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13 June 2023

Calling for access to employment support for all

Work can bring wellbeing. With a track record of more than 20 years, Workwise knows that people who have been facing personal and health challenges want to work.

For many people securing good work is important for wellbeing. Even a small milestone such as having a positive interview experience and getting praised at work can be a big achievement and source of pride and confidence.

There is an often unseen population of New Zealanders who are left out when they want to work to support themselves and their whānau. Workwise, an employment support provider for people with mental health challenges, is changing this by supporting people into the job that they desire.

“Employment can be a powerful tool to support people to thrive. We want everyone who uses mental health services getting the right support at the right time with their employment needs,” says Warren Elwin, Chief Executive of Workwise.

Unfortunately, people with mental health or addiction issues have lower levels of participation in the labour force and make up the largest group claiming welfare benefits for health or disability reasons, and the numbers are growing. This employment inequity is worse for Māori and Pasifika populations with mental health issues, and for people in contact with specialist mental health services.

“By ensuring access to employment support for all, we honour Te Tiriti and address inequities,” Warren says.

With a track record of more than 20 years, Workwise knows that people who have been facing personal and health challenges want to work. Despite often-made assumptions, two-thirds of people who get a job with Workwise support enter into full-time work (30 hours or more, per week).

“This is myth-busting and shows that we should not underestimate the resilience and commitment of this workforce – despite the challenges that they may be facing.”

Warren is adamant that health services must aspire to deliver work-focused healthcare, including employment support within mental health teams.

Workwise is pleased to see that “employment support” is now clearly included in the ‘Oranga Hinengaro System and Service Framework’ as part of supports and services to be offered and available to people with mental health issues. The framework was recently released in April 2023 by the Ministry of Health, following consultation with the sector. Workwise is committed to playing its part in implementing the framework.

“We must grab every opportunity to influence, to ensure that employment support becomes very much a part of primary and community care locality networks, regional and national plans,” Warren adds.

Work can bring wellbeing. That’s why it’s so important for those working in mental health and addiction, or in social services, to remember that everyone has a right to access support to achieve their employment and life goals.

To find out more about Workwise’s service and the impact it has on people and communities every day, visit

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