Opening doors with words and numbers 3
Reconnecting to life 5
Looking for gold 8
Home for good 10
From the frontline 14
A chance to turn around 16
Prime Ministers Youth Programme 18
Injury to insight 21
Sowing seeds for the future 23
Building futures 26
Working against violence 28
Helping youth through karate 32
Art speaks 34
Tips and links 39
The earthquake of 22 February devastated Christchurch just as this issue of Rise went to print.
Our thoughts are with all those in Christchurch – those who have lost loved ones and homes, and our staff and community partners who are there in the thick of it supporting thousands of vulnerable and stricken people in incredibly difficult circumstances.
Many of them are dealing with their own losses. But I know from experience that our people are pulling together, doing what they always do, and using every opportunity to provide help and support in dark times. Rise will share some of their stories in its next issue.
The theme for this issue of Rise is opportunity.
As the stories in this issue illustrate, often it can take just one opportunity to change a person’s life.
For a child in care, a life-changing opportunity might arrive as a caring foster parent providing a stable home for life.
For a person with a disability, opportunity could take the shape of a supportive employer offering a stepping stone into the workforce.
Or it might be the chance for a young person whose life has gone off track to turn their life around through a Fresh Start programme.
I was particularly impressed to read about Dunedin’s Sheryl MacLeod, who turned a devastating injury into a genuine opportunity for her career. Her story is an inspiration to us all.
Chief Executive, Ministry of Social Development
Opening doors with words and numbers
At an age when the world should have been full of possibilities, doors seemed to close rather than open for Daniel Potter.
Daniel left school with limited reading or maths skills, and initially found work as a labourer. Then the economic recession began to bite and competition for work became fiercer. Daniel – a fit young man in his early 20s – found himself spending month after month depending on a benefit.
In an attempt to improve his work prospects, Daniel’s Work and Income case manager in Levin suggested that they tackle one obvious root cause of his unemployment – his ability to read and to count. Daniel was referred to an organisation which offers free lessons to adults who struggle with written words and numbers.
Horowhenua Adult Literacy Services (HALS) manager Michael Dally is used to receiving clients referred by Work and Income, and says Daniel’s reading and maths difficulties were far from unusual.
The International Adult Literacy Survey in 1996 found that more than one million adult New Zealanders have literacy levels below that needed to cope effectively with daily life, including the workplace. About 20 per cent had very poor skills and would have considerable difficulty using printed material such as forms, newspapers or information pamphlets.
In most cases, says Michael, literacy is crucial to helping get people off benefits and improving their quality of life.
“What chance do you have of getting a job, let alone a promotion, if you can’t use a computer, or take a phone message, or read instructions or fill out a form?
“You’ll probably be surviving on a low income. There’s frustration, depression, and those things often find an outlet in alcohol, violence or crime – usually for money.”
Isolation from the community is another down side. Parenting is affected if a person can’t help their child with homework, read stories or understand school newsletters.
People develop ways to disguise their low literacy issues and are often reluctant to ask for help – especially men.
“There’s a word for it,” says Michael. “Whakamaa – or shame.”
Mark Reece, a former volunteer literacy tutor with HALS, is also a former student of the centre. He now runs a successful mechanical contracting business, but only after coming to HALS for help 11 years ago.
“A lot of clever people don’t apply for jobs because they can’t read,” he says. “For some it’s the embarrassment. But if you want to learn, then come and learn. It doesn’t matter what other people say.”
Mark left school at 15, with poor literacy skills because school bored him. Although he had an incredible memory for car engines, his first automotive business failed because he couldn’t read the manuals for new car models, and he was signing documents he didn’t understand.
When he did decide to learn, it took only a few months. Suddenly life was simpler and more successful. He could read bills, understand manuals, do the books, take notes at conferences.
The learners at HALS range from school leavers to 80 year olds. Some come voluntarily, others are encouraged by employers, and others are beneficiaries referred by Work and Income.
A former radio journalist and school teacher, Michael Dally has worked for more than 16 years to raise the reading, writing and maths levels of adults. The tutors work mostly one-on-one, using each individual’s interests to spark learning – one of the most common being the desire to pass the written driver’s license test.
Levin’s Work and Income Service Centre manager Rozalie Feyen says jobseekers with no driver’s license face real barriers, especially in Levin where a lot of work involves travelling to farms and orchards. She gave the example of a current client who attended the literacy centre, had recently passed the written driving test and is now applying for jobs she could never previously have done.
