Margaret Spencer, a family carer who has looked after her son who has Down’s Syndrome for 47 years, has finally won backpay after years of struggle. Family members such as Margaret who care for their disabled children should be paid the same as non-family carers, otherwise it is discrimination. She has finally beaten the Ministry of Health who have repeatedly tried to stop her receiving this recognition and payment in a series of court cases.
As a supporter of family carers rights, I have followed this and the other longterm case which was won by a group of families several years ago. Each time these families have had to fight appeals by the Ministry of Health – who have shown an extraordinary and vindictive approach towards the families. They have thrown public money at the legal process again and again, although the courts have said the human rights of the families must be recognised and they should receive backpay. Then the Government changed the law under urgency so that no more families could take human rights cases, carers could only be paid limited hours and only 1600 could receive the carer wage (which can be less than the minimum wage). The alleged floodgates have not opened as less than 200 families have used the payment system.
However, now that Margaret Spencer has won recognition of her right to back pay others may also challenge for this. The judge stated that the Ministry of Health should educate their staff about disability rights. That sounds like an extremely good idea! Congratulations Margaret and Paul Spencer, you have endured and triumphed.