A brief overview of the Disabled People's Organisations (DPO) Coalition's recent activities:

The DPO Coalition meets with a wide range of agencies. The objective of our meetings with officials is always to get improved outcomes for disabled people. We regularly discuss the need to ensure accessibility and to uphold the rights of disabled people under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). Here are some key messages from its recent meetings.

Electoral Commission –The DPO Coalition met with Shane Whitfield, Director – Strategic Engagement and Partnerships. We discussed partnership opportunities between the Coalition and the Commission to support increased accessibility for voting, recruitment, advisory work and other areas. The Electoral Commission is recruiting large numbers of temporary workers for the Election and welcomes applications from disabled people. Find out more about work at the 2023 General Election.

Maritime NZ – The DPO Coalition met with Daniel Twaddle (Senior Adviser, Regulatory Policy) and Jacqui Yeates (Manager, Regulatory Reform Projects) to discuss regulations about the design, construction and equipment rules for domestic commercial ships. We discussed the scope of their review and developing rules about disability access on passenger ships. There is an opportunity for the DPO Coalition to be involved in an advisory group about this work. We hope to engage with Maritime New Zealand to improve accessibility for commercial commuter vessels.

Ministry of Social Development – Sonja Eriksen (Principal Advisor, Disability) provided an update to the DPO Coalition including:

  • New Ministry of Social Development Health & Disability Work Programmes to ensure consistent health and disability-related practice across the Ministry, and to increase responsiveness to disabled clients
  • The All-of-Government Accessibility Work Programme
  • The Disability Allowance
  • Job Support Funds.

The discussion highlighted the need for further engagement with specific teams, for example about the changes to Work and Income forms, and the need to review the Child Disability Allowance forms.

Inclusive Education Action Group – The DPO Coalition met with representatives of the Inclusive Education Action Group to discuss issues about residential specialist schools. The DPO Coalition confirmed it is already on record for wanting these schools closed, as is the Independent Monitoring Mechanism. Discussion considered what else can be done to address concerns. The DPO Coalition will remain in contact with the Inclusive Education Action Group on this issue.

Te Aka Matua | Law Commission – Megan Rae (Senior Legal and Policy Advisor) and Geof Shirtcliffe (Commissioner) gave an update on the Law Commission’s review of adult decision-making capacity. They provided an overview of key themes received during a consultation on their first report (the preliminary issues paper). They also sought advice from the Coalition on how to provide accessible formats for their upcoming second issues paper.

Ministry of Justice – The DPO Coalition met with Dr Michael Roguski (Director, Kaitiaki Research and Evaluation) and Sara Bishop (Senior Advisor, Research and Evaluation, Ministry of Justice). They are undertaking a research project about the experiences of disabled people who are victims of crime. The Coalition will be represented on an advisory group for this project.

Whaikaha – Ministry of Disabled People – Ben O’Meara (Deputy Chief Executive, Policy, Strategy and Partnerships), Brian Coffey (Director, Office for Disability Issues) and Pauline Melham (Senior Advisor) met with the Coalition to discuss:

  • amendments to the New Zealand Sign Language Act
  • monitoring the Disability Action Plan and developing the next Disability Action Plan
  • disabled people-led monitoring
  • developments at Whaikaha
  • the continued important role of the Accessibility Charter and its future.

The Coalition learned that a Cabinet paper about the response of Government agencies to the 2022 Concluding Observations of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will be released publicly soon.

It was also agreed that the DPO Coalition would work with Whaikaha to update the information on the Whaikaha website about Disabled People’s Organisations.

Whaikaha – Ministry of Disabled People (Growing Voice and Safety) – The DPO Coalition met with Sue Sherrard (Disability Advisor) and Kate Cosgriff (Contractor) about the Growing Voice and Safety project. The purpose of this project is to design two proposed new quality improvement services. Firstly, a disabled-led peer monitoring service and secondly, an intensive quality improvement advisory service for providers. The services would ultimately increase the focus on the voice, good lives and human rights of disabled people, while also reducing the risks and occurrences of neglect and abuse in services.

Crown Response Unit – The DPO Coalition met with Debbie Hughes (Disability Lead), Sandra Moore (Chief Advisor), Matalena Leaupepe (Chief Advisor, Pacific), Silvana Tizzoni (Senior Engagement Advisor) and Alex Watson (Project Co-ordinator). The Coalition is actively workshopping how the Crown Response Unit will incorporate the needs of disabled people in Crown apologies.

Retirement Commission – We met with Dr Jo Gamble (Research Lead) and discussed the work of the Retirement Commission with the Coalition. The Commission aims to help improve the financial futures of New Zealanders for a better retirement for all and is preparing to review retirement income policies. The Coalition looks forward to assisting the Retirement Commission to understand the needs of disabled people.

Kaihautū Tika Hauātanga | Disability Rights Commissioner – The Coalition met with Prudence Walker for the first time in her new role as Kaihautū Tika Hauātanga | Disability Rights Commissioner. We talked about how she is going to be developing her programme of work. We plan to meet regularly.

Sport New Zealand – Justin Muschamp (Disability Lead) outlined Sport New Zealand’s disability work programme. He explained the relationship between getting better community engagement in sport and better health and wellbeing outcomes. We look forward to getting further updates.

Disabled People-Led Monitoring – The Coalition met with Associate Professor Brigit Mirfin Veitch, Director, and Dr Robbie Frances-Watene, Senior Disability Rights Researcher. In this phase of the project, disabled people and their family/whānau/close supporters are being invited to participate in a questionnaire about supports and services.

Whaikaha – Ministry of Disabled People (My Home My Choice) – Gordon Boxall and Kelly Woolston, Co-leads of the My Home My Choice programme, met with the Coalition. The My Home, My Choice work programme focuses on the work needed to change the way people in residential services are supported so they have more choice and control in their lives.

Minister for Disability Issues – We had a very constructive first meeting with the Minister for Disability Issues, Hon Priyanca Radhakrishnan. We discussed developing our relationship, the accessibility legislation, and having frequent meetings.

Leo McIntyre – The DPO Coalition farewelled Leo McIntyre, who has been a member of the DPO Coalition since 2010, as the Chairperson of Balance Aotearoa. Leo was a very valued member of the Coalition. DPO Coalition representatives reflected on the contributions he made during his time with us and shared those reflections with him.

The DPO Coalition is: DPA, Blind Citizens NZ, People First NZ, Deaf Aotearoa, Balance Aotearoa and the Muscular Dystrophy Association of New Zealand.