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Dual disability

People with learning disabilities or autism are much more likely to experience mental distress than the general population, however this is not reflected in the way related assessments, funding, supports, training, and services are provided in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Inevitably, disabled people experiencing mental health and addiction related needs (tāngata whaikaha) have been caught between disability and mental health sectors, often resulting in them falling through the gaps and losing out both ways.

Te Pou to lead Dual disability project

Te Pou, on behalf of the Ministry of Health, and with the support of the Northern Regional Alliance, is leading a Dual Disability project to contribute towards better opportunities and outcomes for disabled people experiencing mental distress (tāngata whaikaha).

The overarching aim of the project is to identify options for strengthening the workforce to support tāngata whaikaha and their whānau.

Specifically, the project is developing a national knowledge and skills framework for mental health and addiction and disability workforces. Along with this, there will recommendations for further actions to contribute to better outcomes for tāngata whaikaha and whānau.


The project has a wide range of stakeholders:

  • Tāngata whaikaha
  • Whānau
  • Health and disability workforce
  • Professional groups
  • Health and disability service providers
  • Direct experience advocates, eg disabled people’s organisations (DPOs)
  • Educational institutions

We will endeavor to engage with as many stakeholders as possible in the development of the framework as time and resources allow.


The project is being guided by co-design principles, including the participation of people with direct experience on the governance group and within the project team. The governance group also includes representatives from disabled people’s organisations, the health and disability workforces and their support agencies.


John Vogenthaler (Te Pou, Principal Advisor Disability) is the leading the team. The team includes direct experience members, project management specialists, researchers, and cultural advisors, each of whom have significant experience and expertise. Key team members include:

  • Rebecca Merrington (Te Pou, Project Support)
  • Gabby Hogg (Te Pou, Specialist ASD Consumer Advisor)
  • Philip Patston (Diversity Consultant and Managing Director Diversity NZ)
  • Gordon Boxall (Disability Services Contractor and Director - Weaving Thread)
  • Dr Martyn Matthews (Consultant in autism and developmental disabilities, Kestral Consulting)
  • Paula Parsonage (Independent Consultant, Health, Social Services, Disability)

The team is also being supported by:

  • Kahurangi Fergusson-Tibble (Te Pou, Principal Advisor Māori)
  • Manase Lua (Te Pou, Principal Advisor Pasifika)
  • Dr Angela Jury, (Te Pou, Research Manager)
  • Heather Kongs-Taylor (Te Pou, Evaluation Manager).


The project is planning to deliver an initial framework by December 2021.

To meet this aim, and to ensure that there has been appropriate engagement and consultation, the team will be taking an iterative approach to their work. This means that they will be checking in with key advisors and stakeholders throughout the development of the framework.


The team aims to present a draft of the framework to tāngata whaikaha, health and disability workforce representatives, and other key stakeholders around August this year.

The team will use this feedback to identify gaps, and revise and refine the framework.

It is likely that engagement will be a mixture of:

  • Direct engagement
  • On-line surveying
  • Workshops and/or focus groups

In engaging with individuals (tāngata whaikaha and whānau), the team will ensure informed consent processes are followed and they remain mindful of the need to ensure the safety of participants.

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Related Initiatives



Te Pou has a wide range of evidence-based resources and tools to help the mental health, addiction and disability workforces.

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Our work

Te Pou works alongside mental health and addiction services, and disability organisations to understand their priorities and workforce challenges.

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