New ministry announced as part of disability system transformation

Mon 15 Nov 2021

The Government has announced a new ministry along with a number of initiatives to improve policies, systems and services for disabled people.

The Government announced a number of initiatives, including:

  • establishing a Ministry for Disabled People (the name of the new ministry has not been determined)
  • implementing the Enabling Good Lives approach to Disability Support Services nationally
  • introducing new legislation on accessibility
  • establishing a new Accessibility Governance Board.

In the announcement, Health Minister Andrew Little said “The disabled community told us that disability issues are not just health issues. We’ve heard and responded to their desire to lift disability support out of the health system, which is why we’re establishing a new Ministry for Disabled People to deliver support for all disabled people.”

The new Ministry for Disabled People will be hosted by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD).

The media release states "The Ministry will:

  • Drive better outcomes for all disabled people
  • Lead and coordinate cross-government strategic disability policy
  • Work to deliver and transform disability support services, and;
  • Progress work on the broader transformation of the wider disability system."

In her speech, Minister for Disability Issues Carmel Sepuloni said the new ministry "...has yet to be officially named but for now we will call [it] - The Ministry for Disabled People."

The Enabling Good Lives approach was developed by an independent working group of people with disabilities, their families and whānau, advocates and allies. It was designed to help support transformative change to Disability Support. The model has been trialled with Disability Support Services in Christchurch, the Waikato, and mid-central, which will now be rolled out nationally and according to MSD, the Government "...has an ambition for transition broader than services relating to disability issues."

The Government also plans to introduce The Accessibility for New Zealanders Bill. According to MSD, this legislation "...will include a suite of measures like methodologies for addressing accessibility barriers, monitoring, evaluation and reporting requirements, expectations for engaging with and listening to disabled people, as well as the purpose and principles for the accessibility framework."

When making the announcement Minister Sepuloni said “The disabled community’s voices will be embedded at all levels of decision-making, from the formation and running of the Ministry, to the development of accessibility legislation.”

Alongside the disability system reform and to support the legislation, the Government will establish an independent Accessibility Governance Board. The Board will ensure people with disabilities continue to be involved in decision making at the highest level possible.

Minister Sepuloni's speech outlined next steps saying:

"In the coming weeks, an Establishment Unit for Disability System Transformation will be established to stand up the new Ministry.

They’ll undertake a work programme in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, working through the elements of what the new Ministry will look like, and the ongoing transformation of disability support services.

Over the next few months, targeted engagement and consultation will take place with the disabled community and sector, whānau, Māori, iwi leaders and Pacific.

A key focus will not only be about locking down the detail of these changes but also ensuring that disabled people are not worse off during the transition period.

The Unit will facilitate important conversations on key policy aspects such as the name of the new Ministry and future transformation opportunities once the new Ministry is established.

MSD will also work alongside the disabled community on the name and make-up of the Accessibility Governance Board, and how we can embed Te Tiriti o Waitangi and reflect Te Ao Māori across all elements of accessibility and the system.

Having the offer of support extended to us by National Iwi Leaders Chairs and the Māori Health Authority gives me confidence that we can do this and do this right."

Minister Sepuloni will report back to Cabinet on progress early in 2022.

For more information see:

Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero welcomed the announcement saying:

"Disabled peoples’ lives will be profoundly affected by the Government’s recent announcement about a new Ministry for Disabled People. I welcome these announcements as a potential platform for positive change. And change is certainly needed to create genuine transformation for disabled people in Aotearoa New Zealand. Transformation will rest on ensuring true partnership with Māori and leadership by disabled people and tāngata whaikaha Māori."

She also said:

"It’s pleasing to see an explicit commitment to working closely with the disabled community to establish the Ministry. This is an aspect I will be closely monitoring. This Ministry won’t succeed without disabled peoples’ leadership - and disabled people as employees and decision-makers during the transition and in its on-going development."

See the related media below for responses from disability advocates and organisations.

Related news

A new report proposes a legal framework to make New Zealand accessible and remove barriers that create disabling experiences. The report, Making New Zealand Accessible: A Design for Effective Accessibility Legislation (2021), sets out a legislative framework that includes an Act, a regulator, a tribunal, accessibility standards, and a way to notify the regulator of barriers. The framework is designed to meet New Zealand’s obligations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Related media

Disabled people make up most of Community Steering Group guiding the establishment of new Ministry for Disabled People, Stuff, 18.02.2022

Community Steering Group guiding the establishment of Ministry For Disabled People confirmed, Press Release: Ministry of Social Development, 17.02.2022

Why is a non-disabled person leading the establishment of a disability ministry?, The Spinoff, 17.02.2022

'Cultural insensitivity': Disability advocates to protest over nondisabled person leading set-up of new Ministry for Disabled People, Stuff, 12.02.2022

Disability Ministry's ongoing costs and funding kept secret, RNZ, 29.01.2022

Disability advocates frustrated over feedback process for accessibility legislation, Stuff, 26.01.2022

Shine A Light On Disability And Violence, Press Release: White Ribbon, Scoop, 13.12.2021

Epidemic of violence against disabled people is symptom of ‘ableism’, University of Auckland media release, 07.12.2021

Dr Huhana Hickey | Kai Māngai Hāpori Whānau Hauā, Waatea News, 16.11.2021

Families Urge To Be At The Heart Of New Ministry For Disability, Press Release: NZDSA, Scoop, 05.11.2021

Ministry for disabled has a big job to do, RNZ, 04.11.2021

We finally have a disability ministry, now we must work together to ensure its success, Stuff, 02.11.2021

New Ministry for Disabled People needs a relevant Māori lens, advocates say, Stuff, 02.11.2021

Deaf Aotearoa Welcomes Government’s Announcement On Disability Support System Transformation, Press Release: Deaf Aotearoa, Scoop, 02.11.2021

Disability sector cautiously hopeful over new ministry: Time to 'really start to test big ideas', RNZ, 29.10.2021

Te Pūtahitanga O Te Waipounamu Celebrates Changes To Disability System, Press Release: Te Putahitanga o Te Waipounamu, Scoop, 29.10.2021

Vaka Tautua Applauds Disability System Transformation, Vaka Tautua media release, 29.10.2021

IHC Welcomes New Ministry For Disabled People, Press Release: IHC, Scoop, 29.10.2021

'A new era' - Major overhaul of disability support will see new Ministry for Disabled People, Stuff, 29.10.2021

Image: Cliff Booth from Pexels

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