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painting of rabbit and cat showing way to vera haywood

Ōtepoti Ratoka Whakawhanake Tamaiti

Dunedin Child Development Service
Vera Hayward Centre


Mā te whiritahi ka tutuki ai ngā pumanawa o te tamaiti

Together weaving the realisation of the child's potential

What is the Vera Hayward Centre?

The Vera Hayward Centre is a Ratoka Whakawanake Tamaiti (Child Development Service). We are a whānau centred early intervention service for tamariki aged 0-5 years. We also provide some services to tamariki aged 5-16 years of age.

We provide assessments and intervention for tamariki with developmental delay or disabilities and developmental follow-up surveillance for some of the babies from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Our team consists of Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists, Speech-language Therapists and Social Workers.

We work closely with Paediatricians, Dietitians, Clinical Psychologists and the Autism Co-ordinator.

Where is the Vera Hayward Centre?

We are located in the Fraser Building on Hanover Street. The entrance to the Centre is off Castle Street via the entrance to the Physio pool. We have some car parks available, otherwise public parking is available around the Centre. You can also use the Outpatients car park under the Hospital with an appointment card displayed in your windscreen. 

Contact details
Phone: 03 470 9377
Fax: 03 470 9905


Centre hours: The Centre is open from 8.00 to 4.30/5.00 Monday to Friday. Your individual therapist may have variable working hours. If you need to contact someone and the main phone is unattended, we have an answerphone for messages.

Our Philosophy
  • You are respected as a person who knows your tamaiti best
  • You are valued as the most important person on the team around your tamaiti
  • You are involved in all the decisions about your tamaiti’s programme and intervention
  • You have access to the information and resources you need to help your tamaiti learn and develop
  • You have clear lines of communication with all members of the team, who work together for your tamaiti’s benefit
  • Your privacy, and that of your tamaiti and whānau, is respected at all times.

Working with whānau and valuing their role as experts and agents of change.

How do we access the Vera Hayward Centre?

For tamariki under 5 years of age we accept referrals from whānau - parents and any service provider when there are concerns about a tamaiti’s development. For example:

  • General Practitioners (GP)
  • Paediatricians and other specialist physicians 
  • Early Childhood Centres (e.g. kindergartens, preschools, daycares, playcentres, home-based care)
  • Health Professionals (e.g. Plunket, Public Health Nurses)
  • Educational Professionals (e.g. Te Mahau - Learning Support, CCS Disability Action, Family Start).

It is useful for us to have accompanying information from your tamaiti’s Early Childhood Centre (kindergarten, daycare, preschool, home-based care, play centre) if they attend one.

Please go to our Referral Information page for more information and to access a copy of our referral form.

I am only concerned about my child's speech-language development. Can my child have a Speech-language Therapy assessment at the Vera Hayward Centre?

  • We only provide speech-language therapy assessments as part of developmental (general) assessments. Unfortunately our service does no offer individual speech-language therapy assessments for tamariki.
    • Te Mahau (Learning Support, Ministry of Education) offer individual assessments for tamariki who fit their criteria.
    • Speech-language Therapists working in private practice provide also offer individual assessments.
  • We do accept referrals for tamariki with feeding issues and will see these tamariki for individual assessments. 

For our referral form go to our Referral Information page.

What services do we provide for tamariki aged 5 - 16 years?

We provide some services to tamariki aged 5-16 years old who meet our criteria. Referrals are accepted from Paediatricians, and are usually for something specific. Some of the services we provide include:

  • housing modifications
  • equipment
  • dysphagia/feeding assessments
  • post botox/orthopaedic surgery follow-up
  • general orthopaedic follow-up

The 5-16 year old service is accessible to school-age tamariki who do not have specific Te Mahau (Learning Support, Ministry of Education) therapy-service funding. Referrals will be considered for MoE-funded tamariki who need assistive equipment at home, or who require rehabilitation post-operatively or as a result of decreased function. A tamiati will be considered for Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy services IF:

  • The referral is received from a Consultant, e.g. Paediatrician, Orthopaedic surgeon
  • The tamaiti meets disability criteria, i.e they have been identified as having a physical, sensory, intellectual disability, (or a combination of these) which is likely to continue for a minimum of six months.

