Thursday, May 30, 2024

Chief Ombudsman calls for urgent overhaul of Health disability services oversight

The Ministry of Health needs to urgently improve its oversight of services for people with an intellectual disability and high and complex needs, Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier said today.

Mr Boshier today released Oversight, his investigation report into the Ministry of Health’s oversight of the High and Complex Framework.

“The Framework is a network of hospital and community services for people with an intellectual disability in secure or supervised care. As steward, or kaitiaki, of New Zealand’s health and disability system, the Ministry is responsible for ensuring the Framework can deliver the services it’s designed to”, Mr Boshier said.

“My finding is that the Ministry has not fully met these kaitiaki responsibilities”.

“The majority of Framework service users enter care through the criminal justice system. Others have high and complex mental health and other needs that cannot be met by mainstream services.

“This is a very small group of people, around 200 to 250, who need intensive and specialised care and rehabilitation services that support them to live good, balanced lives with as much independence as possible”, he says.

“My investigation found that Framework services were not always achieving this.”

Problems had built up over the years, especially capacity problems. The Ministry of Health didn’t do what was needed to address these problems, and stop them getting bigger, Mr Boshier said.

“This meant people needing Framework services were not always able to be placed in suitable accommodation. In some cases, court proceedings were being deferred, and some people were spending longer in prison while waiting for a hospital placement,” he said.

Some of the people using Framework services have not had the opportunities they should have to live in an environment that is as unrestrictive as possible, to develop their capabilities and strengths, or to move into the community, even where community care may be a much better option for them, the Chief Ombudsman said.

“At worst, I found some people’s experiences have been traumatising, and have impacted negatively on their wellbeing,” he said.

“The DHBs providing Framework services raised their concerns with the Ministry. But the Ministry didn’t do enough to plan, monitor, act, or develop a long-term, strategic response.

“The Ministry’s performance in this area appears to have been inconsistent with New Zealand’s obligations under the Disability Convention, to protect and promote the rights of people with disabilities, and prevent breaches of their rights.

“My opinion is that in failing to meet its stewardship responsibilities, the Ministry acted unreasonably. I’ve made substantial recommendations for immediate action.”

He said he was encouraged by recent signs that the Ministry was taking a more proactive response to its planning and monitoring responsibilities.

“I have asked for regular reporting on progress, and will receive my first formal report in September,” he said.

Latest Articles