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Special Education Funding – Robbing Peter, Paul, and Mary to pay Tom, Dick, and Harriet

1 September 2016 3 comments

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Beware of so-called “Reforms”

In December last year, National announced plans to  “overhaul its educational support for children with special needs“. Radio NZ reported;

From the middle of next year it said the system would be significantly redesigned to be simpler and provide more support for teachers and parents.

Today it published the results of 150 public meetings held this year to identify ways of improving education for children with special education needs, such as a physical or mental disability.

As a result of those meetings it is planning changes that would include giving families, teachers and specialists a single point of contact for arranging support for children.

Before that happened, the Education Ministry would begin 22 projects aimed at improving special education in groups of schools and early childhood centres around the country.

As with all reforms from National, there would be ‘fish hooks’.  Promises to  “provide more support for teachers and parents” would prove to be a sugar-coated pill at best – or most likely illusory in actuality.

Rumblings in the Education Sector

On 15 April this year, Radio NZ reported further criticisms of under-funding for children with special needs;

Special education desperately needs more funding, which should be included in the government’s overhaul of the sector, parents and educators say.

The Ministry of Education says it is simplifying the $590 million system for helping children with disabilities, but there won’t be any more money to accompany the changes which will be introduced in 2017.

Critics say that is not good enough, because too many children are not getting the help they need.

The Early Childhood sector criticised National for under-funding special needs children;

Early Childhood Council chief executive Peter Reynolds said more support was also desperately needed in the early childhood sector.

“The model isn’t working that’s there at the moment. It needs to be changed and it’s got to be done quickly.

“It’s okay to take your time over doing a review or whatever you want to call it, but at the end of the day we’ve got people falling through the gaps right now, and they shouldn’t have to.”

Parata responded;

But Education Minister Hekia Parata said she was confident there would be tangible benefits from the special education changes, without more money.

“We want to get this right. We have a vision for a system that is inclusive, we’re recognised internationally as being so and we just want to continuously improve.”

Note the caveat from Parata; “without more money“.

Where would increased funding for under-fives with special needs come from if it was achieved “without more money“?

Answer: National resorted to one of it’s old tricks.

Parata’s Proposal

The answer came as a bombshell on 22 August.

Education Minister, Hekia Parata, revealed that primary and secondary schools’ funding for special needs students would be slashed, and the money re-directed to under-fives. As Radio NZ explained;

The [Cabinet] documents also indicated the government would reduce the amount of special education funding spent in the school sector, and dramatically increase the amount spent on those under the age of five.

“Analysis of the spend by the age range of the recipient indicates that a disproportionate amount of the funds are for school-age children. This is despite clear evidence in some areas that early support can have greater benefits in terms of educational outcomes.”

As implications of Parata’s scheme began to percolate through the education sector, reaction was scathing. A day later, the Secondary Principals’ Association responded;

A proposed cut to special education spending in schools would be a disaster, the head of the Secondary Principals’ Association says.

Documents show the government wants to greatly increase its spending on under-5s with special needs, at the expense of spending on school-aged children.

One of the areas it has singled out for urgent review is the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme for children with the most significant special needs, and in particular, the those aged 18 to 21 who use it.

Secondary Principals’ Association president Sandy Pasley said secondary schools would not cope well with a cut.

“We haven’t got enough as it is and to lose some funding from secondary sector would be quite dramatic for schools.

“We understand that it’s good to put it into the early years but not at the expense of students in secondary schools because often the special education needs don’t go away and sometimes they’re exacerbated by adolescence.”

Ms Pasley said the association would try and persuade the government not to go ahead with the proposal, which she said would be a disaster.

Kim Hall from Autism Action told Nine to Noon children under 5-years-old with autism needed more support – but funding for that should not be taken from school-aged children.

Hall made this critical point;

“Some children aren’t diagnosed until they start school or even later, so that means those children already miss out on that vital funding at the start.”

More on that issue in a moment.

