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New Zealand: Caregiver parents win landmark case

Chief Human Rights Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan has called on the Government to begin carer payments immediately to a group of parents looking after severely adult disabled children after they were victorious in a landmark court decision.

Chief Human Rights Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan has called on the Government to begin carer payments immediately to a group of parents looking after severely adult disabled children after they were victorious in a landmark court decision.

The Chief Human Rights Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan has called on the Government to begin carer payments immediately to a group of parents looking after severely adult disabled children after they were victorious in a court decision today.

The long running case was between nine parents and their severely disabled adult children and the Ministry of Health. The Ministry pays for carers to look after severely disabled people, however if the carer happens to be a family member, they are not eligible for the payment.

In the landmark decision the Human Rights Review Tribunal decision has found the parents have been discriminated against by the Ministry of Health because “they are not allowed to be paid for the services they provide to their child (or children) while anyone else providing the very same care to their child (or children) is able to be paid.”

The Tribunal did not accept that the support given by family members to “heavily dependent persons”, particularly when they reach adolescence and adulthood can be considered as “natural” support.

Nor did the Tribunal find any evidence that the financial impact to pay family members currently excluded would not be sustainable. “Our own intuitive view is that the impact is not likely to be great within the disability sector.”

The Tribunal also found that the policy acted against the objectives of the NZ Disability Strategy.

“The Commission welcomes this landmark decision because it shows the value of human rights law and recognises the hardship and discrimination these parents have faced for, in some cases, many decades,” Ms Noonan said.

She said the previous government had been poorly advised on the issue and “regrettably had decided to accept that advice”.

The Chief Commissioner will seek meetings as soon as possible with the Minister of Health Tony Ryall and the Minister for Disability Issues, Tariana Turia.

“This is an opportunity for the Government to allow this group of parents, and those in a similar situation, support and dignity for what is for many of them round the clock care for their disabled adult children.”

The Ministry of Health has 30 days to decide on an appeal to the decision.

Ms Noonan said, "This is a resounding decision for the parents and their disabled adult children. Any appeal would constitute a further unconscionable delay in ensuring these long suffering families can finally receive justice.”

Date: 8 January 2010

Source: New Zealand Human Rights Commission

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