With the cost of living increasing rapidly in New Zealand, alongside health issues magnified by Covid-19 and influenza, non-profit organisations in Central Otago want to ensure residents are accessing all the help they are eligible for.
Alexandra Community House manager Carole Gillions said a good starting point for anyone with access to a computer was the Work and Income New Zealand ‘‘check what you might get’’ page.
‘‘It’s confidential and can be done really quickly,’’ she said.
‘‘If you don’t fit the criteria, there’s an opportunity to go to budgeting services.’’
Central Otago Budgeting Services office manager/coordinator Pam Hughes has worked for the service for 24 years and said its caseloads had gone up since Covid.
‘‘We are seeing a lot more clients with health issues, and a lot more elderly in the 70s-plus group,’’ she said.
The service not only helps people to better budget their incomes, but runs a 10-week budgeting programme with Central Otago REAP, helps people transitioning from work to a benefit or superannuation, and can connect people with other agencies for support.
‘‘No client is impossible,’’ she said. ‘‘So long as the client is honest with us, we can help.’’
Ms Gillions said it could be a huge task for people to ask for help, but she would encourage them to do it sooner rather than later.
Alexandra Community House also helps residents of Maniototo and the Teviot Valley, and Mrs Hughes travels to Roxburgh once a month to offer budgeting services there.
The Wanaka Community Hub is home to Community Networks Wanaka/LINK, and is the Upper Clutha’s one-stop community support and connection centre.
It provides a gateway for residents to access free information and support from government agencies, financial advisers, legal aid and social work services.
It also co-ordinates a food bank and Meals on Wheels, mobility services and a community bus service connecting locals to Dunstan and Dunedin hospitals.
Community development coordinator Joanna Perry said Community Networks Wanaka/ LINK worked alongside local social service providers and the community to identify and address gaps in provision, develop and support projects to meet community needs, and support community groups with advice and funding.
Other providers that offer a range of services include Presbyterian Support Otago (PSO) and the Salvation Army.
PSO communications and external relations manager Sally Knox said the organisation’s Family Works team covered Wanaka, Cromwell, Alexandra, Roxburgh, Omakau, Ranfurly ‘‘and all the little places inbetween’’.
Services offered were social work, financial mentoring, a buddy programme to mentor young children, group programmes for young people and parents, and low- or nointerest loans. All could be accessed by calling the PSO’s toll-free number.
Salvation Army Alexandra community ministries coordinator Bess Carbines said in addition to taking part in the Combined Churches Foodbank, offering vegetable coupons, firewood and growing produce at Eden Garden in Dunstan Rd, the organisation had a range of support programmes available.
Those included court and prison support, a support group for those struggling with addiction, advocacy services and overnight accommodation.