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Phone Lines Run Hot For Welfare Assistance

Around 3000 requests for food parcels have been received by an Auckland Council call centre in the first week of its operation, says Auckland Mayor Phil Goff.

Auckland Council has set up a food distribution centre at Spark Arena at the request of the government to help people needing assistance due to the COVID-19 crisis and lockdown.

The government is meeting the cost of the food, while Auckland Council is operating the contact centre to respond to calls for help and coordinating the supply, packaging and delivery of food.

“In particular we are trying to reach out to those who have suffered job losses because of the lockdown, to tide them over until their applications for income support are processed by state agencies,” Phil Goff said.

“We are also assisting groups such as the elderly and the disabled, who are unable to access supermarkets.

“Yesterday we dispatched 800 food parcels and today we will deliver an estimated 1500 packs to those in need. On average we expect to be delivering around 500 packs per day in the immediate future.

“Council workers at our telephone contact centre have been redeployed to take the calls, determining how the callers can best be helped, including with food support and referral to other agencies for specific help.

“Our staff have reported that many of the calls they have received are from people who have not asked for this sort of support before.

“It is really important that every family is able to put food on the table for their children at a time when unexpectedly they are facing financial hardship,” Phil Goff said.

“This is a practical expression of our commitment to help each other as we work through the crisis that our country faces. We are all in this together.

“I acknowledge the work that our council and Auckland Emergency Management staff and our partners at Countdown, Spark Arena and New Zealand Couriers are doing on the ground, and the support of the government for providing the financial means to make this possible,” the mayor said.

Auckland Emergency Management Group Controller Kate Crawford said the service is responding well, despite high demand.

“Pulling an operation of this size together in such a short space of time has been a logistical challenge, but one that the team has risen to.

“Although call volumes have been high, we are committed to helping Aucklanders who require our assistance at this time,” says Kate.

As of 7pm on Monday 6 April, approximately 3000 Aucklanders had contacted the service to request assistance. In addition to requests for the welfare parcels, the service has also fielded calls related to accommodation and the need for other government support services.

The basic food packages are available for Aucklanders who are unable to afford groceries or are in self-isolation with no access to other support networks. Those applying for the package will be assessed for eligibility when they phone in.

Auckland Emergency Management has worked with Countdown to source the contents of the parcels, which include tinned fruit, vegetables and fish, pasta, rice and basic toiletries. New Zealand Couriers is distributing the parcels to households across the Auckland region.

Our contact centre representatives are specially trained to talk to people about sensitive topics like (among other things) income, family or other support. If the person can explain that they are unable to shop for grocery items for one or many of these reasons, and that their need is for food items, their request will be processed.

Aucklanders who need to access the service can call the Auckland Emergency Management helpline on 0800 22 22 76. The helpline is open between 7am and 7pm, seven days a week.

© Scoop Media

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