleep rough.
• What would your party do to ensure enough housing is accessible, warm, safe, and affordable to disabled people of all ages now, and in the future??
• Why can’t all new builds, terrain permitting, be at least visitable, and what proportion should be fully accessible?
• Can accessibility be included in a rental’s standards, such as a “Warrant of Fitness?
• How will you deal with homelessness?
Our comparative assessment: It's good to see increasing support for warm, dry homes, but more recognition is needed of disabled people’s needs here, including ending disabled people’s homelessness and ensuring the future accessible housing stock matches the needs of an ageing society. Green best, then Labour, and Maori Party.