Court victory for caregiver parents

The High Court has knocked back the Ministry of Health, ruling in favour of nine parents of disabled adults, saying they are eligible for financial support from the ministry.

A group of nine parents of disabled adult children took the Government to the Human Rights Tribunal last year, arguing that it was unfair the Ministry paid carers only if they were not related to the patient.

The tribunal found the ministry had discriminated against the parents, but the ministry appealed the decision to the High Court.

The court released its decision last night and said the ministry had failed to show that its policy is "justified in a free and democratic society".

It also said the policy was at odds with the New Zealand Disability Strategy and failed to acknowledge the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which New Zealand has ratified.

Human Rights chief commissioner Rosslyn Noonan, in a statement, said the ministry should accept the decision and "provide justice for these parents who have so courageously fought for their fundamental right not to be discriminated against over many years and through a torrid legal battle".

The parents, represented by the Office of Human Rights Proceedings, claimed discrimination on the ground of their family status.

Ministry policy had assessed the severely disabled adult children as eligible for paid care, but not if that caregiver was a family member.

Their adult children had chosen the parents to provide that care, but because of their family status the ministry said they were ineligible for the payment.

The level of care provided, said the parents' lawyers, was above that of the "natural support" a parent could be expected to provide a child.