When Grant Taylor, Service Manager Health & Disability at Lifewise Homecare Services, introduced a literacy and numeracy (L&N) programme, the outcomes were quickly evident.

Grant Taylor

“Our support workers are just different!” says Grant, “They are more communicative, more confident and more supportive of each other. They are clearly more engaged in discussion, presenting ideas and asking questions.”

Lifewise Health and Disability Service is a community-based healthcare provider, working with older people and people living with a disability. Based in Auckland, Lifewise Health and Disability Service has 180 staff who make 250,000 visits a year to some 1,400 clients.

Grant talked to Nick Miles from Edvance Workplace Education about workplace L&N initiatives.  Around 43% of New Zealand adults have low L&N skills.  But this doesn’t need to be a barrier to learning and development.  Funded programmes provide wrap-around L&N support embedded into workplace training including Level 2 qualifications.

Getting Started

When Grant put it out to the staff, he was surprised to get such a good uptake, although addressing their concerns was important.  Very quickly, there was a group of nine support workers meeting every Tuesday at 1.00pm for 2 hours over 20 weeks. In that time the Edvance Tutor, Edna, has become one of the team, complementing the work of the Lifewise trainers.

Challenges of group training

In community-based organisations, trying to get a number of staff off-roster at the same time for group training, can be a challenge. However, Grant says it’s about understanding workflow and timing the sessions outside of service peak times.

Also, Grant notes, “There’s a human aspect to how you approach setting this up.  When you present it as an opportunity, clients see its value and are willing to adjust timeframes to enable it.”

Impact of the training

“Our workforce is very diverse.” says Grant, “The training group was made up of different ethnicities, and I wondered how that would go.  Very quickly, the trust was there, the divisions were gone, and they were just one big group working together.

“Support workers have to read and understand care plans and use a message service accessed through smart phones, so the learning has helped with their digital literacy as well.”

“There’s an increase in reporting.  Emailing is up and phone traffic is down which is more efficient for us and has a direct financial impact.  We’re not a call centre so if staff are phoning in all their reports, that means we have staff here sitting on phones all day.”

What next for Lifewise?

Grant says Lifewise will definitely run the L&N programme again for staff doing Health and Wellbeing Level 2 and maybe a pre-Level 3 programme.  “Having the support at this end of their training means we can look towards offering staff the Health and Wellbeing Certificate (Level 4) in future and know we won’t be setting them up to fail.”

The Health & Disability Service is one of Lifewise’s wide range of services, supporting vulnerable people at every stage of their lives. Lifewise work includes partnering with community and government to provide safe, affordable housing, offering quality early childhood education, ensuring good quality foster care for children in need, and running the community-focused Merge Cafe. Lifewise focuses on the principle of interdependence rather than independence or dependence, providing sustainable solutions to social issues, which attempt to address the root causes of social isolation and disadvantage.

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