Part Three: Adulthood

Advice and information for those caring for a disabled family/whānau member

This is the third resource, in a four-part series that includes The Early Years, The Middle Years, Adulthood and Getting Older.  

Decision Making

As discussed in Part Two, it is important the young adult is encouraged to speak for themselves.  This can be a challenging time, as the young person begins to let their preferences be known, particularly if this differs from those of the parent or carer. For some young people, they may always need some support to make decisions or help to achieve their goals. As parents, we have to learn when to step in and when to step back. Having the right communication tool or communication aid is vitally important in supporting decision making.  Communication tools can be as simple as using pictures to elicit a yes or no response, using NZSL (New Zealand Sign Language), or technological aids/computers/apps that assist the person to communicate.  Organisations like TalkLink can help find the right assistive technology or aid for your young person. Supporting the person in making decisions has several key elements:

  1. Having the right communication tool and ensuring information is presented in a way that is understandable to the person.
  2. Ensuring the person is able to make an ‘informed decision’ – that is they have all the information they need to make the decision.
  3. Being able to explore options while ensuring personal safety – ‘safety’ for one person will mean something entirely different for someone else. There are no set rules, the young person should be able to explore options and make their own decisions.  The exception to this is if there were concerns that a decision could lead to serious risk of injury or harm to themselves or others.
  4. Letting the person learn for themselves – sometimes things don’t work out, but that’s ok too.

For some young people, they may have had very little opportunity to make decisions. Where people are anxious or hesitant about making decisions … go at the person’s pace and initially build on steps that lead to successful results.  Building self-esteem can be an important building block in decision making. IHC Advocacy run free Supported Decision Making courses around the country.  If you’re interested, call IHC Advocacy toll free on 0800 442 442, or email: First can also help people explore their rights and they have plain language resources on this topic.

Post-school options

(refer to preparing to leave school in Part Two of the Time Line) Hopefully by the time the young adult leaves school they will have a clear idea of what they want to do – be it employment, tertiary education or involvement in community activities.


The Human Rights Commission has compiled the A –Z Pre-Employment Guide for Employers & Employees from frequently asked questions, enquiries and complaints. People First has some good resources for people with an intellectual disability that might be helpful including ‘Work and Your Rights in New Zealand’, ‘A job just like anybody else’, and ‘With support I can’. Curriculum Vitae (CV) Every job seeker will need a CV.  There are lots of places that can assist with this – the school, Workbridge, supported employment agencies, Work and Income, and Careers New Zealand, etc. Pre-employment skills As discussed in Part Two, you can use the Life Skill or Transition programme at school to assist you with learning some of the skills you might need once you finish school.  You may be able to access opportunities for work experience or voluntary work through these programmes. It may be possible to get part-time paid employment after school, on weekends or even during school hours – if this is supported by the school.  Discuss possible options with the school as early as you can. If you want advice about the type of jobs that might suit you, you can speak to people who can provide employment advice at Careers New Zealand on 0800 222 733. The Ministry of Education also provides information on post-school Education and Training Options. Employment Agencies There are many mainstream employment agencies throughout New Zealand, as well as a number of agencies that have been set up specifically to support disabled people find employment. Workbridge is a national specialist employment service that gives employers access to a wide pool of potential employees (who have a disability, injury or illness).  Work and Income provides employment services and financial assistance throughout New Zealand.  There are also supported employment agencies that provide a variety of employment related support (refer below). The following support funds are available to help people with disabilities take part in open employment.  Workbridge administers the Job Support funding and the Training Support funding.  Work and Income administers the Flexi-wage which can be used for employees, employers, and self-employment.  They also provide business start up grants. The sort of things these funds can assist job seekers and employees with include:

  • support to learn the job
  • support to up-skill while in a job
  • training
  • mentoring
  • assistance to cover disability related costs (transport, equipment, workplace modifications and interpreter services)
  • job coaching, and
  • wage subsidies.

Support funds can be used at the same time as any other funding except Mainstream funding (see below).  Job Support funding is limited to $16,900 per person over a 52-week period and Training Support funding has a lifetime limit of $15,600. Work and Income can also assist you with writing a CV, finding employment and with associated financial assistance.  They can refer you to organisations, like Dress for Success, who can provide women with a professional outfit for a job interview – free of charge. You may want to discuss ‘benefit abatement’ with Work and Income (or with the other specialist employment services involved).  Benefit abatement refers to how the benefit will be affected once someone starts earning an income.  You may also want to discuss what the ‘stand down’ period would be should a job suddenly fall over.  Working together with all those involved can ensure a smoother process should circumstances change suddenly.

