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QLDC Looks Back At Emergency Welfare Assistance Response

Since the government’s nationwide lockdown began in March, Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) has provided emergency welfare assistance to thousands of people across the Queenstown Lakes District.

QLDC’s Emergency Operations Centre Response Team grew to include 62 core QLDC staff, two Otago Regional Council (ORC) staff, over 80 volunteers and five contractors. While the focus is now on recovery operations, it’s important to recognise the significant impact the EOC team has had over the past several months.

On 26 March, QLDC launched the Supermarket Scheme which led to 7,500 people registering for food, clothes, firewood, blankets etc. As of last week, QLDC had provided in excess of $1.5m worth of support, which is being claimed back from the government’s $30m National Emergency Management Agency Fund.

At its peak, an average of 415 welfare assessment calls were made daily over the course of the lockdown. While this number has since declined the team is still receiving between 200-250 registrations for welfare support per day.

Overall, 113 QLDC staff and volunteers have been involved with the direct welfare response so far, with additional vital assistance from voluntary and social sector agencies. This includes two teams of 40 volunteer callers (80 in total) that have been working two days on, two days off, with many coming from Volunteering Central, Red Cross and QLDC. Additionally, with coordination from the Salvation Army, 18 agencies have met regularly to deal with the provision of household goods and services.

In order to ensure only legitimate claims were processed, QLDC’s business analyst team built a welfare software system that launched at the end of April. This took a team of six staff 878 hours in total delivering a streamlined and more efficient system.

As of last week, local iwi had delivered over 100 care packs to whānau between Glenorchy and Lake Hāwea, and south to Kingston. Another 60 are being delivered this week and the group, which is led by Darren Rewi, estimates it will deliver 60 packs a week for the foreseeable future.

On 8 May a new process for the funding of accommodation and utility costs was launched. The financial risk and processing has been carried by Otago CDEM but is seamlessly accessed via QLDC’s website. By the end of its first week a team of seven people had processed 132 claims.

This assistance is available for everyone, both migrants and those Kiwis that have exhausted welfare options and still can’t pay their rent or power.

Though the focus is now on recovery, the welfare effort is still ongoing. Further details on welfare assistance can be found on QLDC’s website here: https://www.qldc.govt.nz/community/emergency-management/covid-19/welfare-assistance

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