IHC boosts support for families in the north
IHC is expanding its Family-Whānau Liaison team in Northland and Auckland to make sure more families caring for people with intellectual disabilities can get the help they are missing out on.
IHC has employed Family Liaisons since 2018 to link families to information and services, local support groups and other families. The team has concentrated on building trust with families and relationships with local support organisations.
But as the number of referrals to the team have grown, the demands have stretched the four staff who cover Northland, Auckland, Horowhenua and Christchurch. And in each area the challenges are unique. In Whāngārei services are limited and overloaded and families struggle to trust and navigate the disability support system. The average age of those being referred is 13. In Auckland, the wide range of ethnicities requires tailored approaches for an older demographic, with an average age of 29.
Frequently the team has to navigate other issues too affecting family wellbeing – poverty, unemployment, rental costs, no transport, the rising cost of living and unforeseen traumatic events in community (COVID, storms, and violence).
A priority for the team is to connect with families who have children who have been newly diagnosed with intellectual disability. But there are many children who are undiagnosed. Often the first step for the liaison team is to support a family to get a diagnosis, which unlocks the funding that provides disability support services.
Family Liaisons hold regular ‘Wellness workshops’ to give family carers a breather.
Two new Family Liaison roles have been created this year to ease some of the pressure in the north – a second team member for Northland, based in Kaikohe, and another one for Auckland, based in the south-east.
Meanwhile, IHC has asked some specialists to measure the impact of our Family-Whānau Liaison work in changing lives. ImpactLab has been talking to IHC Family Liaison Jim Callaghan in Whāngārei about the work he does.
National Fundraising Manager Greg Millar says the cost of the assessment has been covered by IHC donors Glenn and Sonja Hawkins and it is an opportunity to examine the growth and impact of the work.
“It will be looking at the effectiveness of this one position in Whāngārei. It looks at what the potential consequences would be if that Family-Whānau Liaison wasn’t there.
Greg says, for example, it can look at the impact on parents when a child has to be kept home from school.
“What would happen if that family didn’t get a diagnosis for their child and if the child didn’t get the support from the Ministry of Education?” he says.
“These families are often very resilient, but there are critical moments when they need support. It’s about that person – Jim – being there at the right time. It’s not about walking hand in hand with that family for the rest of their lives. It’s about helping that family find their own solutions.”
Greg says ImpactLab will look at the social value of the investment in the liaison’s work. “For every dollar invested, this is the potential return.”
The Family Liaisons are funded by the IHC Foundation and by Foundation North.
Caption: A group of Whāngārei mothers and carers recently met Whāngārei MP Dr Emily Henderson to discuss the pressure on disability services in the north. (From left) Cassy George, Hope Bucknell, Tareen Ellis, Kristy Kewene, Jim Callaghan, Emily Henderson (MP for Whāngārei), Trudy Paul and Kerri Angus.