Shamefully, the Early Childhood Council seemed willing to be an accomplice to National’s shuffling of scarce funding for vulnerable children. Early Childhood Council CEO, Peter Reynolds, did not hide his enthusiasm;

“On paper it looks good. It’s a shame we’ve got to wait another few months before we start seeing this thing roll out, but we’ll be wanting to work very closely with the ministry to ensure kids who are struggling right now get some sort of relief in the future and their parents get that relief as well.”

Parata justified the money-shuffle, with the usual spin;

“Evidence shows that providing learning support early in a child’s life will have much greater impact. We’re at a proposal stage of the process. Any changes wouldn’t come into effect until March 2017 at the earliest and will be managed incrementally and carefully to ensure ongoing support. What we are looking at, based on a year’s worth of consultation with the sector is, how do we redsign the service going forward, without compromising the service for those currently in it. So there will be a long transition.”

However, it is simply not correct that early detection and support for children – who will only gradually exhibit complex behavioural, intellectual, and other disabilities over time – is possible.

For children on the Autism Spectrum, recognising that a child is presenting may take up to five years, according to the  on-line  Ministry of Health document,  “Does this person have ASD? New Zealand Autism Spectrum Disorder Guideline“;

There are three more common times when individuals are likely to present:

1. between the ages of 1 and 3 years, lack of development in the areas affected by ASD, such as language and play, becomes more obvious
2. between the ages of 5 and 8 years, when increased social and educational demands highlight difficulties
3. in adolescence or adulthood, when social isolation or relationship difficulties result in depression and other comorbid conditions.

The US group, Autism Speaks, points out;

In the United States, the average age of diagnosis with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is around 4 years of age.

All of which is confirmed by the very personal story of “Sally” and her son, “Zack”.

“Zack” – A Personal Story

From a blogpost published on 6 March 2012 (see: Once upon a time there was a solo-mum), on the problem of Minister Paula Bennett cutting the Training Incentive Allowance;

Sally* is 37 and a solo-mother with an 18 year-old (Wayne*) and 11 year (Zack*) old sons.

Sally had Wayne to her first partner, but the relationship did not last because of drug-taking and violent abuse on his part. (Some months after they separated, he committed suicide.) Sally went on to the DPB, raising her newborn son by herself.

Seven years later, Sally met someone else and formed a relationship with him. The relationship went well and she became pregnant (a son, Zack) to her new partner.

As  her pregnancy progressed, Sally’s partner seemed to go off the rails,  and he increasingly  took up  drink and drugs with his boozy mates. As Sally said, he “was more into his mates than his family” and she finally  threw him out.

Sally was adamant she did not want someone like him as a role-model for her sons. She went back on the DPB and began to examine her options in life.

Eventually, Sally  applied for a course at Victoria University for a bachelors degree  in early childhood education. She applied for, and got, the Training Incentive Allowance (TIA).

Zack’s father saw his young son a couple of times during his first year as a newborn and infant, but thereafter showed little interest in maintaining contact. He eventually disappeared from Sally and her children’s life. She was on her own to raise her sons – a role she took seriously, and sought no new relationships with men.

Instead, she applied herself to her university course.

Sally says that the TIA helped her immensely, paying her transport, study-costs, fees, and childcare for her sons. She says,

You could only get the TIA on the DPB, not on the dole, which I thought was unfair.”

After her graduation, Sally followed up with a Masters degree, which took another four years in part-time study. During the final two years of her uni studies, she took up a part-time job. This decreased the amount she received on the DPB, and her part-time job was taxed at the Secondary Tax Rate (her benefit was considered as a “primary job” by the IRD).

Sally took out a student loan for her M.Ed, as WINZ would not pay the Training Incentive Allowance for higher university education.

One could view the “claw back” of her DPB and higher tax-rate on her part-time job as a dis-incentive which penalised Sally, and others in her position, but she persevered. With end-of-year tax refunds, she says it “all squared out” – but she could have done with the extra money through the year.

