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Govt Thinks Disabled 'Add No Value To Society' : Protester

People who attended a rally at the Bridge of Remembrance in Christchurch on Thursday. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinno

Disability funding changes have made people feel worthless and bullied by the government, a Christchurch father of four says.

Terry was among dozens of people who attended a rally at the Bridge of Remembrance after the Ministry for Disabled People blindsided families with sudden changes to purchasing rules for equipment, services and respite care.

Cabinet has since assumed responsibility for decisions on disability funding, while Labour has called for Disability Issues Minister Penny Simmonds to be sacked.

Protest for the disabled.

Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

Terry, who did not wish to use his surname, described the move as a personal attack on the country's most vulnerable by an uncaring government.



He said the decision made people feel like they were at the bottom of the "social hierarchy".

"We add no value to society as far as they are concerned. We are not rich landlords. We don't own yachts. We are just the marginalised. We're just at the bottom.

"This is a despicable government. It does not care about these people."

Protest for the disabled.

Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

An estimated 30 protesters also held a rally outside Simmonds' electorate office in Invercargill on Thursday morning, including Tracy Peters, who has paraplegia.

She said people with disabilities were discriminated against on a daily basis, and many at the protest were worried people would not understand the ramifications of the changes.

Mother-of-two Sarah Hinchey could not join the Christchurch protest because she was caring for her autistic teenage daughters. She said it was difficult for some people with disabilities to attend public rallies because they were sensitive to noise or big crowds.

Protest for the disabled.

Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

Hinchey said the government should consult more widely with families.

"One of the major failings of the funding issue was the fact they never sought consultation," she said.

"They have admitted that and apologised, saying they'll do better in the future, yet they are doing nothing about it now to correct the situation. What they need is to truly listen to us - not just me and other caregivers, but a wide range of people, and especially the disabled people themselves. That is the bare minimum I would expect."

Hinchey said Simmonds was not suitable for the job.

Simmonds and Prime Minister Christopher Luxon have both acknowledged the changes were not communicated properly at the time. Simmonds has apologised for the way the changes were handled.

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