Justice delayed for disabled children in NZ education system

By Leah Te Whata

Of the 95,000 New Zealand children living with a disability, more than half have difficulty learning. The IHC says delays in getting a hearing to address allegations that the education system is breaching the human rights of disabled children are unfair.

The IHC says children with special needs are being denied their right to a full education.

IHC Director of Advocacy Trish Grant says, "There are questions asked about their ability to stay at school all day, sent home at lunchtime because the teacher aid hours are insufficient, there are barriers around them being part of school life."

This comes after a three-year delay in the hearing process for allegations the education system is breaching the human rights of disabled children.

"When justice is delayed it's denied. These children have a right to have their human rights considered by the only authority in New Zealand that has that authority."

The Ministry of Justice says the delay is a result of a workload increase and the government has appointed a second chairperson for a period of 12 months to assist the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

"They have not had a fair deal in terms of not having their stories, their evidence considered by that tribunal. It is not fair."

The Ministry of Education says it is committed to working with IHC about the issues in their claim.

"There is very little trust in the ministry. We have had decades of new and good ideas being put to families and schools. Most of those ideas haven't worked and we're saying we need a new way to engage with families and schools to get this right."

Grant says their case should be made a priority by the Human Rights Review Tribunal.