'Uncaring bastards'- Health Ministry slammed over treatment of elderly man who cares for disabled adult children

The Ministry of Health has been criticised for its "unreasonable" treatment of an 80-year-old Thames man who cares for his intellectually disabled children.

Cliff Robinson has spent his whole life fighting to give his two intellectually disabled children the life they deserve. Cliff won a landmark case against the Government, allowing Kiwi parents to be paid as caregivers. But then – incredibly – he had to keep fighting, to get what was rightfully his. Source: Sunday

Cliff Robinson has spent 50 years looking after Marita and Johnny, who have severe intellectual disabilities and require constant supervision.

Johnny also suffers from diabetes and schizophrenia, which can cause him to become violent.

Marita and Johnny have been in the care of Mr Robinson, a solo dad, for their entire adult lives.

In 2013, the Ministry of Health told Mr Robinson that it was willing to pay him for looking after his children, for 40 hours a week.

But the Ministry later said it had made an "error", and his income would be cut by a quarter.

"I just couldn't believe it," Mr Robinson told TVNZ 1's SUNDAY programme.

"I thought, 'How can they be so mean-spirited?'"

Mr Robinson complained to the Ombudsman, who has just ruled that the Ministry acted "unreasonably".

Its decision-making "fell short" and lacked "fairness", the Ombudsman found.

Mr Robinson's full payment has now been reinstated. However, the Ministry will not pay the money he lost over the past two years.

"They're a lot of uncaring bastards, mainly," he told SUNDAY. "They sit in their ivory towers and say, 'Well, it's not really my problem'."

Long-running fight for payment

It's not the first time that Cliff Robinson has made headlines. In 2012, he was part of a landmark case in which a group of carers took the Government to court.

The Government had refused to pay family members who care for their disabled adult relatives. But the Court of Appeal ruled that this amounted to discrimination, and the Government was forced to create a payment scheme for family carers.

The Government allocated $23 million a year to pay family carers. In reality, it has only spent around $5m a year.

"In my opinion, the Ministry has had it in for these families from day one," says former MP Laila Harre, who is a close friend of Mr Robinson.

"Every single step of the way, they were forced to fight. And then when they ultimately won, [the] Government stepped in, to limit their rights."

Health Ministry responds

The Ministry of Health has accepted the Ombudsman's findings in Cliff Robinson's case.

The Ministry says it is in the process of strengthening the Funded Family Care scheme, and giving the disabled community more of a say in how it is run.

Mr Robinson is pleased about the outcome of his complaint, but the 80-year-old is now focused on preparing Marita and Johnny for life after he dies.

"[Before I die] I hope that I'm still in a clear mind and that I'm able to give them a cuddle and tell them that I love them, and I wanted them to enjoy their lives."