Family carers slam disabled support Bill

Diane Moody and her son Shane (Newshub.)
Diane Moody and her son Shane (Newshub.)

Family carers have told The Nation they're being shafted by a law that allows them to be paid to support disabled relatives.

Some believe they're being drastically underpaid and legal experts say the legislation is full of fishhooks.

Pressure is now mounting on the Government to repeal the law.

Diane Moody has been looking after her son his entire life.

Shane, who's almost 50, was born with a genetic condition called Williams syndrome, and his mother says he has the mental capacity of a two-year-old.

"He can't wash himself or his hair or his teeth or shave, so that I do everything," she says.

"He can take himself to the toilet but he can't clean up or anything like that."

Ms Moody is his round-the-clock carer, and is currently paid minimum wage for just 17 hours a week.

Not only that, but she says the payment assessments are degrading, and ask her to time the most intimate tasks down to the minute.

The Government previously fought tooth and nail to avoid paying family carers. However, after a decade of legal wrangling and two appeals it finally gave in, and in 2013 unveiled the Health and Disability Amendment Bill.

That meant $23 million in funding per year.

Family carers, excluding spouses, could be paid minimum wage for up to 40 hours a week, and 1600 disabled people over 18 would qualify for care funding. However, it also prevented people from mounting a legal challenge to argue that the policy was discriminatory.

"It was being applied to take away the rights of people who were looking after their children - their adult children - for their entire lives," says legal expert Andrew Geddis.

Disability Rights Commissioner Paul Gibson has called it the country's worst piece of legislation, and says that concern extends overseas.

"The UN committee said the Government should look at repealing it - that it was discriminatory," he says.

The Court of Appeal has also weighed in, saying the law "authorises discriminatory policies".

National MP Sam Lotu-Iiga says he supports the Bill.

"I do support that because I was in a Government that supported a certain Bill that got put in place," he says.

It's a Bill that means relatives also can't be paid for supervision like non-family carers.

"They do have access not just to family-funded care but to other sources of disability support services," Mr Lotu-Iiga says.

The Government is urging anyone with a complaint to come forward.

As for Ms Moody, she's planning to take her fight for 40 hours' worth of pay to court.