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Equal access to wellbeing

People with learning disabilities and/or autistic individuals 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 have been caught between disability and mental health sectors, often resulting in them falling through the gaps and losing out both ways.

Te Pou leading Equal access to wellbeing project

Te Pou, on behalf of the Ministry of Health, is leading an Equal access to wellbeing project to contribute towards better opportunities and outcomes for disabled people experiencing mental distress.

The overarching aim of the project is to identify options for strengthening the workforce to support people with lived experience 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 people with lived experience and whānau.

Equal access to wellbeing framework (draft)

Equal access to wellbeing framework (draft) is a knowledge and skills framework for mental health/addiction and disability workforces working in primary, secondary, and tertiary contexts. The draft is now available:

Download the Equal Access to Wellbeing draft framework in PDF format

Download the Equal Access to Wellbeing draft framework in Word format.

Equal access to wellbeing - consultation

The project has endeavoured to engage with as many stakeholders as possible in the development of the framework, as time and resources allowed.

Between September and December 2021, the team presented the draft framework to people with lived experience, health and disability workforce representatives, and other key stakeholders.

Consultation concluded in early December and was a mixture of:

  • direct engagement
  • online surveying
  • workshops and focus groups.
TP 211112 Report Infographic v5

Contributors include members of the DPO Coalition (People First and Balance Aotearoa), the Northern Regional Alliance, Kāpō Māori, Te Roopu Waiora, MHA Workforce centres, The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, National Mental Health and Addiction General Managers and Clinical Directors, The Family Network NZ, Enabling Good Lives Leadership Group, Gender Minorities Aotearoa, Autism NZ, Manawaikaha, and Waitemata DHB Regional Forensic Psychiatry Services.

We also received support from several individuals, either via written feedback or via discussion.

In engaging with individuals (people with lived experience and whānau), the team have ensured informed consent processes are followed, the focus of discussions are on the review of the draft framework, and that they are mindful of the need to ensure the safety of participants.

The team is now using this feedback to identify gaps, and revise and refine the framework. We will be reporting back to you on progress in 2022.

The project team would like to thank all who contributed their time and thoughts.

Feedback so far

Whilst the feedback is still being synthesised, there has been resounding support for the framework and its principles.

All stakeholders that have engaged with consultation have been clear that the framework is a welcome first step in addressing critical gaps in the knowledge and skills of the mental health/addiction and disability workforces in addressing the mental health needs of tāngata whaikaha.

Next steps

Feedback from the consultation will be synthesised and analysed and will inform the final version of the framework that will be delivered in early 2022.


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 members who can advise from Māori and Pasifika perspectives, clinicians, and other workforce leaders and representatives from disabled people’s organisations, the health and disability workforces and their support agencies. Members of the governance group are:

  • John Vogenthaler (Te Pou - Principal Advisor Disability) - Chair
  • Gabby Hogg (Te Pou - Specialist ASD Consumer Advisor)
  • Philip Patston (Diversity Consultant and Managing Director Diversity NZ)
  • Alexia Black (Lived experience advocate and accessibility expert - Balance Aotearoa and the Ministry of Health - Representing the Disabled People's Organisation Coalition)
  • Chris Tilley (People First – Lived experience advocate - Representing the Disabled People's Organisation Coalition)
  • Dr Sione Vaka (Senior Lecturer at Auckland University of Technology)
  • Rickardt van Dyk (Senior Psychologist, Idea Services)
  • Paul Holmes (Direct experience advocate)


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)
  • Nigel Ngahiwi (Independent Contractor)

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).

Get in touch

If you want to provide questions, comments, or simply want to get in touch with the team, please contact us at