Update from Adri Isbister, Disability Directorate, MoH

To the Disability Community and Sector / Disability Providers / NASCs etc.

Kia ora

We hope you and your whānau are safe and taking care of each other.

This is a significant time for us in Aotearoa – and all over the world. I know that this is causing concern and anxiety in our community.

I want to reassure you that our small and passionate team are working hard with champions in the disability community to keep you all healthy and safe.

Below is information about changes we’re making to support you, and updates from the Ministry.

Message on Personal Protective Equipment from the Ministry of Health

We know you have lots of questions about Protective Equipment, so below is all the information we have.

Current demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) is unprecedented. The Ministry recognises this is causing concern among the increasing number of staff being brought in to help manage the COVID-19 outbreak. Measures to address immediate needs, which include a limited urgent release of equipment and accompanying guidance, will be announced within 24 hours. These measures are in addition to a longer term solution which is also being worked through. The safety of staff is a top priority as we work through this fast-evolving and challenging time.

Information for Disability and Aged Care Providers

We’ve got an update for Disability and Aged Care Providers on:

·        Essential services

·        Changes for disability and aged care services under alert level 4

·        Coordinating with your DHB or NASC

·        Supporting people who are more at risk of Covid-19

·        Supporting people with confirmed or suspected Covid-19

·        Personal protective equipment (PPE)

·        Going to work

·        Advice for employers.

Read the full update on our website – Update for Disability and Aged Care Providers on Alert 4.

Essential workers letter

We have developed a template for essential workers. You can download this as soon as it’s on our website: https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus/covid-19-novel-coronavirus-information-specific-audiences/covid-19-disability-support-and-residential-care-providers

Build your bubble

We’ve made a video about how you can build your bubble. Please share this with people you know!

Making information accessible

We’re working with specialist advisors from the disability community to ensure that information the Ministry and Covid-19 teams are sending out, is accessible to everyone. As you can appreciate, this takes time. While this is a huge priority for us, we ask that you be patient as we work hard to get everyone the information they need.

What we’re working on

We’re working on a number of tasks that we’ll keep you updated on as we progress. This includes:

·        Paying residential family carers under Funded Family Care policies
·        Supporting your wellbeing with a phone line for specialist behavioural advice for disabled people, whānau and residential providers

Thanks for uniting against Covid-19 with us.

Kia kaha

Adri Isbister

Deputy Director-General, Disability

Information on essential and non-essential services for disability support service providers

From MoH – an initial list and guidance of essential services has been published on covid19.govt.nz and you can view it here: https://covid19.govt.nz/government-actions/covid-19-alert-system/. This list may be updated before we move to Alert Level 4, so please check that link if the initial list doesn’t answer your question right now.

Essential services will continue working at Alert Level 3 and Alert Level 4 but will put in place alternative ways of working to keep employees safe, including shift-based working, staggered meal breaks, flexible leave arrangements and physical distancing.

Non-essential businesses must be closed as of today. All bars, restaurants, cafes, gyms, cinemas, pools, museums, libraries, playgrounds and any other place where the public congregate must close their face to face function. Non-essential businesses which can continue operating with staff working from home are encouraged to do so.

A free 0800 number will be set up to help answer questions about this and the number will be posted on the covid19.govt.nz website when the 0800 number is ready.

Principles underpinning the definition of essential service to the health and disability system

·        Keep people at home living safely

·        Keep people out of hospital where we can

·        Where possible get people home from hospital quickly

·        Respond to crisis / urgent / acute physical and mental health needs

·        To avoid harm to people’s mental wellbeing.

What are essential disability support services?

An essential disability service should be any service providing direct support that maintains a person’s necessities of life. The focus is on keeping people living safely in their home. If in doubt, ask yourself: if this service was not provided would the person be at risk of serious harm or hospitalisation. The workforce that deliver those essential services are considered essential workforce, including any suppliers contracted to support this outcome.

If any of these essential services can be provided in alternative ways while keeping people safe (e.g. virtual, phone, post) then you are required to do so.

Disability support services included in essential services are Needs Assessment Service Coordination agencies, Home and Community Support Services, residential services, Individualised Funding (IF) and, some Supported Living (SL), Choice in Community Living (CiCL), Funded Family Carers, FCS, providers under the High and Complex Framework, respite services in the home, NZSL interpreters to enable to Deaf community to access information and services.

Equipment and Modification Services (EMS) that are essential include the provision and repair of essential disability equipment and communication equipment according to the principles above.

