Appeal court's landmark disability decision

LOVE'S LABOUR: Cliff Robinson  with his two disabled children, Marita, 42,  and Johnny, 45.
LOVE'S LABOUR: Cliff Robinson with his two disabled children, Marita, 42, and Johnny, 45.

A landmark court decision confirming parents of disabled children are being unreasonably discriminated against by not being allowed to be paid carers has been called "wonderful".

The test case decided today dismissed the Ministry of Health's appeal against a finding that its current policy was discriminatory.

The ministry currently does not pay family members for care provided to their disabled relatives.

The outcome has the potential to affect about 30,000 families who use home-based care.

A small group of parents and two of their adult disabled children lodged the claim.

It was originally lodged in 1999 with the Human Rights Review Tribunal, and won, and then the High Court.

"It means my life's work has been recognised. That's the most important thing," said Thames man Cliff Robinson, who cares for his two adult children, who have the rare neuro development disorder Microcephaly.

Besides Robinson, who is now in his 70s, the others in the group were Peter Atkinson - on behalf of his late wife Susan Atkinson, their daughter Imogen Atkinson, Gillian Bransgrove, Jean Burnett and her son Stuart Burnett, Laurence Carter, Peter Humphreys, and Lynda Stoneham.

The families still had to go through a remedy process with the Human Rights Review Tribunal which would determine how much they were entitled to be paid.

It is understood the ministry could continue the fight to the Supreme Court.

The case has already cost the ministry and Crown Law $1.4 million.

Robinson called on the Ministry and the Government to drop their legal battle.

"I'd make an appeal to [Health Minister] Mr Ryall that we have jumped enough hoops, we've been through the mill long enough, for goodness sake accept this decision and let us get on with our lives."

The ruling was clearly in the families favour, he said.

"These are five of the best legal minds in the country and they have carefully considered the case and thrown it out."

The court hearing in February was told that only rough estimates had been done of what it would cost if the ministry paid parents to care for disabled children. The estimates varied from a low of $17 million to a high of $593m.

The ministry said it did not know how many parents would want take up the option to be a paid carer.

The ministry said it formulated its policy because of concerns including how much it would cost, the ability to monitor the quality of family members as caregivers, the consequences of a family being reliant on the disabled person for income.


However ACC allowed family members to be caregivers for injured relatives so the court said the ministry's concerns could be overstated.

Greens spokeswoman for disability issues Catherine Delahunty said if the ministry pursued the case it would be against the spirit of the court's ruling.

"Clearly the Ministry of Health need to drop the legal battle and start working on solutions which are fair to families."

The ongoing legal case had been a huge struggle for people who were already battling, she said.

"Every court decision has made it very clear they are being discriminated against."

The Dominion Post