  • There is no guarantee that you will access Training or Employment Support funding – sometimes funding is capped because of demand.
  • Supported employment agencies, Workbridge and Work and Income can work with potential employers and offer support to both the person and the employer.
  • The maximum amount of funding you can receive from one or a combination of sources – Job Support, Training Support or any other funding from the Ministry of Social Development or Work and Income – over a 52-week period is $16,900.
  • Supported employment agencies do not administer any of these funding schemes but they can provide impartial advice on the application process.
  • Both the Job Support fund and the Flexi-wage can be used for people who are self-employed.

Supported employment agencies provide specialist employment support services.  You can use the New Zealand Disability Support Network (NZDSN) database of disability support services to find an agency near you.  They can typically help you with:

  • finding a job
  • writing a CV
  • job interviews
  • learning the job and job coaching (if needed)
  • on-going job support
  • awareness training, and
  • helping you make applications for support funds administered by organisations like Workbridge or Work and Income.

The young adult may also be eligible for the Mainstream Employment Programme (funded by the Ministry of Social Development).  The Mainstream Employment Programme provides a package of subsidies, training, and support to help people with significant disabilities to gain sustainable employment.

The programme provides:

  • a 100% salary subsidy for the first half of an agreed term of up to 2 years, and an 80% salary subsidy for the second half
  • funding for agreed external training, specialised equipment or other assistance for the participant
  • ongoing support for participants and their supervisors.

Any of the specialist employment services can support you with your Mainstream application or you can approach the Mainstream Employment Programme direct.

Tertiary Education

Prior to leaving school, it can be a good idea to talk to the school’s career advisor and start thinking about post-school options.

Every tertiary institution, such as a polytechnic or university, has a Disability Advisor or Coordinator and they will be able to tell you about the different ways the tertiary provider can support the young adult. You may also be interested in finding out about apprenticeships.

If you require information on student loans and allowances, you can call Studylink on 0800 88 99 00.

If the young adult receives a Supported Living Payment (SLP), they can apply for the Training Incentive Allowance through Work and Income.  This allowance can help pay for course fees and text books.  Workbridge administers the Training Support funding (as mentioned above).

Literacy Aotearoa can help the young adult with reading, writing, maths and is committed to providing person-centered learning, at no direct cost to the learner.  Call them on 0800 678 910 to find out about the services they provide.

Vocational Services

Vocational services are currently funded by MSD or MOH (if the person has a health need).  Vocational services often provide a mix of:

  • in-house programmes (ie, cooking, music, life skills, creative activities) and
  • services and supports based on the person’s preferences (as identified through their personal plan).

Ideally you would have been directed to the right service as part of your Transition programme towards the end of your schooling.  Check out the NZDSN member network (as mentioned above) and you will be able to find local providers in your area.

Most services are free if the young adult is eligible for services funded by MOH or MSD.  However, there are some services which operate as a fee for service, so check out if there is a cost involved.  Most services run Monday to Friday from 9am – 3pm and you can attend half or full days, one day to five days a week.

Typically, each person will complete a personal plan – this plan is meant to help the organisation understand a person’s preferences and direct resources (supports and services) so the person can achieve his or her identified goals.

Organisations should have a transparent process in place which would allow the person (and family) to see what goals are being worked on and which goals have or have not been achieved. If the organisation has signed off the individual’s personal plan then the organisation has made a commitment to ensure the right supports and services are in place so that the person can work to achieve his or her personal goal/s. Goals may change, and this should be documented in the plan.

Most services will inform families about these plans, but not always. This will depend on the type of relationship they build with families.  As your young adult is now considered an adult, they will typically be asked about who they want involved in their personal plan.  If you’re not invited, you can question this, particularly where you input would have significant benefit for the person and staff.  Make sure the organisation communicates clearly about when these meetings take place.  It’s important that everyone supporting the individual is part of these meetings.

It’s OK to take a step back. Decide how much involvement you want to have.  For some families being able to take a step back and be Mum or Dad again (rather than the support person) is a sought-after goal.  This can only happen when reciprocal and trusting relationships are built between the family and the service.

Some services might be able to support the person to set up what is known as a ‘micro business’ or ‘micro enterprise’.  This is a small business where the person is self-employed.  For example, making dog biscuits and selling them at local markets and to other community members.  Finding ways for people to earn even a small amount of additional income can make a huge difference to their everyday life.

