Diane Moody cares for her 51-year-old disabled son, Shayne Chamberlain, day and night. Photo / Greg Bowker

An elderly mother who looks after her disabled son 24-7 has won her appeal against a Ministry of Health decision to pay her for just 17 hours of care each week.

Shane Chamberlain, 51, has Williams syndrome, is partly paralysed and has a severe intellectual disability. His mother Diane Moody, 76, has cared for him at home through most of his adult life.

Moody effectively cares for Shane 24-7, and has fought for years to get full-time funding to care for Shane at home.

Yet in 2016 the Ministry of Health’s contracted assessor, the Taikura Trust, decided Moody should only be paid for specific “personal care” tasks – such as shaving and clipping toenails – and “household management” tasks like changing bed sheets and cooking. These would require a total of 17 hours, paid at the minimum wage under its Funded Family Care Policy.

“Supervision” – which makes up the bulk of Moody’s care – was not included. The High Court upheld that decision last year, saying the Ministry was acting within the law.

But the Court of Appeal has today overturned the High Court decision, saying a “serious error” had been made. The Ministry’s approach to the policy was too “narrow” and interfered with Shane’s fundamental human rights as a person with disabilities.

“The Ministry’s focus on avoiding payment for mere supervision time has apparently caused its failure to recognise that at certain times, particularly at night, essential services must be provided,” the judges said.

The judges said it was “plain that Shane can never be left unattended and unsupervised”, and Moody’s constant motherly devotion had “inestimable benefits for Shane and the state”.

They directed the Minister of Health to reassess the case, making allowances for Moody to care for Shane’s needs “as they arise at any hour of the day”.

Moody said she was “ecstatic” over the decision.

“It’s been a long, hard battle. But it’s never been about Shane and I – it’s actually been about all the families in this situation. You have to fight the system,” she said.

“It has never been about the money. It’s the principle of the whole thing.”

A Ministry of Health spokeswoman said the ministry had received the Court of Appeal’s decision and was considering its implications.

Source: NZ Herald

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