Lisa Woolley, CEO of VisionWest Community Trust responded to the budget by saying, “We are pleased to see the Government’s response for those most in need in our community at this time, many of whom have never before experienced such financial and wellbeing challenges. We have noted a significant increase of need, particularly in the areas of housing, food insecurity, employment and financial mentoring, and it’s in these areas that VisionWest welcomes the continued partnership with Government to work towards alleviating food insecurity, homelessness and distress and working towards wellbeing, hope and transformation for whānau throughout New Zealand.”
VisionWest Community Trust appreciates the challenges facing the Government and all New Zealanders at this time. We recognise the stresses that many whānau are currently facing, and recognise the Government’s attempts to address many of those through the 2020 Budget.
Of the many spending initiatives revealed in the Budget, VisionWest are especially interested in those that line up with those community services that we currently provide. These initiatives include:
- An eight-week extension to the wage subsidy scheme for those businesses worst hit.
- $5 billion for the building of 8,000 new houses over the next four to five years. This will include about 6,000 public houses and 2,000 transitional homes through Kāinga Ora and other housing agencies.
- Almost $80 million to social services, of which $32 million will go towards foodbanks and other community food services.
- $9.7 million for a MSD service to build financial capability of vulnerable people.
- $1.6 billion for the entire Trades and Apprenticeships Training Package which will also help workplaces retain their trainees.
- An additional $833 million will be invested over the next five years in disability support.
- $414.2 million for the Early Learning Sector, including funding subsidies, pay increases for educators, additional support for home-based educators and investment in playcentre sustainability
- $36 million fund has been established to support community groups that support Māori, Pacific, refugee and migrant communities.
Housing and homelessness
The provision of 8,000 new houses over the next four to five years is a positive move. The hope of VisionWest is two-fold. First, we see it as important that the financing for these homes is spread amongst the Community Housing sector as well as Kāinga Ora. This would help ensure that the homeless and most vulnerable can be, not only housed, but properly supported as they transition into what, for them, is often an unfamiliar way of living.
Second, we acknowledge the importance of the increase in the provision of 8,000 houses, we know, however, that this provision will need to be significantly increased to provide a solution to the current housing crisis in New Zealand.
We were pleased to see that there was a pre-budget (April 26, 2020) funding increase of $107.6 million to house the homeless through the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond. Of this $31 million will be put towards wrap-around services for people’s needs – a move that lines up with the values of VisionWest.
VisionWest supports the provision of $32million which has been allocated to foodbanks and other community food services, including food rescue. The Government’s acknowledgement of community need in this area is positive and comes at an important time given the rise in the demands of foodbanks. We would want to acknowledge that we have already had a positive response from Government as we have sought to answer the need of food insecurity in our community during this Covid time.
The Covid event has exposed the precarious nature of the personal finances of many New Zealanders. Within days of the lockdown announcement, the number of whānau supported by VisionWest’s Pātaka Kai (food service) had grown significantly. Between March 23 and May 1, the Pātaka Kai had:
- Grown from supporting 350 households, to over 1,100 households.
- Packed and delivered over 4,800 food parcels to the doors of community recipients – 18,000 people fed (including over 8,000 children).
- Distributed over $732,000 worth of food.
- Collaborated with 17 other community organisations to ensure the food was collected, packaged and distributed (while adhering to all Ministry of Health Level 4 regulations).
- The support of over 70 volunteers who generously gave over 2,200 hours of labour.
These figures will not immediately decrease following the return to Level 1. The economic impact of Covid will be felt by the vulnerable in our communities long after it has passed as many businesses struggle to return to the production and income levels of pre-Covid New Zealand.
The Covid event has forced a relook at the way we respond to the challenge of food insecurity in our communities. While greater funding is critical at this time, another very real challenge it to look ahead to how we can plot a course that will lead our whānau to a place where they are able to once again know financial independence. That goes beyond merely supplying food—VisionWest believes in journeying with people to connect them to other supports that will provide the skills, knowledge and inspiration that will empower them to transform their lives.
VisionWest Budgeting Service is seeing a noticeable rise in enquiries relating to Covid-19 financial stress. This new cohort of clients will include people who have never before been in a position of financial distress and, therefore, will bring an added counselling and reassurance dimension to the support that needs to be provided.
We appreciate the Government’s acknowledgement of this community need by the Budget provision of $9.7 million towards financial capability. VisionWest Budgeting, and budgeting services like it, will welcome this support in the coming months to deal with the increasing demand on their services.
VisionWest supports the Government’s emphasis on employment and acknowledges that getting people into viable work is a huge step towards ensuring whānau wellbeing. As an employment provider, we will continue to provide employment for young people in our community and appreciate any support that may be provided to further this service.
Support for Māori
A $36 million fund has been established to support community groups that support Māori, Pacific, refugee and migrant communities. VisionWest recognises the needs of all communities including Māori and is appreciative of the Government’s commitment to this.
Fred Astle, Head of Māori Service Development at VisionWest, says, “Kōkiri (to champion): This bold new budget also comes out of listening to the voice of Māori towards championing the needs and aspirations of our people through investing in new educational opportunities, lifting healthcare outcomes for whānau, new employment pathways, housing. It is about investing in the future of Māori now because when you invest in one, you invest in the many.”
Education and Training
Likewise, any help that can be given to improve education and training, particularly of our young people, is a positive step. The Budget pledged $1.6 billion for the Trades and Apprenticeships Training Package which will also help workplaces retain their trainees. This is not likely to impact our Training Centre greatly.
Money was also pledged for job creation. Much of this was in what the Government termed, ‘the environmental sector,’ meaning jobs such as pest eradication and Department of Conservation initiatives. Once again, outside of our ETC programme.
The $414.2 million given to the Early Learning Sector, may mean future hiring of teachers becomes a little easier.
An additional $833 million is to be invested over the next five years in disability support. The impact of this on the home healthcare sector and our Home Healthcare service is unknown.
VisionWest appreciates the Government’s commitment to New Zealand’s post-Covid recovery and recognises the time and financial input this will require. Lisa Woolley says, “We are expecting a tsunami of requests for help across every one of our services. During Covid, the major needs involved emergency responses, predominantly in the areas of housing and food provision. Post-Covid, we expect this to continue, but with the added challenges of providing financial mentoring, counselling and employment. All funding provided by the Government will be well-used for the wellbeing of whānau in our community.”