An Eye on Autism in the 2011 New Zealand Elections: Introductory Post

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The national elections in New Zealand, will be taking place on November 26th 2011 (click here for the election timetable).

Leading up the fateful day, various political parties and candidates will of course be sharing their views and policies on pretty much everything, including issues directly relevant to autism. That particularly includes education (special education, including support for special needs post-secondary schooling), and health (disability supports and services). There are of course other areas affected by government attitudes and priorities (eg employment, justice) that also impact on families living with autism.

I will be keeping an eye on such policies over the next few months. I shall attempt to access and explain the autism-relevant views of at least every major political party, and the minor ones as time and information allows, in posts on this blog. (Investigations into their policies will no doubt also spin-off into further more general discussions.) If I can’t find their views on such issues (via their own news releases, advertising, websites, interviews etc), I will try to contact them directly for answers. Because the answers matter to me, and there’s a good chance the answers matter to a fair few of my readers. (Don’t worry out-of-town readers, I’m not going to get election-obsessed; this is just an (important) side project.)

I am hopeful at least that by seeking out and sharing such answers from the parties and candidates, I will bring more attention to the importance and impact of such views.

I don’t see the election as a lolly-scramble; caring for autistic people is not just a money issue. It is also about attitudes and awareness. A party that promises huge spending on everything – including autism relevant issues – but doesn’t understand how the system operates and impacts on our families and the lives of autistic people, is still missing a huge piece of the puzzle. In the same vein, nice attitudes and high levels of awareness, without structure and resources to make them turn into real results, is also only so-helpful. In my investigations of the policies I will focus the most on bringing together and explaining the parties’ / candidates’ views. I will no doubt share my own opinions of those views too, but I see that as a secondary task.

I’ll keep all such posts under the new category “NZ Elections 2011; Autism.”

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2 Responses to An Eye on Autism in the 2011 New Zealand Elections: Introductory Post

  1. Jack (Wife of Jack) says:

    I recently found out that our son’s early intervention school (run by a trust) has lost a not insignificant amount of funding this year. Funding comes from two sources; the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education. For some bizarre reason it also falls into the category of Early Childhood Education, the same funding model as Kindergartens, Daycare and similar providers. 100% percent of the teachers and therapists are fully qualified so I can only imagine that is were the funding has been lost as this current government has cut funding levels to provide for only 80% qualified staff in early childhood settings. This is a guess only as I can’t work out why any government would cut funding to a therapy school that caters for many of our regions children with various developmental and physical issues. Some parents travel large distances once a week to reach the school. The schools main focus is to prepare the children for primary school as best they can. To apply the same funding model as a Kindergarten or Daycare to a vital therapy service that the children access once a week is a serious oversight. In fact the service takes the pressure off the ridiculously over stretched DHB and Ministry of Education system that is the other early intervention provider in the area. The waiting lists and disjointed service it provides in my opinion are in stark contrast to the excellent, cohesive service we receive at our school. The parents already pay a top up donation to provide extra music therapy. Why cut funding to this excellent service? Are our children that easy to ignore? It is after all the most bang for your buck end of the funding time line. Spend money now, reap the benefits of children engaging effectively with the education system later.

    Most parents I know in the ASD community are spending extra funds on private therapy as well to supplement these free services so governments really need to ask themselves, are they doing enough for those who can’t afford to spend these large sums on their children? Unfortunately the economic divide will impact on future outcomes for these children.

    • All good questions and points Wife of Jack, and quite concerning too. The early intervention school you mention sounds fantastic, I wish we’d had something like that available in our area. It’s the sort of idea that needs to be expanded, not cut-back.

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