Social issues appearing in lockdown

SociaLink general manager Liz Davies.

People around the western Bay are more in need of food during this lockdown, according to the region's social agencies.

SociaLink, the umbrella organisation for the Western Bay's social agencies and charities, surveyed social service providers through its newsletter and at a management forum to find out what they were observing in the community during lockdown.

The number one need is access to food, which has happened earlier than in the previous lockdown. In 2020 it took three to four weeks before demand began to rise, food agencies said.

Here To Help U, which has a website and 0800 number for people seeking help, has also begun compiling data about needs, with food being the most common need.

"Social agencies believe this could be due to family members now also needing to isolate if someone in the household is awaiting a test result, or it could be due to families not having recovered from the last lockdown," says SociaLink general manager Liz Davies.

The Foodbank says it's seeing lots of new faces, including those who do not qualify for subsidies or do not have enough money to pay for food.

Some families who relied on school lunches and breakfasts to help budget, now have to find food for these meals.

Liz says providers Good Neighbour or Food Bank indicate food supplies are not an issue at this stage.

Social agencies advise people with illnesses or disabilities have been unable to get priority access to online delivery from supermarkets, but this has now been activated.

Age Concern advised that the Student Volunteer Army grocery service is available nationwide to those in self-isolation or who have no other way to access food.

Other issues showing up are concerns about family harm where victims are living with their perpetrator.

Liz says they expect to see a spike in demand for family harm services once lockdown is over.

The only ones reported during lockdown are the ones so severe that victim has been left with no choice or is injured so badly that agencies respond. There is increased demand for support from Women’s Refuge, a social agency says.

For those with disabilities, financial struggles, anxiety, loneliness and uncertainty were common concerns. Some families say they are worried they will be stopped when driving a disabled family member to calm them down.

Families are reporting that some disabled young people are loving not going to school and challenging behaviour has decreased. Others are missing home care support, which has been reduced.

Some agencies dealing with children and young people are reporting increased anxiety and a need for activities for children who don't have access to devices.

Follow-ups include investigating a phone crisis line for men who are perpetrators of family violence, and getting permission for those who need to drive to calm a family member. The District Health Board is following up about a reduction in home care.

Parents can pickup devices for students at most schools, and home packs are being distributed with priority for low decile areas.

Davies says there is some difficulty for community organisations in planning longer term given the lack of certainty of the length of lockdown.

"Organisations are reporting to be financially okay, but this could change if the lockdown continues, with for instance a reduction in Gaming Trust funding. Relying on staff from other areas is also no longer possible and staff wellbeing is a concern."

She says there has been upsides to the continued lockdown.

"For some, lockdown means more time for whānau to connect and enjoy each other's company. As with the 2020 lockdown we have seen marae and communities mobilise to support their community, particularly the vulnerable in delivering food, for example, Huria and Hairini marae, and in the Katikati community."

People are exercising outside and getting fresh air in their neighbourhood. The lack of cars on the roads and industry closures is allowing the environment to rest, she says.

SociaLink has held a Zoom meeting for social agencies and will continue to monitor demand for services.

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