Gaining the skills to complete application forms or pass their license is “a real positive”, says Roz.
For Daniel Potter, it was running that sparked his learning. Keen to learn about his grandfather who had represented New Zealand in athletics, Daniel and tutor Michael went online to do some research. Daniel started doing Internet research projects related to the sport.
A few months after starting the literacy programme, Daniel secured a job as a horticultural labourer, ending 18 months of unemployment.
When he first started work he struggled to count the number of cabbages for each carton, but he has kept up his lessons at the literacy centre and is now studying towards a Diploma in Horticulture (endorsed Vegetable Production).
As a result, HALS is now producing not only readers and workers, but also vegetables from the garden which Daniel has planted in the back yard for research, as he studies to turn his new job into a career.
Reconnecting to life
The year was 1999, and Aubrey Quinn was facing a task that terrified him.
He was shaking and sweating with anxiety. His heart raced. His mouth was dry. He would have done almost anything to avoid the job ahead – speaking to a small group of primary school children about a holiday programme in Waitakere.
These days Aubrey is an accomplished public speaker, often called upon to speak about his journey with bipolar disorder, and about recovery, wellness and employment for people with mental illness. For the past 11 years he has worked in sport and education, and is currently working in the mental health sector helping people develop careers and recover from mental illness. He is a husband and father.
In 2008 Aubrey and Dame Susan Devoy fronted the Like Minds Like Mine television campaign, challenging friends, whānau and employers to be more inclusive and less discriminatory towards people with mental illness. It’s an area Aubrey is more than willing to speak up about, wanting to help others with mental illness and disability gain the same sort of opportunities he did.
But back on that day in 1999, as Aubrey was taking his first tentative steps back into the world after several years of debilitating mental illness, the seemingly simple task of speaking to children almost paralysed him with dread.
The thing that got Aubrey through that ordeal was the support of his managers and colleagues at Sport Waitakere, where he had secured a position through the Mainstream Employment Programme.
“Sport Waitakere’s operations manager Tu Nualiatia was a rugby player, a man who gave me the strength to step outside my comfort zone. He did not have to say a word – he just stood beside me.
“Mark Iverson, the CEO, shared his own experience with me about delivering a key note address at a conference, when he needed to sit down part way through his speech as he lost his train of thought, and it took everything for him not to run out of the room.
“Two different approaches and examples of ways they embraced my challenges.”
Aubrey croaked his way through the brief speech, forgot to mention key details, and felt a massive rush of elation and achievement as he and Tu drove back to the office. It was a small yet significant step.
The Mainstream Employment Programme is a two-year stepping stone into independent work for people with disabilities. With subsidies and support, it helps state sector employers create jobs for people whose barriers mean they are unable to secure a job on their own. With the help and goodwill of co-workers, people gain the skills, experience and – especially in Aubrey’s case – confidence to compete for jobs in the labour market.
“The team at Sport Waitakere must have rolled their eyes when I sat down at the first team meeting and disclosed my mental health recovery story,” said Aubrey.
“Diagnosis of bipolar with psychotic symptoms, a compulsory stay under the Mental Health Act, periods of psychosis, mania and depression, anti-psychotic medication, not to mention burns and skin grafts to my legs.”
However, instead of judging him, Aubrey’s Sport Waitakere colleagues got alongside him and supported his introduction to the workplace.
“They were simply great people, developing plans alongside me, offering kind words and encouragement when I was off-track.
“My experience of mental health really affected my confidence and having people show confidence in me was a big thing. Knowing that they thought I could do it, and then actually doing it was important. It made me realise what I was capable of.”
Aubrey says the job at Sport Waitakere was a life-changing opportunity, combined with a lot of support from his wife, friends, family and colleagues.
“I regained my hope that I could serve in a workplace and found a passion for helping and serving others, which had always been there, yet for a time was lost.
“I gained employment and communication skills, the confidence to take up opportunity, to take responsibility, to be held accountable and to learn from my mistakes.
“I reconnected to life, found purpose and found hope for a brighter future.”
That future included a full-time job with the Halberg Trust, followed by a position at Sport Bay of Plenty.
