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Charity considers major staff cuts as demand intensifies

Charity considers major staff cuts as demand for services intensifies.

The Salvation Army faces losing a third of its budget advisors as demand for their services in the most disadvantaged communities continues to climb.

The Salvation Army goes into its annual Red Shield Appeal today facing historic demand for its social services and a significant cut in resources where they are most needed.

The Government’s temporary Community Response Fund (CRF), aimed at helping social service NGOs cope with the demand bought on by the recession, ends in July.

This money helped provide an extra 20.5 budget advisors at Salvation Army centres. It allowed the Army to increase its provision of budgeting services by 230 per cent from the start of the recession in 2008 to the first quarter of this year. In the past year, budgeters helped 4500 families.

Salvation Army Social Services Secretary Pam Waugh says the reduction in staff inevitably means a cut in services. Families in financial strife are usually reluctant to seek help and often arrive at The Salvation Army in deep financial crisis. Helping clients to work out a realistic family budget and negotiate with creditors to pay off debt without incurring crippling penalties is often complex and time-consuming work.

The positions of a number of CRF-funded social workers, who case manage clients with complex cases, are also under review.

“The most worrying thing is the knock-on effect,” says Major Waugh. “If families are unable to get sufficient assistance to balance their household budgets and clear debt, then their situations can easily deteriorate to the point where they face eviction, homelessness or overcrowded living conditions.

“As a nation, we know all too well the effects this can have on children’s health and their prospects for the future,” she says.

Major Waugh says the Army is looking at innovative ways to maximise the effectiveness of the reduced budgeting services. Some efficiencies can be made by providing more budgeting sessions for groups of clients but the reality is we will not be able to offer the same level of service, she says.

“But the bottom line is that we will not see families go hungry,” Major Waugh says.

At the same time, demand on services in some of the most disadvantaged communities has begun to rise dramatically after a couple of years of steady demand. The provision of food parcels in South Auckland jumped 34.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2013, compared to a year ago. West Auckland saw an increase of 28.6 per cent for the same period, Whangarei 26 per cent and Dunedin 31.5 per cent.

The Red Shield Appeal runs from April 29 to May 5.

ENDS

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