Whanganui disability advocates have welcomed the Government's plans to create a Ministry for Disabled People to bring together a fragmented system.
Plans to establish the ministry were recently announced by Minister for Disability Issues Carmel Sepuloni and Health Minister Andrew Little at a virtual event.
Local disability advocate Sir Robert Martin, now serving his second term as a member of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, said it was "fantastic news".
"It has been a long time coming and it will really make a difference to people's access to things like housing, education, and social services," said Martin.
"People are living in the community, but still have trouble accessing things they want to participate in. We still have people living in five-bedroom houses which are really just mini institutions, so housing is an issue."
Martin said people with learning disabilities should be supported in education from preschool to tertiary learning if that's what they want, and he believes that having a dedicated ministry will make a big difference.
"We've come a long way, but we still have a way to go and this is a very positive step."
The new ministry will be responsible for a cross-government approach to address inequities and improve access to housing, transport, information, and public buildings and spaces.
It will be hosted by the Ministry of Social Development, have its own chief executive, and its own board, which will be led by and include people with disabilities.
Workbridge Whanganui employment consultant Jan Lawton said it was great news for her organisation, which supports job seekers with disabilities or health conditions into work, and fosters relationships with local employers.
"To have people with lived experience of disability working at a central-government level will bring about real, positive improvements," said Lawton.
"It is not just about health concerns, it is about social advancement including work and financial opportunities."
Frank Bristol is the manager of the Whanganui branch of Balance Aotearoa, an organisation working to make a difference in the lives of people affected by mental health issues.
"Having a ministry will bring about the cohesion of all the services dedicated to supporting people with disabilities," said Bristol.
"It will bring about a pan-ministry approach where health, housing, education, transport - all the major concerns for people with disabilities - can be better understood. It will also lead to more-efficient data gathering because the way it has been collected has not provided the Government with all the information it needs to provide the necessary support."
A Cabinet paper described the present system as "fragmented, slow, hard to measure, and hasn't led to the credible policy, system design and service delivery needed to achieve an accessible society".
The goal is to have the new ministry established by July 1.
The estimated costs of establishing it and the ongoing additional operating costs are $85 million over four years: $28.4m for the establishment and $56.6m for the operating costs.