Child Cancer Counselling Network Project

NCCN in conjunction with NGO partners –  Child Cancer Foundation, CanTeen and Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand – developed a proposal in 2016/17 to assess the feasibility and efficacy of a national network of private service providers selected and trained to deliver counselling services to children and young people with cancer and their whānau.

The proposal was developed in response to concerns regarding:

  • Lack of clear referral pathways and information to assist ready access to formal counselling services outside the DHB environment
  • Inconsistent knowledge regarding available funding mechanisms to support access to formal counselling services
  • Geographical gaps in availability of suitable counselling providers
  • Lack of criteria or guidelines to assist referrers to identify appropriate service providers
  • Lack of feedback loops or criteria to enable NGOs to assess the efficacy of counselling services that they fund
  • Lack of information and tools to enable NGOs to know who to refer and when
  • Lack of information regarding current levels of need among children with cancer and their whānau

In September 2015, NCCN engaged Sapere Research Group to  test the basic assumptions underlying the proposal for the development of a network of counselling providers. This included assessing overall support for the proposal alongside an exploration of what is currently in place and any gaps that might exist, or how services and supports could be improved.

Overall, the research indicated key stakeholders were largely supportive of the proposal. There was a general perception that a Network of trained Counsellors with knowledge and experience working with people coping with cancer would assist children and young people with a cancer diagnosis and their whānau to reduce the overall burden of the cancer experience.

Funding to develop a “distress screening tool” was granted by the ANZ Staff Foundation and agreement made to partner with Massey University to develop a NZ-specific version of the tool in 2018. The Network itself is now a joint project between Child Cancer Foundation, NCCN, and Massey University. Counselling will be for parents/guardians/caregivers, and the Network will enable Family Support Coordinators to link parents/guardians/caregivers of children diagnosed with cancer to approved counsellors who have training in this area.


The distress screening tool has also been developed further during 2019 and renamed as a “Wellness Check In”, to better reflect the goal to support families’ wellbeing as much as possible during the cancer journey.


Contact Elizabeth Ryan ( for more information.