Sally graduated and got her Masters degree in early childhood education. By this time, Wayne was 14 and Zack, 6. One month later, she found a full time job and replaced the DPB with a good salary. She says that the MA gives her an extra $11,000 per annum.

During her studies and part time job, Sally raised her two sons – one of whom was increasingly “challenging” with Aspergers and ADHD.

(This blogger can confirm that young Zack – whilst a bright, personable child – can also be “a handful”, and was effectively thrown out of his previous school for “disruptive behaviour”.)

Zack’s story was continued in another blogpost on 8 June 2013 (see: When the State fails our children), on the issue of Special Needs Education. I provided more detail on Zack’s circumstances;

Zack is an intelligent, charming, highly curious, young man (12) who requires one-on-one support during his entire school day. Not having that one-on-one support is untenable for both Zack or the school, as he can “flip out” at provocations which other children might not notice.

Zack was expelled from two previous schools for lack of one-on-one support from a teacher-aid.

He was enrolled at his current school with the specific agreement that Zack would be provided full-time, one-on-one support from a dedicated teacher-aid.

It soon become apparent that the Ministery had assigned this teacher-aid (who was doing the best she could under the circumstances) to two children; Zack, and another child at another school.

Not being able to violate given laws of physics by being in two places simultaneously, the school took action to cut down Zack’s hours in class. He was permitted to attend class only when the teacher aid was present (approx 4 hours per day). When she left to attend her second client, Zack’s grandmother collected him. (Zack’s mother, Sally, is a solo-mum who works at an early childhood facility.)

Implementation of promises of full support – the current fashionable term is “intensive wraparound support” – by the Ministry of Education have been erratic and never fully implemented. (At the beginning the Ministry was reluctant to offer any support for Zack. They relented only when schools refused to accept him unless there was  funding for a teacher-aid.)

Zack’s teacher-aid was funded through the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS). According to the Education Ministry website, ORS is described as;

“Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) funding is used to provide specialist services and support for students with the very highest needs for special education.

ORS helps students join in and learn alongside other students at school. Any student who meets the ORS criteria is included in the scheme.”

For Zack, ORS provided;

“teacher aides to support teachers to include students in class programmes and activities”

Without a teacher’s aide present, Zack was easily distracted or could become stressed and angry at the usual background classroom noise, chatter, and other stimuli which other children mostly never notice. The consequence  almost always resulted in an outburst from Zack and disruption of the class.

Without support from a  teacher aide, funded by ORS, Zack’s education would have been limited and no school would have enrolled him. He would have had to be home-schooled by his mother who would have had to quit her job and return to the Domestic Purposes Benefit. Even that form of home-schooling would have had limited success, as Sally found it increasingly difficult to manage her son.

With minimal education and an Aspergers-personality, Zack’s future prospects would have been grim.

Zack’s fascination with fire resulted in coming to the attention of Police (though this aspect of his behaviour has improved considerably in the last few years). The local community police constable played an outstanding and sympathetic role in helping Zack move past this dangerous obsession.

Zack’s Aspergers condition was not identified until later in his childhood, as this interview with Sally revealed;

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Frank: “Kia ora Sally.

You’ve heard of government proposals to shift funding for Special Needs programmes from schools to pre-schools. As someone who works in Early Childhood Education, and with a teenage son with Aspergers, you have a foot in both camps. What are your views on this?”

Sally: “Rather than a ‘shift’ I think there needs to be an increase across the board. There are big gaps in funding meaning many children miss out on funding and thus the extra help that could benefit their education greatly.”

Frank: “At what age was Zack diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum?”

Sally: “He was 4 when we first wondered. By 5 or 6 he was considered to have aspects. I think he was about 8 or 9 when he was officially classified as having Asperger Syndrome.”

Frank: “So funding for pre-school Special Needs children would not have met Zack’s needs?”

Sally: “It wouldn’t have been available because [his] ‘needs’ at that age wouldn’t have met the requirements for funding.”

Frank: “So in effect, that would have left him ‘stranded’, without any government-funded support?”

