People with disabilities have higher living costs because we have a long list of necessities. On top of general expenses like food, bills and transport disabled people have extra expenses because of our disabilities. New wheelchairs and other equipment occasionally need to be purchased and are expensive. Other disability-related expenses are ongoing like support workers, prescriptive medications and other various things that are essential to someone's wellness.
insufficient resources to meet needs
To make matters worse people with disabilities often have low income. For many reasons, adults with disabilities have very limited opportunities to find employment. Their family members may also not be employed because they devote their time to support the person with disabilities. These family members don't receive any payment for being a full-time carer.
The same thing happens for families with children that have disabilities. One of the parents or solo parents is unemployed to be dedicated to caring for their disabled child. This results in families having low income or parents sacrificing the best income they could be earning.
My family are not materially poor, but my family experiences this. My dad has been the only one employed in our family. Mum decides to stay at home to care for me and my younger siblings. She sacrifices her employment opportunities to ensure that her children are always nourished and secure at home.
People with disabilities are often living in poverty due to the disparities between higher living costs and low income. Therefore, many people with disabilities rely on benefits for general expenses and other government funding to cover their disability-related costs.
New Zealand is blessed with a government system that pays for most disability-related costs. I'm really thankful for this as it meets my material needs and some other needs as well.
Poverty is a lack of income, material resources and way more
I've been learning more about poverty in a course I'm taking. In the course, it highlights that poverty isn't just a lack of income and material resources.
Poverty is a lack of everything.
People living in poverty talk about their emotion's way more than about the resources they lack in their definition of poverty.
Parents feel shame because they are not able to provide for their families. People feel disempowered and worthless because their voices are not heard.
Therefore, just giving poor people material things is not enough or may not even be what they need. We need to build relationships with people living in poverty locally.
Get to know their stories and journey with them to a place where they feel empowered. Lead them to a relationship with God and help them grow their faith.
Make people feel welcomed in church communities and be friendly to those that are underprivileged we may meet in other places. Hang out with them. Have meals with people and build meaningful relationships.
Encourage people to find and develop their skills and abilities. Support people in poverty to find employment or other opportunities so they can use their skills and feel useful. This is how people gain a sense of worth, self-confidence and hope for their futures.
Government supports can only do so much for someone with a disability.
Given my new perspective on poverty, I think government supports alleviate poverty to a certain extent. I see this in my own life.
As I mentioned earlier I'm really grateful for the government supports that I receive. My family and I would really struggle without government funded supports.
I get a certain number of hours a week that someone comes to feed me a meal and help me take care of my hygiene. The rest of the time I rely on the love of my family.
Hence why mum's always around.
I went to school and now I get support to engage in the community. Sometimes one on one and other times with other people with disabilities.
I have made good friends with others that receive the same support. I have good relationships with my support workers too.
This kind of government support gives me the opportunity to grow my social network. It also supports me to go out and do various activities and have fun experiences in my life.
Spiritual needs and the need to belong
However, my needs that the government support doesn't meet, particularly my spiritual needs, they are met in my Christian communities. Also, it's in my local church and in other Christian groups where I really feel a sense of belonging.
I really enjoy the journey of growing in faith with other believers. Being able to talk about faith and encourage one another in our walks of faith makes me feel so connected.
I feel really empowered when believers ask for prayers or I get opportunities to serve or speak in a ministry.
Giving people tasks to fulfil and trusting them to do it well gives them dignity. Don't underestimate what people with disabilities can do. Rather, discover their gifts and abilities and give them appropriate task.
We may not able to meet a disabled person’s financial needs. However, we can surely be friends and make an effort to include people with disabilities in our communities.
Feeling loved and included is a priceless need.
Manuele Teofilo lives in South Auckland with his parents and siblings. He has graduated from the University of Auckland with a Bachelor of Human Services and plans to work in the disability sector. He enjoys getting around in his electric wheelchair and having fun with people.