Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) Media Release
Disabled children are more likely to live in poverty than other
children, increasing the barriers they face to participation and
inclusion in society, says Child Poverty Action Group.
In a report released today, 'It shouldn't be this hard': children, poverty and
disability, CPAG says disabled children are often
invisible in discussions about policies that affect them, meaning
their rights and interests, and those of their care-givers, are
There are around 95,000 disabled children aged 0-14 years in New
Zealand. A 2013 disability survey showed 15% of those
children lived in households with incomes under $30,000 compared
with 10% of all children.
CPAG is particularly concerned about the impact of a significant
decline in the number of Child Disability Allowances (CDA) granted
annually by Work and Income. The CDA is a non-income-tested
allowance available to parents to help compensate for the time and
expense of caring for a disabled child.The number of new CDAs
granted has almost halved since 2008 while the number of disabled
children has increased, from 92,000 in 2001 to 95,000 in
2013. Over the same period spending on the Disability
Allowance also dropped 14% in real terms. CPAG
Co-Convenor Alan Johnson says, "We have not seen the Government
championing cuts in support to families with disabled children, but
that is in effect what has happened."
The title of CPAG's report 'It shouldn't be this hard' came from
a comment made by parents of disabled children interviewed for this
research. Alan Johnson says, "Whether negotiating with government
agencies, applying for education funding, or trying to get support
from Work and Income, the process is often slow and difficult. Not
surprisingly, parents often feel their children's needs are
Johnson says, "Disabled children barely
rated a mention throughout the major welfare reforms implemented
since 2010, even though we know around 14% live in families
supported by benefits. Decisions about services provision at
local level, including public transport, are often made with little
consideration for disabled children's needs."
Disability advocate, Colleen Brown says, "The real heroes in
this country are the parents who struggle every day to get their
children up, fed, clothed, accepted at school, resourced, and
included in their community, while also doing all the other things
expected of them at work and at home."
Child Poverty Action Group urges Government to take account of
the ongoing needs of disabled children and their families.
The report makes 9 policy recommendations to improve services for
children with disabilities, including a review of support payments
for parents to make sure the needs of their disabled children are
prioritised over the parents' job-seeking and work preparation.
CPAG would like to acknowledge the wonderful generosity of the
parents, caregivers and disability advocates who assisted us with
researching this report.
- That the government collect and disseminate better quality,
disaggregated, publicly available data on the number, location and
socioeconomic and other (including cultural) status of disabled
children, their educational and health outcomes, and indicators to
assess whether their outcomes are improving over time.
- That the government acknowledge the role of Special Education
Needs Coordinators in schools and accordingly fund a staffing
entitlement directly through school budgets.
- That the funding and allocation of services for disabled
children be reviewed in partnership with the disability sector to
identify shortfalls and find ways to improve service delivery in
ways that are child-focused.
- That the Office of Disability Issues or other appropriate body
investigate ways to ensure that government agencies and staff
recognise and take account of the ongoing needs of disabled
children and their families when engaging with them.
- That eligibility criteria for the Supported Living Payment be
revised for parents with disabled children, or that some other
provision be made so that the needs of their children prevail over
parents' job-seeking and work preparation obligations unless
parents request otherwise.
- That the Ministry of Social Development:
- Investigates why there has been a sharp reduction in the number
of Child Disability Allowance (CDAs) granted;
- analyses census data to ascertain if there is a socioeconomic,
geographical or ethnic variance in respect of the number and
proportions of CDAs granted and declined;
- works with the sector to assess the role of Regional Health
Advisors and determine whether they are overriding medical
- works with the sector to identify barriers to the granting of
CDA where eligibility criteria appear to be met, and considers
strategies to minimise these;
- undertakes a similar process with respect to the Disability
- That an individualised funding model be further investigated to
provide, where appropriate, tailored programmes and services,
including housing, to disabled children and their families. One
model that could be trialled is a key worker and advocate for
- That an independent fully-funded Commissioner and advocacy
service for disabled persons, children and their parents be
established that would work with the sector and help parents to
deal with state and other agencies, and provide support and advice