Cut to services for disabled ruled discriminatory

The Health Ministry has been censured for discriminating against intellectually disabled elderly people.

A High Court decision published yesterday upheld earlier findings that cuts to support for intellectually disabled people over 65 were discriminatory.

Facing a budget blowout in 2005, the ministry cut access to "day services" - such as sport and educational activities - for disabled people over retirement age.

The ministry claimed the support was not its responsibility, and the money could be better spent elsewhere.

Idea Services, part of disability provider IHC, launched a legal challenge, arguing that cutting people's support based on their age was a breach of the Human Rights Act.

The Humans Rights Tribunal found in its favour last year, and yesterday's High Court ruling dismissed the ministry's appeal against that decision.

It was found the ministry's cuts had left a group of people disadvantaged solely because of their age. "When an intellectually disabled person has their 65th birthday, they can no longer receive government funding for day services. The only thing from their perspective that has changed is that they have turned 65."

The ministry was criticised for not adequately considering a "non-discriminatory" alternative to the cuts. The High Court also ordered the ministry to pay Idea Services $110,000 in costs, a reduction from the $165,000 imposed by the tribunal.

The 2005 cuts meant about 90 intellectually disabled people lost access to day services.

The Dominion Post