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Afa's Story

Afa secured employment despite living with schizophrenia and a complex criminal record.


Afa was referred to Workwise by the Auckland Lotofale Pacific Mental Health Service.

A complex history

Afa had a complex criminal record and had been living with schizophrenia for many years. Afa was reserved at the initial meeting. He only said “yes” or “no,” instead of having an effective conversation with his employment consultant.

After the initial meeting, the employment consultant had a discussion with their team leader about Afa’s employment support needs so that they could establish what to do next.

Finding motivation

The team leader suggested that the employment consultant should include Afa’s key worker or community support worker for further one-on-one meetings with him. After a few meetings, Afa was able to describe what his motivation for getting work would be.

The employment consultant found out that Afa was keen to move on from his current situation, as his family felt ashamed of his criminal background. Also, he wanted to have his own life, just like his brothers.

Afa didn’t have any employment history, apart from doing compulsory work through a probation programme. He was confused and unsure about what he could do.

Creating an employment support plan

Together Afa and his employment consultant put together an employment support plan that included the following:

  • helping Afa to build up employment goals and exploring his employment preferences – as a result, Afa decided to apply for casual general labourer roles
  • helping Afa to make a full statement about his criminal record
  • supporting Afa to approach employers
  • educating Afa about how the employment journey works, developing answers to possible interview questions and creating a CV and cover letter
  • frequently liaising with his key worker and community support worker
  • identifying the employment challenges that Afa faced in his job search
  • celebrating achievements that Afa has had
  • developing strategies for Afa to ask for help.

Building a relationship

Within a few months, the employment consultant built up a good relationship with Afa, and helped him to identify one main barrier to his job search – that he relied on transport support to attend meetings and job interviews.

To help Afa to move to independence, they had two sessions on how to catch the bus. Also, the employment consultant worked with his key worker to help Afa to get an AT HOP card.

After those tasks were done, Afa got used to catching the bus to come to see his employment consultant. Afa was getting more and more engaged through one-on-one meetings, text messages and phone calls.

A new role

Afa finally gained a casual general labourer role at the Labour Exchange through the approaching employer’s process. He started his new role at the beginning of March 2020. Afa told his employment consultant that he was happy with his new role. He said that he felt he was being well looked after at his new workplace.

Since Afa started in the role, the employment consultant usually contacts him once per week, as Afa requested, to see if he needs any help in relation to his employment support.

Gaining happiness

It is fantastic to see Afa gaining more happiness. Afa said that his team leader added more work hours for him, and that he continued working for four days after the COVID-19 lockdown.

During recent phone conversations, Afa sounds very positive and happy. He told his employment consultant that he is keen to keep up his employment journey and that the next step is that he wants to gain a permanent job with a regular income.

*Name changed to protect privacy.

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