Government failing vulnerable Kiwis in emergency housing

Reports from the Director-General of Health that people in emergency housing have tested positive for Delta is an indictment of the Government’s lack of pandemic preparedness, says National’s Social Development and Employment spokesperson Louise Upston.

“People in emergency housing are some of the most at-risk New Zealanders. Women, Māori and young parents are over-represented, living in close quarters, often sharing kitchens, bathrooms and laundries in emergency housing.

“People are often shift between rooms and in and out of motels, as the Director-General pointed out yesterday.

“It doesn’t take an epidemiologist to work out that Covid could easily spread in premises used for emergency housing – most often motels.

“A Government properly prepared for an outbreak of Covid would have taken steps to help those in emergency housing get vaccinated and have strong oversight to promote compliance with alert level restrictions.

“That is why I raised these concerns with the Government at the start of the lockdown in August.

“I asked the Government, including Minsters in-person, if they knew the vaccination status of those in emergency housing, assistance provided for people to be tested for Covid and compliance with alert levels rules was monitored.

“Bafflingly, Minister Carmel Sepuloni could not even specify what basic precautions were taken, beyond a generic answer that the health of those in emergency housing was ‘prioritised’. 

“We’re now told that in recent days health workers have visited emergency housing to test people. However, if the health of those in emergency housing was really a priority such actions should have happened much earlier.

“For months National has called on the Government to implement basic precaution to improve the safety of vulnerable people in emergency housing. They are still not using information from the Gang Intelligence Centre, despite being told in May they could so.

“The Government’s failure to foresee that Covid could cause havoc in emergency housing has exposed people already at a greater risk of harm.

“It’s time the Government started to look after people in emergency housing and provide care, rather than placing them into unsafe environments without taking basic precautions.”

You can read a transcript from the Social Services and Community Committee here.