Why do we need an Autism workforce development project? 

Since April 2014, people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have been eligible for access to the full range of Ministry of Health funded disability support services (DSS).

With more people with ASD accessing DSS, the Ministry of Health and Te Pou are committed to supporting and developing the disability workforce so that it has the capability, responsiveness and specialist skills to meet the needs of people with ASD and their families and whānau.

Families, people with ASD and service providers have told us they want a workforce development framework that is planned and responsive to the diverse needs of children, families and adults across the range of service models provided by DSS funding.

Who and what does this project involve?

The Ministry has commissioned Te Pou to investigate, evaluate and develop the resources, tools and competencies that will support disability organisations to develop their workforce to provide high quality, responsive services.

Te Pou has contracted disability support consultant Sharon Brandford to lead this piece of work. A reference network of consumers and families is also providing guidance on the project.

The work will investigate the best ways to embed the right knowledge, values and skills into the workforce’s daily practice. This includes the workforce engaged through Individualised Funding (IF). The resources and tools that need to be developed will be based on evidence and developed in partnership with the sector. 

What’s happening now?

The first phase of this project is information gathering and investigation. This began in September and will conclude in November. 

To inform this investigation, feedback is being sought from families, service providers and training providers to draw a picture of the current situation:

  • A survey of disability service providers. This information will give the Ministry a better understanding of the skills and training that the workforce needs to support children and adults with ASD who access DSS.
  • We are also seeking the views of families and consumers who use the range of DSS-funded services to ensure a range of perspectives are heard. 
  • A training provider survey of organisations delivering class-based and workplace-based training on autism spectrum disorder has been undertaken. This short survey aimed to find out more about what training is available, who it is targeted to, and how the training is delivered.  

What’s next? 

The surveys will be collated and analysed and the information and recommendations will be presented to the Ministry. The report will give the Ministry a better understanding of the training needs of the workforce, including the barriers to accessing or undertaking training and professional development. 

Any follow-on implementation work as a result of the report will depend on the findings and how they are assessed and/or approved by the Ministry. 

If the recommendations are approved, Te Pou will plan a comprehensive approach to the required workforce development. This is likely to include some agreed standards for training content and delivery. 

The disability workforce and workplace environment are incredibly diverse, and the implementation of any training or standards will be trialled across a range of workplaces and services before a national roll-out is agreed.

We will provide you with regular updates as new information comes to hand through Te Pou’s website and newsletters. For more information about this project, please contact Sharon Brandford (Project Lead), Disability Support Consultant, (022) 4266818 or srbrandford@gmail.com.