I had to stop for a few days

I took a few days out.

It's been almost 2 weeks since my last blog, I had a bit of a health blip and needed to stop and actually rest for a few days.

This week started with the 4th meeting of the Safeguarding Working Group. Being part of this group has been really intense. I came onto the group to ensure that the disability community wasn't "over safeguarded", due to wanting to protect people from harm considering perceived risks. I totally agree, acknowledge and understand the need to protect people and particularly those in a "vulnerable person's" (Crimes Act definition of Vulnerable person) position, but I had concerns that in order to protect people, regulation and/or policy would be restricting others choice to participate in "risky" activities. "Risk" is different for everyone and each persons individual circumstances must be considered.

Some poor trees gave their lives for us

There have been some really robust discussions and there will be more to come. Although we have covered a huge amount of ground, Safeguarding across an entire system is in itself a massive job and 4 days is not a lot of time. There are definitely some areas that need more thought and work but we have made a damn good start and we will be meeting again to work on further development.
There have been some heartbreaking stories, at times near overwhelming and as a group we are dedicated to ensuring that the new system prevents similar injustices and abuse occurring. Throughout these meetings we have had a lot of discussion of being "risk enablers", we want to ensure that people are in a position to take risk across many contexts (be it taking a bus, living in a flatting situation, outdoor activities etc etc etc) but have plans in place to respond appropriately for an individual's circumstances in case things don't quite work out 100%. The "dignity of risk" is being allowed to make dumbass decisions as well as good decisions, but providing a safe way to minimize the negative impact of a bad decision and to use that as a mechanism for learning, growth and personal development.

In my mind a lot of what Enabling Good Lives can achieve will depend on how well the other Ministries work with this process. History shows us that Ministries/Departments tend to work in isolation; even within their own organisation, often it doesn't appear that the right hand knows what the left is doing. A huge barrier will be maintaining clear communication across so many departments. If these departments and organizations don't buy into the process then in some aspects nothing is going to change; a lot of what EGL sets out to achieve overall hinges on these organizations actually using the framework (once we get there).

There have been times that I've felt slightly out of my depth during these meetings, I'm an outdoor rec instructor at heart and not as familiar with some of the laws involved. Over the last few weeks I have learnt a huge amount and I hope I've been able to accurately bring to the table some of the concerns that the disability community has around safeguarding.

So much paper, then there is the stuff on my tablet as well!

One of the things that I have struggled with at times during these meetings is thinking about "from now to when this gets off the ground" issues. People are getting treated like crap now, and I know a few blogs ago I asked for patience, but I still feel like we need to make changes NOW to enable people to live better lives. At the same time I know that the scope of EGL is so large that if the process is rushed and particular areas are not well set up then the whole thing is going to fall over and no-one is going to experience positive change.

I never really set out to be an "advocate" and it may have been "selfish" of me in past to focus on my own stuff. Looking back though, while doing my own thing I've had some amazing opportunities to be part of "bigger picture" projects and EGL is another example of this. I hear about a project, I ask some questions and then find myself involved in that project. I truly believe that knowledge is a gift meant to be shared. With my involvement in EGL I have the opportunity to pass on the knowledge I have about living in New Zealand when you have impairments/disability/limitations/what ever terminology you use/identify with. I hope I can also represent to some extent the vast amount of knowledge that is held by so many in the community.

Although it's been really full on, I've met some amazing people and it's humbling to be a part of this process. One of my highlights was a moment chatting to one of the other working groups members over lunch. They quietly asked "Do you mind if I ask what Ben's specialist skills are?"  I've said in the past that I'm often not surprised anymore about how people interact with us as a team, but this surprised me, only because it was probably one of the most perfect ways to ask. Usually this question is along a continuum from "So what does he actually do?" through to "So what's wrong with you?".

ADNZ Ben uses the meeting times to nap.


As usual the next few weeks are chock-full of things I'm doing. I'm looking forward to some adaptive climbing in Hamilton. I have both the Disabled Persons Core Group and Regional Leadership Group meetings and the start of the Networking Work Stream, where I think we will be looking at what Ministries/Departments should be involved in EGL and how we develop those working relationships in order to make EGL work. There are also many community based organizations that will need to be "networked" with on a local level.

Take care everyone, make sure you take the time to take in the journey along the way,

Kapiti was beautiful on the way home.

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