Crisis services that provide support for people who feel unsafe are essential.

Services should be prioritised to those people most at risk of harm if those services were not provided. Each provider delivering these services must immediately identify those people most at risk.

What is not an essential disability support service?

Non-essential disability services are Disability Information Advisory Services (DIAS), most Child Development Services (CDS), hearing and vision services, specialist training services, rehabilitation therapies, and behaviour support services.

Services that support people outside of their home, such as day services and facility-based respite must close, and seek to provide virtual, phone, post support as possible.

Non-essential home modifications will be deferred. Vehicles and vehicle modifications are not considered essential during the level 3/4 alert period.

Where ever possible, these services must be delivered in alternative ways (such as virtual, phone, post advice and support). If this is not possible, then services should close.

Information sheet for disabled people and family/whānau

Below is a link is to an information sheet for disabled people and family/whānau and an information sheet for residential care providers about COVID-19.  This is located on the Ministry website. The information sheets are in Word and PDF format. They are working with Deaf Aotearoa on a NZSL translation.

COVID-19 – information for disabled people and residential care providers

COVID-19 (email from the Ministry of Health to the Disability Community)

To the Disability Community and Sector / Disability Providers / NASCs etc.

Tēnā koutou

This email is to provide an update to the disability community and sector on COVID-19.

Thank you in advance for reading this entire email. We will have regular updates about COVID-19 with disability relevant information to make it easy to keep up to date with the latest information and developments.

I would like to assure you that the Disability Directorate is taking the response to COVID-19 very seriously. Keeping individuals, families and whānau, and communities safe and healthy in the current global environment is a key priority for us.

We recognise that some disabled people may be more vulnerable to COVID-19. Some disabled people and their families and whānau may be significantly impacted if their care and support workers get COVID-19. Therefore, we are focused on ensuring continuity of supports for disabled people and working to ensure the whole of government response to COVID-19 meets the needs of disabled people.

Last week we established a COVID-19 Disability Sector Leadership Response Group who are working with us closely to plan and implement our response to COVID-19. This group involves disabled people, unions, providers, and officials coming together to identify and work through disability-specific COVID-19 issues.

We have new information sheets for disabled people and their family and whānau, and providers with more information about what to do to keep yourself safe and well, and what to do if you’re sick.  These will be available on our website tomorrow, Tuesday, 17 March 2020 at:  https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus.  We are developing more information all the time and will keep you posted when it becomes available. For example, we are working on advice about leave provisions for staff, and protections for vulnerable populations.

We are urging people to continue to follow key health advice:

·        Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water

·        Follow the Prime Minister’s advice to stop hand shakes, hugs and hongi

·        Avoid contact with people who are feeling unwell or may have been in contact with someone with COVID-19.

·        If you are feeling unwell at all, even if you think it’s just a cough or a cold, stay at home.

·        The Ministry of Health website is constantly updated with the latest health advice at https://www.health.govt.nz/

You and your family and whānau would normally take extra precautions during winter to stop yourselves getting sick, so it is a good idea to start those now. This could include making sure all medication is up to date and you have some spare at home, buying a little extra non-perishable food at each grocery shop, and making sure you have some close family, whānau, or friends you can reach out to for support.

Please distribute this, and any other information you get from us, to disabled people, families and whānau, carers, and staff as appropriate for your organisation.

For COVID-19 health advice and information, contact the Healthline team (for free) on 0800 358 5453 or +64 9 358 5453 for international SIMS. For advice about general government support you can check out https://www.govt.nz/covid-19-novel-coronavirus/

If you have questions about your disability supports in relation to COVID-19 then contact your disability support provider, individualised funding host provider, or your NASC All disability providers should be planning to ensure services continue. 

Again, this response is currently our top priority. We will continue to update you with new information as it comes in.

Adri Isbister
Deputy Director-General
Ministry of Health

New Zealand’s Carer’s Strategy Action Plan 2019-2023

New Zealand’s Carer’s Strategy Action Plan 2019 – 2023

The Carers’ Strategy aims to improve support for individuals, families, whānau and kainga who look after friends and family who have a health condition, disability, illness or injury and need help with everyday living.

Consultation is currently happening for the Carer’s Strategy Action Plan 2019 – 2023. The draft Action Plan covers a wide range of areas including payment for family carers, flexible funding models, continence, young caring, and respite.

