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Covid-19 Amplifies Challenges For Struggling Canterbury Families

Already struggling families in Canterbury are now increasingly vulnerable as a result of Covid-19. Cholmondeley Children’s Centre has re-opened its doors at Level 3 to support vulnerable children and whānau who are dealing with critical issues exacerbated by social isolation and a lack of support networks.

Through regular online and phone contact with families during lockdown, Cholmondeley has identified 30 vulnerable children from 15 families who need immediate respite support at Level 3.

Arron Perriam, Chief Executive explains that this urgent support need is just the tip of the iceberg.

“The tamariki we’ve welcomed to Cholmondeley at Level 3 are children who already needed a high level of support pre-Covid. The issues their families are facing have been amplified and we know that this is the case for many more local whānau we work with. We are expecting a strong and long-term demand for our services as the impacts of Covid-19 continue,” he says.

Children stay at Cholmondeley for a variety of reasons, including family harm, financial difficulties, mental and physical health challenges within the family, bereavement, and other ongoing stressors for whānau. As a result of Covid-19, Perriam says that Cholmondeley is supporting families facing a range of new or intensified challenges.

“Challenges we’re seeing for whānau include increased loneliness and anxiety among children and their caregivers, increased pressure to educate and entertain children within overcrowded housing, and children who are developing addictions to technology due to a lack of social interaction,” he says.

Families are also increasingly experiencing financial challenges and difficulty accessing food and other essential items, while under the added stressor of being cut off from their adult support networks.

Cholmondeley is anticipating long-term impacts on whānau as a result of Covid-19. Perriam explains that the Canterbury earthquakes are an example of the length and breadth of issues that can impact whānau following a crisis.

“We know that the stressors of a widespread crisis will have an impact on families in the months and years to come. Without the usual support of family, friends, schools and services, families are struggling to cope. We expect that mental health and other underlying health needs within whānau will continue to be exacerbated and that complex behavioural needs may increase placing added pressure on families,” he says.

The Covid-19 lockdown has also impacted Cholmondeley financially, with the organisation having to cancel its key fundraising event of the year: Little Gems Awareness Month. Tanya Cooke, Cholmondeley’s Fundraising and Marketing Manager says the organisation is experiencing a reduction of donations from businesses and individuals in general, and has now been unable to hold any of its planned events and street appeal.

“We are 80 percent community funded, and we rely on local support to help families through times of crisis. It’s crucial we partner with the community to provide a safe haven for Canterbury children,” she says.

At Level 4, Cholmondeley closed its doors, but the team continued to support whānau online through an interactive Facebook page with videos and activities for children, as well as making over 400 support calls through the lockdown.

The organisation offers short-term planned respite and emergency care for up to 500 children aged 3-12 each year. Whānau can access this support in times of stress or crisis to help them re-focus on wellbeing within the family.

Donations to Cholmondeley can be made at: www.cholmondeley.org.nz/support-us/donate/

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