Literacy support aims to help survivors share their experience

Abuse in Care Inquiry media release, 23/07/2020

Survivors with low literacy skills can now access support to share their experiences of abuse with the Royal Commission

Abuse in Care Inquiry media release, 23 Hōngongoi (July) 2020

Three leading literacy support providers are now assisting the Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry, breaking down another barrier for survivors wanting to speak out, who struggle to read and write.

Survivors wanting to share their experience with the Royal Commission in writing can now access support from the NZ Howard League Trust, Literacy Aotearoa and The Personal Advocacy and Safeguarding Adults Trust.

All three organisations operate nation-wide and have been working for decades with people in prisons and with those who have learning or intellectual disabilities.

Māori are over-represented in historical and current state care statistics, and are also over-represented, as are Pacific people, in having low literacy skills. Māori and Pacific people make up 1.2 million New Zealanders who cannot read or write.

Abuse in Care Inquiry Chair Coral Shaw said it is important that we can reach and support as many survivors as possible to share their accounts of abuse in ways that work for them. 

“Literacy support can open new doorways for people to access information about the Inquiry and be supported to share their experiences with us,” Shaw said.

Te Tumuaki Chief Executive Officer Bronwyn Yates said it is a privilege for the organisation to be able to support survivors to share their written accounts with the Inquiry. 

“Opening up the ability for people to express their thoughts and experiences authentically, in writing and with literacy support, enables more New Zealanders to be heard,” Yates said.

NZ Howard League Chief Executive Mike Williams says NZ Howard League is proud to support people in prison who wish to make submissions to the Royal Commission into Abuse in Care.  

“Many of the people we work with in the criminal justice system endured traumatic experiences as children and young people and were victims well before they became offenders.  Having an opportunity to tell their story, and to be listened to, can be an essential step in their recovery and rehabilitation.”

The Department of Corrections Chief Executive Christine Stevenson said many people in prison struggle with literacy challenges on a day to day basis.

“Being able to access literacy support will help reduce barriers further for survivors in prison wanting to engage with the Inquiry.”

Advocacy National Director Erika Butters said people with learning disabilities are unique in that they have a higher experience of abuse and harm, but less recognition and opportunity to tell their stories.

“Supporting people to share their experiences with the Inquiry will change this, and make sure their voice is both heard and counted.”

Contact the Royal Commission on our freephone number 0800-222-727 or visit our website to find out more about accessing literacy support to complete a written account.

Media enquiries: 027 298 2094;

About the Abuse in Care Inquiry:

The Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry is investigating the abuse and neglect that happened to children, young people and vulnerable adults in care from 1950 and 1999. It is also considering experiences of abuse or neglect before 1950 and after 1999. After completing its investigations, it will make recommendations to the Governor General on how New Zealand can better care for children, young people and vulnerable adults.

About the literacy support providers:

Literacy Aotearoa Is a niche national provider of adult literacy with 40 sites across Aotearoa (New Zealand).  They focus on working with adults and whānau who want to improve their literacy and numeracy competencies to maximise their employment and educational opportunities in life. 

NZ Howard League Trust is a niche national provider of adult literacy, remedial education and life-skills programmes within prisons.  They focus on working one-to-one with adults in prisons, supporting basic literacy including reading and writing.  They are the only national literacy provider offering a one-to-one (ie not classroom-based) literacy service in prisons.

The Personal Advocacy and Safeguarding Adults Trust works across New Zealand providing safeguarding, advocacy and literacy support for adults with care and support needs.  They predominantly work with people that identify as having learning/intellectual disabilities, or could otherwise fall into the category of being neurodiverse.   They are the only national provider of this type working with people with learning/intellectual disabilities.