Are you short of cash? Try Win­ston

Central Leader - - News -

No ques­tion, Win­ston Peters and his trusty lawyer have a fiendishly unique and far from con­vinc­ing sys­tem of cam­paign fund­ing. But to some, his more or­tho­dox money skills make him a cham­pion.

Take grate­ful pen­sion­ers for one. And now well-heeled race­horse own­ers too.

They say, with ex­pe­ri­ence to prove it, that he is a real stayer in get­ting cash out of the gov­ern­ment.

Money like that more than $2 mil­lion hand­out to racing clubs to push their prize money up.

Up in­deed – by more than $1m of tax­payer cash, for in­stance, to a to­tal $2.2m in stakes for Eller­slie’s Derby alone, “rich­est race for three­year-olds in Aus­trala­sia”, sec­ond rank­ing in­ter­na­tional derby be­hind the English ver­sion, it seems.

Ap­par­ently, the buzz is that Trea­sury ad­vised against the hand­out but Racing Min­is­ter Win­ston Peters sweet-talked Michael Cullen into the hand­out, pre­sum­ably tip­ping NZ First as a likely favourite in the coali­tion stakes later this year.

A Cab­i­net which can up the stakes for race­horse own­ers as a lift-along for what many see as a wealthy racing in­dus­try should be more sen­si­tive to the needs of the less for­tu­nate and recog­nise the plight of chil­dren with “mul­ti­ple im­pair­ments” and the value of nec­es­sary work be­ing done by peo­ple who care, and who are of­ten stretched to their lim­its.

Maybe cash-strapped health ad­vo­cates like those work­ing on an Auck­land re­gion school hol­i­day project for chil­dren with spe­cial needs should sad­dle up Win­ston who seems to be a fundrais­ing win­ner in elec­tion year, so­lic­it­ing money from a gov­ern­ment which may need his help af­ter the big vote.

As I have no doubt he makes clear. And as be­mused MPs on that priv­i­leges hear­ing re­alise too.

As a re­sult of the gov­ern­ment’s big bet, six New Zealand races will each of­fer more than a mil­lion in prize money.

And a much smaller cut in the sub­sidy is lit­er­ally go­ing to the dogs. Racing dogs that is.

Ob­vi­ously some per­sua­sive peo­ple have got into Win­ston’s ear, so to speak.

But, there are other peo­ple in the com­mu­nity who ac­tu­ally haven’t got a voice – chil­dren who can’t speak or make them­selves un­der­stood – and whose cause needs cash too. Just a frac­tion of that racing sub­sidy would do.

I thought about that when I read school hol­i­day ac­tiv­ity files like th­ese at a health board meet­ing last week:

“Aged 10, has a sin­gle par­ent with few sup­port sys­tems who is strug­gling to cope.” No won­der.

“Blind. Of­ten in hospi­tal. Re­quires full sup­port for all per­sonal care tasks.” Trans­la­tion: Toi­let, bathing, feed­ing, dress­ing – you name it, there’s help needed and given.

“Non-ver­bal”: speak.

An­other: “Takes food, liq­uids and med­i­ca­tion through

Does

not a tube.” Gas­tros­tomy-fed is the tech­ni­cal de­scrip­tion you find in the lan­guage of com­pli­cated med­i­cal files – only some of it a lay per­son might recog­nise: Cere­bral palsy, “se­vere cog­ni­tive im­pair­ment”, epilepsy, asthma, “swal­low­ing dis­func­tion, gas­tro re­flux”.

An­other: “Gen­er­ally af­fec­tion­ate but can switch to phys­i­cally ag­gres­sive when anx­ious or over-ex­cited.”

An­other: “Loves mu­sic, videos and en­joys be­ing taken out” – to places like school hol­i­day pro­grammes, for in­stance.

Chil­dren like this be­tween five and 16 with what the pro­fes­sion­als de­scribe as “mul­ti­ple im­pair­ments with high and com­plex sup­port needs” get real ben­e­fit from free school hol­i­day pro­grammes across Auck­land at four schools – Rose­hill Spe­cial School, Pa­pakura, Sir Keith Park Spe­cial School, Man­gere, Frey­berg Com­mu­nity School, Te Atatu, and Wil­son Home School, Taka­puna. All are staffed by ex­pe­ri­enced teacher aides and care-givers.

Th­ese are big events for the chil­dren, and much­needed sup­port for care­giv­ing adults, a nec­es­sary and of­ten over­due boost for their health and well-be­ing.

No charge. But, un­der­stand­ably there’s a cost to the or­gan­is­ers – food, petrol, courier fees as es­sen­tial gear is moved about, bus hire and taxis, for starters.

Seem­ingly, like every­one else and ev­ery group in the com­mu­nity, the ser­vice needs to spend more than its bud­get.

The bills tell the grim story. The cost per child per day in 2006-07 was $203. This year for 867 chil­dren: $233 each and a to­tal of $202,547.

Next year’s fore­cast for the same num­ber: $261 and $226, 493.

To add 20 more chil­dren from the wait­ing list and give re­lief to at least as many adults would lift the to­tal cost next year to $281,240.

That’s the propo­si­tion go­ing to the Min­istry of Health from the Waitem­ata District Health Board which runs the ser­vice.

It’s an an­nual process not ex­actly in­volv­ing a cap-in­hand ap­proach. But the min­istry, which hands out the funds, seems to an out­sider to need con­vinc­ing be­cause there’s no match­ing ser­vice – and equiv­a­lent spending – any­where in the coun­try.

The prob­lem: Con­tracted to give $200,000 to the an­nual cost, the min­istry does not pick-up the nec­es­sary over­spend. That comes from the Waitem­ata District Health Board’s hard-pressed bud­get.

Of­fi­cial­dom is in­clined to see pay­ing for this vi­tal break for par­ents and chil­dren as a wor­ry­ing prece­dent rather than a po­ten­tial and worth­while ex­am­ple to other health boards.

It would be un­for­tu­nate if quoted con­trasts could be read as an in­di­ca­tion that in New Zealand the wel­fare of dis­abled chil­dren and their car­ers ranks as a lower pri­or­ity than, for in­stance, the ex­cite­ment and pay­back race­horse own­ers get from their ex­pen­sive hobby.

Ques­tion: How much are the dogs get­ting?

Pat Booth is an elected mem­ber of the Waitem­ata District Health Board. Opin­ions in this col­umn are not in­tended to nec­es­sar­ily re­flect the views of other mem­bers or the board as a whole. The de­tail quoted is from a pub­lic agenda of the board’s dis­abil­ity sup­port ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee. To pro­tect pri­vacy, th­ese sum­maries are a com­pos­ite.

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