Lack of review mechanism for community participation services funding unreasonable
The Chief Ombudsman received a complaint about the level of Community Participation Services provided by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD). At the time that the complainant’s son left school in 1999, he was classified as High Needs under the Ministry of Education’s Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS). However, MSD did not have a mechanism to reassess funding entitlement to reflect changes in support needs.
MSD used the ORS assessment to determine funding for Community Participation Services for people with disabilities from the time they leave school until they turn 65. A classification of High Needs provides access to bulk-funded community participation programmes at an average rate of $4,100 per contracted place per year. A classification of Very High Needs entitles the person to individualised funding for community participation support, to a maximum of $15,676.80 per person per year.
The complainant considered that the ORS assessment was incorrect and his son should have been classified as Very High Needs during his school years. He also considered that his son’s needs had increased and the bulk-funded programme was not suitable for him. However, MSD had advised that it could provide funding based only on the ORS assessment as it had no mechanism to review ORS assessments.
MSD acknowledged that it does not have a mechanism to reassess a person’s needs. It undertook to apologise, provide a flexible payment and engage with the complainant to explore other existing assessment options. In the longer term, MSD will undertake a review of its vocational support, including Community Participation Services, and develop advice for ministerial consideration.
In light of MSD’s commitments, the Ombudsman did not make any recommendations. He commended the manner in which MSD responded to the investigation and its willingness to work towards a positive outcome.
This case note is published under the authority of the Ombudsmen Rules 1989. It sets out an Ombudsman’s view on the facts of a particular case. It should not be taken as establishing any legal precedent that would bind an Ombudsman in future.
 When Pay Equity is included, the total annual Ministry of Health funding for a person with very High Needs may increase to $21,567.00 per annum excluding GST.