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National | Te Rito

Northland disability advocate calls for quota in government agencies

A Northland disability advocate has called for a “quota for disabled people working in government agencies”.

Tiaho Trust chief executive Jonny Wilkinson is optimistic about the Ministry of Disabled People’s (Whaikaha) performance after one year. However, he wants to see a bolder approach to addressing inequities.

“I would like to see the establishment of a disability advocate network that could address issues such as access to services, and I would like to see some bold approaches to address inequities in health, education and employment.

“For example, I would like to see a quota of disabled people working in government agencies.”

Whaikaha itself has 70 disabled employees, accounting for about 40 per cent of the 178 staff.

‘Representation matters’

The ministry’s chief executive, Paula Tesoriero, says Whaikaha has made sure people with disabilities are represented.

“We’re recruiting for a new organisational structure and quite a large number of roles.

“So we’d anticipate even more disabled people working at the ministry. Because, you know, obviously representation matters.”

Wilkinson acknowledges the ministry is a step forward for the New Zealand disability community.

“By having our own ministry, we are no longer the poor relation of health.

“Whaikaha has raised the profile of disabled rights in New Zealand and disabled people’s aspirations to be actively involved in decisions that affect them. "

Whaikaha was established to focus on disability support and serve as the main point of contact for people using Disability Support Services (DSS).

Tesoriero says the ministry’s first year has been about laying a foundation for the future.

“[We are] setting up the systems and processes and ways of working for a new organisation — it turns out that takes a lot of time, so that’s been a key thing that we’ve done.”

Wilkinson says the disabled community is excited about “systems transformation”, which is the ministry’s intention to dramatically change the way disability services are delivered in order to give people more control over the services that support them.

Tesoriero says that Whaikaha is also working with other government organisations to help them improve the services they offer disabled people.

“This is important as lots of other government agencies provide services and support to disabled people.”

Wilkinson is also excited to see Enabling Good Lives implemented in rural areas, stating that Waikato, Christchurch and the mid-region served as “demonstration sites” with plans to expand it across the country.

Giving disabled more say

“Disability communities in the rest of the regions are working to build their collective capacity to take charge of the EGL approach in their region.”

Wilkinson wants to see a “concise framework” for how it will be implemented nationally and how individual budgets will be determined.

The ministry is looking to implement the next phase of the Enabling Good Lives (EGL) rollout.

EGL gives disabled people more say in the support they receive.

Tesoriero hopes that the disabled community will take an active interest, “and gets involved in some of the work that we’re doing, and also continue to advocate”.

“We need disabled people in all spaces and places for our community to thrive and move forward together.”

Te Rito