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Increased mental health support for Te Pūkenga learners across the motu

Te Pūkenga network is unifying in its approach to supporting its learners to succeed in what remains a challenging environment.

By 1 January 2023, Te Pūkenga will be responsible for approximately a quarter of a million ākonga (learners) across Aotearoa as Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics, and industry training organisations, come together. Ahead of this date, with an eye to helping lessen the impact of COVID-19, Te Pūkenga has already been working across its network of subsidiaries to better support the wellbeing of its future learners. 

Te Pūkenga Deputy Chief Executive Learner Journey and Experience Tania Winslade says that the organisation is dedicated to putting learners with their whānau at the centre of everything it does and that this means taking a holistic approach to hauora (wellbeing) as part of vocational learning.

“Supporting learner wellbeing is a key focus across our network. Learners have told us that we need to do better to support them and we’re responding to that call to action. Our network is producing local action plans to identify and enable operational practices that ensure learners have what they need to be successful, especially in our current COVID-19 environment,” Ms Winslade says.

Between July 2021 and March of this year, Te Pūkenga network distributed $5.64 million to learners experiencing hardship due to COVID-19. These funds provided support towards housing costs, food, utilities, transport and healthcare, as well as technology access so learners could continue studying.

“COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted some learner cohorts, so we’ve taken an approach that has placed a particular focus on the support needs of ākonga Māori as Te Tiriti partners, and ākonga from Pacific and disabled communities,” she says.

Te Pūkenga has heard from learners that the organisation needs to do better in the area of mental health services, with 19 percent of Te Pūkenga ākonga having accessed mental health support at some point in their lives. Te Pūkenga partnered with the Ministry of Health to invest $3.24 million to deliver new and enhanced mental health and addiction services that could potentially be accessed by more than 160,000 learners across all sixteen Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics.

From this funding, $2.43 million was distributed for new and enhanced services available via 16 Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics. The funding provides greater opportunity for Māori and Pacific learners to access services that are tailored and fit for purpose. Māori and Pacific learners experience greater inequities in mental health and wellbeing than other communities and this funding will help to address this long-standing gap.

In addition, new national services will be established shortly, utilising the remaining funding which will increase Kaupapa Māori and Kaupapa Pacific wānanga across the motu. In planning for services at each subsidiary, Te Pūkenga was required to listen to learners and so their voice directly informed the service plans that each subsidiary submitted to Te Pūkenga.

“It’s really important that ākonga feel safe, welcome and comfortable when they’re accessing services. If we can provide those in ways that support their identity, that makes a real difference to them and their wellbeing,” Ms Winslade says.

More information is available on the attached factsheets.

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