New Zealand Law Society - Commissioner calls for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder classification

Commissioner calls for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder classification

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The Disability Rights Commissioner says Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) must be recognised as a disability

Paula Tesoriero delivered a speech at the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder workshop in Wellington earlier this month.

The Commissioner says recognising FASD as a disability will enable affected people to access the Government support services.

Currently there is no debate in international law or domestic law that FASD is a disability. It falls into the definition of disability in the Disability Convention and the New Zealand Human Rights Act.

Ms Tesoriero says she had heard many stories of people being turned down for assistance like respite care because they do not meet the Ministry of Health eligibility criteria.

“If it is not clearly understood that FASD is a disability, then individuals and their families cannot access the supports and services they need,” she says.

Along with the Children’s Commissioner, Andrew Becroft, Ms Tesoriero continues to raise issues with Government Ministers. These issues include widening the definition of ‘disability’ to include FASD, the need for respite care for families struggling with FASD and the need for improved collaborative work across government departments, including Health, Education, Police and Justice, to address the FASD issue and avoid parallel work streams.

The Commissioner also points out that New Zealand has very few specialist diagnostic centres and little research so that FASD remains significantly under-recognised and the needs of the affected individual and their families unaddressed.’

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