Region’s poverty level a jolt

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Helping hands . . . Presbyterian Support South Canterbury Family Works manager Liz Nolan (left) and whanau worker Toni Smith say the need for organisation's services, like food parcels, is increasing. PHOTO: GRETA YEOMAN

The level of poverty in South Canterbury remains under the radar for many, one social agency says.
Presbyterian Support South Canterbury Family Works manager Liz Nolan said while there were plenty of groups in the community supporting Presbyterian Support’s work, they were often surprised to learn about the level of poverty in the region.
The organisation had seen an increase in need for food parcels this year, 37 parcels having been distributed in November compared with 20 in November 2016, and 26 in October compared with 10 in October last year, she said.
The parcels supplemented families’ food supplies to tide them over until the next time they could afford food.
“[It is] just for getting through to payday.”
Mrs Nolan said buying food often came second to paying bills for many families.
“Food always [is] the one [expense] that gets left last.”
She thanked residents who supported the recent Toot for Tucker can drive, as many of the items from that were going into the more than 100 food parcels the organisation was making up for families over Christmas.
While the organisation’s Christmas food parcels would include a few festive treats, they were largely made up of staple items such as pasta, rice, canned food and toiletries, Mrs Nolan said.
PSSC’s clients included a quilting club making quilts for children, a group of rest-home residents who knitted baby booties and a Zonta group assisting grandparents supporting grandchildren, she said.
“It’s just the little things,” she said.
The summer holidays also put more pressure on parents because children were often at home and eating more and many activities came at a cost.
Mrs Nolan said many of the families the organisation supported were “amazing budgeters” who understood the things they could and could not afford.
But the flexibility in terms of time and money that many people took for granted was foreign to many South Canterbury families, and even small items such as colouring books were out of their reach.
Family Works whanau worker Toni Smith said that many of the clients she supported did not have cars so were reliant on public transport.
She also encouraged residents to support their neighbours with their time, if they could not afford to offer financial support.
She knew of a solo mother who could not take her children to the pool alone because she was not allowed to keep an eye on three children at once.
Ms Smith said the organisation’s Family Start programme, which launched in South Canterbury earlier this year, provided support to families, sometimes from pregnancy.
More than 80 families were being supported by the Family Start scheme.
Mrs Nolan said while many clients were referred to PSSC by doctors, the South Canterbury District Health Board, schools or other organisations, more than half its clients self-referred to the organisation.
Presbyterian Support marketing manager Katerina Tiscenko said the organisation’s programmes supported clients with multiple needs.
However, the size of the region and the variety of social services in the area had led to greater collaboration with different organisations.
“[Collaboration] is definitely a strength in South Canterbury.”