Stories Family Service Centre Stories Covid 19: Social Services Responding to Families in Crisis “Meeting the complex needs of low-income communities takes more than just one community group,” says Starsim Simeki, Social Services team leader at Papakura Family Service Centre. “It takes all of the different community groups networking together. Different groups specialise in different areas. Our Family Service Centres are known in the community for our counselling services. Ours is one of the few free counselling services out there,” Simeki says. Since the Covid crisis began, the Family Service Centre teams have been busier than ever, trying to keep up with demand. “The stress of lockdowns on families means that people who had never before been on the radar of social services started asking for help,” Simeki says. “I’ve had people tell me how belittling they found the WINZ process – it impacts on their mana being one of thousands in line, desperate. There has been a massive increase in the number of families needing food support. Foodbanks have ‘upped their criteria’ because they can’t service everyone… entire schools have had to start offering free breakfasts and lunches.” According to data released by NZ Police - there has been a significant increase in family harm “callouts” with the Northland and Counties/Manukau regions having the highest statistics. “We know that there are cases going unreported at the moment, it could be harder for people to call for help, as the person who harms them is constantly close by. Living in close quarters with people that we love can test the patience of most of us at times," Police Superintendent Natasha Allan told Te Ao in April 2020. During last year’s lockdown our team began to receive Family Harm referrals from Police. As part of our response to this demand, we have added a new Family Violence specialist to our team. Our SWiS (Social Work in Schools) team is also expanding, with two new schools coming on board. Unfortunately, children feel the impact of the pressure their parents are under. Even though the Level Four lockdown was a year ago, there is a “long tail” of impact, not helped by the uncertainty created by ongoing lockdowns. “Covid is still impacting our communities. We offer more home visits because people feel safer staying in their bubble. We have even done an initial assessment standing in someone’s front yard. There is high anxiety and fear which affects people,” Simeki says.