A man with Down syndrome is a step closer to achieving his dream of travelling overseas to see his brother and best friend after Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi announced today he was seeking advice on how people with life-shortening conditions could withdraw their KiwiSaver funds before the age of 65.
The Herald first reported on the case of Tim Fairhall in August. Tim is 39, and because of his condition is unlikely to reach the age of 65.
He has $8000 in his KiwiSaver account from his supermarket job of 15 years and dreams of visiting his brother and best friends who live overseas.
He and his mother Joan have been trying to get KiwiSaver laws changed that are preventing Tim from accessing his money, including making a submission to a parliamentary committee, and having a meeting with Faafoi.
KiwiSaver has a number of opt-out clauses but Tim doesn't meet any of them. His
KiwiSaver provider's hands are also tied, bound by legislation which Joan Fairhall says needs to be changed.
Faafoi announced today that he would seek independent advice on changing the withdrawal criteria.
"It's important KiwiSaver works for all New Zealanders. Tim has Down syndrome and is ageing prematurely. He hopes to retire in his mid-40s and access his savings – but at the moment, he can't.
"I think it's fair and just that New Zealanders who have been paying into KiwiSaver throughout their working life should expect to one day enjoy the benefits of their savings in their retirement – be that at 45 or 65."
Faafoi acknowledged that a "one-size-fits-all" retirement age did not work for people with life-shortening conditions.
"The two advisers will consult with people who are faced with this issue, with medical practitioners and KiwiSaver experts, before reporting back to me in early 2019," Faafoi said.
"It is a technically complex area so I can't promise a quick fix for Tim personally but I am going to move this forward because this Government is committed to ensuring its policies work for all New Zealanders.
Joan Fairhall told the Herald today that Faafoi called her last night with the news.
"I'm delighted to see some progress happening and I hope the momentum remains so that this doesn't drag on while Tim and others like him get older and older.
"We're also pleased that they're looking not just at a solution for Tim but for a solution for all New Zealanders who have conditions similar to Tim's. That's what we were after, a change to the legislation, to help all people in this situation," Joan Fairhall said.