  • Be aware that there are often additional costs for some activities.
  • Adult services are NOT integrated – you may have to work with several services who do not typically work together (this includes services provided under the DHB).
  • If you’re working with multiple services, it can be a good idea to have everyone at one planning meeting – rather than several meetings – as this assists with coordinated care and support.
  • You can attend more than one vocational service. Find out what’s on offer – you can mix things up depending on the person’s interests and hobbies.
  • Most services are not funded to provide 1:1 support.
  • Most activities will happen in groups or each person may be allocated a small amount of 1:1 time. Find out how much 1:1 time the person will have and what their staff ratio is (ie, 1:1 is direct person to person support; 1:7 is one staff person to 7 people).

What happens if there are no vocational services in your area?

The reality might be that in some areas (ie, rural) there will be no vocational service or little choice in the local area.  There may be reasons why you are unable to use the service that is available.  This may mean that the carer/family/whānau continues to provide the majority of support the young adult needs.  It may be possible to look at moving your family member to a service in another town.  However, moving away from family and friends is not always ideal.

Speak to your local NASC to explore options, for example, Individualised Funding (IF) is available throughout New Zealand for eligible people who have either a Home and Community Support Service or Respite allocation.

It may still mean that support is provided from your home, however, IF gives you increased choice and control to choose who provides the support, and how and when you use it.  Your options range from engaging support workers and planning how your supports will be used to employing your own care providers and managing all aspects of service delivery.

The Young Adults Guide to Flatting was put together by parents and includes several personal stories and useful information for those thinking of leaving home.  Each of the people in this resource have their paid support needs met by Individualised Funding and the guide outlines what they did and how this worked for them.

Community Involvement, Recreation & Leisure

In many cases, people may do a variety of things – spend time with friends and family, paid or voluntary work (this could be as little as a few hours a week), study, attend a vocational service or get involved in sports or other activities in the local community.

In Part Two, recreation and leisure activities are discussed and you can find an appendix for ‘organisations that support recreation & leisure activities’ at the end of that booklet.

The Electoral Commission has information on voting.  Towards the bottom of that page there are two videos – one about voting in NZSL and the other about voting for those with a learning disability called ‘We’ve Got a Voice’.

  • There are some organisations that provide a 1:1 or individualised service and you may want to find out who they are.
  • Talking with other parents can be a good way to find out about the services available in your local area

Moving away from home

Ideally the young adult would have a planned approach for leaving home.  What someone thinks moving away from home will be like and what it’s actually like may be two very different things.  Moving away from family is a big step for any young person (and those who care for them).  The best time to leave home is when they:

  • feel ready
  • have support to move out
  • have a plan.

If the young adult is planning to leave home at some point, the Transition or Life Skills programme at your school should be able to offer support to learn various skills such as cooking, budgeting, catching public transport and so forth.

It can take time to find and set up a suitable place to live and this is especially true of people who have complex needs who may require specialist support (ie. accessible accommodation or building modifications to the home). If this is something the young adult wants to explore start the process as early as possible.

Support and Accommodation Options

There are a range of support and accommodation options available (Home and Community Support Services, Supported Accommodation and Residential Accommodation, etc).  If the young adult is interested in exploring these options (and the funding available) you will need to contact the local NASC.

The young adult will need to think about what they want and the type of accommodation and support options that would best suit them.

What you need to think about?Accommodation OptionsDifferent Support ArrangementsFinancial Support for accommodation related costs
If you want to live on your own or with others? Rented accommodation

You can find rental accommodation through private landlords, Community Housing providers (MSD) and your local council.

Home and Community Support Services (provided in the home)

This might include household management and personal care.

Support may or may not be provided by a provider (ie, people may manage their own budgets and employ their own staff).

Work and Income
Supported Living Payment

Accommodation Supplement
Accommodation Supplement

Disability Allowance

Residential Support Subsidy

NB: If a person is receiving a benefit they can’t leave the country for more than 28 days, unless pre-approved.

Where you want to live?

The cost of accommodation in some cities may make it hard for people to live in the type of home or in the location of their first choice.

Buying a home of their own

For more information refer to the Home Ownership guide.

Alternative support arrangements

Sometimes individual support arrangements are negotiated. For example, support provided by flat mates (ie, if someone owns their own home they may offer reduced rent for some support tasks).
There are a number of different schemes to assist first home buyers such as Welcome Home Loan and KiwiSaver Home Start (refer to Home Ownership guide).

Contact your local council for the Rates Rebate Scheme
which provides a rates subsidy for low income earners.

The cost of buying or renting a home and the bills associated with renting?

If living with others find out how the rent and associated bills will be split.