There are a number of ways you can have your say on the draft Action Plan, including by:

  • attending a workshop
  • completing the online survey
  • making a written submission.

Closing date for submissions is 16 August 2019.

Attend a workshop

Workshops will be held around the country in July and August 2019.  Below is a guide to when workshops may be happening in your area.

Location Format Date
Invercargill All Carers 2 July 2019
Dunedin All Carers 3 July 2019
Wellington: Session 1 Talanoa 4 July 2019
Wellington: Session 2 All Carers 5 July 2019
Porirua Hui 22 July 2019
Christchurch: Session 1 All Carers 23 July 2019
Christchurch: Session 2 Hui 24 July 2019
Nelson All Carers 25 July 2019
East Coast: Session 1 All Carers 30 July 2019
East Coast: Session 2 Hui 30 July 2019
Hamilton All Carers 31 July 2019
Kaikohe Hui 6 August 2019
Auckland: Session 1 All Carers 7 August 2019
Auckland: Session 2 Talanoa 7 August 2019
Auckland: Session 3 Caring in Ethnic Communities 8 August 2019

If you would like to attend a workshop, rsvp by visiting the Caring for Carers website.

Preparing for a New Era

Since the 2008 “inquiry into the quality of care and service provision for people with disabilities”, things have been changing.  There have been initiatives to ‘try out’ approaches that result in disabled people and families having more choice and control.  These initiatives have been restricted to certain parts of the country, and have included things like:

  • Choice in Community Living
  • Enabling Good Lives (EGL) demonstrations in Christchurch and the Waikato
  • Local Area Co-ordination, and
  • Enhanced Individualised Funding.

In February 2017, Cabinet agreed to “an overall approach, based on the Enabling Good Lives (EGL) vision and principles, to transforming the cross-government disability support system… “. The period of piecemeal trials is concluding and the era of system transformation is beginning.

Currently, groups of disabled people, families, whānau, providers and officials are  working together on the key things that will happen in the first place where the full transformation will happen i.e.  the MidCentral Region.  It is too early to accurately predict what the final version may look like.

However, there are several things that are very likely to be core elements of the new system.  These things include people having:

  • a new way to work out funding that is strengths-based
  • a personal budget
  • a range of ways they can choose to manage their budgets
  • having access to an independent person (EGL Connector) who they can use to explore options and ideas with
  • easier access to crisis support
  • building stronger disabled persons and family networks, and
  • a regional and national leadership approach where disabled people and families have key roles.

These changes are intended to result in disabled people and families having more “say so” in creating good lives for themselves, easier systems and a much greater ability to build supports that work for them.  This requires change for everyone. It will take time to make sure these changes actually work better for people.

Disabled people and families will continue to be able to refine “the new system”.  These changes are intended to add new opportunities and not erode things that are currently working well for families. If families are happy with existing supports, then it is likely they can choose to continue with them, and also choose to have the service manage their budget.

For some, needing to wait will create frustration.  However, it is an opportunity for us all to begin to think differently, prepare, and for some of us to learn new skills.

The types of things that will enable individuals and families to make the best use of these new opportunities include:

  • having an idea of what a good life looks like for our family (our values, dreams and goals)
  • being clear in expressing what we want (many of us are better at expressing what we don’t want!)
  • knowing some basic ways to negotiate with others (supports/services)
  • becoming clear about how much we want to do ourselves and what we want others to do (there will be a range of options) and the ways we can monitor and positively influence things as they roll out.

There are already many examples of how more choice, and a flexible person-directed approach, works better for individuals and families.

The timeline for the change process is not finalised. However, it is likely to start, in the MidCentral Region, 1 July 2018.  It will take time for us to all become clear about what these changes really mean, and how we can best use new opportunities.

At this time, it is strongly suggested you take opportunities to access face-to-face events that will keep families up-to-date with progress, give chances for people to feed in their thoughts and offer a place for people to learn new skills (or refine existing skills).

There is also a website specifically designed to keep everyone aware of ‘system transformation’ progress at www.enablinggoodlives.co.nz

You may also be interested in the system transformation up-dates on the EGL website.  This is updated regularly.


Mark Benjamin




NOTE: From 2018 all Care Matters workshops will have an EGL component (that explains the EGL principles and vision and includes updates on System Transformation and how families can be kept informed). The content will vary from workshop to workshop, depending on what information families want, which may range from a brief overview to a more in-depth discussion.

