Disabled far more likely to be poor, unsatisfied with life - report

The AM Show 05/12/2019

A shocking new report has lifted the lid on the struggles families with disabled members face, with one advocate calling it an "absolute disgrace".

newly released report by CCS Disability Action uses previously unreleased Statistics NZ and Ministry of Education data to show households with disabled children are 50 percent more likely to be in poverty than others, and it's getting worse.

"No one, until our report, has really joined the dots and showed that in fact, we have an appalling state of affairs when it comes to disabled people and their families, and the challenges they face every day," chief executive David Matthews told The AM Show on Thursday. 

Nearly two-thirds of carers of disabled children say they don't have enough money, or just enough to scrape by. Disabled students are more likely to attend low-decile schools, and a growing percentage of them appear to be from minority ethnic groups, including Māori.

The report also found disabled adults are 2.5 times more likely to experience material hardship than the non-disabled, 1.6 times as likely to say their housing costs are unaffordable, and about twice as likely to rate their life satisfaction and wellbeing as poor.

Matthews says prior Governments' attempts to improve the situation have amounted to little more than tinkering around the edges.

"There have been limitations in the amount of money they're willing to invest in disabled people and their families. The 'solutions' have been tinkers, tweaks - they haven't been significant and large-scale. 

"There's been a lack of big, bold ideas - we've just had more of the same, and we can see the results of that in our report."

Child Poverty Action Group health spokesperson Nikki Turner says families with disabled children are on the back foot from the get-go.

"It's difficult to sustain and maintain good employment to bring in the money, and second, the cost of managing children with disability at home - while trying to sustain employment - is really challenging."

Dr Turner says hidden costs creep up.

"That would include needing childcare, needing extra resources, needing support, transport, the environmental issues - there are multiple reasons why it's way more challenging."

The report notes inequality for disabled people over 65 is "significantly lower" than for those yet to reach the age when universal superannuation payments kick in.

CCS Disability Action says this shows "full elimination" of inequality for disabled people and their families is possible.

"Many disabled people over 65 would not have faced disability-related barriers for much of their life," the report reads. 

"As a result, they are likely to have more financial assets as well as higher social and human capital. This means if we can remove barriers and provide more support, inequality for disabled people under 65 can be lowered to the same amount."

The full report can be read on the CCS Disability Action website.

The AM Show / Newshub reporters Dan Satherley & Ella Prendergast