The referral must highlight a specific Occupational Therapy or Physiotherapy need that affects their ability to carry out everyday activities.

If you have any concerns, please see your GP and ask for a referral to the Paediatric Department.


See below for all our latest news and information covering a range of topics including vacancies and careers. Check the Related Content section below for additional resources and links.

National Child Development Service Project

In the 2019 budget Child Development Services nationally were given an increase in funding for the following four years.  Some of this funding was used to increase the number of staff working in CDS – in Dunedin we got more funding for physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech language therapy, adminisistration, and clinical psychology.  The aim of this increase was to reduce waitlists and to provide additional services that other CDS’s around the country were already providing but we were not.  In Dunedin this included more work with over 5 year olds and housing modifications.  The rest of the funding is being used for quality projects and service improvement, so that Child Development Services around New Zealand offer consistent, high quality services to children with disabilities and their whānau.   In Dunedin we have already been funded for specialist staff training and equipment, and have been part of projects investigating the use of Telehealth and developing a specialist education package for new graduates working in CDS.  Even this website has benefited from some of the funding to have the video clips professionally filmed!  We are sure there will be more exciting developments to come and you might notice some changes in the service or be asked to provide feedback about your experience during your time at Vera Hayward.

Vera Hayward Centre General Assessment Survey Results








The Child Development Service (Vera Hayward Centre) conducted a survey of their Developmental Assessment (General Assessment) in the first 4 months of 2021. Whānau who had attended an assessment in 2020 and in the early months of 2021 were invited to provide feedback on their experience. A total of 56 assessments took place over this time. 44 whānau consented to taking part in the survey with 22 of these whānau completing the survey. Read on to find out more.

  • 56 assessments completed over 16 months – including the Covid-19 lockdown period
  • 22/42 whānau responded to the survey – 52%
  • Of those participating in the study:
    • 48% were referred by a Paediatrician
    • 24% were referred by a GP
    • 19% were referred by an Early Childhood Centre
    • 5% were referred by a Speech-language Therapist
    • 5% were referred by an Early intervention Teacher
  • Wait time
    • 29% waited less than 6 weeks for their appointment
    • 29% waited 6 weeks-3 months
    • 29% waited 3-6 months for their appointment.
  • The factors impacting on wait time were Covid-19 lockdown period and child/whānau sickness. 76% of whānau indicated that wait time was just right.

Assessments are scheduled for either 9.30am or 11am. Whānau living out of town are generally allocated a later appointment due to travel time. Most people felt the timing of the appointment was appropriate.

Admission forms are sent out to whānau prior to the assessment to gather background information. 81% of the families surveyed felt the length of the admission form was about right.

Prior to the assessment a staff member will contact parents to talk about what to expect on the day and answer questions. Most whānau felt having someone contact them prior to the assessment helped with preparation for the day.

When asked about the assessment:

  • 90% of families felt the total time spent at the assessment was about right and
  • 95% of families found the observations and questions asked by therapists good or very good.

“The first appointment can be very intimidating for a child with so many new faces in the room. I think the first session is run well. One asking questions, one interacting and the others observing.”

76% indicated the team let them know they were leaving the room to discuss the information gathered and make a plan for the child. Comments from whānau indicated that waiting for feedback can be an anxious time.

“I only wanted to know what the outcome was so I was nervous.”

“First time was 7 years ago with our first son, I was very emotional and worried. Second time I was happy and knew what was happening.”

81% of whānau had support while waiting to receive feedback:

“Well, I had great support from staff and family as well.”

“Yes, support is vital.”

71% felt the assessment gave an accurate picture of their child and 24% indicated it was somewhat accurate. Most people felt feedback was given in a respectful way that was understandable. However, some comments from families indicate that clinicians might not have always been clear with their feedback:

“Yes, but I still felt confused on a general consensus.”

