‘People in Wellington need a rocket’

Anger as Ministry lets people ‘fall through the gaps’

Details about Waipā residents in need of help during last year’s lockdown have been wiped from the council’s emergency database because of Privacy Act regulations.

Emergency management coordinator Cathie Shaw says that means they are unable to help people they know might need help during the current lockdown.

Speaking to the Cambridge Community Board meeting last week, Shaw said unlike last year when the Waikato Civil Defence Emergency Management group led social and welfare responses to the lockdown, it was the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) who were leading it this time.

“We’ve been told to stay in our lane,” she said.

As a result, the group had not had one single referral from the ministry, she said.

“Our role has been monitoring and liaising.”

Shaw said she felt there were many people who did not like to ring the ministry because there was a stigma attached to doing so.

“The government has made it very clear that’s what they’ve put in place. People are falling through the gaps, but we can’t advertise to go and find them because it’s not our gig.”

The Ministry of Social Development’s 0800 559 009 line is open for support.

Jo Davies-Colley

Board member Jo Davies-Colley, who represents the board on the Social Services committee, said there had been a small increase for food support, minimal reports of family harm and a small number of requests for emergency accommodation support.

Shaw said the Salvation Army had also provided 33 food parcels in the first week of lockdown.

Board chair Sue Milner was frustrated by the decision to wipe last year’s records which would help community groups know who might need support this lockdown.

Sue Milner

Sue Milner

“The people in Wellington need a rocket. There’s got to be a way around this. Perhaps we’re going to have to get a bit bolshy around the town.”

A buddy system used last year was one of the strengths of the Cambridge response, she said.

“We probably do have some people in the community who aren’t even linked to Age Concern and other organisations.”

It was important to “get the word out” that people needing help should contact MSD, she said.

In her report to the board, Milner said the latest lockdown was hard for the elderly and for families.

“We all need patience now, as we hope that things will get better, and we probably need a good dose of optimism.”

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