Department of Social Development apologizes to family for using outdated systems
Relying on a 1999 assessment to determine current funding for a disabled man led to an apology from the Department of Social Development.
The man’s father complained to the ombudsman about the assessment criteria, prompting chief ombudsman Peter Boshier to call MSD for using an assessment carried out by the Ministry of Education over 20 years earlier when the man was in school.
MSD has since apologized to the family and is working on a strategy to better accommodate the disabled man’s needs.
The man’s father said that since leaving school his son’s needs had increased but as no reassessment had been carried out he was not eligible for increased funding.
* Parents and advocates report uphill battle to get support for children with autism in schools
* ‘Cultural insensitivity’: Disability rights advocates protest against non-disabled person leading the creation of a new disability ministry
* Ongoing Disability Ministry costs and funding are kept secret
Departments have used the current resource program or RHA assessment to determine the amount of funding a person with a disability will receive to engage in community engagement services until age 65.
The complainant felt that his son’s ORS assessment at school, which placed him in the “high need” category, was incorrect and that he should have been placed in the “very high need” category instead. .
The disabled man was able to access block funding of only $4,100 per contract spot per year for community involvement programs because of this old assessment.
A “very high needs” classification would have entitled him to a maximum of $15,676.80 annually for community involvement activities.
The programs aim to help New Zealanders with disabilities achieve their goals in local communities, the MSD website says.
In response to the complaint, MSD informed the Ombudsman that there was no legislation or regulatory framework for its community involvement service.
Furthermore, he said ORS assessment classifications could be appealed under the Education and Training Act, but only when the person was enrolled in school.
In a statement, MSD chief disability officer Julia Bergman said they acted as soon as they received information about the complaint.
“When this matter was brought to our attention, we apologized to the affected family, provided flexible payment and worked with the complainant to explore their options,” she said.
She said MSD is undertaking a review of professional supports for people with disabilities and will develop departmental guidance to address the issue of reassessment.
In response, Boshier said it was unreasonable for MSD to use ORS ratings to determine service funding.
He also found that the department was obligated to provide avenues for people to appeal their ORS classification at a later date.
“It is important that people with disabilities have access to community engagement service funding that matches their current needs,” Boshier said in a statement.
“It is difficult to see how, in this case, using an assessment carried out more than 20 years ago for educational purposes, and while their needs have changed, meets their current needs.
Boshier praised MSD for its willingness to find a solution after the ministry apologized.