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First ever NZ qual for peer support

Whitireia, in collaboration with Kites Trust, will offer the first national qualification in New Zealand for Peer Support.

The one year New Zealand Certificate in Health and Wellbeing (Peer Support) has been designed for people who have their own lived experience of mental health or addiction challenges, and want to support others through their journey of recovery.

“Just last week, Minister for Health David Clarke said that, as a country, we need to do more to support people in distress, and through this new programme we will be contributing to this effort,” says Chris Gosling, Chief Executive of Whitireia Community Polytechnic and the Wellington Institute of Technology. “We face huge challenges in the areas of mental health, addiction or disability in our society and communities here in Aotearoa New Zealand. I firmly believe that collaboration between education providers and the health sector is key to finding the best, and most empathetic, and lasting solutions to some of these challenges.”

There will be an information evening for those interested in finding out more about the programme tonight at 6pm, at the Whitireia, Porirua Campus.

Peer support workers, often in voluntary health or community-based roles, provide knowledge, and emotional or practical help on an equal footing to the person they are supporting because they have lived experience of similar challenges.

Kites Trust is a non-government organisation (NGO), which through anti-stigma and discrimination promotes social inclusion.

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“How can you really understand what someone is going through unless you have experienced it yourself?” says Alan Jones, Manager at Kites Trust. “But if the person in need knows you have walked a similar path, that peer becomes a living example that you can make it out the other side.”

“The programme will facilitate further development of unique skills a peer support worker brings to their role,” says Wendy Trimmer, Programme Manager at Whitireia. “Students will be empowered to use their own experience in a professional way to help others. It will also increase the understanding and benefit of peer support tools and related communication strategies and develop the students’ leadership skills.”

Tane Rangihuna, Project Specialist, at Kites Trust, will co-deliver the course with Abbie Ranui, a health and wellbeing tutor at Whitireia, explains the benefits of peer support: “A peer worker can metaphorically ‘walk alongside’ and support that person - they have been down a similar road. It helps redress the power imbalance between the tangata whaiora, or service user, and those around that person, in a time of real anxiety. It is also a less intimidating form of support for whanau, who may be very scared or worried.”

“In addition,” says Tane, “Peer support work is a voluntary role which is currently not properly valued. Offering this programme will help bring recognition to peer support, we are trying to elevate its importance, because at Kites we have seen the value it brings,” he says.

Tane has been working closely with Whitireia for over two years as a Service user academic advising Whitireia on stigma and inclusion as part of its offered programmes. Working across a variety of programmes, Tane has assisted Whitireia tutorial staff embed an approach in programme delivery which highlights, and then dispels, stigma and discrimination.

Whitireia and Kites Trust are currently circulating programme information on the new qualification with mental health, addiction and disability services NGOs.

The programme will have strong emphasis on the Power of Contact, which outlines strategies to counter stigma and discrimination, and peer workforce competencies as set out by the organisation Te Pou, which provides resources for workforce development in the mental health, addiction and disability sectors.

“We are proud of our relationships with those working in the health and social service sector which strengthen our curriculum and the learning experience for our students,” says Chris Gosling, Chief Executive of Whitireia Community Polytechnic and the Wellington Institute of Technology. “It is this collaboration which has led to this fantastic new qualification being developed with Kites Trust and Whitireia.”

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