Support Worker Kaiāwhina Tiaki Tangata

Support workers help people with health problems or disabilities to carry out daily tasks, such as housework, and be as independent as possible.

Support workers may do some or all of the following:

  • help clients set and achieve goals such as avoiding drugs
  • help clients wash, dress, toilet, and do housework, shopping and budgeting
  • take clients on outings and help them keep fit
  • make sure clients take the right medicines
  • accompany clients to court, Work and Income, health and other appointments
  • help clients find accommodation or employment
  • help clients apply for assistance such as ACC funding
  • assist clients with limited mobility such as by using mobility hoists to help them get out of bed
  • drive clients with limited mobility in vehicles that can take wheelchairs
  • advocate for clients by speaking up for them
  • support clients' families by listening to them and giving advice on how they can be supportive.

Physical Requirements

Support workers need to:

  • have clear speech and good hearing so they can communicate with their clients
  • be reasonably fit, healthy and strong, as they may need to help their clients move around, or exercise with their clients.

Useful Experience

Useful experience for support workers includes:

  • work in rest homes, nursing homes and hospitals
  • work with people who have mental, social or physical difficulties.

Personal Qualities

Support workers need to be:

  • patient and adaptable
  • practical, organised and responsible
  • friendly and helpful
  • able to relate to people from a range of cultures and backgrounds
  • good at solving problems
  • able to work well under pressure
  • able to keep information private.


Support workers need to have: 

  • a good understanding of the mental, social or physical difficulties their clients experience
  • knowledge of how to access services, such as housing, for their clients
  • knowledge of how to help clients become as independent as possible
  • knowledge of relevant laws such as the Human Rights Act 
  • ability to speak up for their clients 
  • ability to keep records such as case notes
  • ability to operate equipment such as mobility hoists.


Support workers:

  • may work shifts, including nights and weekends, and may sleep over at clients' homes to help at night-time
  • usually work in clients' homes, including group homes
  • may drive their clients on local outings or to attend appointments.

Subject Recommendations

No specific secondary education is required for this job, but English, maths, social studies, health education and biology to at least NCEA Level 1 are useful.

For Year 11 to 13 learners, the Gateway programme is a good way to gain relevant experience and skills.  This programme may help you gain an apprenticeship, but will not reduce the amount of time it takes to complete it. 

Support Workers can earn around $22-$28 per hour.

Pay for support workers varies depending on experience and qualifications.

  • Support workers with up to eight years' experience, or a Level 2 qualification, usually earn $22 to $24 an hour.
  • Those with over eight years' experience, or a Level 3 or 4 qualification, usually earn $26 to $28 an hour.

Support workers may need to supply their own vehicle to travel between clients, and pay for running costs such as fuel and maintenance.

Source: New Zealand Legislation website, Support Workers (Pay Equity) Settlements Amendment Act 2022.

With extra training, support workers may progress to managerial, training or education roles.

Support workers may specialise in working with people who have:

  • intellectual or physical disabilities
  • injuries
  • addiction and mental health problems
  • dementia
  • family/whānau problems
  • housing problems.

Years Of Training

There are no specific requirements to become a support worker as you gain skills on the job. However, many employers prefer to hire support workers who:

  • have successfully overcome issues similar to those of the people they work with (lived experience)
  • can pass a police check
  • have a driver's licence.

Employers often help you to gain one of:

  • Peer Support 101 – Introduction to Lived Experience Peer Support in Addiction Micro-credential (Level 3) 
  • New Zealand Certificate in Health and Wellbeing – Social and Community (Level 4)
  • New Zealand Certificate in Health and Wellbeing – Peer Support (Level 4).

 These qualifications may be available as apprenticeships. Careerforce oversees support workers' apprenticeships.

The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 means that if you have certain serious convictions, you can’t be employed in a role where you are responsible for, or work alone with, children.

Support Worker