Simple idea makes big difference for disabled

By Mike Dinsdale

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Noel Matthews explained the success of NorthAble's Navigator Service to officials from the Ministry of Health last year, now the programme has been extended to Auckland.Photo/Michael Cunningham
Noel Matthews explained the success of NorthAble's Navigator Service to officials from the Ministry of Health last year, now the programme has been extended to Auckland.Photo/Michael Cunningham

A programme designed by a Northland agency to help disabled people get better access to services they need is being piloted in Auckland and may be rolled out across the country.

NorthAble has been running its NorthAble Navigator Service (NNS) for eight years, a programme designed to give disabled clients and their families more support to access the services they need. It sees locally based professionals - navigators - working alongside the clients and their families to get the best for them and leave them with a toolkit for future access to appropriate services.

NorthAble general manager Noel Matthews said it was one of a kind, despite being a relatively simple idea. He said after the Ministry of Health gave the programme the thumbs up, it has accepted NNS to use as a pilot in Auckland.

Mr Matthews said NorthAble knows the programme works and he's looking forward to it helping Auckland's disabled community.

Three ministry officials visited Whangarei last October to see how NNS was run and left impressed. After consultation with the Ministry of Health, EnCompass, a tailored version of the NNS service, is being piloted at Auckland-based Taikura Trust.

Mr Matthews said NorthAble developed NNS through eight years of investment and innovation.

"They decided on Auckland because that's where the biggest problems are in regard to accessing services and if it works there it will work anywhere," he said.

NorthAble identified that it could not provide all the services its clients needed from its existing programmes so used some discretionary funding from the Government to set up NNS.

"If our services don't match up to their needs, then we contract a navigator - who generally have their own consultancy businesses - to work with them. It could be something like speech therapy or special education and they work with them for up to four hours a week, often after hours or at weekends when the family is more likely to be together. It can be for a few weeks or a few months, however long they need them," Mr Matthews said.

"It reduces stress for the family and the client and gives them the services they need much quicker and more effectively than they would have previously. The model, designed in Northland, has proven highly effective and has been deemed to be transferable across regions and sectors."

NNS successes have included assisting clients and their families achieve outcomes and increase their capacity, resilience and quality of life.

The programme had also fostered community understanding and reduced reliance on Ministry of Health Disability Support Services funding, by identifying natural community networks.

- Northern Advocate

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