Call freephone 0508 236 236 to find out about upcoming workshops, or to request a workshop in your area (there needs to be 9 or more people and you or your family member need to qualify for disability support services).

International Day of Persons with Disabilities – December 3

Theme for 2015: Inclusion matters: access and empowerment for people of all abilities

The estimated one billion people living with disabilities worldwide face many barriers to inclusion in many key aspects of society. As a result, people with disabilities do not enjoy access to society on an equal basis with others, which includes areas of transportation, employment, and education as well as social and political participation.

The right to participate in public life is essential to create stable democracies, active citizenship and reduce inequalities in society.

By promoting empowerment, real opportunities for people are created. This enhances their own capacities and supports them in setting their own priorities. Empowerment involves investing in people – in jobs, health, nutrition, education, and social protection. When people are empowered they are better prepared to take advantage of opportunities, they become agents of change and can more readily embrace their civic responsibilities.

The sub-themes for the 2015 observance of the International Day are:

  • Making cities inclusive and accessible for all
  • Improving disability data and statistics
  • Including persons with invisible disabilities in society and development

More information about the International Day and the UN Enable programme is available at UN Enable.

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities is marked around the world annually on 3 December, as perGeneral Assembly resolution 47/3 of 14 October 1992, to promote awareness and mobilize support for critical issues pertaining to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in society and development.

New Zealand Carers’ Strategy Action Plan 2014 to 2018: Survey evaluating our progress

The lead agencies of the NZ Carers’ Strategy and the NZ Carers Alliance would like your feedback on the progress we are making towards the five objectives laid out in the New Zealand Carers’ Strategy Action Plan 2014 to 2018 and the difference it is making for whānau, aiga, and family carers.

Anyone who is a carer, related to a carer, or has an interest in carers’ needs is welcome to take part in this survey.

It should only take around 15 minutes to complete.

At the end of the survey, you will have an opportunity to go into a draw to win one of two $50 supermarket gift vouchers.



Caring for the carers

Two new national services to support family carers have been launched by the Ministry of Health for delivery by not-for-profits SAMS (Standards and Monitoring Services), Parent to Parent, and Carers New Zealand.

The services, developed by carers for carers, will assist people who support people with disabilities nationwide.

SAMS’ and Parent to Parent’s Care Matters learning and wellbeing service is available online at carematters.org.nz with support from a free phone service. The website, which goes live on November 6, pulls together clear, constructive, up-to-date information to assist carers, while the learning and training will be available face-to-face and online. The resources will cater to people who have visual impairments and be accessible via online desktop and mobile devices.

The Care Matters freephone 0508 236 236,  operated by Parent to Parent,  will connect callers to its existing network of local knowledge and support, and its facilitators keen to ensure face-to-face learning opportunities relevant to local interests and needs. Many are carers who have walked in the same shoes.

Care Matters will equip carers to not just obtain information/skills that assist today and make it easier to navigate the current system, but help carers use a more flexible approach to supports and services.  Resources and face-to-face learning opportunities provide carers with the opportunity to examine possibilities, consider alternatives, be strategic, and have a say.

The freephone will also direct carers to sources of respite care at Carers NZ’s new National Relief Care Matching Service. Often family carers struggle to find relief carers so they can have time out. This service matches disabled people and family carers with relief carers in their area, online and through its 0800 777 797 number. Carers NZ has partnered with MyCare Ltd to provide free access to a national pool of relief carer profiles, connecting people with disabilities and their families with people and services whose skills match their relief care needs.

Both services are now live and can be accessed at no cost via Needs Assessment and Service Coordination services (NASCs).


SAMS is as 35-year-old service well known in New Zealand, Australia, and North America for its pioneering work at the forefront of developing carer/family education and leadership. At grass roots level it has annual face-to-face contact with more than 700 carers in New Zealand. Information about SAMS is on sams.org.nz

Parent to Parent

Parent to Parent is a 32-year-old organisation involved with the day-to-day support of family/whanau, while also understanding and influencing current and emerging policies that impact on carers. It has 600 volunteer parents/carers providing peer support nationwide, researchers providing information, and workshops for families of people with disabilities. Information about Parent to Parent is on www.parent2parent.org.nz

Carers NZ

Carers NZ is New Zealand’s peak body supporting family carers of all ages. It acts as the ongoing Secretariat for the NZ Carers Alliance of more than 45 national not-for-profits, including SAMS and Parent to Parent. Information about Carers NZ is on  www.carers.net.nz