Supported Living Support provided by staff attached to Supported Living providers

Support will vary depending on need and the person may be actively involved in things like hiring their own staff, etc.
Income Related Rent (IRR) is a rent that is subsidised by the government (and administered by MSD) to make accommodation more affordable for those on low incomes, refer also to the IRR guide on the Care Matters website.

What support you might need?

This could include support with household tasks, tasks associated with independent living, personal support, budgeting, etc.
What support you might need?

Long term supported accommodation (often referred to as ‘residential accommodation’)

Support provided by staff attached to residential accommodation providers

Up to 24 hour staff support. Tenancy agreements may be with the property arm of the same organisation that provides the support. Check out the tenancy agreement – who it’s with, who to contact for household maintenance and what the process is for moving out or finding a new resident/flatmate?
Check out the various house modification grants available:

Housing Modifications MOH

Housing Modifications Work and Income

Housing Modifications Enable
Getting an IRD number and 18+ cardSetting up a Trust (refer to the Legal section).

Some families work together with other like-minded families in providing accommodation support for their family members.
Circle of Support

Informal supports can be set up for a variety of reasons. One such approach is called ‘circle of support’, which typically consist of non-paid people who come together to support the person for a particular purpose.

The fourth resource on ‘Getting Older’ has a section on Circle of Support.
There are a number of services that can assist with budgeting advice (see below)

Emergency accommodation

If you have an emergency housing need, you can call MSD on 0800 559 009 who may be able to help and refer you to local services.

Budgeting Services

There are several non-profit organisations that can help you with budgeting advice.  You can contact the Citizens Advice Bureau (call 0800 367 222) to help find a budgeting service that suits your situation.  They also offer a free budgeting advisory service in some centres.

You can also find information and advice to help you with budgeting and debt management including downloadable booklets on the Sorted website, or contact the New Zealand Federation of Family Budgeting Services which provides a nationwide free service.

Keeping an eye on Things

If your family member is receiving Ministry of Health funding and you have concerns about the quality of care your family member is receiving you can contact the Ministry of Health. You can do one of two things discuss with someone your concerns and lodge a complaint or request an evaluation of the service.

An evaluation refers to an independent evaluation team (of typically 2 people) who visit the organisation over a period of time to look at a particular service or living arranagement the organisation manages.

This would typically involve speaking with the people who use the service, their family members, staff, management and board representatives as well as looking at various paper work.

If you want to talk with someone about your concerns or lodge a complaint you can contact the Ministry of Health Disability Support Services on freephone 0800 373 664 or email

If you want to request an evaluation, because of the concerns you have, you would contact the Quality Manager of Disability Support Services at the Ministry of Health.

The fourth resource in this series ‘Getting Older’ looks at planning for the future and addresses what you need to think about and put in place to keep your family member safe when you are no longer around.

Making a complaint

If you are unhappy with the service your family member is receiving you can:

  • discuss it with the organisation your family member attends
  • discuss it with your Need Assessment and Service Coordination service
  • contact the Health & Disability Commissioner
  • contact the Ministry of Health (as noted above)


Health Click produces resources for young people, those with disabilities and for their parents, educators, counsellors and care givers.  They have produced an eBook to help people with an intellectual or learning disability learn about relationships, health and hygiene.

They also have a CD Rom called Sex Smart which is an interactive CD ROM that provides a comprehensive look at sexual health, contraception, STIs and relationships for adolescents that educates and supports young people – helping them to live safer, healthier and happier lives.

There are resources and training for people to keep safe in their community and with friends.  One good resource is the Healthy Relationships programme provided by Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower New Zealand  that is specifically designed for people with learning disabilities.  This resource teaches people basic skills to first recognise potentially risky situations and, secondly, how to respond.

Both CCS Disability Action and IDEA Services have extensive libraries and their whānau coordinators may also be able to give you information that might be useful.

If you or your family member want to speak with someone who is not related or a close friend, you can contact Family Planning for information and advice or Relationship Aotearoa on 0800 735 283.

Relationships Aotearoa has expertise in a range of areas including couples counselling, individual and family therapy, working with violence and abuse, and youth at risk, etc.  They offer a range of courses including relationship-building skills for young people, anger management and conflict resolution, and self-esteem as well as courses such as their Parenting Through Separation programme.

Work and Income through the Disability Allowance can subsidise counselling and pay for transport to and from counselling.  You will need to fill out the following form and get a GP’s signature.  For information on how this works, click here.

All efforts were made to ensure the information in this resource was accurate at the time of publishing. This document represents the current system and will be reviewed at a later date to reflect national changes.

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