Citizenship and self-direction

In October I took part in the Claiming Full Citizenship Conference in Vancouver. The conference was a great opportunity to be part of a growing dialogue about the role of self-direction in support for disabled people. The conference brought together disabled people, policy-makers, service providers, academics and advocates from around the world.

Areas of discussion included person-centred care and planning, active participation in communities, personal budgets/individualised funding, and achieving meaningful citizenship for all.

Common challenges included achieving shifts to individualised funding, in the face of entrenched traditional approaches; broadening the perceived horizons of what may be possible in the lives of disabled people; and building trusting relationships in disability services between providers, disabled people and their families.

The conference offered an important reflection that beneath the languages of funding systems and service delivery models, lies the wellbeing and citizenship rights of disabled people. One presenter, Tom Nerney, reminded us all of this when he said:

“We cannot forget our goal must be to walk and wheel together as equals, to dine together as equals, to work together as equals, and to love each other as equals.”


I was there to present a comparative analysis of Individualized Funding costs in New Zealand. The presentation came out of a study funded by Manawanui Incharge that looked at cost patterns of individualised funding over time, and the extent to which individualised funding contains disability costs compared to traditional funding approaches. Notably, our exploratory study found that patterns of costs for people with complex care needs appear to be better contained over time with individualised funding compared to other forms of funding.

A clear theme emerged from the conference that individualised funding is an important and valued option in supporting the independence of disabled people. Our exploratory analysis indicates that it is also a valid service funding option in terms of managing costs of disability care, at a time when fiscal management is as important as ever.

A copy of the full report can be found at the Manawanui InCharge website. I’d like to acknowledge collaborators in this work – Michael McGechie, Julian King and Grant Hanham. Thanks are also extended to Manawanui InCharge for supporting my attendance at the conference.