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Disabled Kiwis 'enormously grateful' after ministers push back on $30m funding cuts

Thousands of disabled Kiwis are relieved ministers pushed back on a proposed funding cuts to disability support services, but the New Zealand Disability Support Network is criticising the Government's funding model as "flawed".

Papers released under the Official Information Act show the Ministry of Health was planning to cut up to $10 million from disability support services by June as a first step towards tackling a $90 million deficit.

A further $20 million in cuts was planned for the next financial year.

"We are enormously grateful for the intervention of ministers to stop these planned cuts which would have had a huge impact on the quality of life of disabled people and their families," New Zealand Disability Support Network chief executive Dr Garth Bennie said in a statement today.

The sector had been really encouraged by recent discussions with Ministers and would remain hopeful the Government will find a long-term solution to tackle what had been "a long-standing funding crisis in the sector", Dr Bennie said.

Dr Bennie added the sector faces a funding shortfall of at least $150 million (on top of the $90 million current deficit) after years of chronic underfunding, with the gap between the cost of providing services and government funding widening every day.

"We know this can’t be fixed in May’s Wellbeing Budget alone, but there needs to be progress in closing the funding gap or thousands of vulnerable New Zealanders will continue to see the quality and level of support they need every day, deteriorate. That just places more stress on their carers and families.

"The [OIA] papers show a proposed plan to cut community support services by 10 per cent. That effectively means cutting one hour in ten hours of support services – that would be significant for many people and their families."

Any cuts would have a huge impact on the quality of life of disabled people, and the New Zealand Disability Support Network would be watching closely to ensure there was no backsliding on this, Dr Bennie said.

"We need a new and sustainable approach to funding that properly recognises the costs of providing a quality service – the current approach is flawed and will only make lives worse, not better.

"It’s always the most vulnerable, who don't have access to strong advocacy, and particularly those with high cost and complex needs who end up having their funding squeezed as these papers show and it has got to stop."

Person in wheelchair. (File photo) Source: istock.com