Dame Susan Devoy, who employed Aubrey when she was chief executive of Sport Bay of Plenty, said he brought a wealth of insight to both clients and colleagues about tolerance, patience, empathy, support and looking after people.
Working with Aubrey was an experience that led Dame Susan to become an advocate for employing people with experience of mental illness, appearing with Aubrey in the Like Minds Like Mine television campaign.
“Aubrey was part of creating a culture that you could never buy,” Dame Susan says. “He challenged us all the time to think about how we could help others… And he challenged our expectations of people – because really we all come to the table with different issues.”
She said the key thing for employers and staff is to be open and to talk.
“Nothing is unachievable. Manage it, just as you would manage any illness.”
Mental Health Foundation research shows that people with experience of mental illness can and should be actively encouraged to work. The research shows that where employers do not discriminate, the effect of mental illness on a person’s employment is usually minimal.
Dame Susan’s advice for other employers is to:
make it your business to find out about the condition people have. Ask them what it means to them
ask the person what support they need
normalise as much as possible – people don’t want sympathy
build policies in your workplace that respect people’s unique differences
be flexible and find ways to do things differently.
Over the past ten years, Aubrey says he has seen up-close the challenges faced by disabled people and their families, during his work for the Halberg Trust and then Sport Bay of Plenty as a sports opportunity advisor for disabled people.
These days, Aubrey is “serving his apprenticeship” in the mental health sector, working at Turning Point Trust in Tauranga. As a mental health support worker, he helps people who have experienced mental illness develop their careers and gain understanding of mental health recovery.
“For me the joy is in seeing people discovering meaning, focusing on their talents and making sense out of what can be a very difficult time. It’s a rewarding role that focuses on supportive relationships.
Aubrey says having supportive friends, family, mental health professionals, employers, colleagues and an “incredible” wife who advocated for him in those early years, made a huge and positive difference.
“That is why I try to stand alongside people in the same way that Tu and others once stood alongside me.”
Looking for gold
Every work day, Gary Braddock gets up with a sense of purpose. A teacher aide at the Learning Support Centre of Wellington’s Newlands College, Gary has a real gift for working with difficult autistic students.
At age 49, and after three years working in a job he loves and is good at, Gary is well aware of just how very good it feels to be valued for what he can do. Born with Williams Syndrome, which affects both mental and physical abilities, he has had to work harder than most to secure his place in the workforce.
“Most people with Williams Syndrome have a low IQ,” says Gary. “I have battled with that all my life. At 18, I had a reading age of an eight year old.”
“Now you tell me!” huffs his boss Kevin Hatley indignantly.
The indignation, however, is all show.
Kevin, whose leadership won Newlands College the 2010 Mainstream Employer of the Year Award, is totally committed to role-modelling the possibilities of employment for disabled people, not only to his own students but also to other employers.
The Learning Support Centre which Kevin heads caters for about 40 high special needs students between the ages of 12 and 21. Their disabilities range from autism to deafness to physical disabilities which sees some needing wheelchairs.
Keen to show his students that they had a future in the workforce, Kevin chose Gary and 25-year-old Robert Dooley – who both have significant disabilities – to provide classroom support. The pair were taken on through the Mainstream Employment Programme, but last year secured permanent positions with the unit.
Kevin’s philosophy as an employer is based around gold nuggets – the skills or talents that each person can offer – and when it comes to finding gold, Kevin is a dedicated and expert prospector.
“With Gary, it’s the wonderful way he has with autistic children,” says Kevin. “That’s a wonderful asset when you have an autistic student acting up. There is a whole list of things Gary can’t do, but he can do this and it far outweighs the areas where he has few skills.
“Robert has a real interest in model trains. He has a huge collection at home. So as an employer, I think how can that huge interest be used? So, now we have a train club, and Robert runs it. More than half our kids belong. It’s our most popular club.”
Robert, who is also responsible for keeping the unit’s extensive kitchen learning area hygienic and sparkling, says it is the first time he has felt wanted in a work place.
The unit’s latest recruit, a previously unemployed young woman who is in a wheelchair, has also been employed through Mainstream. Her role will be based around writing, reading and clerical work, which Kevin has already identified as one of her strengths.
“If you focus on those gold nuggets you end up with a good workforce. It’s like letting the cream rise to the top.”
Kevin believes it is important to role-model the possibilities of employment not only to the students, but also to other employers.
