WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Beneficiaries struggling to make ends meet says Vinnies social worker

Nov08Seward2835.jpg The unemployment benefit no longer covers the basic needs of many families, particularly if they are living in private rental accommodation.
Trish Heward of St Vincent de Paul says 99 percent of her clients are beneficiaries struggling to manage on a meagre benefit.
‘I have one woman with four children who is paying $300 a week in rent. Nine months ago she applied for a Housing New Zealand house but is still waiting.’
St Vincent de Paul helps her with weekly food parcels.
‘Otherwise, she gets behind with the rent because she’ll use the rent money for food.’
In a joint venture, Catholic Social Services employs Trish Heward as a social worker to work with people who approach St Vincent de Paul when they don’t have enough money for food.
Trish insists that the recipients of the charity’s food parcels must set up a weekly budget and work with her to watch their expenditure.
‘It may not change anything but it makes a huge difference when people see on paper where their money’s going.’
Also when people ask for clothing or furniture, Trish interviews them to find out whether their circumstances can be improved.
‘I always check out people’s benefits to make sure they’re getting what they’re entitled to. Someone might say they or their child are suffering from asthma. Do they get a disability allowance?
‘We want people to respect themselves and not to rely on other people.
‘I believe in educating people about their benefits and the addons they can get—accommodation supplement, disability allowances, temporary additional support and other special benefits.’
They also need to know that Work and Income will redirect their rent and their power if a beneficiary asks for this service.
People on low incomes tend to have a range of health issues which need frequent medical attention.
‘It is very hard when people come in here and say they don’t have the money to get a prescription filled.’
Financial struggle has a dreadful effect on family life, Trish Heward says.
‘The adults get sick—I had one woman whose hair started falling out. Sometimes they turn to drink, drugs or gambling just to forget about it. That’s sad when they so desperately need the money for food.’
This makes life more difficult for the children who sometimes go to school without lunches.
This is a difficult society to live in when so much is offered on television, interest free for a year. People will go out and buy without looking ahead to the day they must pay for it. ‘That’s when they start getting into trouble.’