WelCom December 2017: The Archdiocese’s Catholic Social Services have again partnered with the Hutt Valley Benefit Education Service Trust (BEST) to organise a ‘Benefit Impact’ information event. This second Benefit Impact was held at St Bernadette’s Church Hall in Naenae, of Te Awakairangi parish, during the week of 14–17 November 2017. It was timed to lead up to Pope Francis’ first World Day of the Poor, Sunday 19 November.
The Benefit Impact invited beneficiaries, superannuitants and others on low-incomes to check their benefit entitlements with trained advocates.
Parishioners of Te Awakairangi parish, welcomed beneficiaries and benefit advocates. About 65 households were given help and advice with their benefits or superannuation. They discussed matters such as support for housing applications, disability allowance, unsupported child’s benefit and issues with core benefits. Many of those seeking assistance were aged over 65.
BEST Coordinator Teresa Homan said the warm and welcoming atmosphere created by the parish helped people to open up and talk about matters that can be personal and difficult.
‘Volunteers said people were arriving stressed and anxious, and were leaving with visibly lighter spirits, even if their situation was not able to be immediately resolved.’
Each day began with Mass at St Bernadette’s Church. Blessing the Benefit Impact week, Cardinal John Dew said the Archdiocese was holding the event in the lead-up to Pope Francis’ First World Day of the Poor because beneficiary households are among the most vulnerable in New Zealand.
‘Many people on benefits feel they have to make impossible choices among essentials – whether to pay for the power bill, the rent or warm clothes – while other New Zealanders are sheltered from this reality. The empty cupboards of beneficiary households are not visible from the streets to the casual passer-by.’
Cardinal John encouraged participants to make real Pope Francis’ encouragement in Laudato Si’ – that weaving bonds of community and solidarity can turn what can be a hell on earth into the setting for a dignified life.