Legal win nets 'half-baked' scheme

BRONWYN TORRIE
Last updated 09:47 17/05/2013

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Budget 2013

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A $92 million fund to pay parents who look after their adult disabled children has been revealed by the Government - a year after the Court of Appeal ordered it to do so.

But the outlay over four years has been dismissed as "miserly", and will still discriminate against some relatives, according to one of the parents who took the Ministry of Health to court.

"We took a case for all disabled people," Cliff Robinson of Thames said. "It seems like, after all our years and years of fighting to get a decent scheme, we've got a half- baked one. There will be challenges to this."

About 1600 high or very-high- needs disabled people aged over 18 will receive a share of $23m annually over the next four years to pay a family member to take care of them.

They will be able to employ a relative - who is not their spouse or partner - to provide up to 40 hours of support per week.

Mr Robinson, 76, said he was confident his two children - Johnny, 43, and Marita, 40 - would meet the criteria, but he didn't know how many hours they would qualify for, or what the hourly rate would be.

Disability services group CCS chief executive David Matthews said it was a "step in the right direction", but "the court gave them no choice".

The scheme was expected to start on October 1, if legislation is passed.

Green Party MP Catherine Delahunty said the aim of the legislation was to stop payouts, not to assist families, as it would prevent future claims of discrimination relating to family carers being made to the Human Rights Commission and the courts.

The bill also states that payments to family members may be lower than rates paid to people who are not related.

Health Minister Tony Ryall said the interests of disabled people, their families and taxpayers had to be balanced.

"We are addressing the issue, but we must also be able to afford it. Our society expects parents to care for and support their dependent children.

"But the Court of Appeal ruled that this 'social contract' does not extend to continuing to care for adult sons and daughters who have a lifelong disability."

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