The report titled “Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: A Call to Action – from the Children’s Commissioner and the Disability Rights Commissioner,” has highlighted that thousands of New Zealanders with FASD have been denied support and faced human rights violations.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) covers a range of physical, behavioral and intellectual issues that can arise when a fetus is exposed to alcohol during pregnancy. Between 1800 and 3000 babies are born with FASD each year. The disorder while not curable is largely preventable. And for those who already have FASD, early diagnosis and intervention can change their whole lives and help them thrive in society.
However, according to the new report, many people with the disorder can’t get the help they need to thrive. In parts of New Zealand it is still difficult to get diagnosed, and support is patchy. The lack of support can have serious consequences for people with FASD, including increased risk of suicide and a trajectory towards the criminal justice system.
New Zealand’s FASD Action Plan 2016 – 2019 was meant to resolve these problems faced by people with FASD. While the government has made progress on preventing FASD, such as through awareness campaigns about harms of alcohol use during pregnancy, there has not been enough progress in the areas which focus on helping people with FASD.
The Ministry of Health has recognized that more needs to be done in a cross-agency approach.
[The Ministry of Health] recognizes that more needs to be done to support individuals and whānau affected by FASD,” said a Ministry of Health spokesperson, as per NZ Herald.
This requires a cross-agency approach including from Oranga Tamariki, Corrections, Education and other agencies.”Ministry of Health, New Zealand
The report also found a glaring gap in Disability Support Services (DSS) for people with FASD. Currently, DSS is only available for the 20% of people with FASD who have an IQ below 70. The rest of the people with FASD who need these services can not access them.
Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero and Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft have called the IQ below 70 criteria “utterly arbitrary” and illogical. Both the commissioners have called on the government to urgently take action to rectify the issues and provide support for all people with FASD. They explain that the consequences of failing to do so have broad implications affecting people with FASD, their families, health, education, social welfare and criminal justice systems.
The cost of this failure will not only be paid by these children and their whānau/families. There are also massive ongoing costs to our health, education, social welfare and criminal justice systems,” said Judge Andrew Becroft, Children’s Commissioner, as per NZ Herald.
Judge Andrew Becroft, Children’s Commissioner