A bill which allows people who cared for disabled family members to get paid by the Government has passed into law a day after being introduced amid protest about its narrow scope, lack of consultation, and possible discrimination.
Health Minister Tony Ryall confirmed that $23 million would be allocated in the Budget to pay people who cared for a disabled adult family member. It was a response to a legal case which found the Government was discriminating by not paying family carers.
Opposition members slammed the Government's rush to pass the bill and the lack of transparency around the policy.
The bill did not go before a select committee, and was passed under urgency yesterday, with National, Act, United Future and the Maori Party backing it, and Labour, the Greens, New Zealand First, Mana and Brendan Horan opposing it.
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Mr Ryall stressed that the costs of the law change had to be manageable in tough economic times.
The new policy did not extend payments to spouses of disabled adults or parents of disabled children.
Labour disability issues spokeswoman Ruth Dyson said it was important to hear from the public and experts on whether the bill should be extended to all carers, including spouses and other family members.
Attorney-General Chris Finlayson's report on the bill said that not extending payments to all family carers could be a breach of the Bill of Rights Act.
Officials reported that if all carers for adults with high or very high needs were paid - including spouses and parents of disabled children - the cost to Government would increase to $40 million. Payments were also limited to adults who were assessed as having high or very high needs.
There were estimated to be around 5,600 disabled adults being cared for by family members, 1,600 of whom were assessed as having high needs.
If payments were extended to all carers and all disabled adults - not just high needs - the cost to the Government would jump to $65 million.