The Wellbeing Budget included the largest-ever increase to disability services - but even that was not enough to cover funding shortfalls in the sector.

Spending on Disability Support Services was increased from $1.269 billion to $1.345 billion in last month's Budget - a record $76 million increase.

However, the Ministry of Health overspent by $83m in the last year, so the increase amounts to an effective $7m cut.

"We had hopes for this year's Budget with its focus on wellbeing, but at best, the funding increases only enable the system to limp through another financial year in its current state," said NZ Disability Support Network chief executive Garth Bennie.


Earlier this year, disability groups were relieved when large-scale cuts to services were dropped at the last minute after ministers intervened. Needs assessment agencies had drawn up plans to limit showers and meals for the disabled and refuse help for autistic children to save money.

Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter reiterated on Budget day that there would be no cuts to disability support.

However, the Budget only allocated an additional $72m for cost pressures over the next year.

"This leaves an $11 million dollar shortfall from the get go," Bennie said.

"What this means is that the Ministry will face mounting pressure to ration services again despite the positive words from the minister.

"Make no mistake, this means disabled people continuing to live with uncertainty about the services they need. If cuts are not an option, then funding will have to once again be found elsewhere in the health budget to cover shortfalls."

Garth Bennie, chief executive of New Zealand Disability Support Network. Photograph / Supplied
Garth Bennie, chief executive of New Zealand Disability Support Network. Photograph / Supplied

CCS Disability Action chief executive David Matthews said he was dismayed that the needs of disabled people and their supported had not been met.

"The sector is underfunded as it is and there is a proven growing demand for Disability Support Services.


"It is likely to reduce the wellbeing of disabled people and their whānau. We cannot go on with the Government thinking it can keep a lid on demand for disability support services when the pot is already boiling over."

The main pressures on the disability sector are coming from pay equity settlements, more expensive equipment, and more people seeking support with complex needs.