Wednesday, 15 February 2012
at 11:02 p.m. by AnneE
Yesterday's Dominion Post reported that the Ministry of Health's senior lawyer, deputy solicitor-general Cheryl Gwyn, has told the Court of Appeal that paying parents to care for their disabled adult children could harm family relationships.
Avoiding commercialising the care relationship and not making families reliant on the caregiving income were "reasonable objectives of the ministry's policy not to pay family members to take care of disabled relatives...The core of the Health Ministry policy is to pay for filling the gaps in unpaid 'natural support' usually from family."
The Ministry of Health is appealing two earlier rulings, from the Human Rights Review Tribunal and the High Court, that the policy unjustifiably discriminates on the basis of family status. Some of the parents who took the original case are eligible for a domestic purposes benefit, but at least one is not eligible and another receives superannuation while caring for adult children.
Read the rest of the report here.
So - if you have children who are disabled, mentally, physically, or both, to such an extent that they require lifelong care, that is simply all part of the "natural support" parents can be expected to provide, without recompense - only in this case, it lasts for the rest of their lives.
If they meet the criteria for a welfare benefit, they will get one, but that's all. If they would or could not care for the child, someone else would of course have to be paid to do it. But the parents mustn't be paid - because that would risk harming family relationships???
Exactly what does the Ministry think paying parents would make them do? Refuse to let their adult child go to daycare groups (if there are any) so they can get paid more? Join a union and work to rule? Disable their children on purpose to get the money (just like all those young women who get pregnant "on purpose" to get the DPB?)
What the Ministry lawyers are really saying is that paying for care is too expensive. They're desperately trying to justify expecting family members to go on providing it "for free" or at best for a pittance, regardless of the burdens it imposes on them - including, for many, perpetual poverty. Only care is never free.
Of course both men and women care for adult children. The press report featured Cliff Robinson, 75, who has cared for his two intellectually disabled children, now in their 40s, for 36 years. But the fact that he doesn't get paid goes right back to the conviction that caregiving is what women do for free.
They exist to give whatever care is needed in return for nothing more than their bed and board, paid for by a husband or, if absolutely necessary, the state. It's what they're for. And any men who take on this role will be treated like women.
It could, of course, get worse. Maybe Health could join forces with Social Development to harry these parents (well, the ones under 65, anyway) out to work, along with all the other beneficiary parents whose kids turn 14 (because you can legally leave them home alone then, eh).
But this won't happen - well, not as long as parents don't get paid. Their care is not only the best, it's by far the cheapest.