Otago Polytechnic

New Zealand Certificate in Health and Wellbeing (Social and Community Services) (Level 4)


Dunedin or Central Otago* (*location subject to final approval)

One year full-time; two years part-time

On campus delivery or distance/online delivery by application

Dunedin: February
Central Otago: July
until start date (Applications for our 2019 Dunedin intake are now closed; they will reopen in mid-2019 for our 2020 intake)

Are you a positive and patient person who really wants to make a difference in the community? Do you have a genuine interest in supporting others to improve their quality of life? If so, choose to pursue a career in human service work.

Use this qualification to gain the practical knowledge and skills you will need to work in the human services field. Aligned with local industry needs and national strategies, this Certificate will allow you to develop specialty knowledge alongside general human service and academic skills; choose to specialise in mental health, disability or social services support work. This qualification also provides a perfect springboard into further study. Within a supportive environment, develop the skills and confidence to progress into higher learning and undertake a degree in social services or in an area such as nursing or occupational therapy.

Our graduates have a high employment rate and many are offered work during or after their fieldwork placements in the second semester. Fieldwork placements are an important aspect of your learning experience and, as much as possible, we aim to position you in a work placement that will enable you to pursue and meet your career and life aspirations. Depending on your specialty strand, you may find yourself supporting clients for the Special Olympics, working in a kaupapa Māori service, running a baking group or art activity in a day programme, working on a ward at a hospital, participating in an afterschool or holiday programme, working in elderly care or playing indoor football with a group of troubled youth.

This programme replaces the Certificate in Human Services (Level 4).
Skills required
  • Open mindedness
  • Honesty  
  • Reliability
  • Punctuality
  • Warmth
  • Good communication skills
  • Good listening skills
  • A calm manner
Entry requirements
  • Open entry but you must
    • disclose any criminal convictions before commencing the programme, and
    • give permission for a police check before going on your work placement.
  • Distance students will need to also provide two appropriate referees (see Completing your application for more information). 
  • You will also take part in an informal discussion with the Programme Manager to check your readiness to engage with the programme.
  • International students will be individually assessed to ensure you are ready for this study. 


All students (international and domestic) for whom English is not a first language:

Please note: All scores must be achieved in a single test completed in the preceding two years. You cannot combine scores from multiple tests. If you have achieved NCEA Level 3 University Entrance you are not required to provide evidence of English Language skills.


Additional documentation

You must supply certified copies of proof of identity, academic records and proof of residency (where appropriate).

Completing your application
  • Students - please click here for the referee report you need to give to your chosen referees
  • For all students - click here  for your applicant information pack
Selection procedure

Should the number of applications exceed the available places, applicants will be placed on a waiting list in date order.

Additional costs

You will undertake a fieldwork placement during this qualification and will need to budget for this accordingly. You will be expected to pay for your travel expenses to and from your placement and any meals.

Further study options

Continue learning and enhance your employment potential with the Bachelor of Social Services.

Programme specific risks

If you have had experiences of trauma, mental illness, abuse or life events causing emotional harm, you may experience some emotional risk during this programme. The School of Social Services and Otago Polytechnic have services available to support you.

Programme philosophy

Our philosophy and value base in the New Zealand Certificate in Health and Well-Being at Otago Polytechnic, is grounded in strengths theory. We adamantly believe that, given the right support and the right attitude, everyone is capable of achieving whatever they want to achieve. We aim to provide the right support for each of our students and we value the vast array of life experience and expertise that each student brings. Our students range in age from seventeen to seventy, some come with minimal education and some come with degrees.

You will study
This programme is made up of seven courses. You will complete six compulsory courses and choose one specialty strand:
  • Community Facilitation
  • Mental Health and Addiction
  • Social Services
If you choose to complete one specialty at the Certificate level, you are not restricted to that specialty should you choose to progress to the Bachelor in Social Services.
Compulsory courses

Self and Cultural Awareness

Be introduced to the importance of self-awareness in human service work and be encouraged to promote awareness of self and respect for others. This course is geared at developing the group culture and at establishing a supportive community into which you can integrate safely in preparation for your year of study. You will be required to investigate your own cultural identity and ancestry and to explore cultural customs and language of different ethnic groups. You will also develop critical reflection and a range of literacy, social media and presentation skills necessary for successful completion of your study.

Aotearoa New Zealand Society

Increase your understanding and proactive participation as a citizen of Aoteaora New Zealand. Gain knowledge of the legal system and legislation relevant for human services and develop an awareness of human rights, social justice and discrimination issues. The history of the Westminster system and Te Tiriti o Waitangi, as New Zealand's founding document, provide the base from which you will explore human rights, Māori custom, discrimination, the application of legislation relevant for human services and relevant political current affairs.

Group Work, Networking and the Service Industry

Foster recognition of the value of networking and relationship building. Gain knowledge of national, regional and local services, service roles and networks relevant for your specialty. Explore the concept of networking through participation in local industry network meetings, service visits, information gathering and a group work project, and through use of online social media networking tools to develop a collaborative industry resource. Gain an introductory knowledge of a range of services relevant to your specialty and build on this during your Workplace Practice course in semester two.

