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Salvation Army Urges Rent Freeze Reinstatement As Lockdown Struggles Worsen For Those Most In Need

The Salvation Army is calling on the Government to impose a freeze on rent increases as a practical way to ease the pain of lockdown.

The proposal is one of several in The Salvation Army’s new Covid-19 Lockdown Briefing released today that looks at food security and housing and practical measures to ease the burden of lockdown, which falls hardest on those already struggling the most. Since the March 2020 lockdown the number of people waiting for social housing has increased by 8200 and the number of those receiving welfare support is around 45,000 higher.

In the first week of lockdown this year the Army responded to an 84 percent increase in demand for emergency food parcels. Demand continues to grow. It is concentrated most heavily in Auckland, with most of the Army’s Foodbanks experiencing steady, and in some cases dramatic, increases in need.

The briefing illustrates the plight of those who most need help: many living in crowded and/or sub-standard housing in the private rental market, many are casual contract workers currently unable to work, and sole parent families—predominantly mothers with children. There is also a cohort who may have health or mobility challenges who are struggling to shop. Inequalities in internet and digital device access means many cannot shop online.

Since the first national Level 4 lockdown in March 2020, there have been major changes in how we address food insecurity issues. These include the significant expansion of Ka Ora Ka Ako healthy school lunches programme, and the government funding of three national partner organisations – the NZ Food Network, Kore Hiakai Zero Hunger Collective and the Aotearoa Food Rescue Alliance.

Despite these important changes, critical food insecurity issues for people and whānau persist. Food parcels distributed can be a measurement of the hardships people are facing.

Those with children, many of whom rely on the healthy lunches programme in schools, are struggling to afford enough food for their tamariki.

The Salvation Army will continue to monitor the sustainability of this provision if tighter lockdown restrictions continue. National and internal systems seem to be working well at this stage, indicating it is not a food crisis yet as there is enough to meet the demands. But this could change quickly.

This marked rise in food insecurity challenges is also illustrated in the enquiries to our 0800 helpline, which also point to a steady flow of people seeking help for our addiction treatment support, housing assistance and financial mentoring help in this lockdown. The Army questions the provision of online alcohol as an essential service during lockdown. This, and the ease of access to online gambling will likely see a spike in pressure on our addiction services in the months to come.

The 2021 Covid 19 lockdown briefing list of actions that could ease pressure during lockdown:

  • Bring forward the implementation of the April 2022 benefit increases with immediate effect
  • Implement immediate assistance to help families meet rents, such as through increased thresholds for housing special needs grants
  • Implement a freeze on rent increases, at least for Auckland for the duration of Levels 3 and 4 and beyond.
  • Ensure the Ministry of Education is connected and supporting families who usually receive their healthy school lunches programme. The funding has already been allocated to food support and should be used for these families
  • Ensure that migrant workers have full entitlement to the Emergency Benefit with MSD, following the end of the Manaaki Manuhiri programme.

To read the briefing from 6am, Thursday September 2, go here: https://www.salvationarmy.org.nz/covid19report

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