Creating better opportunities for disabled people

No Minister No Portfolio

By Hon Ruth Dyson, Minister for Disability Issues

March 2005

 

Some misconceptions have surrounded legislation currently being considered by Parliament – the repeal of the Disabled Persons Employment Promotions Act (DPEP). The repeal is part of a comprehensive programme announced in September 2001, called Pathways to Inclusion.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

 

The Act gives sheltered workshops a blanket exemption from minimum wage and holiday legislation. Currently, it doesn’t make any difference what ability a person within the sheltered workshop has or what work they are doing – it gives everyone within the sheltered workshop that exemption.

 

The repeal is not about closing sheltered workshops. It is not about making everyone get the minimum wage regardless of what they are doing. It is about a fair assessment of whether the person in the sheltered workshop is actually working and, if they are, assessing whether that person should or should not be paid the minimum wage. If they are not working, but are doing vocational activities or hobbies, the change in legislation makes no difference to them. If they are working but have limitations from performing the full requirements of their job, they can then apply for a minimum wage exemption.

 

Pathways to Inclusion was part of the recommendations of the New Zealand Disability Strategy. Both the Strategy and Pathways was the result of intensive consultation throughout the country with disabled people, their families, their carers and with providers of services. Throughout it, people made it very clear that disabled people want the chance to work, to get paid fairly for that work and they want to be supported to work.

 

Repealing the DPEP Act was one of seven specific actions decided and announced in September 2001. It is about providing fairer work opportunities for disabled people and about protecting the non-work activities that are so important to many people and their families.

 

It is in this regard that sheltered workshops have a valuable role, providing work as well as vocational and hobby opportunities for people. They will continue to be funded by government in the same way as they are currently funded. There is no threat to their funding or to their future. In fact, our government has provided significant additional support to strengthen them and ensure that they can support and deliver high quality services into the future.

 

Disabled people must be able to contribute to their communities in the ways that they choose, so sheltered workshops as well as open work opportunities must be available. Not repealing the Act would take us back 30 years. Disabled people in New Zealand deserve better than that.

 


 

Update

$1.7 million boost to help people with disabilities
Pete Hodgson Media Statement, 1 June 2005
More than 500 people are set to receive hearing aids and disability equipment due to additional funding of up to $1.7 million.