Timaru’s support services could face a second wave of support seekers just in time for the holidays, as Covid 19 income relief comes to an end.
The Salvation Army was already awash with people needing help, but the organisation was bracing for increased demand as people were starting to find their cupboards bare, Salvation Army Timaru corps envoy Lynda Bright said.
Among those needing help were families using the food bank for the first time, Mrs Bright said.
One parent in a two›parent family she had helped this month lost their job at the freezing works because of Covid 19.
Their budgeting had been on track, but the lost wages had pushed their bank account to the limit.
‘‘They’re new, they’ve been hit by loss of hours, reduced hours. ‘‘If we can give them lunch, or food, it just relieves that pressure so they can pay their bills.’’
The charity’s Toot for Tucker food drive had been successful this month, but the charity needed more, including canned food.
The annual toy drive would start shortly so the organisation could provide toys along with Christmas hampers to those they had been supporting during the year.
The Salvation Army estimated 151,000 New Zealanders would be unemployed over the holidays and the demand for the support it provided was expected to increase 20% nationally. Mrs Bright said the same increase was expected in Timaru.
As Government Covid 19 subsidies started to run out for those with lost income, other support services spoken to by the Timaru Courier were all feeling the pressure.
Presbyterian Support Service South Canterbury Family Works manager Liz Nolan said as the holidays approached an already unprecedented increase in demand for services was stretching resources thin at the organisation’s Timaru office.
After lockdown ended there had been an extraordinary number of inquiries, Mrs Nolan said.
A typical 25 inquiries a month into the services available in Timaru had doubled to 50 inquiries each month over the past three months.
The number of referrals at the organisation had also doubled to about 50 a month over the same time, she said.
Additional funding had secured two extra full›time social workers at the Timaru office. One new staff member joined on November 17, and another was expected to start shortly.
There had been an increase in referrals in November in past years ‘‘but this is different’’, Mrs Nolan said.
‘‘It’s definitely related to Covid and the added pressures coming on to people now.’’
St Vincent de Paul shop committee chairman John O’Neill said volunteers were concerned about what the end of the wage subsidy might mean for some large families.
The help St Vincent de Paul provided typically increased over the holidays and the months after.
The discretionary money it had was largely due to the fact it had only two paid employees, a cleaner and a manager, and it relied on 31 volunteers to continue operating, Mr O’Neill said.
With St Vincent de Paul’s loans paid off, the money it raised went straight into programmes such as its new dental assistance programme, he said.
Yet, there were tell›tale signs of a difference this year as the charity kept tabs on those it helped. The concern volunteers had was what would happen from here on in as the effects ofthe Covid 19 lockdown continued.
At present, St Vincent de Paul volunteers were giving out fewer food parcels than this time last year, but the parcels they were giving out were larger, Mr O’Neill said.