Parents have rights, too
15/05/2012 § 3 Comments
Slowly, slowly, the parents of disabled adults are having their rights recognised. This case started in 1999 (that’s 13 years!) with the Human Rights Review Tribunal, which found that government policy was discriminating against parents who care for their disabled adult children. The government appealed, and has now lost in the High Court and the Court of Appeals. News reports are not clear on whether the Ministry will appeal to the Supreme Court.
The issue is whether these parents are entitled to be paid for the work they do. The courts have found that they should be paid, and that the Ministry of Health is violating their right to equal treatment by refusing their wages. Two points to make:
- the people receiving care are adults, not minors. This is not about parents caring for their minor children
- if the carers were not the parents of the people receiving care, then they would be paid by the Ministry for their work.
This case shows how personal relationships and economic transactions become confused. In a sense, we can’t help it. We go into business with family, regardless of all advice to the contrary. Families end up with jointly owned properties, like baches or family farms. ‘Natural love and affection’ provide some glue to the relationship. The real test comes when the economic side turns sour. In these sorts of voluntary arrangements, we can think of the personal relationship as both an input and an output. It is an input, because it can improve co-operation and co-ordination amongst individuals. It can also be an output, if the people involved value working with their family members and having each other around. That is, they may accept a lower monetary wage because of the psychic benefits.
In the situation at issue in this case, the Ministry is purposely reducing its costs by exploiting parents’ concern for their children. One of the main concerns raised by the Ministry is the increased costs it would face by changing the rules. It is putting its own monetary value on these personal relationships. Not only is this crass, but the courts have again found that it is illegal.
DISCLOSURE: I have family members in a similar situation, although I have no stake in this particular case.