“We’ve got lots of kids with disabilities here. When they leave us we would really like employers to take them on and to be open to people with disabilities. If we want people to do it we have to do it ourselves, to show other employers that it’s possible. Because so often all people see is the wheelchair and it goes in the too-hard basket.
“And, if an employer comes back to us and says it’s all too hard, we can help them work it out.”
Kevin points out that supporting a person with disabilities in the workplace is not very different from supporting those with an illness or family commitments.
Kevin, who has worked at Newlands College for 21 years, has renal failure. Two afternoons a week, he needs to take time out for dialysis to cleanse his blood.
“So you might look at Robert or Gary and think that their disabilities make it too difficult for employers to take them on... yet I have an illness that also affects my work, and I am supported to carry on with my job and that makes me feel valued.
“A disability is not a negative; it’s just part of growing in your job – and that gives the students we are working with some hope.”
As for Gary, the teacher aide who specialises in autistic kids: “It has built my self-esteem up incredibly and it makes me feel pretty good about myself. Now I can get up and look at myself in the mirror.”
Home for good
It’s a commitment through tough times and good, but nothing makes more difference to a child in care than a stable home and good foster parents.
“What it means is that these kids get a chance,” says clinical psychologist and parenting author Nigel Latta, who specialises in working with kids in the too-hard basket and regularly works with foster families. “They’ve been bounced from one place to the next, and the thing they really need is a place to put down roots, to belong and grow into who they are.”
In his book Before your kids drive you crazy, read this Nigel writes that experiences during the first few years of life effectively hardwire structural changes to the brain – ways of responding to the world that will steer children’s behaviour for years to come.
Although chronic distress will shape a child’s brain, the same is true for positive experiences.
“The brain is a plastic thing. Just as a child’s brain will hardwire to a traumatic environment, an extended period in a home where people are fair and predictable – where you might get a growling, but you won’t get a beating – can have a big long-term impact.”
Warmth and consistency are key, and Nigel says the difference a good caregiver and a stable home make to a child in care is profound.
“Psychologists are seen as the experts when it comes to fixing kids, but actually caregivers are the ones who make the most difference of anyone in these kids’ lives. If you have a good caregiver, you are 80 per cent of the way there.
“I see caregivers perform a thousand miracles for kids every single day,” he says.
Home for Life
Currently, around 4,000 New Zealand children and young people live with foster families or extended family and whānau. The reality is that for most, returning home will not be possible – only 16 per cent of children in care are able to return home to their parents. The rest will need a safe and stable foster home either with whānau or a new family – a permanent place to build secure attachments with caring adults and gain a sense of belonging.
Child, Youth and Family launched its Home for Life support package last year, to make it easier for caregivers to open up their hearts and homes to kids who need them.
The Home for Life package has a strong focus on ongoing support for a period of three years. It includes a dedicated phone line, one-on-one support for foster parents including help with visiting arrangements, a $2,500 upfront payment to buy things the kids need and a baby starter pack for people giving their home to a baby under two.
Child, Youth and Family’s West Coast site manager Christine McKenna says Home for Life is a fundamental move to ensure that children have sense of belonging, a family to call their own and carers who are committed to them and want them to be the best they can be.
“Home for Life is about New Zealanders providing homes for New Zealand children – not about foster parents and CYF kids. It’s getting people to think about this being a family for life, about being there for 21st birthdays, weddings, and grandchildren and all of life’s significant events.
“We had one young girl who had been in care for years. She said that before the court hearing which gave custody to her carers, she looked in the mirror and saw just a kid in care. But afterwards, she looked in the mirror and saw herself for the first time. She wasn’t a CYF kid anymore.”
Seeing kids blossom
Christine, who has been a foster parent herself, says a home for life gives children a foundation to build their whole lives on.
“It can be an absolute springboard for some of these children. I have seen children who have overcome trauma through a loving relationship with their carers, and bloomed into the most delightful young people.”
Wellington’s Andeana Pilalis, who has added three foster children to her existing family of four children, well knows the joy of seeing a child slowly blossom after a troubled beginning – such as the moment when, after three years, one of her foster children finally looked her in the eye.
She talks with warmth and pride about the achievements of her foster children, who she says claim a place in the family home equal to her own and her partner’s children.
