An access barrier for all disabled people is the total lack of money - in the Government's 'Wellbeing Budget 2020' - to make violence prevention and response services accessible and appropriate for disabled people. The new national strategy for family and sexual violence says it is for all people. Yet people with disabilities have been completely left out of the funding allocated in the budget.
This is not new. There has never been money to make violence services accessible. There are no services for disabled people currently, apart from one safeguarding service for adults at risk. They do not receive government funding.
The new accessibility laws must ensure that "access" applies everywhere. Not just buildings, but services. And not just health services, but all services. Disabled people have some of the highest rates of violence against them in the country, but nowhere to go and no one to listen to them. Is not acceptable that abuse against disabled people is ignored.
Here is the letter we wrote to Government Ministers:
To Ministers Marama Davidson, Carmel Sepuloni, Priyanca Radhakrishnan, Jan Logie, Andrew Little and to Emma Powell
Tena Koutou Katoa
We are shocked and distressed that disabled people, tāngata whaikaha Māori, Deaf people, adults at risk and whānau are, once again, invisible and excluded in the 2022 Family Violence and Sexual Violence budget package.
There is no money to ensure that mainstream services are accessible and no money for specialist services – this means no money to begin the process of delivering the UNCRPD mandated twin track approach to prevent and respond to violence against disabled people.
This does not reflect the aim of Te Aorerekura, the National Strategy and Action Plan addressing family and sexual violence, which we were told was developed to be inclusive of all New Zealanders.
Disabled people experience family and sexual violence at very high rates, in New Zealand and around the world. Research from New Zealand has found:
• 40 percent of disabled women experience violence from their partner, compared with 25 percent of non-disabled women.
• Women with any disability reported significantly higher rates of sexual intimate partner violence (17 percent) compared with disabled men (5 percent).
• Having one disability increased the risk of experiencing violence; multiple disabilities didn't increase this risk further.
• Disabled men were more likely to experience physical violence by non-partners (56 percent), compared with 38 percent of non-disabled men.
• 34 percent of men with disabilities experienced five or more episodes of non-partner physical violence compared with 14 percent of non-disabled men.
• Men were the main perpetrators of non-partner violence against both men and women.
An expert group of disabled people and allies, including the Disability Rights Commissioner, have been consulting with the Joint Venture Business Unit over the last three years. This consultation identified the risks of violence against disabled people and the solutions required to both prevent violence and abuse and ensure that disabled people can access mainstream and specialist response services.
The Joint venture is no longer working with the expert group. This means that workforce capability tools, action plans, and all other work is being developed without input from disabled people. This is unreasonable, is a breach of disabled people’s human rights, and is a deficit that could have been addressed in this budget.
Over the past few years there have been many attempts by activists / concerned experts and agencies to secure contracts with MOH, MSD, ACC and MOJ to provide some level of specialist safeguarding service to disabled people, tāngata whaikaha Māori, Deaf people and adults at risk. These have all been unsuccessful, leaving charitably funded organisations working in this space thinly spread to fill the gap. Researchers working in this area also often find that disability is not seen as a critical area of study when funding is awarded.
Disabled people have consistently been excluded from consideration in the Joint Venture’s commissioning processes. This is unacceptable, and causes critical situations of risk for disabled people who have no other avenues of support. A recent example is found in the request for proposals issued in December 2021 for providers to develop comprehensive training for the justice workforce on family violence and sexual violence responses. Nowhere did this request specifically mention the need for this training to consider and be inclusive of the circumstances and needs of disabled people.
This commissioning process does not reflect the vision of Te Aorerekura, as it did not consider and include any consideration of how to build the capacity and capability of workforces about violence against disabled people despite the specific inclusion of a requirement to implement services nationwide in Action 28 of the Te Aorerekura report.
We don’t need more talking or consulting with disabled people about what the problems are. We have been asking for action, and proposing solutions since the 1980s. This government has said that it will take action on family and sexual violence. We know what needs to occur. It is your responsibility, with the ongoing participation of disabled people, tāngata whaikaha Māori, Deaf people, adults at risk, and whānau, to fund it, resource it, and ensure that it happens.
This is a story about the barriers many face. We're sharing it because we want a law that puts accessibility at the heart of an inclusive Aotearoa New Zealand.