Report reveals ruthless cuts to NZ disability sector proposed

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A prominent advocate has been left appalled at ruthless proposals made by health bosses to cut disability support services.

Documents revealed under the Official Information Act show a national programme to cut costs was only halted after intervention from the Government.

The proposed cuts, amounting to up to $10 million by June 2018, were planned to help resolve a $90 million overspend. A further $20 million in cuts was planned for the next financial year.

Suggested cost-saving strategies involved cutting people's access to existing services like in-home help, meal preparation and recreational activities. It also explored limiting shower and personal care times, and giving new clients packages far short of existing levels of care.

Chief executive of the Disability Support Network Garth Bennie told Newshub he's relieved the Government stopped the plans.

"The current approach is clearly quite flawed. The idea of some of the cuts that they were planning are clearly unacceptable for disabled people and family members."

Bennie said any funding cuts to the disability sector would be felt by the whole community.

"That just places huge stress on carers and families and huge pressure on providers to do more with less."

Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter says the ministry is indeed struggling to keep up with demand for its services.

"In Budget 2018, this Government made available an additional $58 million for disability support - the largest increase in a decade. However, I understand that current spend is still expected to exceed the DSS (Disability Support Sector) budget," she posted on Twitter.

"At no time has there been any intention to spend less on disability support services. As the Associate Minister, along with the Ministers of Health and Disability, we've made it clear that services must be maintained."

The Government is expected to update its funding plans for the sector when the new Budget is announced in May.