Disability Issues Minister Penny Simmonds clarifies stance on support funding, says no disabled person will lose essential services

  • 20/03/2024

The Disability Issues Minister has clarified restrictions on support spending for disabled Kiwis and their carers will only apply to "some but not all" funding and insists no disabled person will lose access to essential services.

It comes after up to 50,000 disabled New Zealanders and their carers called out a drastic reduction in support. 

New funding rules around the purchasing of services were uploaded to the Ministry of Disabled People's Whaikaha website on Monday with no consultation, according to angry members of the community who said they were "blind-sided". 

It included access to funding for sensory toys or devices like tablets which aid the non-verbal being restricted, and gym memberships and massages for those often required to carry someone heavier than their own body weight was gone. 

Simmonds told reporters at Parliament on Tuesday her ministry could've consulted better with the disability community. But she said funding for disability support services had "blown out" under the previous Government. 

"What we are saying is prioritise the funding for people with disabilities. Some of the funding has been going to carers - that has to be pulled back and prioritised to the disabled person." 

On Wednesday, Simmonds issued a statement saying: "The ministry is restoring some but not all restrictions on what this funding can be spent on. 

"For example, equipment or services for disabled people rather than overseas travel or haircuts for their carers. This is appropriate," she added. 

Simmonds defended the changes, saying it was "not a reduction in funding". 

"It simply changes how the current funding can be used to ensure maximum benefit for the disabled person," she said. 

"During COVID, restrictions on what this funding could be spent on were loosened - that may have been appropriate during that unique period but it no longer is." 

Simmonds said the change to the equipment and modification budget was to ensure equipment and property/motor vehicle modifications were prioritised to those with the greatest need. 

"I appreciate that the consultation was not as wide as it should have been before implementing the changes. We are improving processes around communication. 

"What is important is that the needs of disabled people will continue to be the highest priority for this Coalition Government."