WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Refugees with disability lacking support and voice


4 February 2013

The struggle of refugees for safety and freedom may be over for those resettled in Aotearoa New Zealand but research shows refugees with disability needs in Wellington are still struggling for the right to participate in society on an equal basis.

ChangeMakers Refugee Forum – a rights-based, community development, research and advocacy organisation – interviewed people from refugee backgrounds who have a disability or are caring for someone with a disability, and staff from Wellington-based disability, health, and refugee service delivery organisations.

All New Zealanders with disability needs have the right to live independently and participate fully in society, but ChangeMakers’ research found that in Wellington, disability strategies do not include people from refugee backgrounds, and there is a lack of coordination across refugee agencies, and primary healthcare and disability service providers.

People from refugee backgrounds with disability needs have ‘slipped through the cracks’ and are living in protracted isolation and with limited independence. As one refugee-background participant said, ‘it’s just computer and TV. I barely go out.’

ChangeMakers research coordinator Alia Bloom said that, in Wellington, the greatest barrier to participation in society for people from refugee backgrounds with disability needs is a lack of coordinated support.
‘We need comprehensive service provision and support from disability, health and refugee agencies.’
ChangeMakers Refugee Forum is calling on health and disability agencies to include refugee-background communities as a target population to ensure their needs are reflected in strategic and operational plans for providing disability services, and refugee agencies are more aware of the types of disability supports available.

The research, launched at a Human Rights Commission roundtable in December 2012, makes a number of recommendations to ensure that people from refugee backgrounds with disability needs can participate fully in Aotearoa New Zealand life.

For more information, contact Alia Bloom or visit the Forum’s website.