News | 28 July 2020
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Survey shows challenges faced by community services during lockdown

The COVID-19 lockdown forced most people indoors, but those on the frontline saw a number of challenges supporting the more vulnerable communities according to a recent survey.

Image of Kaibosh team social distancing on site during Covid-19 lockdown
Kaibosh social isolating during COVID-19 lockdown

Community Networks Wellington (CNW) recently commissioned the survey to look at the challenges and issues the social services and at risk experienced during the lockdown alert levels, and what can be done to support them now and in the future.

Of the 33 member organisations, the survey showed that 33,806 New Zealanders were assisted during lockdown, and while there was positive news there was also cause for concern.

Where philanthropic grants dropped dramatically during lockdown, this was picked up by local and central Government funding, plus the well known generosity of Wellingtonians.

Other key areas of concern included financial and employment insecurity, staffing resources in high areas of demand, technological obstacles, with mental health, isolation and well-being also mentioned.

The survey identified key issues that must be addressed as Wellington moves out of lockdown, and the specific areas of support the sector needs now and in the future, says CNW co-chair, Julia Hennessy.

“We conducted the survey to better understand the challenges our members have faced over COVID-19, and to understand how we can best support them as we move into our new normal.

“According to the CNW members, there was a significant increase in collaboration as well as an overall improvement in communication between social organisations in Wellington. We saw a strengthening of established relationships within the community as well as the formation of new inter-organisational relationships.

“Gaps in our communities included the importance of digital inclusion – given a high proportion of service users don’t have easy access to technology. This gave community services a challenge, but also an opportunity to provide services in a different way.”

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Wellington City Council allocated $1.553 million to support social and community agencies with the recovery – with funding going to 73 projects around the city.

Mayor Andy Foster says while many of the challenges we encountered during lockdown and the alert levels has decreased, the issues with at risk communities still remain – and those numbers may grow as we head into uncertain times.

“We have been working closely with community groups to ensure they have the resources, skills and capability to learn from the challenges they faced and adapt their services where necessary to fit the new environment.

“Our communication and connections has been made stronger by the recent experiences, and the benefits of those relationships will flow on to those who need it the most.”

Prior to COVID-19, social services had resources and access to those with high levels of need. During lockdown, many of those, and others with more moderate needs could’ve slipped under the radar if it wasn’t for these organisations, says Well-being Portfolio leader Councillor Fleur Fitzsimons.

“Given the extreme circumstances of the lockdown there was always a risk that some vulnerable members of our community may be missed. The remarkable collaboration, communication and passion within all these organisations meant there was overwhelming and accessible support all around the city.

“Wellington City Council was able to support these groups with resources, funding and by developing the Support Services Map, providing contacts and information for support and essential services in the community.”

Community Network Wellington receives around $60,000 funding from City Council, Wellington Community Trust and the Community Organisation Grants Scheme.