New Mana Whaikaha funding system opens doors for disabled people

Lucy Brunn on a horse.
Photo credit: Supplied/Renee Carson

A funding model co-designed with disabled people could open up opportunities for dancer and keen horse-rider Lucy Brunn, after her mum likened extracting funding from the previous system to "begging".

Lucy's mother Pip Brunn believes that the new Enabling Good Lives funding model, currently being trialled in the Mid-Central DHB region, will mean Lucy can get support to reach her goals and contribute to the community.

Lucy, 20, dances five days a week at the Dean McKerras School of Dance and is also training to become a stable-hand.

She is profoundly deaf with intellectual disability and communicates mainly visually with some use of New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL).

Pip and Lucy Brunn.
Pip and Lucy Brunn. Photo credit: Supplied

Mrs Brunn says that communication has always been a priority for the family, but that the previous Needs Assessment Service Coordination system - administered by the Ministry of Health - was more interested in "putting people into boxes".

"We weren't able to access support with her deafness because all of the support funding she was able to use was based on her behaviour. Lucy has had very little support over her life to access NZSL, and there's no one else in her classroom who signs," Mrs Brunn says.

Mrs Brunn, who is on the Regional Leadership Group for the funding trial Mana Whaikaha says the new system could be a game-changer.

"If I wanted to employ a speech therapist, or an NZSL person, I can use my funding to do that, I wouldn't have been able to do that before."

Previously, Mrs Brunn says, it wasn't until it was at peak crisis time that the family got support.

"Now, I could get funding for Lucy's dance lessons, because that's actually how Lucy serves the community."

Minister for Disability Issues Carmel Sepuloni and Associate Minister for Health James Shaw announced the launch of the Mid-Central trial on Monday.

"Mana Whaikaha focuses on what disabled people can do, not what they can't, and offers flexible options to increase wellbeing and health outcomes for them," Ms Sepuloni said in a press release.

"We are taking a 'try, learn and adjust' approach to this new system so we can be innovative and respond to the feedback on what is working and what needs improving," Mr Shaw said.

Lucy Brunn during a dance routine.
Photo credit: Supplied

A total of $21.24 million has been allocated to the trial over the next two years, covering Palmerston North, Horowhenua, Manawatu, Ōtaki and Tararua districts.

A disabled people's representative to the Regional Leadership group Antnz Burgess said about 1600 disabled people are eligible to participate in the trial.

Mrs Brunn also stressed that, in line with the beginning early principle, guardians of children under the age of eight who had not received a diagnosis can give the Mana Whaikaha connectors a call to discuss options.

"Before, you needed doctors' reports and lots of information just to give people a call. Now, with the new role of connectors, they can help you decide whether you need to access extra support or whether there are other places you can go," Mrs Brunn says.


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