The 2013 New Zealand Disability Survey estimated that nearly one in four New Zealanders have recognised limitations that cannot be eliminated by an assistive device. Although some services exist to support people living with disabilities, unemployment rates are nearly twice as high for people living with disabilities as for those without. Funded by Te Manatū Whakahiato Ora | Ministry of Social Development (the Ministry), the Employment Service in Schools (ESiS) pilot aimed to address the employment-related needs and goals of young disabled learners in their last two years of school.

Eleven employment service agencies were selected to deliver the pilot services in parts of Auckland, Waikato, Wellington, Canterbury and Otago/Southland. These providers were contracted to work with learners to prepare them for employment through skill development and work experience or job trials. The pilot goals were to promote employment ‘best options’ for disabled learners, improve learners’ self-belief and the broader support around the learner, and make a pathway to employment.

The Evaluation for Te Manatū Whakahiato Ora | Ministry of Social Development

The Ministry wanted to know about the effectiveness of the pilot in making a pathway towards employment for disabled learners. It also wanted to understand the coherence of the delivery approach, how the pilot empowered learners and whānau, and how the pilot built strong, reciprocal relationships with communities, providers, learners and whānau. The evidence informed MSD’s decisions about the future delivery of the pilot.

The evaluation used a range of qualitative evidence collected and collated at two points as the pilot was being delivered. The evidence were balanced across the different roles, experiences and settings relevant to the first year of the pilot, and although they have limited generalisability, these data were sufficient to help build an understanding about a range of unique contexts, and the factors that may influence success (or otherwise) when implementing such a programme in the New Zealand education setting.

The Lessons

One of the key lessons was that working alongside other services in schools helps providers identify and fill a system gap for their learners. Nevertheless, operating within a school context had both advantages and disadvantages in terms of disabled people accessing the support.

The Report

The evaluation report can be found on MSD’s website: