More than a year after officials agreed to release autistic man Ashley Peacock from institutional care, he remains inside - as bureaucrats continue to quibble over funding.

His parents say their son's health has deteriorated further, and while they have tried to work with clinicians, little progress has been made.

Since January, Ashley, now 40-years-old, has suffered two black eyes at Porirua's Tawhirimatea mental health unit, both without explanation.

He was also given the wrong medication and had to go to hospital for monitoring. He still sleeps in the same cell-like room, with just a bed and a few sparse possessions.

Advertisement

Ashley's parents say he is depressed, and has put on weight. He frequently says his joints hurt.

Some days, he is too lacklustre even to visit his beloved ponies nearby, once the greatest reprieve from his solitary life inside.

"We have done everything possible to get Ashley out of that place," his father David Peacock said. "There is no stone unturned. And still."

Ashley - who is not a criminal but has autism as well as an intellectual disability and a severe schizophrenic illness - has now been at Tawhirimatea for seven years.

More than half that time has been spent secluded in a 10m2 room, once for two-and-a-half years straight, with only 30 mins daily outside. In total he has spent 11 years in institutional care.

His living situation was labelled cruel, inhuman or degrading by the Chief Ombudsman. Authorities have been told repeatedly by multiple agencies that his treatment breaches human rights.

A report to the National Intellectual Disability Care Agency in 2015 found the institution was not the right place for Ashley.

The Herald highlighted the plight of Ashley Peacock on its front page in June 2016.
The Herald highlighted the plight of Ashley Peacock on its front page in June 2016.

It recommended he be transferred to a community setting, with the help of a project manager. A provider, Community Connections was found.

However little progress was made until the Herald highlighted Ashley's plight on its front page in June 2016.

In early 2017, his parents announced at a health select committee that officials had finally agreed he could come out.

Since then, Dave and Marlena Peacock have been working behind-the-scenes to ensure the release of their son. It took months even to get a project manager, with Community Connections eventually finding one and paying for the person themselves.

At some point, frustrated with the slow pace of change, the Peacocks stopped going to meetings. The officials and their advocates continued to negotiate instead.

Eventually, a house for Ashley was found, work to secure it began, and three round-the-clock staff were secured.

When, earlier this month, funding was approved by the Ministry of Health, the family thought their dreams would finally come true.

However, the funding - about $600,000 - was much lower than the $1 million currently paid for his care, and according to Community Connections chief executive John Taylor, not enough to fund appropriate staff, let alone the rest of what Ashley needs.

Taylor was concerned the rate did not take the pay equity legislation into account. There was nothing left over for rent, or back-office work, or food, he said.

They were now faced with more negotiations, and more waiting time.

"I am really disappointed that Ashley is the one missing out," Taylor said.

"We have been working for almost five years to get to this point and from Ashley's point of view he's been further damaged by the system, with more traumatic stress, more damage physically."

Advocate Trish Grant, from the IHC, said the situation was desperately sad.

"If there isn't enough funding the the ministry is only setting Ashley and the provider up for failure," she said. "And he deserves the absolute best chance at success."

Grant, who had been attending meetings, said everyone had been very patient, but yet again it hadn't achieved anything but a flawed outcome.

"From our perspective, at the heart of this there is a lack of value on the lives of disabled."

In a joint response, the Mental Health, Addictions and Intellectual Disability Services (MHAIDS) and the Ministry of Health said everyone was working hard towards a successful and sustainable outcome for Ashley.

It said while the funding had been agreed, the contract between the Ministry and the provider was still in negotiation, as they had raised some issues around specific costs. It had tried to take into account the "unusual" circumstances of the transition plan, it said.

As for the black eyes and the medication mix up - Ashley was wrongly given the drug Clozapine - it said those incidents were under investigation.

"Ashley's transition into the community will be an ongoing process," it said.

Associate Minister of Health Julie Anne Genter said change was coming for Ashley, and she had been asking for updates and continued to monitor progress.

"I cannot make any guarantees, but before now there was nowhere deemed suitable to transfer Ashley to. This work needed to happen years ago and is now progressing," she said.

However, the Peacocks say they have had enough of waiting, and it should be sorted now.

"Psychiatrists can put someone into an institution at the stroke of a pen but it's taken 11 years to get him out, and he's still not out, even with all the reports under the sun," Dave said.

Marlena said while there were some positives _ for example Ashley had recently gone to Owhiro Bay with his carers to catch trout - his condition had gone down hill.

She said they had only chosen to speak out again to try and help their only son before it was too late.

"We didn't want to create a problem but it's got to the point where enough is enough."