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Online support service makes asking for help easy

An online social and wellbeing support service launched in Hamilton during Covid-19 Level 4 lockdown will soon be coming to the Western Bay of Plenty.

"Here to help u" enables people to access a wide range of free support by submitting one help request online.

Assistance is available across various areas, including food parcels, prepared meals, collection of items service, general local support, mental health support, and safe social connection.

The service works with a simple three-step process.

A member of the public first visits www.heretohelpu.nz and fills out an online help request, selecting what they need help with.

The help request is then picked up by a trained connector who contacts that person to gather further information about their needs. The connector then assigns the help request to appropriate providers.

The connector roles are key to the process; sitting in the background, they match people to services needed, identify any other support the person or their whānau could benefit from, and provide follow up and continued support to ensure no one falls through the cracks.

The service was established by the Wise Group and several local community providers in response to the Covid-19 Level 4 lockdown.

They recognised the need for community support services to be better coordinated to suit the needs of individuals, whānau and communities navigating support.

Erana Severne, Wise Group project lead, says the 'Here to help u' tool is still relevant post-lockdown.

"Covid-19 exacerbated social support and wellbeing issues existing in communities. During the Covid recovery phase, supporting people in need is still extremely necessary and relevant.

"There are both people who have previously accessed support and people who have never before accessed support that are needing to navigate complex issues and needs. 'Here to help u' streamlines the process for people and providers.

"It's completely free for any person needing help to use, and for community providers to use, and it makes the complex easy. Our motivation when designing it was to make getting help as easy as ordering a pizza."

Erana says they expect to support thousands of people in the region.

"In Hamilton, we have been operational for a year and have supported over 8,500 people in that time. With a similar community rollout and support to promote the tool in Western Bay of Plenty, we expect a similar result could be achieved."

Wise Group recently received $49,036 in funding through the COVID-19 WBOP Recovery Fund, established by local funders TECT, Acorn Foundation, BayTrust and Tauranga City Council, to bring the service to the Western Bay of Plenty.

Erana says the funding, which will cover the establishment, training and operating costs of two part-time connectors over two years, will be critical to the rollout.

"The Recovery funding is critical and essential to ensure that 'Here to help u' can get off the ground in Western Bay of Plenty. Without it, there wouldn't be the capacity to roll out this useful, successful and transformational tool into the region.

"It's fantastic that local funders in the Western Bay collaborated to provide a simple, one-stop funding portal for new initiatives like ours that work to address the challenges arising from Covid-19."

TECT General Manager Wayne Werder says 'Here to help u' is a worthy recipient of the funding.

"While the Recovery Fund has now closed, we are pleased it has been able to support a wide range of collaborative and innovative programmes and helped community groups dealing with income shortfall or increase in demand.

"Wise Group's 'Here to help u' tool is one such worthy recipient of the funding. It will provide real value in our local community, getting the right support to the right people in a way that is simple for everyone to access."

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