The Social Workers in Schools (SWiS) programme is one of the services offered by our Papakura Family Service Centre, operating in the heart of the Papakura community for nearly 30 years.  The enthusiastic SWiS team, of Alesha, William and John work in five Papakura schools, offering support and assistance to the schools’ children and families who are increasingly facing significant challenges in this community.Our children need support

With a child-centred focus, the SWiS team work primarily with children who are referred to them by the school if they need some support – any social barriers that impact on a child’s learning is where SWiS offers their support.


As well as general social work, SWiS provides specific programmes within the schools as the need arises – social skills, anger management, bullying, grief and loss to name a few. The team also work with the children’s parents and families when needed, with the focus always on getting the best outcomes for the child.

Starsim SimekiPapakura Social Services Team leader, Starsim Simeki, says it is important to really know and understand the community you are working in. His team have found that the tightening of families’ budgets has an immediate follow-on effect at school. Stress at home means that children come to school stressed, overtired, anxious, and sometimes hungry; it is almost impossible for them to focus and learn.

Papakura schools try their best to mitigate these issues with SWiS in support.

As the SWiS team works with the schools to support the child and their family to improve their circumstances, the school starts to see improvements in engagement and learning.

“Being a SWiS social worker is a challenging job, but it also enables each person to bring their own strengths to the role”, Simeki says.

He worked as a social worker in schools for six years himself, before becoming team leader, so he knows what the job entails. While he was working in SWiS he utilised all his skills and energy to connect with the children, taking on extra responsibilities in the schools - coaching sport, doing lunchtime duty and anything else that helped him be where the children were.

“SWiS is great pathway for new social workers to start off in, especially younger graduates – they can bring their energy to it. You really need to have loads of energy with SWiS, to keep up with the students – the technology, the memes, the lingo… the last thing you want is for the children to think, ‘You sound just like my dad.’”

Simeki’s role now is supporting his team who are ‘on the ground’ however they need it.

He says SWiS social workers need to have some key qualities: “You need to be a learner, but you also need to be a fighter… you’re going to have to have some courageous conversations, with parents, school staff and other professionals about some tough things. You need to become an advocate for the children. This is a great place to learn how to do that.”



Our SWiS Team:

 John Samman Alesha Verheyen William Chiyesu 

Left to right: John, Alesha and William