Welfare services 'at breaking point'

  • Breaking
  • 30/04/2012

By 3 News online staff

As the Salvation Army prepares to launch its annual Red Shield appeal, it says many of its welfare services are “approaching breaking point”.

The ongoing effects of the Christchurch earthquakes and the recession, combined with an increase in referrals from Government departments, have put pressure on the organisation’s services, it says.

The demand for food banks has risen by 70 percent since the start of the recession in 2008, and budget counselling is up 189 percent.

The same time period saw an increase of 94 percent in the caseloads of Salvation Army social workers overall, and those in the South Island division have seen an increase of more than 270 percent.

Secretary for social services Major Pam Waugh says this year’s appeal “will be the most critical… in decades” if the organisation hopes to maintain its current service levels.

Changes to welfare policy and Housing New Zealand are expected to increase the demand for social work services, budgeting, and emergency housing.

Unmanageable debt is the main problem for families who seek assistance from the organisation, Major Waugh says, as “fragile family budgets” buckle under increased living costs and a stagnant job market.

“No matter how frugal these families are, parents face the tough choices of paying the rent – often eating up 70 per cent or more of the household budget – or feed the family for the week, pay school costs or the power,” she says.

“If food wins over rent, then they face eviction and homelessness, and this is what we are seeing daily.”
The Salvation Army’s South Island head of social services, Major Mike Allwright, says “demand has soared” across the South Island following the Christchurch earthquakes.

Major Allwright says the ongoing effects of the quakes, combined with the slow economy, mean a reduced need for welfare services is unlikely in the next two years.

3 News

source: newshub archive