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Reforms Impacting on Vulnerable People and Service Providers

12 January 2011

Reforms Impacting on Vulnerable People and Service Providers

The increasing hardening of access to government benefits and housing is resulting in higher levels of vulnerability and more people wanting services from social support organisations. The latest New Zealand Council of Christian Social Service (NZCCSS) Vulnerability Report indicates that in the quarter ending September 2011 most NZCCSS members experienced another strong increase in demands for their services.

The changes in benefit eligibility and access to state housing in particular seem to have been having a large impact. “There has been a large drop in the number of hardship grants – including for food and benefit advances to help pay for power. This appears to be a direct result of the requirement to get budgeting advice if you need to get more than three grants a year”, said NZCCSS Executive Officer, Trevor McGlinchey. “Community social service providers have been coping with a surge in budget advice referrals, and while some areas in Auckland had a drop in demand for food parcels many others have had a marked increase in requests.”

The Future Focus Act, which has hardened up access to benefits and other support, has resulted in over 5,000 Domestic purposes beneficiaries and almost 7,500 unemployment beneficiaries having their benefits cancelled. A further 120,000 referrals were made to budgeting activities. The Ministry of Social Development has not reported on what has happened to these individuals and families as a result of their benefits being cancelled.

“Almost all of our members and many other service providers are reporting that more and more people are requesting support”, said McGlinchey. “There has been an increase in people needing emergency support, with more families turning up at soup kitchens or seeking counselling”.

Housing New Zealand (HNZ) is no longer allowing people with low or moderate needs onto their waiting lists and is actively counselling all applicants to look for private rentals. “There is real pressure on emergency accommodation providers across New Zealand, with no members reporting empty beds and with many who have extensive waiting lists,” said McGlinchey. “The changes in approach by HNZ means that many people previously considered high need are no longer in that category, they are now stuck in overcrowded situations are living in motor camps or boarding houses.”

“The social services sector is really feeling the pinch at this time”, said McGlinchey. “Providers of Social Services did not receive a cost of living increase to their contracts in the last government Budget. This must be addressed in the upcoming Budget so that the present levels of services can be maintained and New Zealand’s vulnerable families can receive the support they need”.

Vulnerability Reports will only be published on-line with printable versions downloadable from the www.justiceandcompassion.org.nz website.

ENDS

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