Community sector neglected by Govt during pandemic

The Government must re-establish the Community Sector Reference Group after neglecting the sector throughout the Covid lockdown, National’s Community and Voluntary Sector spokesperson Maureen Pugh says.

It’s been revealed through a written parliamentary question that the only engagement Community and Voluntary Sector Minister Priyanca Radhakrishnan had with the sector during the recent nationwide Level 4 lockdown was speaking at a church group’s virtual quarterly meeting.

“The Minister has failed to support the community sector when New Zealand needs it the most. Its leaders deserve an opportunity to voice their concerns for the sector to the Minister.

“It’s our volunteers and community groups who were key in keeping our vulnerable New Zealanders fed, sheltered and looked after during the lockdowns, but the Government has taken few measures to support them in doing this.”

In a 2020 survey of the community sector, 74 per cent of respondents reported a reduction or expected reduction in funding and 59 per cent indicated that they had to cut back on service delivery as a result of Covid-19, despite the increased demand.

“Throughout the March and April 2020 lockdown, the previous Minister formed the Community Sector Reference Group to meet with representatives from the sector and understand what government support they needed to sustain their essential services,” Ms Pugh says.

“Almost a year into her term as Minister Priyanca Radhakrishnan has taken minimal action to re-establish this group, and members of the 2020 group have had few opportunities to communicate their needs to her.”

Ms Pugh has written to the Minister asking her to urgently re-establish the Community Sector Reference Group to hear what additional support the sector needs to sustain its essential services to families in need.

“The community sector is under increased pressure, and they are not receiving the support they need,” Ms Pugh says.

“Food banks, emergency accommodation providers, and other essential community services are continuing to operate in Auckland’s prolonged lockdown, and additional support will be required to maintain services.

“The Government should be partnering with those who are looking after our most vulnerable so they know what they need to be able to make a difference in those lives.”

Answers to a Written Parliamentary Question can be found here. Survey referenced can be found here.