Health and Safety in Human Service Work

Gain a solid grounding in health and safety issues for human service work including care of self and others' well-being. Be introduced to holistic concepts of health and well-being utilising Mason Durie's Te Whare Tapa Wha and Te Pae Mahutonga models; these models provide the base from which to explore a range of health and safety issues and policy. De-escalation is also introduced with a focus on self-awareness in relation to your own anxiety and stress reactions and on managing your own risk and escalation tendencies. You will be acquainted with self-care strategies and supervision.

Theory, Models and Practice Skills

Learn about human services theory and models. Focus on the practical application of models to case studies in terms of the process, strategies and range of supports a worker might use and provide when working with clients in different settings. Work in groups to share knowledge and enhance your understanding while applying a range of models to different case studies. Become familiar with the relationship between theory and values and the concept of informed practice, and gain a theoretical foundation if you are considering progressing to further study in the human service field.

Workplace Practice

Occurring in the second semester, work practice requires 100 work experience hours spread over approximately 10 weeks. You will attend a placement relevant for your specialty and will need to familiarise yourself with the workplace and its goals, services and policies. While on placement, you are expected to participate in the life of the service: attending staff meetings, networking opportunities and training opportunities that arise. You will be required to clarify your role and boundaries and work within the confines of that area to help a client to achieve personal goals. Student placements are organised by our workplace coordinator who will negotiate with you and take into consideration additional family, work and community commitments. As much as possible, placements will aim to accommodate your aspirations and needs. If you are already working within the human services field, you may use your workplace to complete course requirements but will need a signed agreement from your employers.

The staff on the Certificate programme are extremely appreciative to all the agencies and services that provide fieldwork placements.

Elective Specialties

(select one)

Specialty Practice: Mental Health and Addictions

Gain a historical overview of mental health in terms of explanations and therapies, be introduced to ethical practice and become equipped with the knowledge, skills and values specific to work in the mental health field. Acquire an understanding of mental illness in terms of classification and diagnosis, with a particular focus on symptoms and therapies associated with mood, psychotic, and anxiety-disorders. You will also be introduced to skills, models, theory and procedures for working with people who experience alcohol or other drug addictions.

Specialty Practice: Social Services

Become acquainted with the history of the social services and ethical practice within the social services, and develop a good understanding of abuse, neglect and violence issues and strategies for working safely in this field. Become familiar with historical and structural factors contributing to abuse, neglect and violence. Be introduced to skills, models, theory and procedures for working with people who have experienced or contributed to abuse, neglect and violence in a range of contexts.

Specialty Practice: Community Facilitation 

Gain a historical overview of the knowledge, skills and values specific to work in disability contexts. Be introduced to ethical practice and learn about theories of disability and aging. Learn about motor, sensory, intellectual and communication impairments and develop the ability to apply a range of skills, tools and procedures for working with people who experience an impairment.

Career Success Centre

The School of Social Services established the Career Success Centre in 2013. This was set up to provide a career service to all Otago Polytechnic students with strategies to support effective career decision-making, previous training and diversity. Career Guides offer advice and assistance to all students; these Guides are current Bachelor of Social Services students who are in their second or third year of the Career Practice specialty training. The Career Guides are supported by lecturing staff and career practitioners within the professional career service community.

Qualification structure

120 credits are required to complete this Certificate. 

Course Name






Self and Cultural Awareness



Aotearoa New Zealand Society



Group Work, Networking and the Service Industry



Health and Safety in Human Service Work



Theory, Models and Practice Skills



Workplace Practice






Specialty Practice: Mental Health



Specialty Practice: Social Services



Specialty Practice: Disability



Programme Total



Your workload

Although this is a full-time course, in general you will attend campus from 9.00am-4.00pm on Thursdays and Fridays, and some Wednesdays throughout the year.

There are several presentation weeks or workshop intensives throughout the year where you will be required to attend a full day on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 9.00am-5.00pm. You are also expected to attend a three-day orientation in mid-February. On campus, contact is reduced in the second semester to allow for fieldwork placements.

In addition to classes on campus, you will be required to access material and work through learning activities and assessment tasks independently. All courses, course material and a range of optional resources are available online to support your learning.

Student loans/allowances

Student loans and allowances are for domestic students only. For information about student loans and allowances please visit the Studylink website. It is important to apply for your student loan/allowance at the same time as you apply for this programme, due to the length of time Studylink take to process. Loan/allowance applications can be cancelled at any time if you decide to withdraw your programme application or if it is unsuccessful. 

Recognition of prior learning

If you have extensive knowledge and skills due to practical experience in this area, enquire about our recognition of prior learning process at Capable NZ. You may have already gained credits towards this qualification.


While every effort is made to ensure that this sheet is accurate, Otago Polytechnic reserves the right to amend, alter or withdraw any of the contained information. The fees shown in this document are indicative ONLY. Both domestic and international fees are subject to change and are dependent on the development and implementation of Government policies. Please note that additional fees may from time to time be required for external examination, NZQA fees and/or additional material fees.

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