“Lianna*, at 10, had been to 18 different primary schools – that’s about three schools each year. She was achieving at about the level of a six year old. By 15, she had read all the classics like Anne of Green Gables – she had never heard of them when she came to us – and was reading above her age group.
“And this year, Liam* got an academic award for his reading and that’s an amazing success for any child, but when you know what he has been through and still managed to do these things – it’s so exciting and fulfilling.”
Nigel Latta recommends careful thought before making the decision to offer a permanent foster home.
“You just have to be aware that what you are taking on is a huge thing. It’s a life changing decision for you and them. Don’t do it lightly because these kids don’t need some person jumping in and then jumping out again.”
Nigel, who often works with foster families and speaks to groups of carers, talks honestly about the need for tolerance, stickability, a sense of humour and not taking things personally. Much of his work with foster families, he says, is about helping caregivers understand why the children are the way they are and focusing on simple tools to deal with problem behaviour.
Christine McKenna says children often blame themselves because they feel that nobody wants them.
“These children are in care because of trauma in their lives. They have great fear of rejection and those feelings and their experiences can come out in their behaviour.
“It’s about walking beside them and sticking with them through the tough bits. When foster parents bail out it’s another broken attachment. It’s like a mouse on a treadmill – they can never reach their potential.”
Andeana, who also supports foster carers through her work with the New Zealand Family and Foster Care Federation, says people need to go into permanent fostering with their eyes open.
“It’s not always going to be a bed of roses.”
She says when she and her partner committed to the children they were aware that they would come with “all sorts of baggage” and would need help and counselling.
“But we signed up, truly, for life. They are our family. And they very clearly feel that we are their family in addition to their birth families.”
Although Andeana is an experienced foster parent and reads extensively, there are still times when she feels at a loss.
Support from family, friends and agencies is a key factor, and that’s one of the strengths of the Home for Life package, says Andeana.
“If it’s not working, get help and do it as a family.”
Wayne and Monique Bright of Hamilton say they have found Home for Life’s support with legal advice and family access visits to be invaluable.
Joshua*, now aged two, came to them at two hours’ notice, as a newborn baby needing an emergency place to stay. And he never left. Months before the couple knew they would be able to have Josh permanently, Monique had already made the hard decision to put her work on hold to look after him.
“We were a bit worried that we were going to put all the effort in only to end up heartbroken when he left us. But when we realised that Josh’s alternative could be to end up house hopping, Wayne said he’s too young for that – at eight months old we couldn’t stand the thought of him going and having to do it all again.”
Monique and Wayne had been fostering children since 2008, but Josh was the first time they had been able to consider a home for life, and they were thrilled by the opportunity, as was their four-year-old daughter Emily.
Monique says the family is open to more foster children.
“When there are children who don’t have a family, it’s what they need most. No question, we will definitely take more – especially if Wayne answers the phone.”
*names have been changed
From the frontline
Opportunity is something that Jason Northover both promotes and role-models to young offenders in his job as Military Activity Camp (MAC) programme senior advisor.
The 15 to 17 year olds who Jason works with on the two-month residential phase of the MAC programme are among the country’s most serious recidivist youth offenders. They have reached the limits of the youth justice system. For most of them the next step is an adult prison.
Jason says they have known few opportunities beyond the limited world they have grown up in.
“They have a cul de sac mentality – their parents could be struggling, the house next door might be a tinny house, and maybe most people they know are on a benefit. Family might be in a gang. These are their only role models, other than teachers and police.
“You can’t force them to change,” says Jason. “But you can provide options and awareness of the opportunities that are out there for them.”
During the MAC programme, considerable effort is put into addressing the factors that cause people to offend, identifying the strengths and interests of each young person, exploring jobs that will suit them, setting goals for education or work and taking practical steps to make that happen.
Jason says that when the boys visited Christchurch Polytechnic and saw the workshops, they were blown away by opportunities they never dreamed existed.
“They had no idea there was anything like that. Some just couldn’t believe that all you had to do was enrol, go there and learn to fix cars for free!” says Jason.
“When you are always in trouble, things like going to polytech seem like a pipe dream. And this shows them that it’s actually straightforward, and totally within reach.”
Opportunities are also about how you choose to deal with life.
“What we are doing is showing them that there’s a different way of life and much bigger world out there than the one they have known.
