The home and community support services (HCSS) sector is crying out for more training opportunities like Open Minds, Open Doors, following the success of the popular dementia training programme.

The Open Minds, Open Doors dementia training programme was an eye-opener for support worker Julie. Despite her years of experience, the training provided her with a greater appreciation of the signs of early-stage dementia, and gave her some tangible skills in practicing person-centred care. What’s more, she received payment upon her completion of the programme.

Julie is one of 2180 home and community support workers who have benefitted from the Open Minds, Open Doors programme, which was designed to provide training to support the growing number of people living with dementia in their homes.

Industry training organisation Careerforce partnered with Alzheimers New Zealand and the ‘Walking in Another ’s Shoes’ group to build and deliver the dementia training programme. A new unit standard was built on the basis of discussions around client and sector needs. Trainers and assessors were trained to deliver the programme in the workplace, putting the ‘train the trainer’ mechanism into action.

Careerforce’s James Lord says the home and community support services sector often draws the short straw when it comes to accessing quality education and training.

“They face a lot of barriers when it comes to training,” says Lord.

Indeed, the nature of the work means that support workers often work in isolation without the same sense of ‘base’ that residential aged care workers have, making it difficult and costly to roll out effective training to workers.

Lord says the Open Minds, Open Doors programme not only helped remove the cost barrier, but provided a real incentive for employees to complete the training.

The point of difference for Open Minds, Open Doors is that it rewards employees and employers for completing the training. Thanks to the $1.2 million the Ministry of Health invested into the programme, employees received $150 upon completion and their employer $375.

It is money well spent according to Lord.

“Anecdotally employers are reporting an increase in the level of engagement within support worker teams. They’ve noticed better dialogue taking place between support workers and clinical staff due to an increase in their understanding which has led to increased efficiency.

“They’re also reporting a higher level of confidence in their staff who have completed the programme – and that’s something we’re hearing from the support workers themselves,” says Lord.

Susanna Webster’s experience of Open Minds, Open Doors echoes this. A Registered Nurse, Trainer and Assessor for Home Support North in Whangarei, Webster says they are seeing “significant and instant benefits” from Open Minds, Open Doors, after putting over 100 employees through the programme.

“In the past trainees have struggled with being able to manage supporting dementia behaviour. Open Minds, Open Doors teaches them to look for and recognise triggers, to recognise what is occurring and not react to behaviour. Once they’ve completed the programme trainees they are so much better equipped and no longer take things personally.”

Careerforce’s Gill Genet says home and community support services providers like Home Support North are keen to for more.  Open Minds, Open Doors is now oversubscribed, such is its popularity.

“We know the sector is asking the Ministry of Health to continue it, given the change it has enabled,” says Genet.


  1. Love to help in some way. Weekends maybe. Have had family experience and a health journey of my own.
    Currently studying relevent papers.
    Please let me know if I can do the training programme, perhaps as a step towards weekend employment.


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