Plans to livestream disability support meeting refused by Ministry of Education, Wagner

Smile Dial founder Kelly Dugan and his daughter Lucia, who has cerebral palsy.
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Smile Dial founder Kelly Dugan and his daughter Lucia, who has cerebral palsy.

The Government's refusal to allow livestreaming of a meeting about disability support disadvantages those who need the information most, its organiser says.

Chief executive of special needs charity Smile Dial New Zealand Kelly Dugan asked Minister for Disabilities Issues Nicky Wagner to visit Christchurch so families could discuss concerns about the Government's supported learning review.

The review includes a proposal to limit funding for disability support services in schools to one per cent of the student population, a move that has been received negatively by some disabled persons advocates.

Dugan hoped to livestream the Friday morning meeting on Facebook so parents tied up with work or childcare could hear Wagner and Ministry of Education staffs' presentation but was told it would be "too intimidating", he said.

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In a phone message to Dugan, Wagner said she considered the livestream proposal, but wanted to facilitate "open access and full discussion".

Presenters at the meeting should "feel free to talk openly rather than worrying about a camera", she said. 

Dugan said that position "just doesn't make any sense" and defied the meeting's intent.

Many potential attendees were hamstrung by limited funding for special needs education which left them caring for their children during on weekdays, he said.

"It seems like a double-edged sword. The ones who fall through the cracks are the ones who can't attend."

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Dugan believed proposed changes to disability support funding in schools did nothing to alleviate existing problems with the system.

Wagner said attendees at the meeting would receive a summary of the changes "to give them reassurance".

"It's an opportunity for families to have a personal discussion and some participants may not feel comfortable livestreaming these discussions on the internet.

She said she was happy to consider holding other meetings at a later date.

Dugan's plan B has him collecting questions from parents who cannot be there. He hoped putting them to Wagner directly might elicit "more concise answers" than what families often received from media reports or Government materials.

"I think I might be holding my breath."

 - Stuff

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