Sally: “Yes.”

Frank: “Without funding for Zack’s teacher aide, would Zack have been able to cope at school? He was asked to leave one school at least, wasn’t he?”

Sally: “He didn’t and doesn’t cope without extra teacher aide support. The funding for anyone not considered ‘high needs’ is non-existant. He only ever received funding when, because he wasn’t coping, his behaviour was out of control. Then when the extra support helped and his behaviour went down, funding and thus support was taken away and then his behaviour became an issue. ‘Asked to leave’. That’s a nice way to put it. Yes he left two schools because without funding and support they couldn’t deal with him. Although in all fairness I need to point out that the first of those schools didn’t try to work with him in appropriate ways and didn’t have a positive attitude towards children with special needs.”

Frank: “So if Zack was unable to cope at schools, without funding for support through a teacher’s aide, what would have happened to his education opportunities?”

Sally: “Not ‘would have’ but ‘has’. He is years behind academically and is struggling to gain credits for NCEA Level One. This is partly due to the several years at primary school where he didn’t learn a lot due to no funding or support and being in a highly emotional and behavioural state. It is also because of what workload he can cope with though. He will do Level One NCEA over three years so he can cope.”

Frank: “Would you have been able to carry on working in your own career if Zack had been forced through circumstances beyond his control, to stay home and be home-schooled?”

Sally: “No. I would have ended up back on the DPB. Luckily he ended up in a wonderful Intermediate for his last year there and then a great college that, even without extra funding, has an amazing learning support system. He doesn’t have teacher aides though because he gets no funding and that would help immensely, especially with English.”

Frank: “Without funding for a teacher’s aide, what do you believe would have been the outcome for his development?”

Sally: “The only teacher aide funding he ever got was in primary when his behaviour was out of control. If that had not been available he wouldn’t have been able to be supported to cope in class. The outcome of him not getting funding for a teacher aide in terms of his learning for all these years is he has learnt things a lot slower than he could of and he is still struggling to understand a lot of the curriculum.”

Frank: “Without funding for support for other children with Special needs at schools and secondary schools, what do you foresee as the outcome?”

Sally: “Schools being under even more pressure to help children without the funding or resources they need. The already limited resources being stretched to breaking point. An increasing number of children who leave school without the education they deserve or need to be active members of society. An increasing burden on the welfare system to support these adults that weren’t supported as children.

Plus an increased burden on the criminal system because without a good job people are more likely to steal to survive.”

Frank: “What do you say to Education Minister Hekia Parata’s proposals to cut Special Needs funding for schools and shifting the money to pre-schools?”

Sally: “Hekia, heck no! Funding needs to be increased across the board. While it is true that in ECE there needs to be increased funding for children with special needs and that the early years are the most important in terms of development, children still need support throughout their school lives.”

Frank: “Finally, how is Zack these days?”

Sally: “Struggling academically but he is at a very supportive school who are tailoring their approach to his learning to suit him. He no longer has extreme behaviour at school, partly because he is older but also because of the positive school environment he is in.”

Frank: “Thank you, Sally. All the best to you and your sons.”

Sally: “All good.”

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Conclusion

National has come up with many “reforms”, proposals, policies, and ideas that eventually fail, or create unforeseen (or often foreseen; pre-warned; and ignored) problems.

On this occasion, the proposal to increase spending for under-fives children with special needs, at the expense of older children, is short-sighted madness that beggars belief.

There is simply no sensible rationale for this ill-considered, incoherent policy.  If there is scientific backing, Parata is yet to release it to the media and public.

Parata is playing god with the lives of vulnerable children – children who are often unable to cope in a classroom-environment without constant  “wraparound” support.

Taking money from children who can barely cope is simply beyond any measure of comprehension.

Is Parata so badly advised by her officials that she cannot understand the consequences of cutting support for children with special needs?

Is Parata’s Ministry so cash-strapped that she even considers taking funding from those who need it the most?

