Dirty Politics for the mentally handicapped

Although not surprising, it still turns my stomach

A large-scale provider of care for the intellectually disabled has been accused of openly influencing the voting of residents in their care.

A former community support worker at Idea Services said carers actively encouraged residents to vote Labour and schooled them on what boxes to tick on their ballot paper.

The Waikato-based worker, who declined to give her full name for fear of reprisals, said Idea Services management pressured carers to vote Labour and also directed them to influence how residents voted.

Idea Services is a subsidiary of IHC.

“By the time they [clients] get taken to the voting booths, they already know the colour that they have got to vote for,” the former staffer said. “They get told things like you can vote for whoever you like but Labour is the only political party that cares what happens to you.”

Let’s be realistic.  It’s been going on forever.  The stupidity is getting caught at it. 

The former support worker joined Idea Services in 2008 but left in 2012 and believed the practice of influencing clients’ voting still happened.

“The practice is still going on, absolutely, it’s ingrained. The truth needs to come out because you can’t let organisations get away with what they’re getting away with and they’re getting away with a lot.”

IHC did not respond to requests to interview IHC chief executive Ralph Jones and instead provided a written statement saying they would look into the allegations.

IHC spokeswoman Gina Rogers said staff did not “indicate or encourage anyone to vote a certain way” and the organisation expected staff to bring such matters to the attention of management.

“We are disappointed to hear the suggestion that a former Idea Services worker has alleged that service users were encouraged to vote in a certain way. Had this allegation been brought to our attention we would have investigated it,” Rogers said.

This week the Waikato Times reported on a Waikato family concerned an intellectually disabled family member was being supported to vote despite having the mental age of a 2-year-old. Patricia Hallett, 62, lives in Auckland under the permanent care of IHC subsidiary Idea Services and voted on Tuesday.

Nephew David Hallett, of Ngahinapouri, said the caregiver’s revelations confirmed his fears people in IHC care could be unduly influenced at the voting booth.

Hallett said such allegations risked making a mockery of the electoral system. “If IHC is complicit in this activity, then without doubt an investigation is required.”

The Electoral Act allows a person who lacks the ability to vote unassisted “due to physical or mental disability” to receive support. However, anyone assisting a voter must follow the voter’s instructions and not attempt to direct or influence his or her choice.

Voting is an interesting bit of legislation.  It even allows adults with a mental age of a two year old to vote.   How that person can ever vote without being guided in some way, even if the guidance is benign, is beyond me.   Still, it is better than trying to define some legal test what makes someone able to understand what they are voting for.  On that basis, legally capable adults may not pass either.

All the same, the fact that care workers and family members are getting extra votes this way is distasteful.

 

– Aaron Leaman, Matt Bowen, Waikato Times


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.

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