Press release 27 October 2023
An eight month review undertaken by Barrister Rachael Schmidt-McCleave for Whaikaha of policies, processes, and practices for managing complaints about IDEA Services Limited was released today. You can real the report in full here:
The review has found that there is a lingering culture of distrust with a fear of retaliation or removal from the service if clients and their families speak out.
The review of complaints policies at IDEA Services, a subsidiary of IHC and New Zealand’s largest disability provider, was launched by Whaikaha, the Ministry of Disabled People, in February this year after it became aware of multiple complaints from the families of some intellectually disabled residents in November and December last year.
The report begins with a partial quote from a well-known whakatauki (Māori proverb). The full whakatauki is as follows:
Unuhia te rito o te harakeke, kei hea te kōmako e kō? Ui mai ki ahau, ‘He aha te mea nui o te Ao?’ Māku e kī atu, ‘He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.’
If you remove the central shoot of the flax bush, where will the bellbird find rest? If you were to ask me, ‘What is the most important thing in the world?’ I would reply, ‘It is people, it is people, it is people.’
This whakatauki speaks to the deeply interconnected nature of whānau, the natural world, and our relationships. Our disabled whānau members are deeply important to the wellbeing of the entire family, are deeply valued, and interconnected with our wider society.
Disabled whānau who receive services from any service provider ought to do so in a manner that upholds their rights under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), the NZ Disability Strategy, Enabling Good Lives principles, the Human Rights Act, and the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights.
Our expectation at Parents of Vision Impaired NZ (PVI) is that all providers receiving government funding will uphold these as a basis for service delivery. We would also expect all providers to engage in a process of constant quality improvement, including regular evaluation and monitoring of services. We would expect the latter to include regular, robust and safe processes for seeking feedback from end users and their families and whānau.
PVI regularly supports parents and whānau to provide feedback and engage with providers, well before a formal complaint is laid. It is our expectation that, when a formal complaint is laid, that all parties would be treated with dignity, respect, and value by the service provider – as is their right under the aforementioned legislation and principles.
Our families at PVI have not always been treated with dignity, respect, and value by key persons at IHC, including their subsidiaries IDEA services and accessible properties. We at PVI have previously raised concerns regarding the various ways that senior leadership at IHC has treated our families and whānau who have raised concerns, both at an informal and a formal level.
We welcome the release of this report into complaint policies, processes, and practices at IDEA Services. From the perspective of our families, this investigation is long overdue. We are heartened by the clear instruction to IDEA Services and to Whaikaha to rebuild the lost trust engendered by previous poor performance. We are also heartened at the recognition of the need for IDEA Services to recognise the major power imbalance that exists, and to take steps to address this. In particular, we are supportive of the recommendations for IDEA Services (and, by proxy, IHC) to take a zero tolerance approach to retaliation on those raising concerns and that all concerns and complaints are to be welcomed. We look forward to IDEA Services implementing the recommendations, including the requirement to “set out clearly procedural steps it will take to demonstrate this approach to the community it serves, including such actions as considering removing a staff member who has been accused of retaliatory action while investigations are carried out.” Our family and whānau who have been on the receiving end of past retaliatory measures also welcome this recommendation.
Sadly, we remain disappointed with the senior leadership at IHC, who we are informed have actively sought to delay the release of the investigation. We are also disappointed to observe the ongoing dismissal and undermining of the voices of disabled persons and their whānau regarding their experiences of service provision.
PVI’s National Executive Officer, Dr Rebekah Graham, comments: “This report has been held up for months now, which has been incredibly disappointing for those of us who have given so freely of our time, energy, and stories. It is good to see it finally be released”
Regarding the reports findings and recommendations, Dr Graham comments “I absolutely agree that IDEA Services needs to act to regain the trust of family members. It has been incredibly hard to hear the grim realities faced by whānau, and the dismissive and retaliatory way in which so many of our families have been treated. Reading this report, I am hopeful that we will see a much-needed improvement in systems and staff approaches across the entire organisation. It has hurt my heart a great deal to hear that the leadership of a major service provider has been unable to perceive (and therefore improve) the systemic hurt and harm caused. I am hopeful that with this report that IDEA Services and IHC now have a roadmap for implementing systemic improvements, and that they will follow the excellent recommendations this report contains.”