Kirsty Johnston is an investigative reporter at the New Zealand Herald.

Mother's long battle for disability compensation reaches High Court

Margaret Spencer with her son Paul. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Margaret Spencer with her son Paul. Photo / Brett Phibbs

A mother's exhaustive battle to gain compensation for the care of her disabled son has reached the High Court, after more than ten years of fighting.

Margaret Spencer is seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in back pay following her repeated discrimination at the hands of government policies on family carers.

Ms Spencer has looked after her 47-year-old son Paul, since birth. He has Down's Syndrome and requires constant care but until last year Ms Spencer was unpaid because she was a family member.

After a court ruled in a separate judgment - known as the Atkinson case - that the Ministry of Health's family policy was discriminatory, Ms Spencer decided to seek compensation.

The government has fought the case the whole way - with rulings in the Human Rights Tribunal, the High Court and then the Court of Appeal.

The case was further complicated after Parliament passed legislation preventing further claimants from the Atkinson proceedings.

However, Ms Spencer has won her case every step of the way, with the most recent judgment from last year opening the way for this week's compensation case.

At the High Court in Auckland today, Ms Spencer sat at the back with Paul, alongside a small handful of supporters.

Between the claimant, the Crown and the Human Rights Commission there were ten lawyers, with the judge supported by two laymen on the bench.

The courtroom was littered with dozens of folders, suitcases and boxes due to the huge volume of evidence in the case.

Ms Spencer's lawyer Jim Farmer explained succinctly the trials his client had gone through to get the case as far as she had.

"This is not an easy road for people who are seeking redress in this area...but here we are," Mr Farmer said.

The case is set down for a week.

- NZ Herald

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