November 2017

Main Victor Verveer

Victor Verveer, pictured in the garden at Te Whare Mahana, the residential home in Waitara.

The Residential & Community Support Team has been working on a pilot project called the Independent Living Pilot which aims to transition clients to living independently in the community, sooner than previously.

New team leader Victor Verveer shares his vision for the service and we profile Tony*, a former resident at Mill Road, who has moved on to a new home where he is living independently.

Although Victor's new role managing the team means he will be doing less of the hands on care himself, he is excited about the direction the service is heading:

"Research suggests that the length and severity of mentally unwell people is lessened if they are treated in their own homes – where they feel most comfortable. A block sometimes happens in the system where clients spend most of their time in supported homes. They can become institutionalised by becoming too comfortable and less capable of looking after themselves."

Victor oversees a team of carers that includes four registered nurses and 10 recovery support workers (RSWs) who he describes as the backbone of the service. "All of our RSWs have their Mental Health Level Four certificate and are able to recognise when we might need to step up support for a client. They work collaboratively with the nurses to ensure that we are all up to speed on a client's health and medication."

Victor says clients often arrive at the home having completely lost hope, feeling negative about themselves and angry at the world:

"It's such a buzz to see people rediscover themselves, to see them remember old skills or develop new ones, and to move on to a new place where they look after themselves."


Tony, a former resident at a Tui Ora residential home moved in to his own flat last month. He says the transition was hard, that even though he wanted to live independently, the idea of change made him anxious, even though he it was the right thing to do.

One month on and Tony is doing well living independently, He cooks, cleans and shops for himself. He manages his own money, and is doing a course to regain his driver's license. He looks well, turned out neatly with smart sneakers. He smiles, makes eye contact, speaks calmly and eloquently.

Tony has had a long battle with mental illness and addictions. He says that prior to meeting Tui Ora AOD specialist Kirsten Gamby he had struggled to get the help he needed:

"I would speak to nurses or doctors but I didn't fit in with their assessments so they wouldn't help me. Kirsten was different. She stuck by me, listened to me, and supported me. If it wasn't for her I think I wouldn't be here."

Kirsten assisted Tony to find new accommodation. A short-term stay at a Tui Ora residential home put Tony in touch with a network of nurses and social workers that broadened his support network.

Tony describes learning about his illness as a major breakthrough:

"When I was younger I was scared to talk about what was happening in my head. I was being judged because of mistakes I was making, but I wasn't being helped because I was ill. Now I know what's wrong with me I feel more comfortable talking about it."

The Tui Ora Residential & Community Support team has worked extensively with Tony over the past few months but Team Leader Victor Verveer says that Tony's journey to living independently is a testament to his own hard work:

"We didn't do this for Tony, he did it for himself and we supported him to reach his goal.  He wanted to live independently and take care of himself, and he's doing that. We will provide as much or as little support as he needs from now until he decides he no longer needs us."

Tony will continue to receive a range of support from Tui Ora. Nurses visit him at home twice daily and provide clinical oversight. Transport is provided if Tony needs to go to shopping, or has appointments with his GP, key worker or WINZ.

At the moment Tony is taking things slowly. He says he takes each day as it comes. He is content with his own company, having his own space and making his own plans.

*Not his real name. Changed to respect client privacy.

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