“So the boys learn that there are opportunities to deal with stuff differently – instead of getting angry and throwing their toys out of the cot, there’s a chance to just walk away from trouble.”
Opening parents’ eyes to the positive potential of their sons is important too, says Jason. During MAC, families are invited to take part in a weekend-long wananga with their boys.
“The parents don’t want their kids committing crime, but they are often struggling too, in that same cul de sac. At the wananga families get to see their boys in a positive state, excelling and focused.”
He says sometimes the boys will ask him ‘how did you get to be doing your job?’
“I say that I take opportunities when I can, and I make opportunities when there aren’t any.”
Three years ago, Jason was a roofer. He’s also managed an organic market garden, run a fish and chip shop, worked as an instructor for the YMCA and acquired a diploma in life coaching.
As a roofer, he was making a living, but it felt like all he was doing was “chasing pay cheques.”
Then a friend told him about an opportunity at Te Puna Wai o Tuhinapo. Jason jumped at the chance, landed a position as a youth worker, and got the chance to be part of the initial concept trial of MAC in 2009.
“I always put my hand up for opportunities,” he says. Those opportunities included the chance to be part of, then lead the MAC programme. He also put up his hand to facilitate the regional residential services summit, and present its findings at the national summit, contributing to the recent structural change of the youth justice residences. Jason was also part of MSD’s Emerging Leaders programme.
MAC is a partnership between Child, Youth and Family and the New Zealand Defence Force, with a team of contracted non-government specialists. Two concept courses were run in 2009 and early 2010, before the pilot in late 2010. Jason says he has been blessed with the chance to build on the previous leader’s work in the two concept courses, which put in place the framework and processes for MAC.
And does MAC work? “It’s early days yet, but I definitely see a change by the time the boys leave here,” Jason says.
A chance to turn around
When Jacob* arrived at the Fresh Start Military Activity Camp his history of serious offending left real doubt that anything could turn him around.
Yet within a short time, a change occurred. Jacob stopped mumbling and began to speak clearly. He started to take pride in his appearance. He became engaged and motivated, excelling in the outdoors, embracing the cultural part of the programme, and supporting the other boys. At the end of eight weeks, Jacob received an award reserved only for those who have shone.
As he and his nine teammates marched out in front of friends, family and the Prime Minister at their milestone ceremony, it was hard to imagine that these uniformed 15 to 17-year-old boys were among the worst young offenders in the country.
Drugs, weapons, assault, robbery, stealing cars, dangerous driving, theft and arson had seen them in and out of trouble and court on numerous occasions. For them, the Military Activity Camp (MAC) programme was a last opportunity to turn their lives around.
MAC is part of the Fresh Start Youth Justice reforms introduced in 2010. It is available each year to 40 serious and persistent young offenders who have exhausted all other options and are on the verge of the adult justice system.
Run by Child, Youth and Family and the New Zealand Defence Force, the first phase of the MAC programme is an eight-week residential camp, followed by up to 12 months’ supervision, support and mentoring for the young people and their families back in their communities.
The camp is a shock to the system – and it is intended to be.
“You cannot underestimate how hard these young men had to work on the camp,” said MAC programme manager Ashley Seaford. “The programme is intense and demanding. Anti-social behaviour and attitudes are constantly challenged by staff, while pro-social options are modelled.
“The young men are pushed hard physically and a culture of co-operation, teamwork, tolerance and respect is created.”
The boys were up early every day for physical training, before presenting clean and uniformed for breakfast. Their days were tightly structured around school, fitness, physical challenges, inspections, chores, drills and one hour to relax before lights out.
The army-style discipline was combined with behaviour treatment and a range of rehabilitation programmes. One-on-one sessions tackled drug and alcohol issues. Three times a week they took part in programmes to reduce their risk of re-offending. There was work to identify their strengths and take steps along a career path. Three weekend-long wananga focused on life skills, such as parenting and being a good partner from a kaupapa Māori perspective.
Wednesday afternoons were for community service. The team became expert at painting out graffiti around Christchurch – so much so that the council struggled to find enough large projects for them.
Friday afternoons were spent on physical challenges at Burnham Military Camp. Each weekend there was a wilderness experience to teach responsibility, coping with discomfort, and consequences.
At the end of eight weeks, each boy left with a plan to reinforce what they learnt on camp, including ongoing supervision, mentoring, help with drug issues, work towards a job or training, and support to strengthen their families and extended whānau.
