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Reforms Needed To Support Community Self-sufficiency In An Uncertain Future

The resilience and community spirit that came to the fore during the Covid-19 lockdowns must be backed up by strong Government support and reform, The Salvation Army says.

The sixth, and final Covid-19 Social Impact Dashboard tracks key social progress areas including food security, financial hardship, addictions, housing, incomes and employment, crime and punishment. The Salvation Army has again surveyed New Zealand communities and is calling on the Government to support long-term solutions to poverty, rather than encourage a reliance on ‘band-aid’ solutions such as food parcels and emergency welfare payments.

Of growing concern is the ‘sharp end’ of housing – homelessness, transitional and social housing –areas in which The Salvation Army operates. The Social Housing waiting list continues to quickly climb, reaching over 20,000 applicants in August 2020. Over the main Covid-19 lockdown periods, more than 3600 new applicants joined the waiting list – a 22 percent increase since our first Dashboard in early April 2020. Nearly half of these applicants are Māori, and 12 percent are Pacific, two groups disproportionately represented on this list.

The Salvation Army is doubling down on its calls for the Government to increase benefits and deliver liveable incomes. As Covid-19 subsidies come to an end, and with an expected 20 percent increase in calls for help with food and Christmas gifts this year, benefit increases are needed now.

Urgent action is needed on employment and training support for those most affected by the impacts of Covid-19: young people, especially younger Māori and Pasifika, and the regions and communities worst hit. The Government has so far only implemented some of the WEAG recommendations. More must be implemented.

While food parcel distribution for The Salvation Army has slightly decreased since the release of our last Dashboard – from 1794 in June to 1788 in November – food parcel distribution is still 30 percent higher than pre-Covid-19 levels. The Salvation Army welcomes MSD’s $21m allocation under the Community Food Response Grant Funding to support 131 community providers over the next two years. However, we continue to stress that long-term change that empowers communities should look towards a model that supports self-sufficiency rather than creating dependence on foodbanks.

As many New Zealanders face ongoing instability in employment and income levels, protections for them in the form of debt collection legislation and more investment in safer credit options are required.

Our centres are reporting increasing levels of stress and anxiety. In line with Budget 2020 commitments for more funding for addictions services, there needs to be stronger regulation of online gambling; investment in more early intervention and public health AOD services along with mental health worker support for NGO AOD treatment providers. In the wake of the cannabis referendum, a robust policy needs to be developed to determine what decriminalisation could like in New Zealand.

The Salvation Army is concerned that the number of remand prisoners is increasing, as is the average duration they are held in custody awaiting trial or for sentencing. We propose reforming the Bail Amendment Act and increasing funding for reintegration services, along with concerted efforts around Māori and the criminal justice system, in particular developing more practice with Māori, such as in the successful Ngā Kōti Rangatahi.

The sixth Salvation Army Covid-19 Social Impact Dashboard can be found here.

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