Hawke’s Bay Civil Defence Emergency Management Group Welfare Manager Alison Prins has led the regional COVID-19 welfare response and was instrumental in developing an approach that has since been adopted nationally. Since the start of the response, the group has linked up with more than 150 community organisations and agencies to create a “network of networks” working collaboratively with the group to look after the welfare needs of the Hawke’s Bay community.
The network of networks involves many sector groups including those that offer services to the migrant community, children, Māori, Pasifika, older persons, foreign nationals, homeless people, people living with a disability, and people with complex psychosocial support needs.
“On the Monday Jacinda Ardern announced we were going into the Alert Level 4 lockdown that Thursday, I think we all went home wondering how we were going to coordinate a response under those conditions.
“But we’d already identified some priority populations, those people who would be most at risk from the impacts of this emergency – so we knew who we needed to help. We also knew there were already amazing organisations out there that could do a lot a lot of the response work. Our job was connecting them to each other and with us, having a common goal, and for the networks to know that if there was anything they needed, we were there to help. We already had experience working with the rural network (Rural Advisory Group) in adverse events and knew community-led networks were effective. The Rural Advisory Group is actively responding to the drought we are experiencing with the support of the Hawke’s Bay Civil Defence Emergency Management Group.
“That was the core principle of the network of networks. Our community organisations and agencies understand their populations really well, and they were best placed to identify people most in need of assistance so we could wrap support around them.
“I knew those organisations would already be connecting with their communities – they’d already been doing that since the response started, so it was really just connecting the dots.
“We were all taking a punt – we were all dealing with stuff we hadn’t had to deal with before. I think everyone was a bit shell-shocked and it was the perfect storm for people being motivated to just get on with it and do what they could do to help.
“The network of networks model worked because there was so much trust – we had faith in them, and they had faith in us, and there was a general willingness from everyone to give it a crack.
“It’s been awesome – it’s worked exceptionally well, and I am relieved and super stoked about that. We’ve surveyed the networks to understand the benefits from their perspective and scored highly, and we’ve also had multiple comments about how our approach removed a lot of barriers to just getting the mahi done.
“We’ve always understood communities do the bulk of responding in emergencies, and Civil Defence is there to provide that specialist coordination, support and advice. This response has been evidence that when communities and Civil Defence work as one, we can withstand a whole lot of adversity.
“We’ve formed strong relationships and have a better understanding of our community and the needs of different populations. The challenge was doing this all remotely. We normally get around the table, but we had to get on the phone, get on a Zoom meeting. But we made it happen, and we made it happen under those conditions.
“At the beginning, the sheer weight of the consequences was a real challenge – that if we didn’t do our job well, people would suffer. But I think we were well-placed to deal with the worst.”
27 May 2020
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