People First NZ

People First New Zealand Ngā Tāngata Tuatahi is a self-advocacy organisation that is led and directed by people with learning (intellectual) disability. It is part of an international movement speaking up for the rights and inclusion of all people with learning disability. People First also has a contract with the Ministry of Health to provide a disability information and advisory service specialising in information for people with learning disability.

At a conference twenty-five years ago People First members told IHC that they wanted their own organisation run by a national committee where they set the path and did the work. Until 2003 the organisation was supported by IHC. Then that year IHC funded a steering group to set the path to independence.

Over the years the national committee has established six national strategic goals. Two of the committee’s national strategic goals for 2015–2018 are to keep developing leaders and to grow their adult education programme, Learn with Us.

The first training programme was a course called Speaking Up – a 10 part module designed to teach people about human rights, speaking up and where in their local community they can get support and advice. The course was co-designed and co-delivered by people with and without learning disability.

The organisation’s newest course – Money Smarts Made Easy – was first offered in 2015 when the organisation became aware of a member who feared, incorrectly, that all her money had been stolen from her account. The national committee decided that a course on money was needed. They wanted to target three groups: people in residential care – where their money is managed for them and for whom money has been largely invisible; people in supported living – who usually have some control over their finances; and people living independently – where they have control over their own money.

Money Smarts Made Easy

Janet Doughty was the project manager responsible for the development of this course. With 23 years of service in the sector, she was already working with IHC when People First was set up. She has become a passionate advocate for co-design and co-facilitation.

Usually, People First’s design of a training programme starts with a blank sheet of paper and listening to the learning needs of their membership. That way no assumptions can creep in about what the real need is and the voice of people with a learning disability is heard at the outset. In the case of Money Smarts Made Easy, the process was a little different because there was already a national mainstream programme and national expertise to draw on.

Janet: “I worked alongside Massey University’s Westpac Massey Financial Education Centre Director, Dr Pushpa Wood, and re-wrote the course into four Easy Read modules. To get the needs of people with learning disability into the programme we first ran a national survey, asking members what they thought the needs were. Then, to get feedback on content and accessibility, we ran a trial of the course with six people with learning disability.

“We ended up with four modules: What do you know about money? Where does your money come from and where does it go? Saving for a money smart goal, and Keeping your money safe.

“Our Money Smarts Made Easy workbook is presented to look the same as the versions already in existence. We thought it was important for people with learning disability to be represented on the cover as it is important to have role models everywhere. Inside the workbook, all the content is written in Easy Read.

“The programme is designed to be delivered in four sessions lasting from 2 to 2.5 hours – with a short break in the middle.

“The next step was to train the lead facilitators – these are people without learning disability. For our co-facilitators who have learning disability, we approach the preparation for delivering the course a little differently and build on best practice from years of experience in working alongside people with learning disability and assisting people to develop leadership skills. We have found that it does not really work if we train our co-facilitators and then ask them to apply these skills and concepts in a different environment. So the training for our co-facilitators always takes place locally, with a person who is interested in leadership. We meet with them over several sessions, prepare them for the facilitation role and work out how we are going to deliver the programme together.

“At Dr Wood’s three-day training programme for lead facilitators, we had twelve people who wanted to learn the co-facilitation skills. She showed us how to work collaboratively right at the beginning of the process. The training session with Dr Wood had a big impact on all of us, and it was a very good reminder for us all in the approach to our work – making sure that no assumptions were brought to the table. Also for us to learn the skills of facilitation.

“Then we started to roll the course out across the country.

“While the lead facilitator is the person without learning disability, it is always the person with learning disability who opens the course and speaks first. That sets the tone. We make it as interactive as possible. For example, between modules participants are asked to go away and think about basic issues like finding out how their bills are paid, or how much money they think they could save a week. Every participant goes away with Money Smart goals and planning and money management tools.

“People love it – we have had really good feedback. They enjoy seeing their peers in a leadership role and the co-facilitator always makes sure that we are delivering the programme at the right pace.
“We are always making small changes to the programme, but Dr Wood helped us develop a great product and train skilled facilitators to deliver the programme. In the evaluations we do at the end of each course, participants all say that they have learned a lot.

“We can only run the course when we get funding. The IHC Foundation funded the development of the programme and has supported the delivery in Auckland, Hamilton, Hawera, Nelson, Christchurch, and Dunedin. The Rata Foundation and Christchurch City Council supported our Christchurch programme.

“The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Article 24 is about education and says ‘disabled people have a right to education’. New Zealand is a signatory to that convention and we believe that our co design and co-facilitation is best practice. We are committed to it and it contributes to us continuing to get better at what we do.”

Shane McInroe is the People First Mid-South Regional President and on People First NZ”s National Committee

I was invited to become a co-facilitator and I agreed because I feel that I have a lot to contribute: I have my own mortgage which means that I have to budget carefully. Also, I can understand where the students are coming from, which is helpful. Being a co-facilitator is an opportunity for me to learn more about money as well as helping other people.

The most challenging thing? People living in residential services find it very hard to find out about their money. They think the service provider gives them pocket money when it is really their own. Sometimes we have to guess what money is available to save.

This article was published in the ACE Aotearoa Spring Newsletter 2018.