“Yes, though I remember having to Google what ADOS was.”

At the end of the assessment each whānau is given a summary sheet outlining a plan which is discussed during the feedback part of the assessment. 86% indicated that a plan was discussed:

“All the information I was given was in an easy format to understand and it was discussed with me to make sure I knew what was going on.”

Some families indicated there were varying opinions amongst the wider team (e.g. Paediatrician, Early Childhood Centre, Child Development Service team), which was confusing. There were also some difficulties around communication and practical follow-up.

Most respondents indicated the reports were accurate and easy to understand. Some whānau indicated that they took a long time to receive reports and they were not always conclusive.

When asked to rank professionals in the order of most essential to their child’s assessment Speech-language Therapists were ranked as most important followed by Occupational Therapists and Clinical Psychologists.

When asked to rank the professional they would most like to have attend, a Paediatrician was ranked at the top of the list. This might be because children are often referred to a Paediatrician first. At the point of triage (the system for deciding on referrals) some children are sent for a developmental assessment, which can occur before their paediatric appointment.

We sometimes have students or other professionals observing assessments. Consent is always sought from whānau before the assessment. 48% of whānau were happy with the number of people present for their child’s assessments and 43% were neutral about the number of professionals present.

When a Social Worker attended the assessment, comments indicated that the Social Worker was supportive and provided a clear explanation of what was going to happen. A suggested area of focus was with identifying community supports including connection with others in similar situations.

For children attending the assessment from out of town, our speech-language therapy team offer a feeding/swallowing assessment (when indicated) after the developmental assessment.  Most families felt that the time spent at the Centre for two appointments wasn’t too long and that it was convenient having the feeding/swallowing assessment on the same day. Whānau indicated that they had been given a choice regarding the assessment (e.g. via telehealth, a separate in-person appointment at the Centre, or an appointment after the developmental assessment). All whānau received a feeding questionnaire prior to the appointment.

Most whānau felt their cultural needs were met during the assessment. Some indicated they did not have any cultural needs.

When asked, most people indicated that having support in their first language was not applicable.

Additional comments from families:

“I was happy with everyone involved, the communication was excellent. I felt supported and happy to co-operate to understand my child’s needs better.”

“I feel if there is an inconclusive result maybe more time spent with the child may be beneficial.”

“Better coordination with supports already in place by MOELS and some immediate practical help, which was promised but not implemented.”


Our next steps:

  • Sharing this feedback with staff involved and having an increased focus on explaining results, plans, expected timelines and any technical terms clearly
  • Providing information about therapist roles ahead of the assessment
  • Considering allowing more time for the assessment session
  • Including a Paediatrician in the Developmental (General) Assessment OR scheduling an appointment with the Paediatrician on the same day as the assessment
  • Increasing the amount of information collected before the GA session, to allow for more conclusive feedback on the day
  • Consider other options for offering support to whānau while they are waiting for the assessment team to return from their discussion and provide feedback
  • Consider whānau support prior to the assessment throughout the entire process to identify the whānau’s goals, help with understanding the assessment process and what it means, and providing liaison with information both to and from the whānau
  • A followup phone call to whānau after assessments to support with questions or clarifying any information.


Thank you to those parents who have indicated that they would be happy to have a more in-depth conversation regarding our assessment process. We hope to complete this final stage of the survey in the coming months.

If you have any thoughts or feedback regarding Our Next Steps, please feel free to contact us.


Interested in working in the Child Development Service? Follow the link below to check for vacancies.

Allied Health, Scientific &Technical (

Careers in Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy and Speech-Language Therapy

Thinking about Occupational Therapy as a career?

To find out more about the different degree programmes in New Zealand, click on the links below:

Thinking about Physiotherapy as a career?

To find out more about the different degree programmes in New Zealand, click on the links below:

Thinking about Speech-language Therapy as a career?

To find out more about the different degree programmes in New Zealand, click on the links below:

Accredited New Zealand Universities: