Blockades push families and migrants to the brink – defenders

The lockdowns and restrictions have driven some families and groups to the bone financially, and the government must offer better support to people on the verge of poverty, according to social support groups.

Photo: 123rf

Child Poverty Action Group spokeswoman Janet McAllister said restriction rules to stop the spread of Covid-19 meant many families were facing bigger bills and some were struggling.

Although the lockdown has lasted longer for Auckland -Tāmaki Makaurau, families across the country have been stretched and many have taken on higher debt to cope.

She said benefit increases last year were completely eaten away by inflation. And increasing government funding for food banks was not a solution to families’ central problem of lack of money.

“We know that disadvantaged families and whānau across the country will always try to catch up with the high bills that will continue to be felt.

“Or they may have gone into debt and we’re worried that this may be long term for people who just don’t have room in their budget to absorb these costs.”

An earlier report from the group found that about 18,000 additional children may have been pushed into poverty by the effects of the pandemic, for the year through March.

Bernie Smith.

Bernie Smith, Managing Director of Monte Cecilia Housing.
Photo: RNZ / Charlie Dreaver

Monte Cecilia Housing Trust works with 2,700 families in 590 properties across West and South Auckland.

Its managing director Bernie Smith said many clients had lost their casual or part-time jobs.

“What the wider community needs to understand – and probably needs a little paradigm shift in the direction of empathy for these families – is that they are already in crisis, so [this] adds to the crisis in which they are already living “.

Smith said the government has focused on keeping businesses alive during the pandemic and there has been no increase in support for families.

A lawyer representing Chinese construction workers stranded in New Zealand said many were suffering financial hardship.

May Moncur helped four workers laid off during last year’s lockdown and left destitute.

But she said others had contacted her in recent weeks and found themselves in even worse situations because they did not have valid work visas.

Workers like these have been forced to take paid jobs to survive and are vulnerable to exploitation, she said.

“They are constantly afraid of being [found out] because of their immigration status, and also they are constantly in distress regarding their financial situation. “

She said many had gone into debt to come to New Zealand and could not afford to return home.

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