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Disability Minister Penny Simmonds Should Be Sacked: Chris Hipkins

Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Labour is doubling down on criticism of the minister's handling of disability funding changes, calling for her to be sacked.

It comes after Finance Minister Nicola Willis confirmed any further decisions the ministry makes on changing its criteria or funds will need to be properly consulted, and go to Cabinet.

Labour leader Chris Hipkins on Tuesday said that was a "massive vote of no confidence" in Disability Issues Minister Penny Simmonds, but took that a step further in a media release the next day.



"Christopher Luxon doesn't have faith in his Minister's decision making, so he can't have faith in her continuing to hold the portfolio or continue as a minister," he said.

"It is an extraordinary step and a massive vote of no confidence for Cabinet to intervene because a minister is failing to make decisions in her own portfolio ... Christopher Luxon should remove her as a minister altogether."

The prime minister has indicated all ministers should bring any decisions that may impact frontline services to Cabinet for a full discussion with all three coalition parties.

Simmonds has been under fire since her ministry, Whaikaha, unveiled changes last week to purchasing rules for disabled people's equipment, and respite funding.

Simmonds and Luxon have both acknowledged the changes were not communicated properly at the time.

Labour disabilities spokesperson Priyanca Radhakrishnan said the whole situation had been a debacle.

"Penny Simmonds was warned as far back as December that there were issues, did nothing, then signed off on changes that would hurt the disability community anyway," she said.

"She has blamed everyone but herself: Whaikaha - the Ministry of Disabled People, the previous government, and even the very carers who were losing the funding. I think that is disgraceful. The government should act immediately to fix Penny Simmonds' mess and reinstate funding flexibility for carers and the disabled community."

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