One boy went on to do a Limited Service Volunteers course. Another went home to a new part-time job which is to become full time. Another went onto a farming course. One is on a programme to deal with drug and alcohol issues.
A while after the MAC completion ceremony, a parent of one of the boys wrote to staff at Te Puna Wai O Tuhinapo: I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you… A significant change has been noticed by myself in Hunter* and other parents in their kids as well. I hope they will take these teachings and tools to enable them to become productive members of society….On behalf of my family, I want to thank you from the depths of our hearts, forever.
As for Jacob, he earned an early release from the youth justice residence where he was finishing off his order and went home under 12 months’ supervision. The outdoors was clearly a place where he shone, so supported by his social worker, he began the process of applying and qualifying for a professional dive course, as well as a programme with a strong kaupapa Maori element, which would see him gaining NCEA qualifications.
Family members have taken mentoring roles and a community youth organisation is involved. Jacob’s father has also been spending a lot of time with him in the outdoors and training as Jacob is hoping to make it on to a local rugby team.
“For his dad,” said Jacob’s social worker, “there was just an enormous amount of pride to see his son speak and graduate at the milestone ceremony. He saw his son better than he thought he would ever see him and he was just so, so proud of him.”
*names have been changed
Prime Ministers Youth Programme
Whether they were training with the Warriors or indulging in a top model makeover, the 2011 Prime Minister’s Youth Programme was far from the average week for 100 exceptional young people in Auckland.
Nominated by schools, youth workers, social workers and police, the young people were chosen because they had all faced adversity in their lives and made a lasting effort to positively turn their lives around.
A number of top sportspeople, musicians, dancers, actors and other popular artists put up their hands to share their time and talent, creating a rare chance for the young people to meet their heroes and role models.
The young people were spoilt for choice with activities including Warriors’ training, dance, music and photography workshops, recording a hit song, presenting a live radio show, snorkelling, high ropes adventures, dinner at the Sky Tower, a hair and fashion makeover, an all-day sea fishing charter, mud running and sea survival with the Navy.
Baking heat in the summer, snow and ice in the winter, the deep south is a region used to extremes. Rugged coastlines, sparkling waters and mountain beauty bring the tourists, and the land supports the economy.
Covering South Canterbury, Otago and Southland, the Southern region has a high reliance on the primary sectors of meat, dairy, natural resources and tourism.
“We have developed close industry relationships with our employers in the region,” says Regional Commissioner John Allen.
“Our Seasonal Work Marketplace initiative is working hard to source work for seasonal workers in the off season. We are getting together with regional government, meat processing companies, unions and industry leaders to establish reliable employment so that seasonal workers can earn the whole year round.”
Following a survey of workers at meat processing plants in Otago and Southland, Work and Income contacted 500 businesses to tell them about this skilled workforce that is available each off season. The businesses were enthusiastic. Work and Income is helping several businesses plan their busy production periods in line with next year’s meat processing off season, to make the most of the available workforce.
Extreme weather played a big part in the economy of the south over the past year. Heavy snow in spring took a toll on lamb and calf numbers in coastal Southland and South Otago. The drop in lamb numbers impacted across the sector on meat processing, transport companies, rural traders and contractors, with a flow-on effect for local retailers.
Work and Income had success during 2010 placing young people in subsidised work through Job Ops, in accommodation, cafes and restaurants, construction, retail, agriculture, forestry and the fishing sector.
Summer traditionally sees a buoyant labour market in Queenstown. With difficulty finding New Zealand workers for all the positions over the summer, overseas workers were needed to fill the gaps.
A new wood processing plant currently under construction in Milburn will eventually employ more than 100 staff, bringing a welcome jobs boost to the community.
In a first for the Southern region, a new Community Link was opened in Timaru in November 2010. Community Links bring social service agencies together to support people and families. There are 21 agencies in partnership at the Timaru Community Link including the Police, Career Services Rapuara, Plunket and Fale Pasifika O Aoraki Trust.
355,860 people live in the Southern region.
The Rugby World Cup will see three games in Dunedin and two in Invercargill.
The Tiwai Point Aluminium Smelter is one of the 20 largest in the world.
Aoraki Mount Cook National Park attracts 250,000 visitors each year.
