May 26, 2020

Hamish plans to get ‘house meetings’ up and running in IDEA Services residences and vocational bases to give people with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to discuss issues that concern them.

“We used to have the meetings years ago,” Hamish says. “It’s important to have the input about other things, about how life is treating you.”

It’s an appropriate note to end with for Hamish, who has spent the past 25 years working for the self-advocacy movement in New Zealand. But while his term as Chair will end after five years, there’s no suggestion he will be toning down his advocacy.

Hamish lives in Palmerston North and has been in the perfect place to have input into Mana Whaikaha – the Government’s prototype for a more flexible way of delivering support services, which is based in the MidCentral DHB region. He has also helped to develop some of the processes for IHC’s new flexible support delivery organisation, Choices NZ.

He was the first person to sign up to Choices NZ. “Hamish has been instrumental in helping us determine what works and what doesn’t,” says Toni Griffiths, National Manager of Choices NZ. “He helped us employ his life coach and trialled some training.”

Hamish is now in the driving seat in deciding how he uses the flexible disability support funding he receives. “He gets a certain budget and he works out how to spend it. Under Choices NZ he has a life coach,” Toni says. Hamish was on the interview panel that selected Anna Willocks, a psychology graduate, for the job. “He works alongside Anna to develop his skills to further his independence, so he doesn’t need as much assistance.”

Along with his very busy schedule, Hamish works with Standards and Monitoring Services on audits and he meets up with Anna several times a week, in between art classes and 10pin bowling. Anna and he are working on his health and fitness, and Anna is coaching him in how to manage his budget and assessing whether his flexible funding will extend to a food bag, a cleaner or a gardener.

Hamish is the first person with an intellectual disability to chair an IHC Association, although there are signs this is changing with an increasing number of self-advocates on Association committees. Eighteen of IHC’s 34 Associations have self-advocates participating.

Hamish has long been involved in the self-advocacy organisation People First New Zealand – Ngā Tāngata Tuatahi, the movement that originated within IHC in the 1980s. He was the National Chairperson of People First from 2012 to 2016, and in 2017 won the Attitude Awards Leadership category. Last year Hamish won the People First New Zealand Leona Gitmans Te Aranga Award for self-advocacy. Hamish plans to stay on the IHC Rangītikei Association committee after he retires as Chair.

This story was published in Community Moves. The magazine is posted free to all IHC members.

Read the full issue of Community Moves online here.