As part of its review of community law centres, the government has announced it intends to withdraw funding for the Mangere Disability Law Centre. Not the Remuera or Khandallah Disability Law Centre, but the specialist disabled legal service in one of the poorest urban areas in the country.
The law centre is obviously alarmed about this, and so are we. Spider and I did some investigation and came up with the following info:
- About 30-50% of clients are Maori or Pasifika, reflecting the relative economic disadvantage of those groups, and their greater likelihood of being injured or disabled;
- Nearly all are beneficiaries. Not surprising - whatever the Minister might say about the ennobling properties of work, the Disabled Persons Assembly will tell anyone who will listen that the biggest barrier to work for disabled people is employer discrimination, so this leaves people few options. Further reducing the likelihood of this particular group being in work is the woeful state of public transport in Mangere and its surrounding areas;
- Most clients are living in Housing New Zealand accommodation, boarding houses or (and I hope you're paying attention, Phil Heatley), cars;
- Reasons for needing legal services include employment discrimination, especially redundancy when employers lay disabled people off, advocacy assistance for dealing with Housing New Zealand, WINZ and ACC, and dealing with dodgy guardians, for example guardians who financially exploit them.
If you think that in a representative democracy justice should be open to all, please help to save the Disability Law Centre. You can:
- send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and ask them to put your name on an open letter to Judith Collins;
- attend the public meeting Monday 30th July, 1-3 pm at Western Springs Community Garden Hall, 956 Great North Road;
- email Judith Collins (email@example.com) or Tariana Turia (firstname.lastname@example.org) directly;
- lobby your local MP (especially if s/he is a Tory), your local board or Councillor.
Whatever Ms Collins is hoping, the disabled poor will not just FOAD. Nor should they.