Otago is bigger than Taiwan, but has just over 165,000 people compared to Taiwan’s 23 million.
Injury to insight
Dunedin’s Sheryl MacLeod remembers nothing of the mountain bike accident in January 2009 which broke and dislocated her neck.
It was an unexceptional drop on a training ride, but in a moment the world changed for the country’s number one female downhill mountain biker.
Her quick-thinking biking companions immediately identified a severe spinal injury, did not move her and called the rescue helicopter. Although her survival was touch and go, quick and competent attention ultimately saved both her life and her ability to walk.
Instead of training to represent New Zealand at the World Champs, Sheryl found herself training to recover the use of her limbs.
“I couldn’t walk. I had to be showered and helped with the simplest things.”
Her career in competitive international mountain biking was over, but Sheryl genuinely believes the experience has been a blessing.
Sheryl is a qualifications assessor who develops, runs and assesses qualification programmes for Work and Income staff. These include the National Certificate in Public Sector Service, a community advisor qualification and a health and disability qualification – the National Certificate in Employment Support.
Ironically, Sheryl was now in the shoes of the injured or disabled people whom she trained case managers to support.
“Up until then I had never had to deal with a disability. It’s all very well reading about it, but this experience put a whole new light on it for me.”
Sheryl threw herself into physio and occupational therapy, progressing from a wheelchair to a Zimmer frame to crutches and back onto a bike. Damage to her spinal chord affected her strength and her sense of touch and temperature. She fumbled and struggled to write. She wore a neck brace for two months and couldn’t drive. Extreme fatigue saw her needing frequent day time sleeps.
Sheryl returned to her job at Work and Income assisted by ‘amazing support’ from her colleagues as well as assistance from an occupational therapist and a rehabilitation physiotherapist as part of ACC’s Graduated Return to Work Programme.
“I gained a real insight into the challenges people have to live with, as well as first hand experience of the challenges involved in integrating back into the workforce after an accident.”
This year Sheryl and her colleagues decided to improve the health and disability employment support qualification.
“We planned a new 10-day programme with workshops and activities. I had a big hand in creating those resources, and we are going to make it even better for 2011.”
The course covers general awareness of healthy and disability. It looks at stigma and discrimination, support networks and services from Māori and Pacific perspectives. It also covers career planning and solutions to help people into workplaces.
“It’s about society becoming more inclusive – removing barriers, seeing people’s strengths and their ability to have a meaningful job.”
Sheryl counts herself lucky. There are some lingering effects, but she can run and cycle recreationally and is loving life. “I’ve realised it was actually a blessing to be able to experience that,” she says.
Sowing seeds for the future
The work revolves around older people and plants, but the industry partnership between Presbyterian Support Otago and Southern Work and Income is all about growing people with a future in employment.
Jobs with a Future sees selected jobseekers referred to entry level positions in Presbyterian Support Otago’s (PSO) rest homes, or YouthGrow which runs a wholesale nursery, plant retail shop and market staffed by young people who are struggling to find work because of social disadvantage or poor health.
“Our partnership means we can take people who are not in the job market and provide them with a step up. We take people who have promise, but miss out because they don’t have the skills or experience that would normally get them a job,” says Lisa Wells, PSO’s Director of Communication and Fundraising.
“These people are actually employed and paid by PSO, giving greater incentive to turn up, commit to the programme and individual goals,” says Lisa.
PSO supervisors train, mentor and look at each person’s individual barriers to employment – from literacy issues or the lack of a driver’s license to destructive relationships.
At the end of 12 months, the participants are helped into further employment, education or training. Lisa says opportunities for ongoing employment in services for older people are great for anyone who shows aptitude.
Regional Labour Market Manager Paul Casson says the idea of Jobs With a Future is that participants see a future in the industry, have goals to work towards, and achieve qualifications and training that enables them to move to positions of more responsibility, or higher pay.
Over the coming year it is anticipated that 25 people will be employed at YouthGrow and about 15 in rest homes.
In the last year, 26 people were employed by YouthGrow. Within 12 months, 20 people were supported into other employment or tertiary training. Thirteen gained Horticulture ITO Level 2 and 3 qualifications on the programme.
Described by Lonely Planet as the “coolest little capital in the world”, Wellington has a great deal to be positive about in 2011, with the Rugby World Cup, an improving labour market and new services for clients.