Enabling Good Lives

Issue: Volume 99, Number 3

Posted: 27 February 2020
Reference #: 1HA5yM

Tailored support is at the heart of successful transition for all school leavers but most particularly for disabled students. It’s all part of the transformation of the disability system, a new approach to supporting people to live good lives.

Enabling Good Lives (EGL) is a an approach to understanding how best to support disabled people, underpinned by a clear vision and principles to improve the life of disabled people and their families. 

This approach is a partnership between the disability sector and government agencies (led by the Ministry of Health) aimed at long-term transformation of how disabled people and families are supported to live everyday lives. 

The aim of Enabling Good Lives is for disabled people to be supported to live self-determined lives, with support designed to match their specific needs. It has been developed in response to calls from  disabled people and their families for change from a system that is deeply fragmented where people are required  to “fit in” to predetermined programmes rather than have supports designed to meet their needs.

Connectors walk alongside

For students transitioning out of school, this will mean working with a ‘connector’, who will walk alongside the disabled person and their family to identify how they’d like their life to be and how to link with the appropriate supports to build that life. Connectors join the young person and their whānau on their journey into adulthood, helping them to navigate the bumps and turns. 

Callum Kidd, 21, and his whānau have been working with a connector, Lisa Hortin, since late-2018 when he was a student at Allenvale Special School. Lisa is part of the Christchurch EGL team who has been working alongside school leavers with ORS funding since 2013. 

The team’s work demonstrates how this principles-based approach can be used to make it easier for people to live good lives of their own choosing, in communities that truly value who they are and what they have to offer.

Alongside of the transition teachers at Allenvale, Lisa has worked with Callum and his family to identify what a ‘good life’ would look like for him and to map out a pathway that will take him towards that good life. 

Lisa first met with Callum’s mother, Veronica, then met the Kidd whānau at their home. 

“It’s very much about what works for the whole family,” says Veronica. 

“We talked about Callum’s main interest being calendars – he’s memorised dates back as far as 1917 – and how he loves taking photographs. We decided we’d like to see him set up with a small business making calendars.”

Lisa and Allenvale teachers organised for Callum to attend a digital technology course while he was still at school and supported him to secure funding for a computer and other tools to get his business started. 

He left school in December 2019 and now spends three days a week developing his business alongside his support workers Anna Clare and Helen Garden. On the fourth day he works at AJ’s, where he enjoys structured work such as packing aprons and making traffic signs, and on Fridays he meets up with friends at Youth Space, a life skills programme. 

Callum says he likes it at AJ’s and Youth Space, but his favourite pastime is “at my own home, working in the office”. 

“I’m taking lots of good photos of birds – brown seagulls, fantails, tui, kereru – and I’m making a business. I’m making cards and calendars.”

“All I want is for him to be happy,” says Veronica. 

“A lot of families want their child to be employed but that would cause massive stress for Callum – and us. The way I see it, he’s out there in nature making connections through his camera and he can share his perspective through his photographs. 

“I think there’s real potential for him to do very well in business with the right supports wrapped around him.”

A sense of belonging

Veronica credits teachers and the parent community at Allenvale for helping her son and family gain a sense of belonging that had previously eluded them. 

“Everything changed for Callum – and us – when he started at Allenvale. For the first time he had real friends. For his entire time at the school he was with the same group of boys, and with the same teacher for half that time.”

Even though Callum has left school, Allenvale has not left him. The school offers opportunities for students to gain work experience by working alongside Callum in his calendar business 

“The school has been amazing for connecting with other families. The boys are so close now, like brothers really, and like other young people their age they are keen to look at how they might try flatting together as their first experience in leaving home,” says Veronica.

Enabling Good Lives across the country

Led by the Ministry of Health, Enabling Good Lives is beginning to take shape across the country, with three initiatives now in place in Christchurch – with a particular focus on school leavers; in Waikato, supporting people who are seeking change in their lives; and in the Mid Central area where the Enabling Good Lives approach has now replaced the old needs assessment (NASC) system.

In the Mid Central EGL prototype, called Mana Whaikaha, people of all ages are welcomed into the disability system in multiple ways including self-referral, then they can be linked with a ‘connector’, an ally for the disabled person and their whānau as they identify a vision for the ‘good life’ and steps towards building that. 

This includes:

  • building a trusting relationship with the young person and their whānau 
  • connecting with others who are involved such as wider family, school, agencies, and the wider community
  • helping the young person and their family to dream big and plan for that great life
  • helping with access to funding and supports as needed
  • support in accessing employment and working with government agencies.

Within Mana Whaikaha, through the emerging interface with education, and building upon partnerships and relationships that are developing, we are beginning to see some powerful examples of how having a connector working alongside a disabled child or young person and their families is making a positive difference. 

These examples include improving pathways into further study and employment and enabling flexible approaches to re-engage or to strengthen engagement of young people in education.

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BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 1:40 pm, 27 February 2020

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