The Government has announced an extension of its health and wellness support package to small businesses across New Zealand until June 2024.
Small Business Minister, Stuart Nash said the First Steps platform has had over 70,000 Auckland-based users reporting positive results.
“The last couple of years have been extremely difficult for small businesses in New Zealand, and I’m very pleased that the ‘First Steps’ programme will now be available to those outside the Auckland region, providing mental health and wellness resources tailored to businesses,” Mr Nash said.
“We’ve heard from small business owners and employees that operating throughout the pandemic has resulted in increased feelings of stress and isolation, which has had significant negative impacts on mental wellbeing.”
First Steps offers preventative support for business owners, managers, and employees that aims to reduce the number of those in crisis by providing a variety of tools, resources, and perspectives.
“There are an estimated 546,000 small businesses here in New Zealand and up to 1.2 million individuals who are owners or employees. Rolling out First Steps across the country will mean that they all get access to Government-funded mental health and wellbeing tools to support them as they recover from the pandemic,” said Mr Nash.
“Our recovery not only relies on economic performance – equally important is the mental health and wellbeing of all Kiwis. It’s clear this is a much-needed service to help our business community.
“Small businesses are an essential part of our economy, represented right across different industries and regions – including tradespeople, dairy farmers, retail and café owners. Our Government is committed to making sure these mental health and wellbeing tools are tailored to the different audiences to provide maximum support.”
Rural Communities Minister, Damien O’Connor said the move will be important across the provinces.
“Rural communities are a fabric woven together by small businesses. It’s important when it is needed by individuals, that help with mental health is available because it helps with rural resilience,” he said.
“I commend the Auckland Business Chamber, the EMA, and all the partners who developed the First Steps platform. Because of this work, New Zealand is one of few countries that developed mental health resources to support the small business sector during this time of crisis.”