Are you short of cash? Try Winston
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.
Another: “Takes food, liquids and medication through
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.