Step Up is a partnership between the Ministry of Social Development (MSD), Canterbury District Health Board and Pegasus Health that started in March 2017.

“Step Up has already helped 100 people who have a health condition, injury or disability who receive Jobseeker Support benefit to start employment or volunteer work or become more connected to society,” said Minister of Social Development Carmel Sepuloni.

Two hundred additional people will have access to the Step Up Programme in Canterbury over the next 12 months.

The key components of the programme include health navigation support provided by Pegasus Health; active case management from Work and Income; access to four free health practitioner consultants; and access to flexi-wage where participants meet the criteria.

The new and improved Step Up programme will provide intensive support for clients for 16-20 weeks (an extra four weeks). The eligibility criteria will also be extended to Canterbury clients who receive a main benefit

“The majority of people (75 percent) on the Step Up programme are living with mental health conditions and have struggled to find or stay in work,” Sepuloni said.

“Many find it hard to get a job, keep a job or start looking for one because they have ongoing health issues, little support or they’ve been discriminated against.

Sepuloni says it’s not just people on benefit with a health condition, injury or disability who experience mental illness. She points to MSD figures from 2014 that show that 45 percent of those on the Jobseekers-Work Ready benefit have accessed health services or another benefit for mental health reasons.

“That’s why we’re expanding the eligibility criteria so people on any main benefit in Canterbury can access the Step Up programme.”

MSD Canterbury Regional Director Shane Carter says that even after people are placed in jobs, MSD will continue to support those that need it so they do well and have sustainable work.

“Through Step Up, MSD Case Managers and Health Navigators meet regularly with clients to determine health barriers and offer support and encouragement to achieve what is right for the participant- whether it be training, income support or employment support,” he says.

Pegasus Health’s Melissa McCreanor says the programme is a success because it allows people to really stop and think about their health, their wellbeing and the things that are preventing them from joining the workforce.

“We’re able to look at the complexity around their health issues, particularly mental health, and what kind of support they need to be able to focus on what they want to do with their lives- in terms of work or study and to improve their coping strategies longer term,” she says.

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