Children with special needs are highly vulnerable,  facing considerable difficulties, with many lacking simple coping mechanisms. They live stressed, difficult lives that most New Zealanders are unaware of. They have started life several steps behind their peers. They are running, just to barely keep up.

If Parata is willing to undermine what little support these children receive, then she is a damaged person lacking in any measure of human empathy. I hold her in utter contempt.

Parata must resign.

 

 

* Sally and her son’s names have been changed to protect their privacy.

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References

Radio NZ: Govt promises to overhaul special education

Radio NZ: Children with disabilities missing out as education funding falls short

Radio NZ: Govt to phase out ‘special needs’

Radio NZ: Secondary principals fear special education ‘disaster’

Autism Speaks: Hunting for Autism’s Earliest Clues

Ministry of Education: Overview of Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS)

Ministry of Health: Does this person have ASD? New Zealand Autism Spectrum Disorder Guideline

Other Blogs

How Melulater Sees It: Special Education – Let’s Change the Name and Solve Everything!!

How Melulater Sees It: Where are those wrap around services, Hekia?

Public Address: Some aspects of New Zealand’s disability history – part one (Nov, 2014)

Public Address: Some aspects of New Zealand’s disability history – part two (Dec, 2014)

Public Address: Some aspects of New Zealand’s disability history ‒ part three (Feb, 2015)

The Daily Blog: Martyn Bradbury – Removing the word ‘special needs’ so you don’t have to fund ‘special needs’

Previous related blogposts

Why Hekia Parata should not be sacked

When the State fails our children

National’s prioritises Education needs

Once upon a time there was a solo-mum

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1995 Tom Scott Cartoon featuring Minister of Education Lockwood Smith and three children with special needs. Ref: H-242-020 Turnbull Library

1995 Tom Scott Cartoon featuring Minister of Education Lockwood Smith and three children with special needs. Ref: H-242-020 Turnbull Library (Acknowledgement: Public Address Blog)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 August 2016.

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Why Salisbury School was right to be wary of this government

24 June 2013 3 comments

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Background

It was on 31 October last year that  Education Minister, Hekia Parata, announced her decision to close both  Salisbury School in Nelson and McKenzie Residential School in Christchurch. Both were schools specialising in support high-needs children with varying degrees of disabilities. Parata said,

After carefully considering all the information provided to me, including the responses from the schools, and information provided at my meetings with the Boards of the schools, I have decided to close the two schools. 

At the very heart of this difficult decision lies the opportunity to provide services and support for more children with complex needs in their local community. We can link local services with the remaining residential provision to achieve a more personalised and high quality approach for children and their families.

I am satisfied that this combination of services will make sufficient provision for all children with special education needs both locally and nationally.”

Acknowledgment – Beehive – Final decision on residential special schools announced

In an attempt to alleviate shock and disbelief throughout the country, Parata offered an alternative – a so-call “Intensive Wraparound Service“,

The Intensive Wraparound Service will be extended to support students with complex needs to remain in their community and attend their local school. The service will be based in every region with a trained facilitator, usually a psychologist

[…]

Funding from closing the two residential schools will be redirected into the Intensive Wraparound Service. The net result will be better support for more students and keeping communities together.”

Acknowledgment – IBID

The parents and staff of Salisbury students would have none of it. Parata’s decision to close the school and merge with co-ed Halswell Residential School in Christchurch. Female students would be relocated to mix with male students.

The implications of such a move did not escape parents and teaches. They realised that mixing highly vulnerable girls – many with considerable mental disabilities – with boys and adolecent young teenagers, was a potential  for disaster. There was grave risk of sexual abuse, amongst other problems (I refuse to call them “issues”.)

Salisbury school and parents rejected the planned closure.

On 26 November last year, Salisbury school mounted a legal challenge to Parata’s decision.

By 11 December, a Court decision ruled that National’s move to close the  school was unlawful. Justice Robert Dobson condemned Parata’s descision because of  “the prospect of greater risk of sexual or physical abuse“.

