Agencies work together for families

Issue: Volume 96, Number 16

Posted: 11 September 2017
Reference #: 1H9ech

Agencies are working together to help provide a range of social support networks to families in urgent need of somewhere to live.

Collaboration between government agencies and local schools has helped transitioning families make sure that their children’s education remains a priority.

The families currently call 42 temporary emergency houses home, at a site owned by the Ministry of Education on South Auckland’s Luke Street. The site is leased to Housing New Zealand so it can be used as transitional housing for families in urgent need of somewhere to live. The Ministry of Social Development has contracted three agencies – VisionWest, the Salvation Army and Monte Cecilia – to manage the site and provide a range of social support to the families while they live there.

Otahuhu College is one of the schools near the Luke Street housing development that are providing support designed to ensure the education of the families’ children is as smooth and continuous as possible. The college is part of the Otahuhu Community of Learning | Kāhui Ako.

College principal Neil Watson says Housing New Zealand contacted his and other schools to let them know about the project. Neil says it’s been important to work with Housing New Zealand, and to look at things from the experience of the families experiencing change, to work out what the schools can do.

“It’s pretty stressful when you move house. It’s really important to make the transition for the families as easy as possible. I think if we approach it that way, we’ll have a greater benefit long-term, in terms of the kids coming into a school and their successful transition into the school environment,” says Neil.

The Otahuhu Principals Association was invited to the meetings with the Ministry of Education to discuss the housing development. Shirley Hardcastle, the Ministry’s senior adviser for the south west team in Auckland, also attended the meeting.

“We discussed their concerns and what the Ministry can do to support them,” says Shirley.

“Our teams from Learning Support and Resource Teachers for Learning and Behaviour (RTLB) also attended the meeting with the principals so that concerns and best responses could be discussed and planned.”

Neil says some schools received additional staff because of the increased numbers expected.

Schools in the Otahuhu Community of Learning also discussed what they needed to do for the students and families coming into the community.

“We discussed the enrolment process, uniforms and other things that we need to do for the kids. It’s really important we got that right,” says Neil.

“We needed someone who will coordinate and support our families in their transition into Otahuhu, and Emma has done a wonderful job with that.”

Enrolment officer Emma James of Otahuhu College worked with the social agencies to assist the families in finding a school for their children and enrolling them in it. She says the enrolment process is pretty straightforward and most students can start the next day.

“I’ve enrolled about six children in our college and a total of 24 students in Otahuhu Primary and Otahuhu Intermediate. I helped with their uniforms and stationery and kept in contact with the parents,” says Emma.

There is also focus on early childhood education in Luke Street. With the support of Counties Manukau Kindergarten Association, one of the South Auckland Play Trucks visits Luke Street every Wednesday to give parents and children a taste of a preschool experience, and find out how to enrol their children in preparation for their transfer to their permanent home.

“For some of the families, this is their first home. These families should feel that they’re supported by all the local schools in their area,” says Emma.

Education Gazette reported on the Counties Manukau Kindergarten Association’s play truck initiative last year. Visit link) for that story.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:15 AM, 11 September 2017

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