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Disabled care Govt cost uncertain

Monday 14 May 2012 5:57 p.m.

By Tom McRae

Parents of disabled children have won what they're calling a landmark Court of Appeal decision.

The court has ruled that parents of the disabled should be paid to give care like any other caregiver, and that means the Ministry of Health has been unreasonably discriminating against them by not doing so.

Even the most basic of tasks takes patience, care and time from those caring for the disabled. But until now parents who are doing the caring haven't been paid for what they say is a full-time job.

“We're parents so we don't get funding,” says claimant Gill Bransgrove. “That's straight out discrimination, but they'll pay anyone else to do it except for the families.”

Gill Bransgrove looks after her 28-year-old daughter Jessie who has spina bifida. She says it's disgusting the way the Ministry of Health has treated families like hers.

“They expect me to do the work for nothing, so I was exploited,” she says. “I'm not the only one in the country, but I hope now through going through this process that no one else will have to have that.”

Clifford Robinson has cared for his two disabled children for more than 40 years. He championed the cause on behalf of nine families.

He took the case against the Ministry of Health to the Human Rights commission. He has seen it go through the High Court and now the Court of Appeal.

He says they deserve to be paid $30,000 a year.

It has already cost the Ministry of Health $1.4 million. 

“It doesn't make you look the most caring person at a time when you've got to take a position like this,” says Health Minister Tony Ryall. “We respect those family members who do this, but it does have significant consequences.”

There are wide estimates of how much it will cost – from as low as $17 million to more than $500 million – because it's not known how many parents would try to claim.

But families caring for disabled children say they deserve to be paid, and the court has said they're right, twice over.

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