The Government has announced that it is updating its Care in the Community (CiC) response as the number of households needing support to safely self-isolate with COVID-19 falls.
“Our Government has continued to act swiftly in responding to Omicron. Our immediate and ongoing efforts have been focused on supporting people and whānau to safely self-isolate, and providing social, wellbeing and food support to them and their households,” said Minister for Social Development and Employment, Carmel Sepuloni.
“We’ve worked hard to slow the spread of Omicron, and our Government’s response is showing to have paid dividends with a drop in demand for support.”
Now, with higher rates of vaccination coverage, the Ministry can pivot its response and support a broader range of circumstances for people who have been significantly impacted by COVID-19 requirements, she said.
“Our post-peak plan focuses on continuing to use the tools that have helped us to slow the spread of COVID, while also continuing to move forward. As part of our transition beyond the Omicron peak, we’re providing confidence and certainty to social service organisations and foodbanks who have worked tirelessly to support their local communities, whānau and people.”
The Minister said foodbanks had worked effectively alongside Government in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“That’s why we’re continuing to provide them with some financial relief as we look to return to greater normality, but also as we look to broaden our efforts to strengthen food security in Aotearoa New Zealand.”
“Partnering with and empowering the community food sector has been integral in keeping up with demand in local communities, and it’s an approach that we know has worked. After responding to multiple resurgences and Omicron, this transition and the support we’re providing will be an important opportunity to reset and assess the future needs of the sector.”
She said that with the possible resurgence of new COVID variants, further work was required on a longer-term strategy to strengthen community resilience.
“This means looking at the role of the Community Connection Service and a plan for community food provision.”
“With 500 Community Connectors around the country, the Community Connection Service has been a vital link to support the needs of people self-isolating. We’ll be continuing to fund this service, underlining the role they play in communities across the motu, while also enabling them to help people with broader COVID-related issues like supporting people with high and complex needs with employment or education support.
“In addition to other CiC support available to all New Zealanders, we’re also ring-fencing support specifically for disabled communities.”
The Minister said COVID-19 had exposed the existing vulnerabilities and inequalities that disabled people face in their everyday lives.
“This ring-fenced funding has been created as a response to the conversations both myself and officials have been having with the disability community. The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) will work directly with the disability community to determine the best options for specific support for disabled people in line with the ‘nothing about us without us’ approach.
“Where we are at now is very different to where we were two years ago. We now have higher rates of vaccinations, greater data, and more tools in the tool box to help us slow the spread of Omicron. As we undertake our post-peak plan and transition to a greater normality, our response will continue to place people at the heart of it and ensure we’re leaving no-one behind,” Ms Sepuloni said.
She said Government would continue to keep an eye on the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 in communities and be ready to reassess the CiC welfare response again, including the Community Connection Service, if required for a further Omicron wave or a new variant.
Current Care in the Community welfare support will remain in place until the legislative requirement to self-isolate is lifted. This funding covers a transitional period up to June 2023.