On 22 May, this year, Parata had fully backed down and announced that her Ministry would not be appealing the Court decision. Parata gave this gobbledegook statement to the media,

‘‘The arguments that we were making at the time were valid and remain valid, but a different decision has now been made, and I am pleased for Salisbury that that is the case, and keen now to resume normal transmission.’’

Acknowledgment – Nelson Mail –  U-turn stuns, delights Salisbury

Salisbury School won the battle, with Courts accepting that  female students would be put at risk by attending a co-ed school.

One also had to question the reality of  any so-called “Intensive Wraparound Service” that Parata had promised.

Intensive Wraparound Service

In a May 2012 Ministry of Education report (Development of a new intensive wraparound special education), the author wrote,

Two Residential Special Schools also provide an outreach service4. Salisbury’s service caters for a minimum of 30 students, while Halswell School caters to a maximum of 36 students.

Figures from 2010 show the Government invested approximately $84,200 in each student who attended a Residential Special School in the year.

This figure contrasts with an annual investment of approximately $7,700 in each student who attends a state and integrated (or non-residential) school or approximately $29,000 for each student who meets the criteria to receive support through an intensive wrap-around service.

Note the figures mentioned;

Residential School Student: $84,200 per student

State/Integrated School Student: $7,700 per student

Intensive wrap-around service Student: $29,000 per student

So by relocating special needs students from Salisbury to a mainstream school, with so-called “Intensive wrap-around” support, there was a saving to the State of $55,200 per student.

It is not beyond suspicion that the attempted closure of Salisbury School; with attendent risk to female students; was a particularly nasty attempt at cost-cutting by this bottom-line focused government.

Indeed, more than a suspicion, the report clearly stated,

It is important to note the new service:

– provides an opportunity to use existing funding in new ways, achieving better value for money and more efficient use of resources

This government appears to be content to play with peoples’ lives to save a few bucks.

Current Issues

Later  in  May this year, there were revelations that several Whangarei schools were unable to cope with severely disturbed – and violent – young students. Radio NZ reported,

A Whangarei school principal says a system designed to improve support for at-risk children appears to be bogged down in paperwork.

The Gateway programme began two years ago to co-ordinate the roles of Child, Youth and Family, doctors, schools and mental health services for children in care.

But Horahora primary school principal Pat Newman said from what he has seen, the gateway is blocked.

He said he has been trying since March to get an assessment for a young pupil with serious anger problems who hurts other children on a daily basis.

Mr Newman said various agencies have filed their observations about the boy and though he clearly needs specialist help, there has been no action. Now his classmates are afraid of him and have begun to exclude him.

Child, Youth and Family said it understood the boy was doing well at school, but if his Gateway assessment throws up other issues it will address them.

The head of another school, who has asked not be named to protect the identity of children, said disturbed new entrants are increasingly common, and he has had a teacher close to leaving because of their appalling behaviour.

In the worst case, he said a boy was not only violent to teachers and children, his behaviours were also sexualised.

The principal said the boy would leave the school whenever he felt like it and had to be watched and tracked constantly to keep him safe.

Acknowledgment – Radio NZ – Paper-work seen as blocking support for children

A further Radio NZ report stated,

Northland primary school principals say they are seeing growing numbers of violent new entrants and getting less support to deal with them.

Three Whangarei primary school principals have complained about a lack of support for new entrants with serious psychological problems.

Another principal in Northland says research is urgently needed on the growing numbers of violent and unmanageable children entering the school system.

Principals said they are having to beg for specialist help and teacher aides while the Government spends $60 million on a behavioural management programme for teachers.

Tai Tokerau Principals’ Association vice-president Marilyn Dunn said there has been an influx of new entrants to Northland schools raised in homes where they have seen violence, methamphetamine and alcohol abuse since they were born.

Ms Dunn said such children are often aggressive and need the help of a teacher aide for prolonged periods to keep them and others safe.

She said the Government’s new Positive Behaviour for Learning programme for teachers does not provide for this and schools need far more specialised help.

