18 Apr 2023

Looming recession sees number of people needing help from support services rise

From Checkpoint, 5:07 pm on 18 April 2023

Budgeting services are worried a looming recession will push more people into financial hardship at a time when their own services are stretched.

Auckland's Māngere Budgeting Services Trust said the number of people seeking its help had risen by 30 per cent in the past year.

And there was a two week wait to get a slot at Auckland Central Budgeting, where an extra staff member has been brought in.

Its general manager Tim Maurice said they were seeing twice the number of people a week as last year.

"It's really difficult because people ring up, we know they're desperate and we want to fit them in but we just don't have the time and space at the moment to do that."

Maurice said homeowners were among those seeking help.

"It's moved more into the working people, people with mortgages and ... even double incomes. Previously it was much more heavily slanted towards beneficiaries and those on lower incomes," he said.

"We're definitely seeing people with higher incomes coming to see us."

ASB Bank was forecasting the economy to contract 2 per cent by early next year, and that rising living costs will add another $150 a week to household bills.

People from all walks of life were looking at where they can cut spending.

One Auckland resident said it was "hurting bit time".

"Our family, we'd probably be regarded as middle or high income but there's nothing to spare. It's hard for everybody."

He has cut spending on food, fuel and more.

"Some of the activities for the kids, we can't do everything or let them do everything they want to do anymore. We're avoiding travel, using vehicles, things like that. Lots of things getting chopped," he said.

"I feel for lots of people out there it's really hard for everyone."

Visionwest, a wrap around social service in West Auckland's Glen Eden, has seen demand skyrocket this year after a series of shocks, starting with the pandemic.

Its head of service development and partnership Brook Turner said this has been the hardest start to a year, in the six years he has been with the service.

"Then the cost of living, the weather events and now a projected recession. This truely is the perfect storm of conditions for hardship and as Kiwis we need to dig deep to support each other during this time."

Turner said hardship was just around the corner for most people. 

"We had a family through the other day who, they work for a charitable organisation, I know them from back when, I never expected to see them at Vision West needing support," he said.

"Times have just got so tough that they need support. It's not the person down the road or a few kilometres away, it's now your neighbour and that's pretty sobering."

For now, Visionwest's pantry was well stocked for the 450 food parcels that go out its door each week.

But given the price of food has had its biggest annual price increase in 30 years, keeping the shelves stocked was becoming challenging.

"Where a year ago our stocks were really high, we do run low on stock now and the concern is we don't have an endless supply of kai that we can supply families as the numbers increase and that is a concern that the team's looking at."

Checkpoint spoke to a number of residents in Kawerau who had noticed how expensive living costs had become.

“I guess food, clothes, petrol … everything really," one woman said.

"There’s always something that is more expensive than it was a couple of weeks ago.”

Another said: “I’m trying to grow a whole lot more fruit and vegetables myself, so yeah, it’s affecting everybody. Making sure that when you do actually use the car you use it for more than one thing at a time. Not going into town too often.”

Kawerau budget adviser Evelyn Moses said two income households were also struggling and some were too proud to ask for help.

Moses said the stigma needed to be taken out, especially when it came to needing help for food.

For working families, she said many were managing to pay essential bills and put food on the table for their children, but were going without themselves.

Some were unable to continue paying insurance for their homes and cars, and getting vehicles warranted and registered was falling by the wayside.

"Some of them are pushing those boundaries," Moses said, and driving illegally because they could not afford to keep up with all those payments.