Te Pou o te Whakaaro Nui (Te Pou) and Platform Trust have partnered again to call for more recognition and development for support workers in the mental health and addiction sector.

They have jointly released a discussion paper: Fast Track: Challenges and opportunities for the mental health and addiction community support workforce. 

Support workers make up the largest part of the adult mental health and addiction workforce in New Zealand, a total of 31%. Their roles are broad and cover a range of jobs such as peer support, working in residential facilities, navigator roles and in communities. 

Robyn Shearer, Chief Executive of Te Pou says support workers play a vital role in ensuring people’s recovery and wellbeing. 

“Our support workforce is the sector’s most valuable resource. The work they do, supporting people in their own homes with employment and social services is vital. They are right alongside people during some of the hardest times of their lives. 

It’s imperative that their contribution is recognised and that they’re supported to do the best job they can,” says Robyn.

Marion Blake, MNZM, Chief Executive of Platform Trust says “It’s also about showcasing community support work as a legitimate and valued career option, with its own clear career pathways.”

Recent policy direction including the Ministry of Health’s New Zealand Health Strategy 2016 signal a shift for the health system towards more person-centred, community-orientated services that are delivered closer to home.
  
“The support workforce will play a significant role in this shift. Based on future population projections we know that in 2030, the support workforce will need to have grown by up to 23 percent. We need to make sure that we have the right strategies in place to support that level of growth, as well as making sure that we are equipping staff with the right knowledge and skills to do what is becoming an increasingly complex job” says Marion.

“What is needed is a more blended approach amongst a wider range of health and social sector professionals. Staff will need to be prepared to collaborate with one another as well as partnering with consumers and their families/whānau” says Marion. 

“We’d like to see more support workers working alongside other types of practitioners. For example, in primary care settings and at emergency departments. We’d also like to see peer support workers working alongside agencies like the police, who we think could really benefit from being able to access the skills and experience of the peer workforce.”

Over the next few months, Te Pou and Platform Trust will be facilitating workshops in different parts of the country to help stimulate a discussion about growing and developing this workforce.