Acknowledgment – Radio NZ  –  Teachers having to cope with more violent new entrants

The same report added,

But the Ministry of Education on Monday defended the level of support available to schools dealing with violent or disturbed children.

The ministry said its special education teams are working with between 3000 and 4000 pupils throughout New Zealand who exhibit particularly challenging behaviour. It said the teacher aide budget in Northland is unchanged.

However principals say in practice, that amounts to a funding cut – because they are dealing with growing numbers of damaged children and there is now less funding to go around.

Acknowledgment – IBID

And as usual, Key  admitted  he didn’t  know if there been an increase in violent cases in Whangarei.

Another report also questioned how much community support was being given to vulnerable people with psychiatric conditions,

The brother of a man killed by a mentally ill former flatmate says not enough is being done to care for mental health patients living in the community – often with tragic results.

Cambridge man Graeme Moyle’s older brother, Colin Moyle, was bludgeoned to death in his Auckland home by psychiatric patient Matthew Ahlquist in May 2007.

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“I believe not enough resources are available to care for mental health patients in the community, especially at the higher end. The reason many are on the street is because there’s not enough beds for them and there’s nowhere to put them.”

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“Whilst we endeavour to provide the best possible care to service users, we are mindful that despite our best intentions, in any organisation as large and complex as ours, there will be times where things don’t go to plan,” Ms Jenkin said. “In such situations we will generally formally report serious incidents and undertake a service review to understand what went wrong, and why, in order to improve the services that we provide to those that need them.”

In the 1990s, New Zealand went through a period of de-instutionalisation.  Patients from mental health hospitals  and other institutions were relocated back into the community. The  Bolger-led National government of the day assured the public that as institutions were emptied,  resourcing and funding would follow.

The opposite seemed to happen and many ex-patients ended up in living in squalor or out on the streets. One well known case in the 1990s involved a female ex-psychiatric patient who slept in public toilets; gathered cigarettes butts from gutters; and was at considerable personal  risk. She seemed to have no support or safety network whatsoever.

The plaintive cries from Whangarei principals for more support suggests that funding for high needs students is severely lacking.

Promises of support for disturbed students are not materialising into actual funding.

This blogger is personally aware of one solo-mother who has a son with high-functioning autism. The young lad, 12, has recently come to the attention of emergency services (police and fire brigades) with his extreme behaviour.

He requires full-time support from a teacher aid – but is receiving only half the hours that should be allocated to him.

I know this kid. He’s a good sort. With full support he could become a stable, productive member of society.

Without support, and allowed to go “off the rails”, he will end up in prison.

Cost to tax-payer: $95,000+ per annum.

The staff, management, and parents of Salisbury school students were correct to fight this government. Their fears that Parata and other National Ministers were offering hollow reassurances of  “Intensive wrap-around” services was well-founded.

If we’ve learned anything these last five years it is this; What National  giveth; National taketh.

The parents of Salisbury School students were not about to put this matter to the test, nor put the well-being of their daughters into the ‘caring’ hands of Hekia Parata, Bill English, et al.

“Wraparound”?

I don’t think so.

Not this Weetbix government.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 31 May 2013.

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References

Ministry of Education: Development of a new intensive wraparound special education (PDF) (May 2012)

Beehive: Final decision on residential special schools announced (31 Oct 2012)

Nelson Mail: Salisbury School mounts legal bid  (26 Nov 2012)

TVNZ:   Special needs school closure declared unlawful  (11 Dec 2012)

Nelson Mail: U-turn stuns, delights Salisbury  (22 May 2013)

Radio NZ: Paper-work seen as blocking support for children (27 May 2013)

Radio NZ: Principals frustrated with ‘gateway’ programme (audio – 27 May 2013)

Radio NZ: Childrens’ charities struggle to secure funding (audio – 27 May 2013)

Radio NZ: Teachers having to cope with more violent new entrants (27 May 2013)

Fairfax Media:  ‘Too little resourcing’ for mentally unwell (29 May 2013)

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