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Hawke’s Bay Civil Defence Emergency Management Group brings lockdown relief

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“Without your help, I would have been in a bad situation as a single mum – I most likely wouldn't have got through the lockdown.”

This was just one of many messages sent to the Hawke’s Bay Civil Defence Emergency Management Group team, for the group’s welfare service during the COVID-19 response.

A recent survey of 98 of the more than 7000 people who called the group’s 0800 emergency number shows that around 70 per cent would have struggled without the group’s help, and 15 per cent would have been in crisis.

Group Manager Ian Macdonald said the group quickly set up a regional emergency line in April at the request of the New Zealand Government, to meet the immediate basic needs of people until other services and supports could step in. 

“Our goal in this response was to help people who were most at risk of falling through the gaps – people who did not have ready access to the family and community support that many of us take for granted,” he said. 

“And what these statistics show us is that without our emergency welfare service, many people who were already struggling before the lockdown would have been in even worse positions and faced real hardship.”

The line was staffed by workers from Hawke’s Bay’s five councils and The Development Hub – a local organisation that provides employment, training and education opportunities to people, including young Māori and Pasifika women, sole parents and those returning to the workforce.

Through the emergency line, the group delivered more than 1100 food parcels and close to 170 winter clothing and blanket packages to people in need, as well as tallying more than 7000 inbound and outbound calls and carrying out more than 1600 needs assessments.

Mr Macdonald said the group’s welfare response has so far cost around $900,000, of which around $250,000 would be footed by ratepayers. 

“We do still have some costs coming in but the Government will reimburse around half of the $900,000, and we’ve used the $340,000 from our emergency reserve fund, so we’re looking at an additional cost to Hawke’s Bay ratepayers of around $250,000 at this stage.”

Mr Macdonald said the welfare line mostly helped people who urgently needed basic food items and essential items such as toiletries as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown.
 
“We also helped people who don’t have warm winter clothing because they were in emergency or transitional housing, or who were facing colder nights with no warm blankets or firewood.”

The Government is covering the cost of the food and goods, while Hawke’s Bay Civil Defence Emergency Group operated the contact centre and co-ordinated the supply, packaging and delivery of care parcels.

Mr Macdonald said the welfare service was just part of a region-wide, multi-agency effort that went into getting people the help they needed and ensuring as a country we stamped out COVID-19.

“More than 150 community organisations and agencies also joined forces to stop people slipping through the cracks and we are very fortunate to have some outstanding people working at the coal face.”

11 June 2020

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